In this project writers will pair with immigrant communities that have ties to their native cultures and are navigating a new cultural space in Kansas City. The writing team, Vox Narro, will identify host communities with the help of social service organizations who work with immigrants. They will then dialogue with members of their host communities and interpret those conversations or interactions through writing. Finally, they will coordinate presentations at the cultural centers or gathering places most important to the target communities. Each program will combine a cultural celebration of that community – revolving around food, literature and traditional music forms – as well as a presentation of work of the writers.

The recognition that the metropolitan area is undergoing a profound shift in its cultural base, and that this transformation is taking place under the radar, is what motivates this work. Long-established communities such as the Hmong community in Kansas City, Kansas, thrive in close-knit support groups that provide many of the cultural needs of the community while remaining invisible to many other residents.

In the old Northeast area a diverse mix of stores and restaurants are adding a vibrant mix to a traditionally immigrant-based neighborhood, with cultures ranging through Somali, Ethiopian, Haitian, El Salvadorian, Mexican, Italian, Arabian and Vietnamese.

Lead artist Jose Faus says: “This project will serve to introduce a broader community to the rich cultural tapestry that is unfolding in the city. It will also engage the communities in a public celebration of their own culture.”

About the artists:

Vox Narro (Latin for “voice” and “narration”) is a collaborative created for this project. It is a group of writers/visual artists who have worked together in the past on various projects, and are committed to giving voice to the voiceless.

Jose Faus, a native of Bogota, Colombia, received degrees from the University of Missouri at Kansas City in studio art and creative writing. He has exhibited extensively in the metropolitan area and been involved in mural projects in Kansas, Missouri, Mexico and Bolivia. He is a founding member and president of the Latino Writers Collective. His writings appear in the anthologies, Primera Página: Poetry from the Latino Heartland and Cuentos del Centro: Stories from the Latino Heartland, and in Present Magazine and Poets & Writers. Forthcoming publications include writings in I-70 Review, Raritan, Dicho Magazine, and an anthology: In the Red and the Black. He is a board member of both the Writers Place and Nuevo Eden. Faus received the 2011 Poets & Writers Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award.

Sharon Eiker is a community activist whose focus in life is creating space where people can tap their creative energies. She has a Masters of Arts degree in Art from the University of Missouri, and taught in the public schools until her retirement. Her work has appeared in Thorny Locust, Potpourri, and other publications. A board member of the Writers’ Place, she hosts two monthly Salons there, as well as an open mic at the Uptown Arts Bar in Kansas City, Mo. One of her favorite quotes is, “Create a world you can stand to live in.”

David Arnold Hughes is a retired firefighter from Kansas City who now makes his way in the world as a poet. His poems have been published in a number of literary journals including Thorny Locust, I-70 Review, Coal City Review, Dark Lady, Unquiet Desperation, Blind Dog Barking At A Train and The Downgo Sun. He has published two books of poetry: Fire Eaters and Stained Glass Women (Blue Chair Press 2005) and The Sound Time Makes (iUniverse 2008).

Glenn North is currently serving as the Poet-in-Residence of the American Jazz Museum while pursuing an MFA (part-time) at the University of Missouri – Kansas City. He is a Cave Canem fellow, a Callaloo creative writing fellow and a recent recipient of the Charlotte Street Generative Performing Artist Award. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Kansas City Star, One Shot Deal, The Sixth Surface, Caper Literary Journal, Platte Valley Review, Cave Canem Anthology XII and The African American Review.

William Peck was born and raised in Kansas City, and is the owner of MetaphorMedia, a Kansas City-based videography company. He has been a member of Kansas City’s community of poets for more than 20 years. He routinely attends, hosts and performs at local poetry-reading events, and much of his video work is devoted to furthering the arts, particularly the literary arts.

Michelle Pond, a native of Buffalo, N.Y., has lived in Kansas City for more than 25 years. Her poems have appeared in Rusty Truck ezine and have been part of the Johnson County (KS) Library’s “Poem-a-Day” promotion for National Poetry Month. The Women’s Intersport Network for Kansas City (WIN for KC) included her poem in its Live Active Program curriculum booklet. She recently published, “I Keep You with Me: Looking at Grief with Verse.” She authors the blog, MAPoet and volunteers with a bereavement support group. She holds a Bachelors of Science degree in journalism from Syracuse University.

Rhiannon Ross is an award-winning journalist, editor and poet originally from Joplin, Mo. She’s received writing awards from the Missouri Press Association, the Society of Professional Journalists, the Missouri Association for Social Welfare, and the Inland Press Association. Publications she’s written for include the Examiner of Eastern Jackson County, the Ottawa Herald, the Labor Times, the Pitch, The New Times, and Discover Vintage America. Currently, she’s a contributing feature writer for Her Kansas City. Her poetry has appeared in Thorny Locust, Potpourri, and in I-70 Review.

Judith Towse Roberts is a writer, educator and poet. She has a B.A. in English from the University of Missouri-Kansas City, as well as an M.A. in English/Education and a Masters in Counseling/Psychology. Her book of poems, Chrysanthemums I Once Thought Sweet, was a finalist in the Thorpe Menn competition. Her works have appeared in many literary magazines as well as in Chicken Soup for the Mother’s Soul. She retired from Avila University and finished a career of 40 years of teaching in public and private schools. She conducts creative writing workshops in the inner city for at-risk students.

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