Invisible to Whom? | 70 Years of Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man

In celebration of the seventieth anniversary of Ralph Ellison’s Invisible ManThe Studio Museum in Harlem, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, and Cave Canem commissioned Cameron Awkward-Rich, Kadeem Gayle, and Lorelei Williams to compose poems inspired by the novel and Elizabeth Catlett’s sculpture Invisible Man: A Memorial to Ralph Ellison (2003).

In reference to the title of Ellison's book, Toni Morrison once asked “But invisible to whom?” This collaboration used this question to center the artistic practices of those committed to making the invisible visible. These poetic contributions reframed the narrative around the book by focusing on houselessness, incarceration, and femme, trans, and LGBTQ-identifying people.

Cameron Awkward-Rich is the author of two collections of poetry—Sympathetic Little Monster (Ricochet Editions) and Dispatch (Persea Books, 2019)—as well as The Terrible We: Thinking with Trans Maladjustment (Duke University Press). His writing has appeared, in various forms, in Poetry, American Poetry Review, Transgender Studies Quarterly, Signs, and elsewhere, and has been supported by fellowships from Cave Canem, the Lannan Foundation, and the ACLS. Presently, he is an Assistant Professor in Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies at the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

Lorelei Williams is a poet, philanthropic strategist and proud mama. She currently serves as Executive Director of the Warner Music Group/Blavatnik Family Foundation Social Justice Fund and has spent her career committed to Black liberation and social justice movement building across the US and African Diaspora. Lorelei’s writings have appeared in Essence MagazineMeridians Journal on FeminismRace and Transnationalism, and African Voices - and in the anthologies Be the Dream (Algonquin Books); Beyond the Frontier: African-American Poetry for the 21st Century (Black Classic Press); Cave Canem III (Black Classic Press); and Guerreras y Cimmaronas (University of Houston Arte Publico Press). She is a graduate of Yale and Harvard universities and a member of the inaugural class of Cave Canem poets.

Kadeem Gayle is a patient advocate, poet and medical humanist. Gayle is of Jamaican descent, born in Boston, MA. At three years old, Gayle was diagnosed with sickle cell disease (SCD), a rare genetic blood disorder that causes a serious range of health issues. Despite the challenges of living with SCD, Gayle has found positive ways to live and cope with his illness. Gayle is currently a doctoral candidate at Drew University studying Medical and Health Humanities. Gayle started writing poetry at the age of 15 and has found writing to be a positive outlet that promotes healing and humanizes the SCD experience. Gayle has written for the Republican Newspaper of Springfield, MA. Gayle is currently a credential Independent Patient Advocate through the Sickle Cell Community Consortium. He holds a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing from Adelphi University and a third-year Cave Canem Fellow.

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