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Saturday, June 10 • 11:15am - 12:15pm
We Need Gentle Truths For Now

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During COVID lockdown and BLM protests, in the summer of 2020, Alexandra Juhasz and a small team produced 18 short episodes of a podcast, "We Need Gentle Truths for Now." We engaged in radical digital media literacy by enjoying a bite of education and a bit of poetry, creating humane responses to fake news and social media in the era of Covid-19: https://shows.acast.com/we-need-gentle-truths-for-now/about.

One example from a linked set of digital, place- and paper-bound practices and objects of critical making over five years and across media, this small team made podcasts and connections between people and poems: those who loved each other and couldn't see each other; those who met by reading or responding to each others work, BLM protests, or the lies and truths of scoial media. Each short episode offered some small relief by providing resources and methods to deepen connection and possibility during a time of social distancing by making different use of technologies. While a book of poems was stalled due to lockdown, publication slowdowns, illness, and grief (later to be released from punctum press in 2022, "My Phone Lies to Me" https://punctumbooks.com/titles/my-phone-lies-to-me-fake-news-poetry-workshops-as-radical-digital-media-literacy-given-the-fact-of-fake-news), an intimate podcast became a viable mode of communication, action, and interpersonal engagement.

The episodes engage with previous critical making as one more interation of an extensive, multi-modal, but also intimate project of radical digital media literacy given the fact of fake news. Building from a 2017 online primer in digital media literacy, #100hardtruths-#fakenews, 100s of people participated in 20+ Fake News Poetry workshops from 2018-2020 and around the world: critical making each and every writer. The workshops were encounters that address complex concerns through art, intimacy, technology, and poetry: http://fakenews-poetry.org. Poets were high schoolers, digital scholars, developmentally disabled adults, women of color, queer feminist women, all working with a poet in their place, inher way, to express some small truths. The topics engaged as we moved poems to podcast are as diverse as humans' needs and hopes for truth in an internet of lies—from beauty to violence, from memory to medium: "Practice Strategic Contemplation," "Resist How we Are Framed," "Choose to be Digitally Productive Rather than Reactive," "Look Deeper into The Migrant Experience." The people who participated in the podcast are equally diverse—professors, children, disabled adults, poets, citizens. Given the summer they were made, a particular focus of the series was Black Lives Matter and the voices, critical thinking, poetry, and community of the project's many African American participants, including a powerful episode about the "talk" between a mother and her disabled child, a poet, and another about why one African American women poet, Stacie Evans, just couldn't protest. Scholar Gabrielle Foreman reads her father Kent Foreman's poems and "elaborates on the connections between African-American history, photography, the advertisement and sale of slaves, and the American press, all underwritten by the basest forms of U.S. racial injustice, underpinning this moment and our ongoing efforts for freedom."

Given word count, I can't give you details for each episode, but that's okay! Each weaves poems, critical thinking, and diverse perspectives in quiet and intense ways, and what mattered most, at this time in particular and through this iteration and medium, was the project's tender hand-offs of these hard ideas, and their digital things, as poem met reader, as critical ideas were shared online. Two disabled poets, married and isolated, discuss the dangers of their inter-racial love in the safe space of home. A queer youth poet from LA responds to Joan Baez's song about one nasty man with a poem of their own which they read as a tender reponse to his violence:
a coal mine has opened under our feet.
and oh! we should have listened--
it is the same one he promised us
all those years ago.

In each episode, our critical making was a reminder about how we can use technologies that distance us physically for the better. Making and making use of poetry and related knowledge created verification engines, and ways to be (critical) (loving) (present) together that rely on belief structures outside the endangering logics of the internet and the fake news propelled therein.


Alexandra Juhasz

Distinguished Professor, Brooklyn College

Saturday June 10, 2023 11:15am - 12:15pm EDT
Main 212