Power of Protest: Activists, Artists Host Evening of Poetry and Film at VSW


VSW hosts "Power of Protest" event Thursday (PHOTO: K Martin)

(WXIR-Rochester) Local artists and activists gathered on the lawn in front of Visual Studies Workshop Thursday, July 30th for an evening of poetry and film. The focus of the evening was the power of protest.

As I arrived at the event, a few people were milling about with the organizers and more were drifting in.

(PHOTO: K Martin)

Once the crowd had reached around 70 or so people, organizer Tara Nelson introduced Reenah Golden as the first poet of the evening. One line toward the end of one of Golden’s poems struck me as particularly resonant: 

“They are the Dreamers, 

Who have forgotten how to sleep”

Artist Rashaad Parker acted as our emcee for the evening - as well as later sharing some of his own poetry which he said had transformed "from a plea to a demand" in light of recent events nationally.

Rashaad Parker emcees at Thursday's event (PHOTO: K Martin)

East High student Sarah Adams presented poetry on racism in Rochester schools and how it affects the everyday lives of youth of color. 

Sarah Adams at the mic (PHOTO: K Martin)

Speakers from Free the People Roc and Food Not Bombs informed the crowd a bit about their respective organizations and fundraisers that evening. Food Not Bombs also provided snacks and water to everyone attending. 

The speakers invited attendees to continue coming out to support Black Lives Matter and Free the People Roc (the Rochester, NY chapter of Black Lives Matter), including an invitation to a protest to be held over the weekend.

(PHOTO: K Martin)

After a brief intermission to allow for the sun to set enough to use the projector, four short films from VSW’s archive were screened. These films focused especially on police violence toward Black Americans. All four films were made between 1972 and 1992. But aside from the video quality and fashion choices, the films still resonate today, with many of the sentiments being echoed by contemporary activists. 

As the event came to a close and everyone began heading out for the evening, the mood was relaxed but somber. Several people donated to help fund Free the People and Food Not Bombs before they left. For both organizers and attendees, it was an engaging evening of community outreach.


KIRSTEN MARTIN is a photographer and a volunteer contributor for Reclaiming the Narrative.