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The PEN World Voices Festival, for which the Village Voice serves as an official media sponsor, announced yesterday that the theme of this year’s event — the fourteenth edition, to be held April 16–22 — will be “Resist and Reimagine.” The mandate befits a collective moment in which the foundational values of PEN America — freedom of expression, the importance of liberty, the necessity of having access to ideas and truth — are under attack, not only in the U.S., under the fact-averse regime of President Trump, but in the world over.
The 2018 festival will play host to such literary luminaries as Roxane Gay, who will lead a discussion on the issues of the day at the Great Hall at Cooper Union (April 20); Colson Whitehead, who will draw on his acclaimed recent book, The Underground Railroad, to unpack the legacy of racism and slavery in America (April 16, also at Cooper Union); and Jelani Cobb, Gregory Pardlo, and Nikole Hannah-Jones, who together will look back at the imprint of Martin Luther King Jr. — fifty years after his assassination — by posing anew one of his pivotal questions: “Where do we go from here?” (April 20, Brooklyn Museum).
Other planned panels include “The M Word: No Country for Young Muslim Women” (April 18, Jamaica Performing Arts Center) and “The Trick of Translation” (April 21, Subculture). In a statement, Voice owner Peter Barbey — who will present this year’s PEN/Barbey Award to a pair of currently imprisoned Myanmarese reporters, Wa Lone, 31, and Kyaw Soe Oo, 27 — said that the “Resist and Reimagine” theme “couldn’t be more timely or topical.” He added, “It resonates here at the Village Voice, since those very same principles have been reflected in our mission since our inception in 1955, at the beginning of an American cultural revolution.”
The PEN World Voices Festival takes place April 16–22. The PEN/Barbey Award is underwritten by the Edwin Barbey Charitable Trust, for which the Voice’s owner, Peter Barbey, serves as an advisor.