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Writing for Social Change: Re-Dream a Just World. Why Re-Dream?

I am the founder/creator of the Re-Dream a Just World Workshops. These have a long history in my teaching work. In the early 1980’s, when asked how I wrote my “political” poems, I was a bit confused, since all my poems concerned events and issues that I passionately cared about and connected to, and I could not figure out which ones were really not “political.” My response was to teach a workshop, at The Loft in Minneapolis, called “Getting Past the Artificial Distinctions between the Personal and the Political.”

In my years teaching writing and literature with people who had been disenfranchised in various ways, I came to understand that I needed to present the craft and concepts of good writing in ways that were empowering, and revealed writing as a tool for change, both individual and societal. I needed to relocate this craft in its historical and political contexts, and saw that doing so made not only the craft accessible to my students, but also made their own experiences and their deepest concerns and beliefs accessible to them, as well, through language.

I developed a curriculum closer to the current Re-Dream workshops in the late nineteen nineties while I was teaching at a college for working adults in Boston. The title, Re-Dream a Just World, came from a section of the novel The Famished Road, by Nigerian writer Ben Okri. In it, a young boy watches his father in a deep, active sleep, lasting for days, after fighting a great wrestling match. “Dad was redreaming the world as he slept….A dream can be the highest point of a life.”

I thought this was a wonderful thing to do—re-dream the world; hence, the name of the workshop.