- Arts and Humanities
- Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
In February 2021, the University of Pittsburgh Center for Creativity and Year of Engagement sponsored “In Our Own Write,” a creative writing program for LGBTQ+ community members ages 50 and older.
On June 28, the anniversary of the first day of the Stonewall Uprising, the Center for Creativity will hold a 7:30 p.m. virtual community open mic where “In Our Own Write” students will share their work, and community members of all ages will have the chance to listen and share their own poetry and short prose.
Most of the eleven participants in this pilot program had never taken a writing workshop before.
“This course was specifically designed for folks with little or no writing experience,” said Jeanne Marie Laskas, founding director of the Center for Creativity and a Distinguished Professor of English at the University.
Over nine weeks, students read and wrote poetry and short creative nonfiction that focused on different elements of LGBTQ+ life, from friendship and love to aging to community.
“I was amazed at how honest and vulnerable these students were willing to be,” said Erik Schuckers, who facilitated the program. Schuckers is a poet and nonfiction writer, as well as the Center for Creativity’s communications and programming manager.
“They were so willing to go deep and explore their experiences, to wrestle with them and shape them into writing that really resonates,” he said. “We wanted to provide an opportunity for queer elders to connect and learn to share their stories and experiences in a creative way.”
“We really want this June open mic to be an extension of this idea, a community space to share and uplift our common experience,” Schuckers added. “Creativity is for everyone. We all have stories to tell, and we can learn so much from telling them, and from listening.”
To get a feel for the writing to be shared at the event, read an excerpt of writer C.E. Pino’s poem, “My Last Pride Parade Before the Pandemic”:
We’re off! We strut along the downtown
streets to the beat
of endless rounds of the anthem
Born This Way
singing, clapping, smiling, waving,
“you’re beautiful in your way”
the noise of the crowd, the hoots and hollers
momentary connections, wisps of interactions.
“and you are not a mistake”
engaged a drag queen dressed to perfection,
singing together as if headliners on stage
transported for a chorus-length of time to an intimacy
of shared energy
igniting, re-igniting a fire of validity.
“you’re on the right track, baby”
I dance my ass off, feeling invincible and,
for a brief time,
the music and the energy hold tight, numbing
pain that is building, growing, spreading.
unaware (or in denial) that what used to be normal activity,
is now creating a firestorm within my body.