For Immediate Release
January 24, 2024
DODGE FOUNDATION AND NJPAC ANNOUNCE MAJOR EXPANSION OF DODGE POETRY
Reimagined initiative Launches Year-Round Programming That Celebrates
Poetry as a Catalyst for Social Change
Newark, New Jersey – Today, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation (Dodge Foundation) and the New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) announced plans for the 2024 Dodge Poetry initiative – a new collaboration that celebrates poetry as a catalyst for communities to advance social change.
This expanded partnership between the Dodge Foundation, a private foundation that supports organizations working towards a just and equitable New Jersey, and NJPAC, Newark and New Jersey’s anchor cultural institution that enhances lives through world-class performances, education programs, and community engagement, is made possible through a $1.7M grant the Dodge Foundation provided NJPAC.
In 2024, for the first time, Dodge Poetry will expand beyond its biennial poetry festival (which has been headquartered at NJPAC since 2010) to include poetry programs in Newark throughout the year. These Dodge Poetry events will have three goals to: 1) mobilize communities and fuel movements for social change; 2) amplify poet activists who challenge and reframe existing narratives and norms; and 3) create spaces for empathy, healing, and repair for individuals who have experienced systemic racism.
The initiative kicks off on January 26th with Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite, a celebration of the centennial of Max Roach — drummer, bebop pioneer, and civil rights activist — who explored social justice issues and racial inequality through the lens of jazz and poetry. Performers will include Newark Mayor Ras J. Baraka, presenting poems by his father, Amiri Baraka (a long-time Max Roach collaborator) as well as his own writing; drummer Nasheet Waits (of Max’s percussion ensemble M’Boom); vocalist Cassandra Wilson; poets Sonia Sanchez and Saul Williams; saxophonist Ravi Coltrane; pianist Nduduzo Makhathini; and bassist Eric Revis. Advisory Committee member and past Festival Poet, Vincent Toro, will open the event.
Building on 40 years of poetry programming, the new collaboration between NJPAC and Dodge Foundation will extend the footprint of Dodge Poetry across the entire city of Newark. The events are designed to engage and activate residents, especially young people and community partners, and to highlight the intersection of poetry and social justice.
Dodge Poetry will culminate with the 20th celebration of the Dodge Poetry Festival, an event that has to-date engaged more than 150,000 people including 45,000 high school students, on Oct 17-19, 2024. The Festival will be hosted by the Dodge Foundation at NJPAC, which has welcomed poets and artists from across the United States to Newark every other year since 2010, and it will feature performances, readings, and special programs designed to build a community of poets and citizens mobilizing for racial and social justice, repair, and healing.
“The Dodge Foundation has a long legacy of creating opportunities for people to explore and engage with poetry. Now, the reimagined Dodge Poetry will expand our ability to reach new places and people, and focus our programming on artists and activists who interrogate and address issues of social justice,” says Tanuja Dehne, President and CEO of the Dodge Foundation. “By holding these events and the festival across Newark, we will honor the city’s legacy and further amplify the voices and narratives of those who have been at the forefront of activism for racial justice.”
“Ours is a city of the arts, a center of creativity where there are so many stories that need to be heard. Through this initiative, we look forward to sharing the aspirations and realities of all Newarkers” said John Schreiber, President and CEO of NJPAC. “All of us at the Arts Center are excited that the Dodge Foundation is collaborating with us on creating authentic, community-centric programs that spotlight poetry as a means to advocate for social justice and artistic expression.”
To help shape and guide the events and strategy over the year, Dodge Poetry has convened an Advisory Committee of award-winning poets and activists: Sean Battle, CEO and Founder of EvoluCulture Ventures, a Newark-based integrated arts organization that holds space for artists and art lovers; Tamiko Beyer, a social justice communications writer and strategist with roots in radical queer organizing, racial justice organizing, and art activism; Naomi Extra, a poet, writer, cartoonist, and scholar with a PhD in American Studies from Rutgers Newark; Willie Perdomo, a two-time New York Foundation of the Arts Poetry Fellow and former NY state Poet Laureate; and Vincent Toro, an award-winning Puerto Rican poet, playwright, stage performer, author of two poetry collections, and full time professor at Rider University.
Other Dodge Poetry events being scheduled throughout the season will include a special screening of Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project, including a discussion with the filmmaker, Michèle Stephenson, on March 27; a project that provides a forum for young people to share their stories and their views of social justice issues alongside poets, created by NJPAC in partnership with Rutgers University-Newark’s MFA Program in Creative Writing; multiple virtual events, streamed nationally, that focus on the use of poetry to advance positive social change, complete with both readings by activist poets and discussions on the use of poetry as a tool of protest; and free Dodge Poetry performances for the community offered as a part of Horizon Sounds of the City, NJPAC’s long-running outdoor summer concert series held on the Arts Center’s campus Thursday evenings in July and August.
More information about Dodge Poetry, upcoming shows, and events can be found at njpac.org/dodgepoetry. The Dodge Poetry Festival does have an open submission process, and applications will be accepted for performance consideration beginning in mid-February.
About the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation
Established in 1974, the Geraldine R. Dodge Foundation envisions a just and equitable New Jersey where people of all races and communities have equitable access to opportunities to thrive. Over its 50-year history, the Dodge Foundation has distributed more than $500 million in grants and technical support to New Jersey nonprofits. Today, building on decades of learning, the organization focuses its support on those who are directly addressing the root causes and repair of structural racism and inequity to transform lives in New Jersey.
About New Jersey Performing Arts Center
New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC), located in downtown Newark, New Jersey, is among the largest performing arts centers in the United States. It is the artistic, cultural, educational and civic center of New Jersey — where great performances and events enhance and transform lives every day. As New Jersey’s anchor cultural institution, NJPAC brings diverse communities together, providing access to all and showcasing the state’s and the world’s best artists, while acting as a leading catalyst in the revitalization of its home city. Through its extensive Arts Education programs, NJPAC is shaping the next generation of artists and arts enthusiasts. NJPAC has attracted more than 11 million visitors (including more than two million children) since opening its doors in 1997, and nurtures meaningful and lasting relationships with each of its constituents. Visit njpac.org for more information.
Blake Zidell & Associates