United States of Writing

In 2020, as part of the United States of Writing initiative, Poets & Writers created a new grant opportunity to support writers who identify as Black, Indigenous, or People of Color (BIPOC) writers in Detroit, Houston, and New Orleans. The Readings & Workshops program offered Project Grants of up to $750 to support online literary events that engage local communities. The following writers received project grants in the fall of 2020:


  • T. Miller for Detroit Whole, a three-part spoken word series dedicated to the grief Detroit is experiencing due to COVID-19.
  • Cherise Morris for Venerations, a performative reading of new poetry which centered the experiences of Black people and includes an interactive ritual designed to facilitate ancestral connection and veneration.
  • Patiense McKenzie for Spirit Week for Detroit Creatives, a three-part event which included a poetry competition and community conversations between professional and aspiring writers.
  • Owólabi William Copeland for Intimate Access—Detroit Voices, Embodied Stories, a two-part literary series in which Detroit BIPOC writers with disabilities and/or chronic illness share their work and discuss their creative projects and processes.
  • Ben Will for The HAM Slam: A Commissioned Slam for the Community, a spoken word poetry competition which showcased Black artists sharing new work that is uplifting and fun, with the overall goal of invigorating the community.
  • Aiko Fukuchi for Weaving Stories within Relentless Bodies, a workshop in which BIPOC, Detroit-based creatives struggling with disability, chronic illness and other health conditions can come together to respond to each other’s work, experiment, connect, and play with narratives amongst each other.


  • Willow Curry for Waking Up From the Dream: Black Americans Beyond America, a series comprised of readings, writing prompts, and discussions designed to create an affirming, open space for Black Americans to explore the possibility that the United States will never be a safe place for Black people.
  • Josie Pickens for Dear Diary: Memoir as Magic in These Trying Times, a journaling and personal narrative writing workshop that helped participants navigate and document their feelings of grief and gratitude in this moment.
  • Mộng-Lan for Hunger & Resilience: Reading/Talk/Performance and Workshops, a reading and workshop series that addressed the need for connection and direction in the Houston literary community and beyond.
  • Reyes Ramirez for Houston Eyes, Silver Screens, a reading series that featured writers of color, particularly of Latinx descent, that respond to or utilize pop culture, contextualizing national images into themes of race and history.
  • Natasha Carrizosa for natty roots & rhyme, a series of virtual open mics and community conversations envisioned to create a brave space to be ourselves, to inhale and exhale.
  • Anthony Sutton for Loneliness: A Collaboration, a collaborative 3-session salon, each loosely centered around a pandemic-related theme, where participants are invited to read and write together to find ways to make the present more livable.
  • Peace for How to Get Free, a three-part creative writing event where participants were invited to continue to imagine the infinite ways that Black people & marginalized communities can take hold of their birthright of freedom.

New Orleans

  • José Torres-Tama for Immigrant Dreams & Alien Nightmares, a bilingual spoken word performance of docu-poems from Torres-Tama’s book of the same name.
  • Daiquiri Jones for Home Is Where A House Was, a series of readings and discussions that sought to unite poets of color, especially queer people and women of color, and to raise community awareness around housing justice.
  • FreeQuency for A Gate is Leaning, a poetry reading series which interrogated the collapse of the American empire from the perspective of Black writers writing to and beyond this moment.
  • Linett Luna Tovar for Touching the Words I Do Not Yet Have/Tocando las palabras que aun no tengo, a writing workshop for immigrant youth in the New Orleans metro area that reintroduced writing as a healing, liberatory, and community-building tool.
  • Ron Ragin for Freedom Knows Our Name: Black August 575, a reading and community-wide conversation between Black artists on what it means to create in a time of crisis through the lens of possibility.
  • Frederick Wood for Pass It On NOLA Open Mic Series/ Up Close & Personal Ashé Cafe Live Conversation Series, a virtual showcase celebrating the work of several spoken word artists, writers and creatives.












These events were supported in part by Poets & Writers, thanks to a grant from the Hearst Foundations.