For 3 local poets, 'sanctuary' means activism, community and having their voices heard - Generocity Philly


Apr. 19, 2017 10:02 am

For 3 local poets, ‘sanctuary’ means activism, community and having their voices heard

A Leeway Foundation-funded migrant poetry workshop culminated in a public reading of the poems created by participants at Asian Arts Initiative. Here are three of them.

The migrant poets.

(Courtesy photo)

“Sanctuary” can mean many things.

For Katherine Antarikso, a project architect based in Philly, the value of her time with a recent five-session, migrant poetry workshop called “Sanctuary” was just as much about being in a place of sanctuary as it was writing poems about the topic.

“Just to be in the same room with other women of color, trying to do the same thing, learning and working with each other, it was transformative,” Antarikso said in an email. “It gave me a chance to explore ideas that I have been grappling with for some time: identity, belonging, home.”

Her poem, titled “Homeland,” was one of many that came out of Cynthia Dewi Oka’s Leeway Foundation-funded workshop for those who identified as “members of (im)migrant, refugee, nondocumented and/or displaced communities, with priority given to women and LGBTQ people of color.”

The politically motivated workshop culminated in a public reading of the participants’ poems on April 7 at Asian Arts Initiative — and three of the poets shared their works with Generocity, below.


Just as the November election results and the aftermath affected Oka’s motivation for the workshop, Antarikso felt like she felt an “urgency to create art as a response to political and social injustice.”

“As an American citizen, I’m in a privileged position to be able to speak out, but there are so many others who are afraid and hiding, who can’t speak,” she said. “I wanted to turn the sense of despair and create work that spoke to what it means to be an immigrant in these times, to hopefully invoke a sense of empathy to what people go through when they leave everything behind to start over again to live in a free society.”

Read Antarikso’s poem here.


From our Partners

Gemelle John, who’s written poems for Cleaver Magazine’sLife as Activism,” decided to get involved in the workshop to continue her practice of poetry-as-activism.

“Poetry and activism have always existed in a mutual space for me,” John said in an email. “When I saw the listing for the workshop it seemed like the perfect opportunity to practice both and grow.”

Read John’s poem here.


Allowing the true, unfiltered voice to be heard was a reason for Karlamaria, another participant, to get involved with the workshop. That motivation is made clear with her poem, “This poem is in no offense to my dog, she did save me after all.” She believes you have to be honest when writing poetry.

“I always lived in fear,” Karlamaria said in an email. “Living in fear sometimes leads to lying for your survival. I was tired of lying and wanted to speak my truth and i felt like this workshop would give me the tools/space to do so.”

Read Karlamaria’s poem here.

Want more richly researched and deeply sourced community reporting?  Become a Generocity member for $10 per month -30-

From our Partners

These Philly students are protesting gun violence with the National School Walkout

This community performance project aims to destigmatize Kensington

14 women organizers you should know in Philadelphia


Generocity Philly

12 Philly immigrants who are ready to mobilize

Folsom, PA

Senior Community Services

Director of Development

Apply Now
3711 Market Street , Philadelphia, PA

University City Science Center

Grants Manager

Apply Now
Philadelphia, PA

Bethesda Project

Human Resources Assistant (P/T)

Apply Now

New Sanctuary Movement on activism from ‘a place of abundance’

Philly’s DA axed cash bail for low-level offenses. Activists are still watching


Generocity Philly

Redefining civic participation, one new leader at a time


Technically Media

Generocity Contributing Reporter

Apply Now
Exton, PA and Chester County

Home of the Sparrow

Program Coordinator – Women’s Reentry and Assessment Program

Apply Now
North Philadelphia

Mighty Writers

Bilingual (Spanish/English) Program Manager

Apply Now

Sign-up for regular updates from Generocity