Even after Randa Jarrar withdrew as the headliner of LitHop — the event and Fresno City College still were receiving a large number of threats. Despite that negativity, attendees and performers say the event still accomplished what it set out to do.
Poet Lee Knight said poetry readings help people express themselves and open dialogue within communities.
“If you can sit and listen to a poem for 10 minutes, maybe you can listen to your neighbor for a little bit,” said Knight.
He was one of many in the Tower District on Saturday sharing his words and stories in LitHop. While he came from Palo Alto, he knew the light Randa Jarrar’s boisterous tweets — especially the initial one about the late Barbara Bush — cast on the event.
Even so, he wasn’t planning to miss on making new connections.
“It wasn’t going to stop me and I made sure it didn’t stop the kids [performing] because that’s one person. This is an event and they can’t paint the event,” said Knight.
On Friday, Fresno City College released a statement saying despite Jarrar not being employed at the college, nor being the headliner for LitHop anymore, the college was still receiving many, many threats.
The college took extra security precautions during the headliner event in response. The most visible, campus police officers on-hand at-the-ready.
Jaylyn Reddix, along with her poetry teammates from Washington Union High School, is happy to still get the opportunity to express. Despite all the negativity from the week.
“We’re not here to hurt anyone or have any negative feelings toward a certain person” Reddix said. “We’re just here to speak our truth.”
LitHop founder Lee Herrick and headliner Carmen Giménez Smith both addressed Jarrar’s comments during the headliner event. Both said they support her free speech.