Poets Salon: Solidarity and Protest

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Japanese art of origami with the sublime Black Lives Matter fist model designed and folded by American origami artist Beth Moore Johnson. (From Meher McArthur)



Hosted by Kath Abela Wilson

My mind goes back to that day in the sixties. At the terminal turnstiles. My two children handing out flyers with me for peaceful protest. We were putting in our nickels for what mattered., handing flowers to passersby.

now here
we are again
what must we do
to ferry across
this bay of tears?

~ Kath Abela

a black figure bursting our of a frame

“Genealogy of Grace,” Painting by Toti O’Brien (Collection of K&R Wilson)


i do not have
any more cheeks to turn
no more hymns to sing

just a river of rage

i am accustomed
to you not seeing color…
I’ve learned to walk
these corridors of life
with monochrome steps

the White House
nothing but a prop
a black woman
stands defiantly
against a wall of cops

no soft piano music
right now
just a black tongue
“no justice, no peace!”

within this afternoon thunder
the rumble of
black feet marching
against the skin
of these unjust streets

tonight the images
of black faces
black bodies and feet
protesting. dismantling
a crumbling framework

this day i will not
give away smiles
soft words or kind gestures
give me common human decency
or this republic will burn

fear of riots
fear of businesses burning
still no room in that heart
for fear of another
black body dying

is Lady Justice blind
or only
conveniently blindfolded
to certain things —
boiling shrimp for dinner


a purple flowered plant above an entrance of a house

“Wisteria Healing House,” New Hampshire. Poet artist Robin White works with hospice and healing in the community (Photo – Robin White)

Peggy Hale Bilbro

and refolding
can we undo
the evil done

so very very tired
but the salmon
once more up the river
and I know
I must stay the course

a plague
of dollar bills
into wallets
the Pharaoh wins


A black square box

The ‘Black Box’ started as a Music Industry protest and became a social media moment.

Pamela A. Babusci

In Loving Memory of George Floyd

a black crow
on a white fence…
choking me
reveals how much
hatred you have


A woman clad in black with a yellow circle on her chest and yellow cheeks

Artwork by Alexis Rotella

Alexis Rotella

A knee on the neck
of any man born black –
a former president
verbally lynched
for wearing a tan suit

He calls out for his mama
a handcuffed black man –
the police officer’s knee
on his carotid artery
while three others watch

A black mother
explains to her young son
let the white men
see your hands –
don’t forget to call them sir


“Rainbow Bridge,” mixed media collage assemblage by Toti O’Brien. (Collection K&R Wilson)

Frank Tassone

passing car
and late afternoon
do the memorial
candles still burn?


a neighborhood walk
as the heat of the day
begins to pass…
we will not enjoy peace
unless we work for justice


a painting of two women in yellow dress and white and pink dress

Artwork by Alexis Rotella

Solidarity and Protest: Quotes and Credits

matsukaze (Orrin PreJean) lives in Dallas, Texas. He’s a storyteller who enjoys the shortness of ku and ka with which to tell his stories.

Peggy Hale Bilbro lives in Huntsville, Alabama, where she has seen usually green landscapes held fast in the grip of a months-long drought. She hopes that the bird, the seed and all of us survive these difficult times.

Pamela A. Babusci was born into an Italian-American family, and lives in Rocester, New York. She is editor and publisher of “Moonbathing,” a tanka journal that features women tanka poets.

Alexis Rotella lives in Arnold, Maryland. She is waiting for a new cycle, a return to human kindness, a blue wave, a tsunami of higher consciousness.

Frank Tassone lives in New York City’s “back yard” with his wife and son. He has worked as a special education teacher in New York City High Schools for the past twenty years. and finds meditation, hiking, when possible and practicing tai chi as nourishing to life and well being.


an origami of butterflies made with dollar bills

Sipho Mabona art installation, “Folding Paper,” Locusts. Japanese American National Museum, Los Angeles, 2012 (From Meher McArthur)

Meher McArthur – Art Hugs” for Solidarity and Protest:

Art Hug I: When I was about 6 or 7 years old, I wrote about myself for a school assignment. I described my height, my hair and my face. At the end of my short essay, I wrote, “I like myself, but I wish I was white.” The teacher simply gave my work a check mark. When my parents saw this they were saddened by my remark and upset at the teacher’s response. At that young age, in a village in Scotland, I was very conscious of being darker than all the other kids in my class. In fact, my sister and brother and our Persian mother were the only non-white people in the whole village, and, although we grew up in a loving home with very globally-minded parents, the experience of being a different color defined my childhood. I was called many names – Coca-Cola Face, Paki, even the N word – either shouted at me or spoken with giggles in the classroom. I went for years in my teens without hearing such names, but remember a moment in my early 20s in Cambridge, when a group of young men were walking behind me and I could hear them muttering, “Paki.” It was a chilling moment and I picked up my pace. I know that what I’ve experienced of racism is minor compared to what Black people in the United States have had to live with on a daily basis for centuries and in so many horrific and brutal forms. Right now, with so many people here and around the world protesting and crying out for us to be better humans, I am hopeful that we are at a moment of change in this country and beyond. As an art historian, I am fortunate to spend much of my time looking at lovely art works and writing about the people who made them, but the reason I (a half-Asian) chose to study Asian art was to use art as a way of helping people from different cultures understand each other better. Art is one of the ways we express our beliefs, hopes and aspirations and can be one of the many tools we can use to reach out to each other – peacefully, hopefully and powerfully. Today I am returning to the Japanese art of origami with the sublime Black Lives Matter fist model designed and folded by American origami artist Beth Moore Johnson. Beth, thank you for this beautiful, powerful work to support positive change in the world.

