In October, Ithaca, New York, was officially designated a city of asylum for exiled writers, only the second of its kind in the U.S.
Ithaca is the newest member of a worldwide network of cities that is maintained by the International Parliament of Writers, an organization based in Paris. Cities of Asylum offer refuge to writers whose works are repressed, whose cultures are vanishing, or whose languages are endangered. Each of the 27 cities around the world, including Amsterdam, Vienna, and Mexico City, provides exiled writers and their families with housing, part-time employment, a monthly stipend, and medical, legal, and social support.
Ithaca's first exiled writer-in-residence is poet Yi Ping, who was invited to live and write in the city for two years. A democracy activist, Yi Ping's work was banned in China in 1989 after he participated in civil resistance against the government. He moved to Poland in 1991, and in January 1997 he was invited to speak at the Global Chinese Democracy Symposium in New York City. While there, Yi Ping applied for and was granted political asylum by the U.S. government. He has lived in San Francisco and New York, supporting his wife and son as a factory worker and kitchen assistant while learning English.
As part of the Ithaca City of Asylum project, Yi Ping is now teaching Chinese part-time at Cornell University while continuing his writing and publishing projects. He has begun translating poems by Ithaca writers into Chinese and plans to write a book about his experiences in America.
For more information about the Ithaca City of Asylum project, visit www.saltonstall.org/icoa. And read the News & Trends article about the first U.S. city of asylum, Las Vegas, in the March/April 2001 issue.