Friday, November 4, 2011

100 Thousand Poets for a Free Tibet

Reading of poems by Tsoltim N. Shakabpa, Jigme Dorjee DAGYAP, Tashi Rabten, and Tenzin Tsundue in front of the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles.

by Teresa C. Dowell

As a poet, writer, teacher and human being, I feel a moral responsibility to help bring forth voices that need to be heard. If I were in China, I would be put in prison for what I write and say; however, luckily, I live in the U.S. where I can freely express my thoughts and feelings. In places such as Tibet, one can not write or speak one’s mind freely. Consequences include being arrested, imprisonment, torture and/or death.

A few days before ENOUGH: Global Day of Action for Tibet, I made copies of poems by Tibetan poets Tsoltim N. Shakabpa (a.k.a. T.N. for Tibetan National), Jigme Dorjee DAGYAP, and Tashi Rabten (pen name: Theurang).

On November 2, 2011, 100 Thousand Poets for Change, a grassroots global coalition of poets, joined L.A. Friends of Tibet and Tibetan Association of Southern California at the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles to protest China’s oppression, to read and distribute poems by Tibetans, and to pray during a candlelight vigil in solidarity with the global campaign - ENOUGH is ENOUGH – Global Intervention to Save Tibetan Lives.

It was important for me to bring forth the voices of Tsoltim N. Shakabpa, a renowned Tibetan poet, who experienced a stroke recently and can not travel or read his poems out loud, Jigme Dorjee DAGYAP who lives in Sikkim, Gangtok in the Himalayas, and Tashi Rabten, poet and editor of a banned literary magazine known as “Shar Dungri” (Eastern Snow Mountain), who is in prison, sentenced to four years by the Chinese government. However, their voices need to be heard because it is a matter of survival for a people and a culture on the verge of extinction, and Tibetans are the ones that must tell their story to the world, not the colonizers.

Tibetan Association of Southern California began the protest in front of the visa office in hopes of raising awareness among potential visitors of China. At 4:30 p.m., we protested in front of the Chinese Consulate, demanding human rights, freedom of religion, freedom of speech. Photos of the 10 monks and nun in Tibet who self-immolated this year were strewn like prayer flags across the lawn and on picket signs. Then, we marched around the block, I held a sign painted in the colors of the Tibetan flag that read, “100 Thousand Poets for a Free Tibet” and passed out leaflets with poems by Tsoltim N. Shakabpa, Jigme Dorjee DAGYAP, and Tashi Rabten to passersby and people who were wondering what the protest was about.

Afterwards, we returned to the front of the Chinese Consulate and began the poetry reading with the reading of the poem, “Remember,” by Jigme Dorjee DAGYAP. Tibetans continued to read aloud poems by Tsoltim N. Shakabpa: “We Can and We Must,” “Devil in Disguise,” and “China O China.” Some Tibetan children read poems by Tashi Rabten. The poem, “Rangzen,” by Tibetan writer/activist Tenzin Tsundue was read. It was a very touching and emotional moment for me to hear the poems read aloud by Tibetans in front of the Chinese Consulate.

After the reading, it was already night time, the sky had darkened. Above us was the waxing moon and a few stars. We all sat down on the lawn surrounded by candles during a prayer – om mani peme hung...

At about 7:30 p.m., the press release was read aloud and I listened to the demands for human rights, freedom of religion, freedom of speech. I listened to the names of the 10 monks and nun in Tibet who had sacrificed their lives by lighting themselves on fire in self-immolation, sending their only voice, fire, burning flesh, over the great Himalayas for the world to hear. I could not hold back my tears. As the tears streamed down my face, I told myself, I must be strong, I must be resilient, as we all must be and continue this peaceful fight for freedom and basic human rights.

Photos from the November 2nd ENOUGH: Global Day of Action for Tibet at the Chinese Consulate in Los Angeles:

Stand Up For Tibet Campaign Unites World Wide on Eve of G20 Summit

Petition to Free Poet Tashi Rabten:

A poem read at the protest:


By Tsoltim N. Shakabpa

You affect democracy

We effect democracy

You bear no criticism

We bare our soul

You prey on the weak

We pray for the weak

You exorcise freedom

We exercise freedom

You complement injustice

We compliment justice

You faze human rights

We phase in human rights

You pair wrong with right

We pare wrong from right

You censor free speech

We censure limited speech

You break laws

We brake to prevent illegality

You go left

We go right

You tell lies

We tell truths

You hate religion

We love religion

You talk crooked

We talk straight

You adore money

We adore God

You act violently

We act non-violently

You promote autocracy

We promote democracy

You restrain free speech

We restore free speech

Your power grows out of the barrel of a gun

Our power grows from the legitimacy of our claim

China O China

Give up your sins

And save your skins

We pray for your soul

Abandon your goal

Give up your wrath

Follow our path

So we can get along

And be true friends life long

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