PEN OAKLAND - A CHAPTER OF PEN CENTER USA
“Part of the pleasure of receiving the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Book Award for 1996 is that I can now think of myself as an honorary citizen of Oakland, not a sister-city, but a West Coast mate to Brooklyn my old place.”
PEN Oakland, chartered in early 1989, is the first chapter of the Los Angeles based PEN Center USA West. The Los Angeles chapter is itself part of PEN International, an organization of professional writers founded in London in 1921. In the words of the charter, PEN members “pledge themselves to do their utmost to dispel race, class and national hatreds and to champion the ideal of one humanity living in peace in the world. Literature, national though it be in origin, knows no frontiers. PEN stands for the principle of unhampered transmission of thought within each nation and between all nations, and members pledge themselves to oppose any form of suppression of freedom of expression in the country and the community to which they belong.”
PEN Oakland is the first chapter to target multi-cultural issues within the USA. Its unique purpose is to promote works of excellence by writers of all cultural and racial backgrounds and to educate both the public and the media as to the nature of multi-cultural work. To that end, we annually award the PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Literary Awards, created to honor writers of exceptional works often not acknowledged by the mainstream literary community. Judged by respected writers, the awards honor books published the previous year that both reflect a multi-cultural or marginalized viewpoint and represent the highest standards of literature. We also annually present the PEN Oakland Literary Censorship Award to a United States writer whose work represents excellence in literature of conscience and/or who may have suffered any kind of censorship based on philosophical or cultural content.
In addition, through a series of symposia, we engage local and national media monitors in a dialogue so that greater understanding of non-traditional literature can be created and so that issues of censorship and stereotypes can be addressed. Multi-cultural art, which is often highly culturally specific and at times of great antiquity in its perceptions, requires such dialogue in order that its subtleties might be recognized. We hope that eventually reviews and criticism might come from a consciousness which understands the life out of which such works arise, and it is to that end that we present non-traditional literature and non-mainstream issues to the general public.
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"The Blue-Collar PEN"