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TRII at AWP! Poets Writing Whiteness

Poets Writing Whiteness
Presented by The Racial Imaginary Institute

Portland Ballroom 252, Oregon Convention Center, Level 2
Friday, March 29, 2019
12:00 pm to 1:15 pm

Audio (courtesy of Rachel Zucker): PoetsWritingWhitenessPanel

This panel presents four poets whose work has explicitly confronted whiteness, moderated by The Racial Imaginary Institute (TRII) member Monica Youn. TRII brings together artists and thinkers to mark, challenge, and beset white dominance, to make visible what has been presented as inevitable so that we can transform our imaginings of race. We hope to catalyze other writers and artists to reimagine our racial pathologies, to scrutinize not only obvious bigotry but also our own complicity.

Moderator: Monica Youn’s book Blackacre won the William Carlos Williams Award, and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and Kingsley Tufts Award and longlisted for the National Book Award. Her previous book Ignatz was a finalist for the National Book Award. She teaches at Princeton.

Sharon Olds is most recently the author of Odes, and Stag’s Leap, recipient of the Pulitzer Prize and the T.S Eliot Prize (UK). She teaches in the Graduate Program in Creative Writing at New York University.

Shane McCrae is the author of, most recently, In the Language of My Captor, winner of the 2018 Anisfield-Wolf Book Award for Poetry, and The Gilded Auction Block, and has received a Lannan Literary Award, a Whiting Writer’s Award, and an NEA fellowship. He teaches at Columbia University in New York.

Natalie Scenters-Zapico is the author of The Verging Cities, and the forthcoming Lima :: Limón. A professor of literature at Bennington College, she has won awards and fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, PEN America, and CantoMundo.

Joy Katz is the author of three poetry books and many essays. Her new manuscript, White: An Abstract, documents every minute of whiteness in her life. She collaborates on social practice art, including, recently, OverHear/OverHere, live music for shift workers. She lives and teaches in Pittsburgh.

Whiteness Symposium Talkbacks: Sadiya Hartman at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise

Join us for the launch of the “Whiteness Symposium Talkbacks,” a year-long series unpacking the conversations from last summer’s On Whiteness Symposium. At each talkback, one presentation from the symposium will be screened, and members of the Racial Imaginary Institute will mediate an open conversation reflecting on that keynote.

TRII will present the very first of these talkbacks at Gavin Brown’s Enterprise in Harlem on Tuesday, October 9th, from 6:30pm – 9pm, with special guest Saidiya Hartman. The full schedule of talkbacks will be released soon. If you missed the symposium, you can watch the recording here, or you can listen to the keynote at the event itself.

Facebook event:

This program is free and open to the public, as part of Gavin Brown’s Enterprise’s Public Room. From GBE: “In advance of a crucial ballot in November, this crucible will hold a persistent flow of people convening to listen and learn, teach and inspire.”

Check out other events at Public Room at

Alexandra Bell, Doreen St. Felix, and Claudia Rankine in Conversation at The Brooklyn Museum


Brooklyn Talks

Thursday, July 19, 2018

7–9 pm

Iris and B. Gerald Cantor Auditorium, 3rd Floor

Claudia Rankine examines the often-troubled manifestations of the racial imaginary in American poetry and explores counternarrative tactics of contemporary poets and artists. Her presentation is followed by a conversation with multidisciplinary artist Alexandra Bell, best known for her public art series Counternarratives, and Doreen St. Félix, a New Yorker staff writer who writes at the intersection between culture and media, and has written incisively on Counternarratives. Bell uses the term “counternarratives” to describe her work, which investigates how images and text work together to affect the cultural imagination and narratives around race.

Tickets are $25 and include Museum admission. Members receive a 10% discount.

To request accommodations such as assistive listening devices, ASL interpretation, and open captioning, email us at email hidden; JavaScript is required.

Dark Noise Collective Residency

During their residency with the Racial Imaginary Institute at The Kitchen, the Dark Noise Collective (Fatimah AsgharFranny ChoiNate MarshallAaron SamuelsDanez Smith, and Jamila Woods) will conduct a week-long retreat, focusing on internal writing workshops, artist talks, and discussions around race and how their work disrupts white dominance. The Dark Noise Collective will do a public panel on Tuesday, July 17 at 7pm. To conclude their residency they will then present a public reading at The Kitchen on Friday, July 20th at 7pm, consisting of poems that have been generated during the residency, and other work.

July 16–20
Reservations for the public programs will open here on Monday, July 9 at 2pm. 

For more information about the exhibition and other programs please see our website.

Artist and the Archive

Artist and the Archive: Deconstructing Racial Imagination at the Schomburg


Founded by poet and McArthur Fellow Claudia Rankine, The Racial Imaginary Institute (TRII) is an interdisciplinary cultural laboratory of writers, activists, scholars, and artists, dedicated to the work of engaging the concept of the racial imagination, specifically critiquing the costs and means by which whiteness and institutional racism have shaped cultural production, politics, and memory. This program will feature a discussion with Rankine and artists Hank Willis Thomas and Alexandra Bell, moderated by LeRonn Brooks, PhD. They will also explore art, activism, how TRII’s new online archive will be used by artists and writers seeking to examine important conversations on race in the U.S. and across the globe through artistic practice.

