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Message of Hope from Toi Derricotte

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Dear Cave Canem Community,

Many of us are hurting right now. From where I am in New Orleans, I can hear the outrage of many communities across the country. I can feel the sadness. And I can relate to the pain from hearing the names of so many Black people murdered at the hands of the police and the state. It is Black poets whom I trust will charge us to know that these police officers and the culture that sanctions their actions should be held accountable. It is also Black poets whom I trust to care for each other during these uncertain and frightening times. As we know well in the Cave Canem community, it is important to say the names of those we lost because that is what will move us forward. The memories of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Tony McDade and Breonna Taylor shall not be forgotten, and it is also heartbreaking to know there are so many others.

The issues that perpetuate the execution of Black lives are deeply rooted in systemic white supremacy that is so ingrained in our culture. While dismantling that house may seem daunting, remember that Black artists help define movements by memorializing and inspiring people across the world to understand how and why change is possible. There is room for all of us. As Gwendolyn Brooks reminds us in “The Second Sermon on the Warpland”: 

“It is lonesome, yes. For we are the last of the loud.

Nevertheless, live.

Conduct your blooming in the noise and whip of the whirlwind.”

Black poets are some of the few people on this earth who carry the total and deep visceral memory of what has happened to us for these hundreds of years. We carry it from our mothers and fathers, our grandparents, and all those before. We are the ones who have within us the power of memory, of language and feelings. We have the sensibility to transform all of that pain and triumph into the beauty of poetry. What a great gift to us, to those suffering today, and to those in our past! What a great work for us to do! This is painful and terrible work, hard work, joyous work! I have such faith in your ability to do it. Knowing the capabilities you have for understanding, for studying, for feeling, for going where you have to go and finding that leap in imagination to beauty, I feel hope in despair. I feel through the chord and cord that connects us to the possibility for change. 

There are several local bail funds and mutual aid funds that are accepting contributions to help protest efforts and communities simultaneously affected by racial violence and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. I urge you to also learn about and listen to your mental health needswe all have them. Here are some places to start with that:

Where to Donate & Find Mental Health Resources Related to the George Floyd Protests

The Safe Place: A Mental Health App for African Americans

Talking About Race: Self-Care

7 Virtual Mental Health Resources Supporting Black People Right Now

May we remember who we love during these hard times and find comfort and joy in our work.

Much love to all,
Toi Derricotte
Co-founder, Cave Canem