Art House Creates Crowdsourced Poem “Just Breathe” in Jersey City
After 3 months, Art House Productions is proud to announce the completion of the Jersey City Community Project. In April 2020, Art House Productions embarked on the Jersey City Community Poem Project, seeking submissions from New Jersey-based poets of lines about the theme, “Life in the Pandemic and Beyond: Quarantine, Devastation, and Hope for the Future.” After receiving submissions from 42 talented poets, Jersey City Poet Laureate, Rashad Wright, curated the original, crowdsourced poem titled “Just Breathe” using lines and excerpts from each submission. This project was sponsored by the City of Jersey City and Office of Cultural Affairs.
Upon completion of the poem, Art House asked for video submissions of community members performing the original work. In response, 57 performers, including Jersey City officials, local artists, and many of the credited poets, filmed themselves orating different stanzas. The clips were compiled in a video performance, which premiered at Art House’s Virtual Access JC Fridays on June 5th.
The poetry submissions and completed crowdsourced poem have been published online in a virtual book. To view the book, please visit: https://bit.ly/JCCommunityPoem
“This project was about inclusiveness and empowering people to become active creators to express themselves through poetry and I couldn’t be more proud of the outcome,” says Art House Producing Director Courtney Little. “I’m very impressed with the submissions we received, and Rashad’s thoughtful curation turned this project into a meaningful reflection on how it’s felt to live through this specific moment in history. The video performance is a powerful, artistic time capsule for our community, which I hope will be viewed by generations to come.”
“Art House’s Community poem is an exciting and heartfelt piece that I hope will make ripples in the Jersey City Poetry Society for years to come. As we move through 2020- experiencing life through COVID-19, quarantine, protesting against police brutality and for #Blacklivesmatter- local writers, poets, and artists alike, became a powerful unit for a moment. We spoke for those who may have felt their concerns were unheard,” said Crystal Davis, who both submitted poetry and performed in the video. “The collaboration was inspiring and showed that despite necessity to be apart, the strength of our words brings us closer together.”
Abdul Rehman Khan, who also submitted poetry and performed in the video, shared his perspective: “Community is the bedrock of society. Without it, our sense of self falls apart. I represent tenants in court who are facing eviction- threatened with displacement from their community. Hearing the final product gave me a sense of relief and served as a reminder of my luxury- to stay at home, and partake in an endeavor like this. It was a reminder of the importance of guaranteeing decent housing for all, so that more can participate in incredible community-based projects like these.”
Contributing writers include Elizabeth Barry, Paula Borenstein, Laura Boss, Jessica D'Onofrio, Kaileah Daniels, Crystal Davis, LouLou deVallance, Erin Enriquez, Chris Garrahan, Deirdre Garrahan, Danusha Goska, Gia Grillo, Joe Herman, Nicolas Hornyak, Eza Iqbal, Shrujana Iyer, Abdul Rehman Khan, Mel Kozakiewicz, Aurelia Luciano, John Massett, Sean Miste, Leonora Obed, Patricia Olsen, Alisha Park, Suzanne Gili Post, Andrea Ragone, Dimitri Reyes, Hara Rola, Danny Shot, Mark Skrzypczak, Megha Sood, Sneha Sundaram, John T. Trigonis, Ann Wallace, Risa Wallach, David Williams, Alicia Wright, and Rashad Wright.
Video performers include Elizabeth Barry, Michelle Bellamy, Laura Boss, Dorian Bryant, Meredith Burns, Maria Connors, Michael Costanzo, Jessica D'Onofrio, Miranda Dahl, Crystal Davis, MA Enriquez, Gavin Flinck, Myles Flinck, Athena Flora Toledo, Lynnette Freeman, Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop, Christine Goodman, Millie Gonzalez, Kimberly Goycochea, Katelyn Halpern, Jack Halpin, Rachel Handler, Lynn Hazan, Nico Hornyak, Brett Iarrobino, Amanda Jones, Angela Kariotis, Annie Kessler, Rich Kiamco, Jersey City Councilman Rolando Lavarro, Courtney Little, John McGinty, Andrea McKenna, Nancy Mendez-Booth, Alex Pergament, Sam Pesin, Jersey City Councilwoman, Mira Prinz-Arey, Abdul Rehman Khan, Dimitri Reyes, Jersey City Councilwoman Denise Ridley, Paul Silverman, Deb Sinha, Megha Sood, Harmonica Sunbeam, John Trigonis, Kyiana Vargas, Gretchen Von Koenig, Ann Wallace, Heather Warfel, David Williams, Rashad Wright, Alicia Wright, and Elena Zazanis.
Rashad Wright (Curator) is the poet laureate of Jersey City, New Jersey. He is a graduate of New Jersey City University, receiving his BA in English: Creative Writing. Rashad’s poetry has been heard from both local and national stages via slam poetry. He is the only person to be titled the “Grandslam Champion of Jersey City Slam” twice. He has competed in Slams in Oakland, San Diego, Spokane, and Denver, once ranking 25th in the country. He has coached Jersey City Slam, the UACHS Poetry Club, and 6th Borough Slam which placed 10th in the world at Brave New Voices 2019. Rashad’s creative works focus on debunking the glorification of selflessness and sacrifice in communities of color and other disenfranchised groups. Rashad’s work gives visibility to a “self” in an attempt to reclaim the love that these identities deserve. He currently is the host of ManaMic, Jersey City’s biggest open mic series and has published a fusion of memoir and poetry titled Romeo’s Whiskey. Instagram @write_raw
For more information about this project, please visit https://www.arthouseproductions.org/pages/jc-community-poem.
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Art House Productions is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization committed to the development and presentation of the performing and visual arts in Jersey City, NJ. Art House Productions presents theater, performing and visual arts festivals, arts events, visual art exhibitions, and adult and youth art classes. For more information about our programs, please visit our website at www.arthouseproductions.org. Follow us on social media @arthouseproductions @arthouseprods.