Solidarity Street Poetry

We are pleased to include poetry as an important part of our SOLIDARITY STREET GALLERY, to add to the much needed conversations between visual artists, writers, and the community.  Payne Avenue - and this page below - display the voices of

As you walk up and down Payne Avenue, please look for these poems, next to the artworks they belong to, or on sandwich boards out on the sidewalk.​

You are invited to share your own voice!

Your are encouraged to submit your own poem, rap poem, or prose - in response to either one of the artworks in the exhibit, or one of the poems featured here, and at various locations along the Avenue.  You can do this in three different ways:

  1. You can post on social media, using the hashtag #solidaritystreetpoetry

  2. you can send an e-mail to:  YourPoetryandArt@gmail.com

  3. You can simply click the button below and enter your poem into the form provided


Apart from Sun Yung Shin's work, the poetry portion of the SOLIDARITY STREET GALLERY event was assembled and curated by the 6 emerging poets.  They all have connections to and affection for the East Side.  Some of them live there.  All  have taken classes sponsored by the East Side Arts Council.   They are grateful for those and the wonderful teachers:  Margaret Hasse, Diane Jarvenpa and Thomas R. Smith.

Spotlight Poet and Writer


신 선 영 Sun Yung Shin


Artist Statement:  I consider myself a language worker and culture worker. Much violence occurs on the premises of language (patriotism, symbols of the nation & masculinities, etc.), and in my poetics I am often seeking to make that language strange, and the experience of engaging with my poems somewhat speculative, disorienting—because that is what my daily life feels like as a Korean woman in the United States. I see almost nothing of myself in this culture. Making poems is an attempt to create a language in which I can exist, momentarily, like a holographic message from another dimension alongside this one. Games and mechanisms such lotteries and black box theory speak to my existential condition as a displaced immigrant and an invisible subject-citizen. Korean properties of emptiness, animism, and shamanism influence my work, as do ideas of the sublime, the haunted, and the impure. 

SecondShift logo.png

See Sun Yung Shin's Exhibit and Installation

at Second Shift Studio Space

Poets of Wide Renown - and Established Local Poets


Maya Angelou was a civil rights activist, poet and award-winning author known for her acclaimed memoir I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, and her numerous poetry and essay collections.


Marion Gómez is a poet and teaching artist based in Minneapolis. She has been awarded grants from the Minnesota State Arts Board, Intermedia Arts  and the Loft Literary Center. Her work has appeared in La Bloga, Mizna, Water-Stone Review, Saint Paul Almanac among others


Langston Hughes (1902 – 1967) was a famous American poet, social activist, novelist, playwright, and columnist from Joplin, Missouri.  His father left  for Mexico when he was a baby, and he was raised by his grandmother until his teens.  He moved to New York City as a young man, where he was an innovator of jazz poetry, and a leader in the Harlem Renaissance.


Danez Smith is a Black, queer, non-binary, HIV-positive writer and performer from St. Paul, MN. They are the author of the poetry collections [insert] Boy and Don't Call Us Dead: Poems, both of which have received multiple awards.     Source, National Book Foundation


Joy Harjo is an internationally renowned performer and writer of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation and was named the 23rd Poet Laureate of the United States in 2019. She lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where she is a Tulsa Artist Fellow.


May Lee-Yang is a writer, performer, and teacher. Her plays include The Korean Drama Addict’s Guide to Losing Your Virginity and Confessions of a Lazy Hmong Woman. She is a former Playwright Center McKnight Fellow, a Bush Leadership Fellow, and a co-founder of FAWK (Funny Asian Women Kollective). She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Minnesota.


Still I Rise


Maya Angelou

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
’Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries?

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
’Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own backyard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.

Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise


Life is Fine


Langston Hughes

I went down to the river,
I set down on the bank.
I tried to think but couldn't,
So I jumped in and sank.

I came up once and hollered!
I came up twice and cried!
If that water hadn't a-been so cold
I might've sunk and died.

     But it was      Cold in that water!      It was cold!

I took the elevator
sixteen floors above the ground.
I thought about my baby
and thought I would jump down.

I stood there and I hollered!
I stood there and I cried!
If it hadn't a-been so high
I might've jumped and died.

     But it was      High up there!      It was high!

So since I'm still here livin',
I guess I will live on.
I could've died for love—
but for livin' I was born.

Though you may hear me holler,
and you may see me cry—
I'll be dogged, sweet baby,
if you gonna see me die.

     Life is fine!      Fine as wine!      Life is fine!


Mi appelido es...


