Writers Resist! in Iowa City, Cedar Rapids and across the country

Writers Resist! Iowa City

Englert Theatre — Sunday, Jan. 15 at 2 p.m.

Writers Resist! Cedar Rapids

Dows Fine Arts Center — Sunday, Jan. 15 at 2 p.m.

The Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial in Washington, DC -- photo by Ron Cogswell
The Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial in Washington, DC — photo by Ron Cogswell

Sunday, Jan. 15 marks what would have been the 88th birthday of minister, activist, Nobel Prize winner and renowned wordsmith Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. The practice of honoring his birth and legacy began in individual cities and states in 1971, just three years after his assassination. It was formalized as a federal holiday in 1983, and finally adopted and acknowledged in all 50 states in 2000. Many schools are out on the third Monday in January. Often, people utilize the day as a Day of Service to honor his legacy of compassion.

This year, across the country, on King’s actual birthday (rather than the observed holiday), writers are gathering across the country and even internationally to celebrate a different aspect of his legacy: that of resistance. The Writers Resist project, according to its website, grew out of a Facebook call to action by poet Erin Belieu. “We will not give in to despair,” she wrote. “We will come together and actively help make the world we want to live in. We are bowed, but we are not broken.”

There are now more than 75 readings planned for Jan. 15, including the primary event in New York and events in cities as far flung as Zurich and Hong Kong. Here in eastern Iowa, there are two readings being held, featuring the talents of beloved local writers. Both are at 2 p.m. on Sunday, and are free and open to the public.

In Iowa City, the Iowa Writers’ House and Iowa City UNESCO City of Literature have partnered to organize the event at the Englert Theatre. Writers involved include Iowa’s current Poet Laureate, Mary Swander; director of the International Writing Program, Christopher Merrill; singer-songwriter Iris DeMent; founder of the Climate Narrative Project, Jeff Biggers; University of Iowa theatre arts associate professor, Lisa Schlesinger and frequent LV contributor Kembrew McLeod. After the event, at 4 p.m., attendees are invited to join the readers in a gathering at The Mill, to “continue the conversation and provide a forum for others hoping to share their work,” according to the City of Literature website.

The Cedar Rapids event will be held at Coe College, in the Dows Fine Arts Center. Sponsored by the Hook and Coe College Committee on Diversity, the Facebook page describes a slate of writers who will “speak to the ideals of Democracy and free expression.” Writers include novelist and Mount Mercy professor Mary Vermillion, Skylor Andrews, recent Hot Tin Roof honoree David Duer, frequent LV contributer Rob Cline, playwright and storyteller Chris Okiishi, Courtney Ball, Zahra Aalabdulrasul and Marianne Taylor. State Representative Tyler Olson will emcee.