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Estonian Jazz Star Jaak Sooaar Returns to Pittsburgh

Jazz Poetry Month (16th)

The Jaak Sooäär Trio
+ Poet Kai Aareleid

Tuesday, September 15th
7:00 pm

The Jaak Sooäär Trio made their US debut in Pittsburgh during Jazz Poetry 2016, and we’re still talking about the incredible concert experience. So, when we decided to commission new work and in-language poetry collaborations with international musicians for virtual Jazz Poetry 2020, we were excited to invite Jaak back.

Their 2020 concert is filmed in an Estonian jazz club and is sweetly melodic. It includes a powerful collaboration with poet, Kai Aareleid, named the “2019 Estonian author of the year.”  Tuning in on Tuesday September 15th will transport you from your couch right to Estonia—what could be a better way to spend your Tuesday?

Jaak Sooaar Trio

Jaak Sooäär has been a prominent member of the Estonian music scene since 1989, ranging in styles from jazz to rock and folk to classical. In 1999, Sooäär toured with The European Jazz Youth Orchestra and, in 2003, took part in the EBU Big Band in Istanbul. In 2007 Sooäär was the first jazz musician to get Estonian Annual Jazz Prize. He has also recieved annual prize of Estonian Culture Endownment (Eesti Kultuurkapital) both in 2007 and 2018. He is one of the founders of Estonian Jazz Union which has promoted jazz very successfully in Estonia and Estonian jazz abroad.

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All Pittsburghers are Poets: Poem of the Week

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Happy National Poetry Month!

As we spend as much time at home as possible due to COVID-19, we invite you to tap into your own well of creativity. City of Asylum believes that All Pittsburghers are Poets, and now we want to hear from you! We are calling all residents of Allegheny County to send us a poem by April 30 for consideration in the new online series “All Pittsburghers are Poets: Poem of the Week” to be published in Sampsonia Way Magazine. Writers of accepted poems will receive $15 for their work in honor of City of Asylum’s 15th year.

All Pittsburghers Are Poets

Has it been a while since you wrote a poem? To encourage us all to put pen to paper, we have created a gallery of poetry writing prompts like the one below. You’ll find 8 prompts inspired by our Exiled Writers-in-Residence, 40 general prompts, and 25 prompts created with youth in mind.

Writing Prompt

Submit Your Poem

Workshop for Young Writers Led by J. Albert Mann

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Little Decisions Feed Big Ideas

with J. Albert Mann

Saturday, March 21st
3:00 pm

Calling all young writers!

Join City of Asylum’s first explorative workshop designed for young writers (13+) led by author J. Albert Mann. J. will read from her forthcoming middle grade novel, The DEGENERATES, discuss her creative process, and workshop your drafts in progress. This workshop is designed for writers and readers of all levels interested in being creative and gaining confidence in their writing.

Please bring a draft of a project and writing materials!

The Degenerates

This fiery historical novel follows four young women in the early 20th century who are locked up in the Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded — simply because their society has shunned the poor, the disabled, and the marginalized.

The Massachusetts School for the Feeble-Minded is not a happy place. The young women who are already there certainly don’t think so. Not Maxine, who is doing everything she can to protect her younger sister Rose from an institution where vicious attendants and bullying older girls treat them as the morons, imbeciles, and idiots. Not Alice, either, who was left there when her brother rejected a sister with a club foot. And not London, who has just been dragged there from the best foster situation she’s ever had, thanks to one unexpected, life altering moment. Each girl is determined to change her fate, no matter what it takes. This novel is a moving exploration of feminism, disability, and the dangers of marginalizing those who are “different.”

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The First Pittsburgh Symphony @ Alphabet City Concert in 2020!

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The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Presents


with Ray Chen

Thursday, February 13th
7:00 pm

Ray Chen is a violinist who redefines what it is to be a classical musician in the 21st Century. He has millions of on-line followers through his social media initiatives “In the Mind of Ray” and “Play with Ray”. His appearances and interactions with music and musicians are disseminated to a new public in contemporary and relatable ways. Hear how Ray Chen inspires and connects individuals through music, technology, and humor.

Pittsburgh Symphony + City of Asylum

PSO Conductor Earl Lee joins Ray in an evening exploring real and virtual “connections.”

Poets Melissa Dias-Mandoly and Keith S. Wilson will also read their work.

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Pittsburgh’s Top Songwriting Talent

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Songwriters in the Round

Sunday, January 26th
6:00 pm

Have you ever wondered what it takes to write a new song? Ever been curious about the stories that inspire musicians to pluck a new chord or pen a new lyric?

In this acoustic concert, four songwriters take turns showcasing original songs and sharing the stories behind how they were written. This is an evening to support local musicians and experience the process of composing and workshopping new songs. It’s open to budding songwriters and music enthusiasts alike.

Presented in cooperation with the Pittsburgh chapter of the Nashville Songwriters Association International.

