On April 3, 2017, New York artists, musicians, actors, and other supporters of the arts rallied at New York City Hall to raise their voices against the proposed cuts to federal funding of the arts and humanities.

The New York City Council’s Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations was hearing and voting on proposed Res. No. 1393-A, which would call President Donald Trump to fully fund the national arts organizations and programs that are currently under threat of elimination and defunding.

Academy of American Poets staff joined the rally and Executive Director Jennifer Benka testified in support of the resolution, particularly as it relates to the state of the arts in New York City, the home of the Academy of American Poets. “We are the city where Whitman walked, where Emma Lazarus left her lines welcoming immigrants to our shores," Benka said, "the home of the Harlem Renaissance, and the spoken word and hip hop revolution.”

Joining Benka in testifying from the New York City arts community were Aaron Bouska, vice president for government and community relations at the New York Botanical Garden; Allie Carieri, board and government liaison at the Roundabout Theatre Company; Tony Award-nominated actress Judy Kuhn; Anne-Imelda Radice, executive director of the American Folk Art Museum; and Neal Shapiro, president and CEO of WNET, among others.

The Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries and International Intergroup Relations voted unanimously in favor of presenting Res. No. 1393-A to the City Council, which will now have to vote on it at a later date.

“Poetry matters,” said Benka near the end of her testimony. “The arts and humanities encourage reflection, empathy, and imagination—all qualities necessary to our individual and collective success. American poetry and literature do more than preserve the unique stories of our citizens; they shape our civic identity.”

Read the rest of Benka’s testimony and find out what you can do to help #SaveTheNEA. Also read testimonies from poets who’ve received NEA grants.