10-year Anniversary of Defending the Freedom to Write
In celebration of 10 years of providing a safe haven to oppressed writers, Ithaca City of Asylum (ICOA) sponsored a marathon reading, Voices of Freedom, featuring many of the community’s talented authors. This was a unique opportunity to hear local authors—including Cornell faculty James M. McConkey, Alison Lurie, Helena Maria Viramontes, and Ernesto Quiñonez, —read from their own works, in celebration of the right of free speech and in support of ICOA’s work. The reading took place on Saturday, November 6, 2010, from 1–4 pm at the new Kitchen Theatre Company, 417 W. State / Martin Luther King Jr. St., in downtown Ithaca.
Ithaca City of Asylum, which began in early 2001, is one of only four cities in the United States providing asylum for writers. In its 10-year history, ICOA has provided a safe place to live and work for four international writers and their families. In the face of political repression, these writers have spoken up for freedom of expression in their own countries and continue to do so within Ithaca’s supportive and creative community.
ICOA’s guests have included Yi Ping, a poet from China; Reza Daneshvar, a playwright and novelist from Iran; Sarah Mkhonza, a fiction writer and linguist from Swaziland; and, most recently, Irakli Kakabadze, a poet, playwright, and journalist from the Republic of Georgia. All have done significant creative work while living in Ithaca, published chapbooks with the assistance of ICOA, taught at local schools, and contributed to the community’s cultural life by participating in various literary, scholarly, and political events. Reflecting their appreciation of the life they’ve been able to build here, three of four hosted writers still happily reside and work in Ithaca.