“Not One Without the Other:” A Reading and Conversation on Creativity and Community

Co-presented by the Asian/Pacific/American Institute at NYU and Kundiman. Curated by Cathy Linh Che.

How can the work of writers contribute to building sustainable and inclusive futures for our communities? How can the work of community organizations contribute to creative work? And how can the arts serve as a tool of empowerment, liberation, and solidarity? Literary organizations like Cave CanemCantoMundo, Kundiman, Indigenous Nations PoetsFire & Ink, Mizna, and Radius of Arab American Writers (RAWI) were convened with the goal of creating spaces for marginalized writers to develop their craft and find community and connection with one another.

This reading and conversation features George Abraham (executive editor of Mizna and Kundiman Fellow), Samiya Bashir (founding organizer of Fire & Ink and Cave Canem Fellow), Kimberly Blaeser (founding executive director of Indigenous Nations Poets), Cathy Linh Che (executive director of Kundiman), Deborah Paredez (co-founder of CantoMundo), and Glenn Shaheen (president and executive director of RAWI). They will explore what it means to lead, create, and write, centering the idea “not one without the other.”

George Abraham (they/هو) is a Palestinian American poet. Their debut poetry collection Birthright (Button Poetry, 2020) won the Arab American Book Award and was a Lambda Literary Award finalist. They are a recipient of fellowships from Kundiman, The Arab American National Museum, Sewanee Writers’ Conference, National Performance Network, and more. They are currently co-editing a Palestinian global anglophone poetry anthology with Noor Hindi (Haymarket Books, 2024) and are serving as Mizna's executive editor. They are based in Chicago where they are a Litowitz MFA+MA student at Northwestern University.

Samiya Bashir, called a “dynamic, shape-shifting machine of perpetual motion,” by Diego Báez, writing for Booklist, is a poet, writer, librettist, performer, and multimedia poetry maker whose work, both solo and collaborative, has been widely published, performed, installed, printed, screened, experienced, and Oxford comma’d from Berlin to Düsseldorf, Amsterdam to Accra, Florence to Rome and across the United States. Bashir is the author of three poetry collections, most recently Field Theories, winner of the 2018 Oregon Book Award’s Stafford/Hall Award for Poetry. Samiya’s honors include the Rome Prize in Literature, the Pushcart Prize, Oregon’s Arts & Culture Council Individual Artist Fellowship in Literature, and two Michigan’s Hopwood Poetry Awards among numerous other awards, grants, fellowships, and residencies. In addition to her books, Bashir has served as editor to national magazines and anthologies of literature and artwork. In 2002 she was co-founder of Fire & Ink, an advocacy organization and writer’s festival for LGBT writers of African descent with whom she worked through 2015.

Kimberly Blaeser, past Wisconsin Poet Laureate and founding director of Indigenous Nations Poets, is the author of six poetry collections—including the newly released volume Ancient Light. An enrolled member of the White Earth Nation, she is an Anishinaabe activist and environmentalist. Blaeser serves as the 2024 Mackey Chair in Creative Writing at Beloit College, is an MFA faculty member at the Institute of American Indian Arts and a Professor Emerita at UW–Milwaukee.

Cathy Linh Che is a Vietnamese American writer and multidisciplinary artist. She is the author of Split (Alice James Books) and co-author, with Kyle Lucia Wu, of the children’s book An Asian American A to Z: a Children’s Guide to Our History (Haymarket Books). She is working on a poetry manuscript, a creative nonfiction manuscript, a video installation, and a short documentary on her parents’ experiences as refugees who played extras on Apocalypse Now. The video installation is an Open Call commission with The Shed NY and will be showing from October 2023 – January 2024. She works as Executive Director at Kundiman, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to nurturing writers and readers of Asian American literature.

Deborah Paredez is a poet, scholar, and cultural critic. She is the author of the critical study, Selenidad: Selena, Latinos, and the Performance of Memory, and of the poetry collections, This Side of Skin (Wings Press 2002) and Year of the Dog (BOA Editions 2020), winner of the 2020 Writers’ League of Texas Poetry Book Award and a New York Times "New and Notable Poetry Book." She is the chair of the creative writing program at Columbia University and the co-founder of CantoMundo, a national organization dedicated to Latinx poets and poetry. Her book of literary nonfiction, American Diva, will be published in May 2024 from Norton.

Glenn Shaheen is the author of the poetry collections Predatory (University of Pittsburgh Press 2011, winner of the Agnes Lynch Starrett Prize and runner-up for the Norma Farber First Book Award) and Energy Corridor (University of Pittsburgh Press 2016), the flash fiction chapbook Unchecked Savagery (Ricochet Editions 2012), and the flash fiction collection Carnivalia (Gold Wake Press 2018). He is the editor of Tram Editions and the President and Executive Director of the Radius of Arab American Writers. He lives in Houston and is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Prairie View A&M University.