Marion Gómez

Gómez: A scar left by salivating conquistadors

in search of their gilded man, summoning


the ship that carried my great-grandfather across the Atlantic;

the blood in and on the hands;


the lush palmas de Barranquilla, Columbia

I’ve seen only in pictures;


a tombstone to the language my father buried   with his father

to embrace my mother’s English;


my grandmother’s empanadas and the back of   her hand

slapping my own for my inability to roll

mi doble ‘r,’


a badge offering partial membership hanging   below

a face that can pass among the white pines of   Minnesota;


a kiss from my father before bed;

a maiden name no one will ever change.


the 17 year old

and the gay bar


Danez Smith

this gin-heavy heaven, blessed ground to think gay & mean we.

bless the fake id & the bouncer who knew

this need to be needed, to belong, to know how

a man taste full on vodka & free of sin. i know not which god to

  pray to.

i look to christ, i look to every mouth on the dance floor, i order a whiskey coke, name it the blood of my new savior. he is just. he begs me to dance, to marvel men with the                                                                                  dash

of hips i brought, he deems my mouth in some stranger’s mouth


bless that man’s mouth, the song we sway sloppy to, the beat, the

  bridge, the length

of his hand on my thigh & back & i know not which country I

  am of.

i want to live on his tongue, build a home of gospel & gayety

i want to raise a city behind his teeth for all boys of choirs &

  closets to refuge in.

i want my new god to look at the mecca i built him & call it

  damn good

or maybe i’m just tipsy & free for the first time, willing to

  worship anything i can taste.


Eagle Poem


Joy Harjo

To pray you open your whole self

To sky, to earth, to sun, to moon

To one whole voice that is you.

And know there is more

That you can’t see, can’t hear;

Can’t know except in moments

Steadily growing, and in languages

That aren’t always sound but other

Circles of motion.

Like eagle that Sunday morning

Over Salt River. Circled in blue sky

In wind, swept our hearts clean

With sacred wings.

We see you, see ourselves and know

That we must take the utmost care

And kindness in all things.

Breathe in, knowing we are made of

All this, and breathe, knowing

We are truly blessed because we

Were born, and die soon within a

True circle of motion,

Like eagle rounding out the morning

Inside us.

We pray that it will be done

In beauty.

In beauty.


How I Lost My Name


May Lee-Yang

When I was born,
my father named me

Maiv Muam Nkauj Lig Lis.

He believed my siblings and I
could be kings,
if given exceptional names.

When we came to the United States
I became May Moua Gao Lee.
The INS forgot "Lig"
thinking it was the same as my last name
A mistake,
On our part

In first grade, my sister told me
how to spell my name
She giggled;
I didn't know why

In seventh grade, I was May Moua
But our principal called me May Moo
Other kids thought Moua was my last name

By ninth grade, I was just May
Though it was still too complicated to remember
Was it pronounced "My?"

When I married
People thought my first name was Maylee
My last name Yang
They still don't pay attention when I correct them

Last week,
a friend said
I had the simplest name in the world
When I told her my full name
Maiv Muam Nkauj Lig Lis
that it meant Mongolia


Emerging Poets

Mem Lloyd is an artist, teacher, community gardener and occasional poet. She has a long association with
Payne Avenue and the East Side Arts Council and is delighted to be part of the Solidarity Street Festival.

Tom Odendahl grew up in Minnesota. He has been working on poetry for the last several years. Before that he taught social studies in Minneapolis Public Schools and exaggerated his youthful heroics.

Romi Slowiak is an aspiring dilletante, recovering planner, and first CEO of the East Side Arts Council. She discovered poetry through a China Garden in her neighborhood and pursues it through great  teachers.


Jan Borofka is a suburban housewife and caregiver who has been writing and workshopping poetry for
years. Borofka enjoys finding humor in dark places and her poetry sometimes reflects that.

Andrea E. Johnson grew up in the Twin Cities and worked in the public health field most of her career.
Besides poetry, she loves piano, fabric, and nature in all seasons.

M. C. Kennedy is a retired psychology professor who has always written. What is lacking in skill is
remediated by good intentions, two good teachers and a peculiar Midwestern sense of humor.

