Anti-War Poets Force Scrapping of White House Symposium

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri Jan 31 10:36:31 MST 2003

Yoshie Furuhashi wrote:
> *****   Anti-war poets force scrapping of White House symposium
> Sarah Left
> Thursday January 30, 2003
> The White House yesterday confirmed that it had cancelled a poetry 
> symposium after a number of American poets threatened to turn the event 
> into an anti-war protest.
> The February 12 symposium on Poetry and the American Voice, which was 
> meant to focus on the works of Emily Dickinson, Langston Hughes and Walt 
> Whitman, was one of a number of literary gatherings organised by the 
> first lady, Laura Bush.
> When Washington-based poet Sam Hamill received an invitation to the 
> event, he said he was "overcome by a kind of nausea" and refused to 
> attend. Then he decided to email fellow poets, asking them to compose 
> anti-war works and urging anyone attending the symposium to read works 
> of protest.

Excerpt from Interview with Eartha Kitt
 From Incredibly Strange Music Vol. I

RE/Search: When you were invited to a White House luncheon, didn't you 
cause a scandal?

EARTHA KITT: In 1968, during the Vietnam War, I was invited by Lady Bird 
Johnson to give my opinion about the problems in the United States, 
specifically, "Why is there so much juvenile delinquency in the streets 
of America?" The First Lady seemed to be more interested in decorating 
the windows of the ghettos with flowerboxes. I mean—it's fine to put 
flowers in the ghettos, but let's take care of the necessities first: 
give people jobs, and find a way to get us out of poverty.

When it came my turn to speak, I said to the president's wife, "Vietnam 
is the main reason we are having trouble with the youth of America. It 
is a war without explanation or reason." I said that the young ghetto 
boys thought it better to have a legal stigma against them—then they 
would be considered "undesirable" and would not be sent to the war. In 
their opinion, in this society the good guys lost and the bad guys won.

I didn't say this ranting and raving, but we were in a large room, we 
didn't have microphones, and we had to speak loudly enough to be heard. 
That incident, reported in such a way as to deface me in the eyes of the 
American people, obviously had to have been given by someone from the 
White House—probably the press secretary: "Earth Kitt makes the First 
Lady cry..." There were no reporters present! So this was a manufactured 

R/S: Didn't you suffer because of this?

EK: Of course—within two hours I was out of work in America.


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