Readings on Peace:
An MLK Day Convening Around the Peace Table

I refuse to accept the view that mankind is so tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war that the bright daybreak of peace and brotherhood can never become a reality… I believe that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word.

—Martin Luther King, Jr.

Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ Peace Table, serves as the site for convenings on peace, from the personal to citywide. Ukeles and the Museum have conceived a series of public programs meant to engage and contemporize some of Mierle Laderman Ukeles: Maintenance Art’s important themes.

On the occasion of Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Texts on the topic of peace will be gathered from many sources, cultures, and languages. Volunteers will read them aloud throughout the day creating as Ukeles says “a momentum of energy toward the possibility of peace that will fill up the soaring skylit space.”

The readings will take place around the Peace Table, Ukeles’ blue glass circular table that seems to float in the central atrium of the Queens Museum. Originally commissioned in 1997 by the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art for her installation called Unburning Freedom Hall, the Peace Table was used for a series of “peace talks” by various peacemakers in an effort to undo the civic trauma of the 1992 Los Angeles riots sparked by the acquittal of LAPD officers videotaped beating Rodney King. A quarter century later, the Black Lives Matter Movement has ignited a nationwide call to action against the widespread violence still committed against black bodies in this country. Since the election of Donald Trump, NYC has seen hate crimes against immigrants, People of Color religious minorities and LGBTQ populations increase by 30% according to NYC Police Department Commissioner James O’Neill. In this fraught political moment, we choose to consciously create a place for collective reflection and learning from diverse perspectives. We invoke the voice of those who have struggled and continue to struggle for peace in its most robust sense: not just the cessation of violence but the presence of justice.

Program of Readings

1. Laura Raicovich reads excerpt from Martin Luther King’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech delivered April 3rd, 1968, Memphis, TN.
2. Iviva Olenick reads from text written for her artwork Incantation, 2016, embroidery and beading on fabric.
3. Larissa Harris reads two selections: Eugene Deb’s “Canton, Ohio” speech made on June 16, 1918, from the book Voices of a People’s History of the United States edited by Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove; and ee cummings’ “i sing of Olaf glad and big” (1931)
4. Rosemary Pace reads excerpt from Pope Francis’s 2017 World Day of Peace Message, “Nonviolence: A Style of Politics for Peace.”
5. Amy Sharp reads two poems by Samaris Ayala: “Love Samantha” and “Mommy Peace.”
6. P. Adem Carroll reads from his original essay “Peace?” (2016).
7. Nozeefa Hossain reads from the speech by Mahatma Gandhi on the eve of the famous Salt March, in March, 1930.
8. Laura Raicovich reads “We will not be a Party to This Crime” a declaration by Turkish Academics for Peace in January 2016.
9. Cheyenne Wyzzard-Jones reads “To the Women of Standing Rock ” by Florcy Romero & Cheyenne Wyzzard-Jones of Women of Color in Solidarity, November 4th, 2016
10. Mia Ruyter reads from new poetry written for the occasion by incarcerated women at Rikers Island, 2017.
11. Cathy Cullen reads her original poem, “Prodigal Heart,” 2016.
12. Mathilde Diaz reads an excerpt from the book City of Gods: Religious Freedom, Immigration, and Pluralism in Flushing, Queens by R. Scott Hanson, 2016.
13. Aida Šehović reads two original works: “some thoughts on peace to be read on January 15, 2017,” which includes text from Martin Luther King, Jr., “The Casualties of the War in Vietnam,” speech before the National Institute, Beverly Hills, CA, February 28, 1967; and “108 collected verbs about peace to be read on January 15, 2017”.
14. Prerana Reddy reads two selections: Muhammad Ali speaking out against the war in Vietnam (1966) from the book Voices of a People’s History of the United States edited by Howard Zinn and Anthony Arnove and section 3 of the essay “War as an Opportunity for Learning,” from the book The Philosopher Queen: Feminist Essays on War, Love and Knowledge, by Chris Cuomo, 2002.
15. David Mills reads his original poem “Zion Zazen” and the finale of Martin Luther King’s “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop” speech delivered April 3rd, 1968, Memphis, TN.
16. Nazeefa Hossain reads Maya Angelou’s poem “A Brave and Startling Truth” from Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer, 2006.

Image: Artists In/Of the City

Mierle Laderman Ukeles: Maintenance Art is made possible with leading support from The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts; the National Endowment for the Arts; Lily Auchincloss Foundation, Inc.; The Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation; and Ronald Feldman Fine Arts. Contributions were also generously made by Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP; Mark and Katie Coleman; Rivka Saker; the May and Samuel Rudin Family Foundation, Inc.; EMU Health; Gabriel Catone; Andrew Ruth; Helen and Peter Warwick; Manon Slome; and Elizabeth Smith.

The Queens Museum is grateful for significant in-kind support from the New York City Department of Sanitation. Additional in-kind gifts were provided by Shine Electronics, Inc.; Delta Air Lines; W X Y Architects; Lower East Side Print Shop; and SITU Fabrication. The accompanying publication is supported, in part, by the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation and Furthermore: a program of the J.M. Kaplan Fund.

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