GRAFFITI Book Launch
Date and Time:
Oct 30 2019 7:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Semicolon Bookstore and Gallery
515 N. Halsted St., Chicago, IL 60642
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Tara Betts, Krista Franklin, Tongo Eisen-Martin, Tamika Thompson, and Pallavi Dhawan

GRAFFITI Book Launch

Community Event

Where better to celebrate the launch of GRAFFITI, the inaugural anthology from the artist collective POC United, than at Semicolon, a community space and gallery for Chicago’s street art scene?

Join us for an evening of readings and discussion with American Book Award-winning poet Tongo Eisen-Martin, poet, artist, and professor Krista Franklin, writer and journalist Tamika Thompson, and LA-based writer Pallavi Dhawan. The night will be hosted by poet Tara Betts. (RSVP at Semicolon:

The editors of GRAFFITI gave the contributors a special challenge: to write in a way that centers neither “whiteness” nor “anti-whiteness”, that is not limited by their struggle, their oppression, or how their characters will be received by the white imagination. To create a literary safe space of creative play far removed from the white gaze. A place where POC can focus on one another in solidarity.

The results are joyous and mind-expanding. Contributors to GRAFFITI include American Book Award-winner Tongo Eisen-Martin, award-winning fantasy author L. Penelope, award-winning writer Vickie Vértiz, alongside Kirin Khan, Gary Dauphin, Sarah LaBrie, Alycia Pirmohamed, Kanika Punwani, and many other acclaimed writers. It features a foreword by poet and novelist Elmaz Abinader, and an introduction by novelist Nayomi Munaweera.

Through poetry, short stories, and essays, the works in GRAFFITI expose lives that move in unexpected ways, rendering characters who don’t fit the cultural tropes we cling to. GRAFFITI shows what writers-of-color do when they are given permission to scribble, scrawl, romanticize, and speculate, without being politicized or exoticized.

In 2017, Pallavi Dhawan and Tamika Thompson created POC United – an annual themed anthology that showcases multi-genre works by writers of color. While many people of color (POC) communities, both literary and otherwise, do the necessary work of fighting against an oppressive and dominant culture propped up by race, white supremacy, and their inherent privileges, they wanted their contribution to this struggle to be a literary safe space of creative play far removed from the white gaze. A place where POC can focus on one another in solidarity. A place where POC can build something together.

Originally from San Francisco, Tongo Eisen-Martin is a poet, movement worker, and educator. His curriculum on extrajudicial killing of Black people, We Charge Genocide Again, has been used as an educational and organizing tool throughout the country. His book titled Someone’s Dead Already was nominated for a California Book Award. His latest book, Heaven Is All Goodbyes, was published by the City Lights Pocket Poets series, was shortlisted for the Griffin Poetry Prize and won a California Book Award, as well as an American Book Award.

Tamika Thompson is a writer, producer, and journalist. She is co-creator of the artist collective POC United and fiction editor of the group’s inaugural anthology, GRAFFITI (Aunt Lute Books). Her fiction is forthcoming in or has been published by Prairie Schooner, Glass Mountain, Literary Orphans, the Matador Review, Orca, and Huizache, among others. Her nonfiction is forthcoming in or has been published by the New York Times, Los Angeles Review of Books, the Huffington Post, Another Chicago Magazine, MUTHA Magazine, and She lives in the Chicago metropolitan area with her husband and two children. You can find her online at

Tara Betts is the author of three poetry collections-Break the Habit, Arc & Hue, and the forthcoming Refuse to Disappear. She co-edited The Beiging of America: Personal Essays About Being Mixed Race in the 21st Century and edited a new critical edition of Adventures in Black and White, the long out-of-print memoir by Harlem-born, interracial child prodigy Philippa Duke Schuyler. She holds an MFA from New England College and a Ph.D. in English from Binghamton University. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies, including Poetry, Essence, NYLON, Lit Hub.

Krista Franklin is a poet, visual artist and performer. Much of Franklin’s creative output concerns itself with the intersection of the literary and the visual, and often explores the conceptual concerns of Afrofuturism and AfroSurrealism. Recent publications of Franklin’s poetry and visual art have appeared in Black Camera, Vinyl 5, BOMB, The New Sound, Copper Nickel, Indiana Review, Clam and Callaloo in addition to the anthologies Encyclopedia Vol. II, F-K and Gathering Ground. In 2012, Willow Books published her chapbook of poetry Study of Love & Black Body.

Pallavi Dhawan is a writer and lawyer living in Los Angeles. She is co-creator of the artist collective POC United and non-fiction editor of the group’s inaugural anthology, GRAFFITI (Aunt Lute Books). She is an alumna of VONA/Voices, the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley, and Hedgebrook, and is working on her first novel.