In his final days, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called for a "multiracial coalition of the working poor." King hoped this coalition would become the next civil rights movement but he was assassinated before he could see it emerge as the Poor People's Campaign, now led by Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II and Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis. King's last lesson—about the dangers of dividing working people—inspired the conversation gathered here by Jones and Howell.
Fifty-five years after the assassination of King, What Things Cost collects stories that are honest, provocative, and galvanizing, sharing the hidden costs of labor and laboring in the United States of America. Voices such as Sonia Sanchez, Faisal Mohyuddin, Natalie Diaz, Ocean Vuong, Silas House, Sonia Guiñansaca, Reginald Dwayne Betts, Victoria Chang, Crystal Wilkinson, Gerald Stern, and Jericho Brown weave together the living stories of the campaign's broad swath of supporters, creating a literary tapestry that depicts the struggle and solidarity behind the work of building a more just America.
Join the Prince George’s County Memorial Library System and the Prince George’s County Office of Human Rights as they welcome editors, Rebecca Gayle Howell and Ashley M. Jones, and authors, Faisal Mohyuddin and Allison Pitinii Davis, in conversation about this award-winning, breath-taking anthology, about economic (in)justice, and the glorious, necessary, incalculable contributions of workers across America.
Rebecca Gayle Howell is a writer, translator, and editor. Her Best Book of the Year honors include those from The Best Translated Book Awards, Foreword INDIES Awards, The Nautilus Awards, The Sexton Prize (U.K.), and Banipal Prize (U.K.). Among her other honors are the United States Artists Fellowship, the Carson McCullers Fellowship, the Pushcart Prize, and two winter fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown. Howell is the long-time poetry editor of The Oxford American and a professor of Poetry & Translation for the University of Arkansas MFA program.
Ashley M. Jones is the Poet Laureate of Alabama (2022-2026). She is the first person of color and the youngest person to hold this position in its 93 year existence. She holds an MFA in Poetry from Florida International University, and she is the author of Magic City Gospel, dark / / thing, and REPARATIONS NOW!. She is the co-editor of "WHAT THINGS COST: An Anthology for the People." Her poetry has earned several awards, including the Rona Jaffe Foundation Writers Award, the Silver Medal in the Independent Publishers Book Awards, the Lena-Miles Wever Todd Prize for Poetry, a Literature Fellowship from the Alabama State Council on the Arts, the Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize, and the Lucille Clifton Legacy Award. She was a finalist for the Ruth Lily Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Fellowship in 2020, and her collection, "REPARATIONS NOW!" was on the longlist for the 2022 PEN/Voelcker Award for Poetry. Jones has been featured on news outlets including Good Morning America, ABC News, and the BBC. Her poems and essays appear in or are forthcoming at CNN, POETRY, The Oxford American, Origins Journal, The Quarry by Split This Rock, Obsidian, and many others. She co-directs PEN Birmingham, and she is the founding director of the Magic City Poetry Festival. She is the Associate Director of the University Honors Program at UAB, and she is part of the Core Faculty of the Converse University Low Residency MFA Program. She recently served as a guest editor for Poetry Magazine. In 2022, she received a Poet Laureate Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets.
Faisal Mohyuddin is a writer, artist, and educator. The child of immigrants from Pakistan, he is the author of "The Displaced Children of Displaced Children," (Eyewear, 2018), which won the 2017 Sexton Prize in Poetry, and was selected as a 2018 Summer Recommendation of the Poetry Book Society and named a "highly commended" collection of the year by the Forward Arts Foundation; it went on to receive an Honorable Mention in the Association of Asian American Studies 2020 Book Award for Poetry. Faisal is also the author of the chapbook The Riddle of Longing (Backbone Press, 2017), and his work has received Prairie Schooner's Edward Stanley Award, a Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize from the Illinois State Library, and an Illinois Arts Council Literary Award. His recent work appears in Poetry Magazine, Poet Lore, Kweli, The Margins, Pleiades, Chicago Quarterly Review, and RHINO. An alumnus of the U.S. Department of State's Fulbright Teachers for Global Classrooms program, Faisal is a graduate of Carleton College, Northwestern University, and Columbia College Chicago. An educator adviser and master practitioner for the global-not-for-profit Narrative 4, he teaches English at Highland Park High School in Illinois and creative writing at the School of Professional Studies at Northwestern University. He lives in Oak Park, Illinois.
Allison Pitinii Davis is the author of "Line Study of a Motel Clerk" (Baobab Press, 2017), a finalist for the National Jewish Book Award and the Ohioana Book Award. The collection focuses on a trucking motel, a laundry, and diasporic culture in the Rust Belt. Her work has been supported by Stanford University's Wallace Stegner program, the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, and the Severinghaus Beck Fund for Study at Vilnius Yiddish Institute, and she regularly publishes in venues like Best American Poetry, The Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day series, The New Republic, and The Oxford American.