Encounters in the Americas

Encounters in the America is a research, education, and action project that seeks to support popular education programs in North, South and indigenous American communities of resistance. Our goals are to strengthen the capacity of these communities to: challenge and defeat the neoliberal agenda; to create alternatives to capitalism and to mobilize coordinated resistance to attacks on self-determination and autonomy.

The project creates cross-cultural encounters with writers whose work deals with the empowerment and liberation of peoples and individuals through literacy and literature. Study projects in the United States, Venezuela and Mexico are underway.

Outstanding writers from three generations of struggle for popular literacy and socially engaged public art are joining in correspondence, workshops, public dialogues, spoken word performances and textual exchanges. The encounters and the published results are engaging educators, activists, artists, and the general public in exploring successes and setbacks in achieving meaningful literacy in the Americas.

By opening an encounter between northern and southern artists, the individual and collective work of the artists are being strengthened and a space is being created in which the value of socially engaged public art is itself re-affirmed.

Artistic representations and subversive memes are critical elements of popular culture that can nourish a movement capable of careful analysis of class, race, gender, sexuality and nationalist oppression that is also celebratory, joyous, inclusive and fully human.

About us: The City Lights Foundation, the Freedom Voices Project of the Tenderloin Reflection and Education Center (TREC), and the Center for the Study of the Americas (CENSA) provide organizational and administrative support.

Ben Jesse Clarke is the artistic director.

Clifton Ross is a research associate of the program, conducting field work in Central and South America.

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Subscribe here to receive updates from our research associates in the field.  Clif Ross is currently traveling in South America and filing approximately once a week e-letters.

Ben Jesse Clarke

Ben Jesse Clarke is artistic director of Encounters in the Americas/ Encuentros de los Americas project of CENSA. He is editor of Race, Poverty & the Environment a journal of social and environmental justice published by Urban Habitat. He is also the lead artist with Encountering San Francisco, a part of the Youth Advisory Board of Southern Exposure gallery’s Arts in Education program, where he teaches writing and design to a group of high school students drawn from across San Francisco. He is the co-editor with Roger Burbach of September 11 and the U.S. War, Beyond the Curtain of Smoke co-published by Freedom Voices and City Lights publishers 2002; editor of Image and Imagination, Encounters with the Photography of Dorothea Lange, 1997; and co-editor of Voice of Fire, 1994, the first anthology of Zapatista communiqués and interviews published in English. He is the founding editor of Freedom Voices Press. From 1998-2004, Clarke was editor of MediaFile a bi-monthly journal of media analysis and resources for activists published by San Francisco’s Media Alliance. A California Arts Council artist-in-residence 1999-2001 and a San Francisco Arts Commission lead artist on a project called Raising Our Voices, Clarke has been teaching writing, digital design and critical thinking in community settings for over a decade.


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