Art Hug II: Sipho Mabona is a leading origami installation artist, best known for arranging folded paper people, animals, fish and insects to convey potent social messages. In 2012, when my first origami exhibition Folding Paper opened at the Japanese American National Museum in LA, he created and installed one of the most powerful works of art I have ever seen – and one that seems worth pondering now, as we struggle with our nation’s priorities. The work, entitled The Plague after the Biblical plague of locusts inflicted on humans who had behaved badly, comprises 144 origami locusts that appear to be taking form out of sheets of dollar bills and rising up to swarm the gallery. According to Mabona, the transformation of money into locusts is a reference to the large, multi-national corporations that take over smaller companies, referred in German-speaking Europe as heuschrecken, or locusts. In this origami critique of ravenous capitalism, his choice of the dollar bill was deliberate, and he ingeniously folded the sheets of uncut bills so that George Washington’s face appears on the bug’s back and the words, “In God We Trust” appear on its forehead. The work can seem dark and scary, but to Mabona, who is Swiss-born and half South African, where there is the potential for change, there is hope. He told me, “In origami, paper is folded into forms like these locusts, but the forms can be unfolded again. The creases will remain, but the paper can be folded again into something else – perhaps butterflies.” I can’t help wondering today how we can can apply this concept to a culture that is so torn and pained, refolding it to create something more equitable, compassionate and safe for all.


Meher McArthur is an Asian art historian who specializes in Japanese art. She is based in Los Angeles and works as Academic Curator at Scripps College in Claremont, CA. She began writing her Daily Art Hugs on March 12 as a way of adding something positive, healing and beautiful to her friends’ Facebook feeds. Her special insights will be a regular feature on our Poets Salons.

Tell us, by midnight Sunday, Pacific time, your story of protests and solidarity, amidst turmoil of our times.Also what unusual interesting positive gifts, hopes and realizations have you come upon. Tell us about the new paths you have taken, those that might endure in your life, that may not have happened had we not been in this situation. We all know good things can come from difficulty. Unexpected doors open and we sometimes find treasure.

Send short poems, haiku, senryu, tanka, cherita haibun, tanka prose, short prose poems, etc., or your own unique approach, to Kath Abela by Facebook message or click here to email her directly. We can feature your work again after five months. Multiple Submissions can be saved to appear later:

  1. Send a short bio, comments on the theme.
  2. Send photos or artwork by you, if possible.
  3. No attachments except photos.
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Kath Abela Wilson
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6 comments to “Poets Salon: Solidarity and Protest”
  1. Thank you Benita, for appreciating, reading, and looking closely! So grateful for your expressing here your strong feelings about this Salon. Please do send me some of your own writing too, to add to one of our themes, you can even suggest a theme you feel is timely! You will love our next salon– which carries on from this one!.

  2. I want to thank all the poets and artists for contributing to this column.
    At a loss for words, but deeply affected by the posts.”
    Meher’s words “….what Black people in the United States have had to live with on a daily basis for centuries and
    in so many horrific and brutal forms.
    Right now,
    with so many people here and around the world protesting and crying out for us to be better humans,
    I am hopeful
    that we are at a moment of change in this country and beyond.”
    are very powerful.

  3. That is great Brendon. I love your tanka. I think when we are innocent we do really react to what moves our hearts. The kindness and brightness of individuals…in many ways we can keep this innocence… but life within organized situations becomes subject to complications unfairness and imposed social rules and levels of advantage…knotweed indeed.!

  4. So beautiful and so powerful the art and words given by the poets and artists here. I was quite overwhelmed as I read and viewed closely. It is up to all of us to look closely into these sad, beautiful, stinging messages.

    Thank you so much.

  5. Thank you all for such a powerful, poignant Salon…perhaps these turbulent times will produce a better understanding of this longstanding inequality.
    I used to say I didn’t see the difference in skin colours, just the human I was interacting with. The more I think about this however, I believe I may have been thinking on a tangent…the truth is, I do see a difference in skin colour and this is what gives us our identity as humans. I respect all humans for who they are and regard everyone as equals. Respecting our differences as equals still allows us to keep our own individual identities, it would be silly to say we are all the same but imperative that we should all be regarded as equals…

    deep wounds
    in our
    forgotten garden
    the unseen strangulation
    of knotweed



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