A Message from Rasha Abdulhadi
Interim Executive Director
December 5, 2018
To my dear and widening community of poets, educators, organizers, and supporters of literary arts and social movements,
In some ways, my story starts in Dupont Circle, Washington, DC. Today when I walked down the block from Split This Rock's offices on Connecticut Avenue to the circle, I could see the building that once held Agostino's Italian restaurant, where my parents met while working as waitstaff in the mid-70s. Their first apartment is a five minute walk from the office where I type this letter. I first moved to DC in 2014, but in some ways I am coming back to my own origin story. In this time travel, I show up for leadership grounded in diasporic lineage and deeply rooted in place, down to the very block and corner.
Where I'm coming from
As a Palestinian Southerner raised in a small town, place and land and community and history and lineage mean so much to how I understand work, relationships, and building trust. I receive the invitation to lead at Split This Rock as a sacred trust -- especially when the material stakes for all our folks are so high and particularly in Washington, DC, this historically Black city that plays national and international stage for political theater. It's a city that has been fought for by so many generations of organizers, artists, teachers, students, and families. I arrive at Split This Rock committed to the people who are committed to the communities they're from or living in.
Interim ain't no halfway thing
This interim position is a two-year commitment to being a conduit for community leadership, family. We will host the 2020 Festival together and weather the 2020 election cycle. We will be working in DC neighborhoods and schools when Amazon starts building its headquarters in Arlington, Virginia. I'm looking forward to working with you all to clear pathways in our movements and our art, to pivot and tug our ship to wider waters, and to midwife the next generation of leadership.
Now is the time to grow our small but mighty team
Do you already know that Split This Rock is staffed by a tiny but mighty team? We currently run all our programming -- including a national poetry festival, citywide youth programs, a weekly poetry series and online database, and monthly open mics -- with just 3 full-time staff and 2 part-time administrative staff. To stabilize current programs, we need a minimum of 5 full-time staff. To fully meet the demands for our work locally and nationally, we would need to employ 10 people and contract two dozen more as local teaching artists, festival staff, and curatorial fellows. Help us grow toward that abundant possibility, lift the work of all our communities, and widen the zone of leadership to employ more poets, organizers, and teaching artists.
Poetry is a tool for changing material reality
Because I work in the lineage of artists from Southern Freedom movements, I know that art and culture and storytelling are how we call out truth, defend ourselves, and find each other. As artists and poets, we are keeping the hands and heart of movement warm, the mind of movement sharp, and the tongues of movement fluent. We are building tools with our words, and we are gathering fuel. In each era, we will need new songs. We will need to bake the daily bread of art to keep us going. We are in a literary and cultural renaissance and a generational wave to renew our languages, even as we are in the fights of our lives.
We can become each other's philanthropists
I just signed up to become a sustaining donor to Split This Rock at $25/month, roughly the cost of one dinner out. There have been times when I couldn't afford to donate to the people and groups that kept my body and heart alive, but when I can, I do. I see community-based fundraising as an act of community self-defense. When infrastructure fails us, we must turn to each other. We must give material support to folks who are keeping social justice movements alive, keeping people alive, keeping communities alive and possible. Please join me in supporting the people and work you are grateful for this year, wherever they are.
Defend what you love. Fund what you treasure.
To invest in Split This Rock, visit the website and donate today.
Or send a check made out to "Split This Rock" to 1301 Connecticut Avenue, NW, Suite 600, Washington, DC 20036.
There is so much to do, and we have so many conversations before us.
This'll do for a start.
With a full and clear heart,