Today’s political climate is seemingly more polarizing than ever. In addition to the uncertainty involved in American affairs, both domestically and abroad, the U.S. has another battle on its hands: a fight against literacy. According to the National Coalition for Literacy, nationwide, roughly 36 million adults lack basic literacy skills.
Participants self-reported their stress levels before entering the gallery and then spent 35 minutes exploring the space in any way they wanted. Upon exiting, they expressed being less stressed. Furthermore, they also had lower concentrations of cortisol, commonly known as the stress hormone. In recent weeks, in order to shine light on the importance of literacy and education, writers, authors, and artists have come together in solidarity.
According to the Boston Globe, an international group of writers even planned tongue-in-cheek pre-inauguration events designed to both promote literacy and poke fun at the new president. These counter-inauguration/anti-illiteracy events were held in about 50 cities around the world.
“People are hungry to have some sense of community and unity around a set of values that they’re not hearing articulated in public discourse right now,” said Daniel Pritchard, a Boston-based organizer. “Individual expression is the very heart of democracy, and we want to articulate a new vision.”
Pritchard helped organize a free reading at the Boston Public Library. And in New York City, the Writers Resist protests consisted of two parts: a series of readings outside of influential buildings and monuments like the New York Public Library, followed by a march on Trump Tower. The writers brought with them a petition in defense of “free expression” that was signed by more than 110,000 people.
This group of literary activists haven’t stopped protesting since the inauguration, either, but rather stepped up their demonstrations. In late February, 65 prominent writers, authors, musicians, and actors all signed an open letter to President Trump in reaction to the recent visa ban that blocked certain people from seven majority-Muslim countries.
The New York Times reports that these artists are worried about future bans that would impair the “global exchange of arts and ideas.”
“Vibrant, open intercultural dialogue is indispensable in the fight against terror and oppression,” the letter states. “Its restriction is inconsistent with the values of the United States and the freedoms for which it stands.”
The writers teamed up with PEN America, an advocacy organization representing the International Association of Poets, Playwrights, Editors, Essayists, and Novelists.
“At a moment like this it’s important for the public that’s weighing out these different cases and policies to recognize the breadth of concern,” said Suzanne Nossel, the executive director of PEN America.