Mother Earth


Jan Borofka


I am brown like my beloved sisters

I am black as night

I am all colors

  I am awake

  I am all seeing

We will rise above despair and wickedness

We will rise above tyranny and hate

We will turn to the light

  the light that surrounds us

  the light that is in us

  the light from above

Inspired by


by Desire’ Johnson


I Learn About Our Karen Neighbors


Andrea E. Johnson

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First Land: Myanmar

You are a peaceful people from forests and mountains

where rivers flow with sand, with

fish to ferment, pound with chilis and peppers,

fields to till, rainbows of vegetables and rice …

but constant fear and strife

rained upon you, decades of civil war,

a genocide, your villages, fields, afire year after year

as you hid in forests until you could take no more.


Second Land: Thailand

You walked a great distance in danger,

lost many as you crossed the border,

nine refugee camps, strict as prisons, 

each like fifty villages cramped into one, trapped.

Yet out of the air you breathed, you taught your children to play

the sport of cane ball, to dance the bamboo clap dance, 

to speak your language, script with letters 

as bright as bubbles on Water Day.


Third Land: Minnesota

In the new millennium, you came with tears,

strings tied to your wrists to protect your souls, and music ~

reedy buffalo horns, thana harp, its voice like the blues,

sonorous frog drums, kana mandolin, like a giant’s wooden spoon,

Ta-Ki mouth harp for poetry whispered in young lovers' ears …

You give us gifts, abundant as 10,000 lakes, and now in great demand ~

courtesy, hospitality, dignity, an always-helping hand.

Ta Blu. Thank you. This land is your land.  

Inspired by

Food on the Fly

by Ku Paw


I Remember You


M. C. Kennedy


You’re the face I dreamt of,

every day on the long

winter walks to school

in my white world.


I was a thoughtful child.

In the world upheaval of 1945

we needed world peace.

I planned it,  step by step.


Everyone would look 

a little like everyone else.

We would wear our solidarity

on our face, on our clothes.


I dreamt your face;

a cast of India,

soupçon of France,

touch of Nigeria,

whisper of Asia,

sun of Hawaii.

You could wear a burka,

and maybe a cross.

Your eyes could be blue or brown.


Hates were different growing up,

Germany, Japan, even Italy,

we bombed them all.

One grandpa was from Germany,

hard for a little girl to figure out.

As I grew old, the hates just changed, 

but I never forgot you.


Then, at 84, I saw you smile at me.

After a Picture

by Rush Merchant



We are all pieces of the puzzle


Mem Lloyd


We are the old ones who went before.

We are the lights on a neighborhood corner.

We are the bridges, the struts of the bridges,

the bolts and the girders.

We are the feet on the bridge.

We are words spoken plainly.

We are ears wide open.

We are the ones who wait in silent persistence.

We are the meal shared.

We are a puzzle piecing itself together,

no two pieces alike.

We are all colors, nuances, rhythms,

shapes converging in clarity, strength,


We are Solidarity.

Inspired by

“Silence is Violence”

by Shayla Pedigo




Tom Odendahl


For art by the same name


  Honest art, hard truth, mean sometimes

  you have to wrap your fists around thin threads of trust

  and step off into empty space.

  These brave collages in simple form


Insist - Angie’s voice -

  that we smash the locks on doors, open our arms to our      neighbors,

  immigrants, not invaders, who bring

  powerful energy, bright vision, endurance,

  to rejuvenate this place.


Acknowledge - in the words of Lilly -

  that false promises and injustices

  subvert our dreams, crush our hopes,

  and condemn our most vulnerable

  to misfortune.


Demand - Britney’s eyes -

  that, arms linked, bright banners raised high,

  we protect and respect expressions of love and union,

  every family in its entirety,

  honor each person in their natural state.


Invoke - Jamila’s vision -

  the healing of a wounded Earth, purifier of all elements,   water and air,

  dome of nurture to living things,

  the blue sanctuary for all,

  for our shared wild gift of life.


Assert - expressed by Kabao -

  that we find strength, great success, spiritual vigor,

  our deepest, most vibrant selves

  when we are connected

  in community, in human contact.


  These courageous and honest expressions

  reveal the best of us is in our youth.

Inspired by


by East Side Youth




Romi Slowiak


Strength of pattern

stamp of culture

Rise, defy gravity

feather the sculpture


Submit to nothing

that chafes your skin

Subvert if you must, 

birth what’s within


Intrigue with shadows 

of tulle and topaz

Flat hat with a veil

a cymbal…hot jazz!


Sing stories in silk

bring questions and smiles

May I touch? Oh I covet

such tactile guile


Frame soul’s soft windows

niqab, burqa, chador 

Shun controversy through cover

wrapped in Islam’s law 


Show much or show little,

you dress for the role

All fabric is light

to illume your soul.

Inspired by


by Chloe Rizzo