Livestream link

Claudia Rankine is the author of five collections of poetry, including Citizen: An American Lyric and Don’t Let Me Be Lonely; two plays including Provenance of Beauty: A South Bronx Travelogue; numerous video collaborations, and is the editor of several anthologies including The Racial Imaginary: Writers on Race in the Life of the Mind. Among her numerous awards and honors, Rankine is the recipient of the Bobbitt National Prize for Poetry, the Poets & Writers’ Jackson Poetry Prize, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Lannan Foundation, the MacArthur Foundation, United States Artists, and the National Endowment of the Arts. She is a Chancellor of the Academy of American Poets and teaches at Yale University as the Frederick Iseman Professor of Poetry. In 2016, she co-founded The Racial Imaginary Institute (TRII).  She lives in New Haven, Connecticut.

Dr. LeRonn P. Brooks an assistant professor in the Department of Africana Studies at Lehman College of CUNY. His interviews, essays, and poetry have appeared in publications for Bomb Magazine, The Studio Museum In Harlem, Socrates Sculpture Park, The Spelman Museum of Art, The International Review of African American Art as well as The Aperture Foundation, among others. He has received fellowships from the Cave Canem Foundation and Callaloo Journal and is a curator for The Racial Imaginary Institute and the Bronx Council on the Arts. He is also the creator and executive-producer of Culture/Context, an online conversation series currently featuring major African American and African artists.

Alexandra Bell (b. 1983, Chicago, IL) is a multidisciplinary artist who investigates the complexities of narrative, information consumption, and perception. Utilizing various media, she deconstructs dominant histories to highlight patterns in news reportage and society at large. Bell holds a B.A. in Interdisciplinary Studies in the Humanities from the University of Chicago and an M.S. in Print Journalism from Columbia University. She lives and works in Brooklyn.

Hank Willis Thomas is a conceptual artist working primarily with themes related to identity, history and popular culture. His work has been exhibited throughout the U.S. and abroad including, the International Center of Photography, Guggenheim Museum Bilbao, Musée du quai Branly, and the Cleveland Museum of Art. Thomas’ work is in numerous public collections including the Museum of Modern Art New York, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Brooklyn Museum, the High Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC, among others. His collaborative projects include Question Bridge: Black Males, In Search Of The Truth (The Truth Booth), and For Freedoms which Thomas co-founded in 2016 as the first artist-run super PAC. For Freedoms was recently awarded the 2017 ICP Infinity Award for New Media and Online Platform. Thomas is also the recipient of the 2017 Soros Equality Fellowship. Current and upcoming exhibitions include Prospect 4: The Lotus in Spite of the Swamp in New Orleans and Freedom Isn’t Always Beautiful at Savannah College of Art and Design Museum. Thomas is a member of the Public Design Commission for the City of New York. He received a BFA in Photography and Africana studies from New York University and a MFA/MA in Photography and Visual Criticism from the California College of Arts. He has also received honorary doctorates from the Maryland Institute of Art and the Institute for Doctoral Studies in the Visual Arts. Thomas lives and works in New York City.


Speech/Acts at ICA Philly

Jibade-Khalil Huffman, Untitled (Citizen), 2015, 3-channel video. Courtesy of the artist and Anat Ebgi.

This fall, the Institute of Contemporary Art will present Speech/Acts, a group exhibition featuring new and recent works by artists Jibade-Khalil Huffman, Steffani Jemison, Tony Lewis, Tiona Nekkia McClodden, Kameelah Janan Rasheed, and Martine Syms.

On view from September 13 through December 23, 2017, Speech/Acts explores experimental black poetry and how the social and cultural constructs of language have shaped black American experiences. The exhibition will also feature prose and poetry by Morgan Parker and Simone White, as well as a satellite outpost for The Racial Imaginary Institute (TRII), founded by poet Claudia Rankine. The immersive and interactive environment of Speech/Actswill invite participation and response, challenge how social realities are manipulated and formed, and illuminate the slippages between speech and noise.

Speech/Acts is organized by Assistant Curator Meg Onli. A fully illustrated catalogue co-published with Futurepoem will accompany the exhibition, featuring reprints of seminal texts by Fred Moten and Harryette Mullen, newly commissioned poetry by Morgan Parker and Simone White, and an essay from the curator.

Speech/Acts reading group will meet over six Saturday afternoons in the fall; we will discuss syllabus texts and explore what they illuminate and provoke. The group will meet in the TRII satellite outpost, which will be installed in the first-floor galleries at ICA. All are welcome to join the reading group; the syllabus and schedule are listed here.

Support for Speech/Acts has been provided by the Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts, the Edna W. Andrade Fund of The Philadelphia Foundation, Nancy & Leonard Amoroso, Toby Devan Lewis, and Carolyn Oakley Lowe & Winston I. Lowe.

Syllabus: (imbed pdf for download)