Category Archives: Arts and Culture


Michael J. Fortner on Criminal Justice – Roots & Reform

By Cher Mullings
Recording by Zenzile Greene

Why would members of the Harlem community consciously support policies that endorse incarceration of their brothers and sisters?

Dr. Michael J. Fortner’s latest book Black Silent Majority: The Rockefeller Drug Laws and The Politics of Punishment examines how black-on-black crime influenced a chasmic class division within Harlem from the 1940s – 1960s.

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Alabanza: In Praise of Local 100

By Samina Shahidi

For the full text of “Albanza,” by Martin Espada, visit the poet’s website at

In the prose poem “Alabanza,” acclaimed poet Martin Espada honors the forty-three members of Local 100 who died in the attacks on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001. These workers staffed the Windows on the World restaurant, located at the top of the North Tower.

The first two stanzas of “Alabanza” begin with deft, quick portraits animated by the music of bread and eggs: a cook from Fajardo whose blue eyes echo Spanish and American invasions of Puerto Rico. The tattooed “oye” on his shoulder, an exclamation that shares shades of meaning across several languages and cultures, underlines the transcendence of words. Each worker carries familial histories in bodies as they move through daily routines of feeding customers.

Espada’s next sketches build on these personal moments by intentionally linking histories of structural conquest and labor movements in the Caribbean. The roll call of migrant and immigrant workers listed in this poem serve as remembrance. In its breathtaking diversity, it is also a reminder that our cities are points for labor flows affected by agrarian and trade agreements and military campaigns. Espada avoids commenting on the  attacks on the Twin Towers themselves, but instead directs us to the unspoken lives and labor struggles represented in the poem.  As the poem opens outward, it moves beyond our imaginations.

Learn more about Martin Espada.


For more information, explore:
Puerto Rico in the American Century: A History Since 1898
By César J. Ayala, Rafael Bernabe

Photo by cursedthing via flickr (CC-BY-ND)

Creative Arts Night Panel Presentation: Dr. Randall Horton

On June 12th, 2015, the Murphy Institute Blog Arts & Culture Editors hosted the first ever Creative Arts Night at the Murphy Institute. 

In this video clip, Dr. Randall Horton, Assistant Professor of New Haven College of Arts and Science, explores how his writing life as a poet began during his commuted sentence in North Carolina correctional facility. This talk was part of the Creative Arts panel event in June 2015 at the Murphy Institute.

In tracing his creative and academic path, Horton demonstrates the connections between the creative arts, sociopolitical consciousness and grassroots organizing. He shows how writing programs such as the Cave Canem and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop can serve as alternatives to institutional fine arts programs that are inaccessible to many writers in underserved communities. In providing mentoring and workshop space, these organizations offer much-needed creative instruction and  facilitate counter-perspectives to the production emerging from BFA and MFA programs.

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Creative Arts Night Featured Panelist: Agunda Okeyo

On June 12th, 2015, the Murphy Institute Blog Arts & Culture Editors hosted the first ever Creative Arts Night at the Murphy Institute. In the coming weeks, we’ll be posting some footage from our esteemed panelists and performers.

Here, activist, filmmaker and writer Agunda Okeyo discusses her unique role in the world of art, social justice and the imagination. Agunda was also featured in this month’s issue of Time Out NYC in a section featuring Best Comedy Shows run by females.

Creative Arts Night at Murphy, June 12th

Join the Murphy Institute for our first Creative Arts Night, to be held on the 18th Floor of the Murphy Institute, located at 24 W. 43rd St., on June 12th from 6-8pm.

Hosted by Murphy Institute Blog Arts & Culture Editors, the event will feature panelists Randal Horton and Matt Sedillo, whose work was recently featured on this blog — plus art installations, an open mic and more.

Looking forward to seeing you there!