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The Consequences of Corporate Corruption

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Kickback: Exposing the Global Bribery Network

Tuesday, January 14th
7:00 pm

The World Bank estimates that rich multinational corporations pay hundreds of billions of dollars in bribes every year to officials overseas. The perpetrators are not a handful of rogue companies, but many members of the Fortune 500.

Kickback is a searing exploration of this global system of corruption and inequality, and how these backdoor transactions undermine global democracy. From Nigeria to Bangladesh, Greece to China, journalist David Montero tracks how corporate payments line the pockets of some of the most authoritarian and repressive regimes in the world and ultimately exact a devastating toll on human rights, political stability and the overall health of many of the world’s poorest nations.

David Montero

Formerly a correspondent for The Christian Science Monitor and a regular producer for PBS’s flagship investigative series, FRONTLINE, David Montero has twice been nominated for an Emmy Award and has won the South Asian Journalist Association’s Daniel Pearl Award. Montero has also written for Longreads, The New York Times, The Nation, Le Monde Diplomatique, Harvard Business Review and many others

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Clear and Present Stranger: Words from Incarcerated Writers

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Wednesday, December 4th
7:00 pm

How do incarcerated voices resonate beyond walls, beyond bars?

Clear and Present Stranger is a presentation of the University of Pittsburgh’s Prison Education Project (PPEP). PPEP is a collaboration between Pitt’s English Department and incarcerated and non-incarcerated students, offering both Inside-Out and inside-only courses.

Clear and Present Stranger

This program illuminates experiences of the criminal justice system through a night of readings and performances, written by incarcerated writers and performed by their undergraduate colleagues. Performances and writings explore common ground in incarcerated and free experiences and reveals the power of sharing ones story.

Formed in 2016, the Pitt Prison Education Project (PPEP) has been teaching courses at the State Correctional Institute at Fayette (SCI Fayette) modeled on the nationally known Inside Out (I-O) prison exchange program, which has a 20-year track record of success at over 100 educational institutions and 100 correctional facilities. Taught at the prison, these courses are composed of both incarcerated (inside) students and traditional (outside) undergraduates. They have been transformational for all involved.

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The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Returns to Alphabet City

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The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra Presents

New & Old

Thursday, December 5th
7:00 pm

Join musicians from the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra and guest soloist Augustin Hadelich for “New and Old,” the premier event in the new PSO @ COA collaborative season.

Pittsburgh Symphony + City of Asylum

Resident Conductor Andrés Franco and PSO guest soloist Augustin Hadelich lead an evening exploring connections between new and old works of art. Praised for his interpretations of modern composers and his “flair for bringing older music into present tense,” (The New Yorker) violinist Augustin Hadelich is one of today’s star violinists, known for performing wide-ranging repertoire that connects modern and traditional works. He is a guest musician not to be missed!

Pittsburgh writers Bonita Lee Penn and Wendy Scott will also read their work.

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From Undocumented Teenager to Southern Mom

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City of Asylum Memoir Series Presents

Sunday, November 10th
6:00 pm

In MALAYA: Essays On Freedom, author Cinelle Barnes opens a window into her past as an undocumented, Filipino teenager determined to build a future amidst the hustle of New York City. Prevented from getting a driver’s license or filing taxes, Cinelle worked odd jobs — constantly looking over her shoulder, hoping not to get caught. Cinelle also shares essays of her present, as a young mother navigating the stubborn landscape of the American South.

Lyrical and emotionally driven, MALAYA is the stirring follow-up to Cinelle’s acclaimed memoir on her childhood, Monsoon Mansion.

This is an intensely personal, yet universal, exploration of race, class and identity that redefines what it means to be a woman—and an American—in a divided country.
Cinelle Barnes

“Luminescent and shattering, Barnes’s book is a triumph: a conquering of the past through the power of the written word.” — Booklist (starred review)

Cinelle Barnes is a memoirist, essayist, and educator from Manila, Philippines. She is the author of Monsoon Mansion: A Memoir, which was listed as a Best Nonfiction Book of 2018 by Bustle and nominated for the 2018 Reading Women Nonfiction Award. She is also the editor of a forthcoming anthology of essays about the American South by writers of color. Cinelle was the 2018–19 writer-in-residence at the Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art in Charleston, South Carolina, where she and her family live.

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Shirley Chisholm for President

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Sembène Film Festival Presents


Sunday, October 27th
6:00 pm

CHISHOLM ’72: Unbought & Unbossed is the definitive documentary of Brooklyn Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm — the first black woman elected to congress — and her long shot campaign to become the Democratic presidential nominee in 1972. Traveling the “Chisholm Trail” from the announcement of her candidacy to the Democratic National Convention six months later, this story is like Shirley — fabulous and fierce.

Chisholm '72

“An essential historical record of Chisholm’s campaign and its significance to American culture and politics told in Chisholm’s voice…Crucial example of civic engagement and one person who made a difference.” — Variety

Congresswoman Chisholm ran up hard against the political realities, institutional sexism, and racism of the era. Shunned by the political establishment, she asked people of color, feminists and young voters for their support to reshape society and take control of their destiny. To the surprise of many, voters responded.

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