Since March of 2020, frontline workers have been putting their lives at risk to ensure our communities have access to food, deliveries, health care, emergency medicine, other essential services. However, few have been given a chance to reflect on the past year of the pandemic or to share what it is like to live on the edge of history.
From April-May 2021, Literary Cleveland paid Northeast Ohio essential workers to participate in creative writing workshops to process their experiences, connect with other frontline workers, and craft their writing. The poetry and prose they created tells their stories in their own voices and transforms our understanding of the challenges they faced during the pandemic, the challenges they still face today.
In November 2021, participant writing was published in an online anthology, presented in a variety of public readings, and distributed in news stories amplified by Literary Cleveland’s media partners to re-engage the public with the individual stories of these workers and transform our understanding of the challenges they face.
Voices from the Edge is made possible through the generous support of the Andrews Foundation, the Char and Chuck Fowler Family Foundation, the Cleveland Foundation, and Neighbor Up. Program partners include the Cleveland Clinic, MetroHealth, Greater Cleveland Nurses Association, Cleveland Emergency Medical Services, Cleveland Division of Firefighters, Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Agency, the Greater Cleveland Food Bank, and Cleveland Rape Crisis Center. The program was designed by Christine Howey and Matt Weinkam, and coordinated by Christopher Johnston. Workshop instructors included Christopher Johnston, Lisa Langford, Vince Robinson, and Logan Smith. Trauma-informed instructor training provided by Kirsti Mouncey.
"I don’t know whose side you’re on,
But I am here for the people
Who work in grocery stores that glow in the morning
And close down for deep cleaning at night..."
– “Say Thank You Say I’m Sorry” by Jericho Brown