Writers Cancel Brooklyn Museum Talk Over the Institution’s ‘Refusal’ to Support Palestine

Doreen St. Félix and Nikki Giovanni, two well-regarded writers, said on Friday that they would no longer take part in a talk at the Brooklyn Museum tomorrow, criticizing the institution for its stance on Palestine. sarana99

St. Félix, a staff writer at the New Yorker, and Giovanni, an acclaimed poet, were set to appear at the museum following a screening of Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Project, a recent documentary about that writer that won an award when it debuted last year at the Sundance Film Festival. The event is co-hosted by PEN America, an advocacy organization that aims to support freedom of expression in the US and elsewhere. sarana99

In their statement, posted to Instagram on Friday, St. Félix and Giovanni said they had “withdrawn from the program in response to the refusal of both PEN America and Brooklyn Museum to stand in solidarity with people of Palestine and against genocide.”

A spokesperson for the Brooklyn Museum did not respond to requests for comment.

“We very much regret that the event with the Brooklyn Museum was cancelled,” PEN America said in a statement to ARTnews. “As a free expression organization of course we respect every individual’s right to voice their own perspective on the conflict and to respond as their conscience dictates. We mourn the immense loss of Palestinian lives, and the destruction of museums, libraries, and mosques that contribute to a vibrant cultural community.  We have also voiced our shared anguish for the Israelis whose families were killed or taken hostage.”

Both the Brooklyn Museum and PEN America have been criticized for a perceived lack of response to the conflict in Gaza, where Israeli airstrikes have killed more than 30,000 people since the October 7 Hamas attack, according to the Gazan health ministry.

When the Brooklyn Museum was protested by pro-Palestine activists last December, a spokesperson said, “we support any group’s right to peacefully assemble.”

PEN America has been denounced by many prominent writers for its position on the conflict in Gaza. On February 3, more than 500 signed an open letter that accused PEN America of being “silent” on the issue, calling on the organization to “wake up from its own silent, tepid, neither-here-nor-there, self-congratulatory middle of the road and take an actual stand against an actual genocide.”

On February 7, PEN America issued a statement that called for a “mutually agreed upon ceasefire” in Gaza while also noting the October 7 attack by Hamas, which killed more than 1,200 Israelis and took more than 200 hostages. Of the attack, the organization wrote that it was “devastated by and mourn these grave and ongoing losses.”

The Brooklyn Museum talk is the latest example of an arts event in the US that has been impacted by Israel’s war in Gaza. An Indiana University exhibition by Palestinian artist Samia Halaby was canceled earlier this year, and several artists exhibiting at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco altered their work in support of Palestine, leading the museum to close certain galleries. sarana99


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