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Damon Young, Northside Neighbor, Reads from Esteemed Memoir

City of Asylum (2018)

Damon Young:
What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker

Friday, August 30th
5:30 pm

You’re invited to gathering of friends, family, neighbors, and fans for a reading and celebration of What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker, the critically acclaimed memoir by Northside neighbor Damon Young.

If you’ve been to Alphabet City, chances are you’ve seen Damon chatting with neighbors at the bar or diligently working on his laptop in the main lounge. This program is our chance to celebrate Damon’s success and his service to the Pittsburgh cultural community. The evening includes a reading, discussion, audience Q+A and general hullabaloo.

Damon Young

“Young pulls readers into his world, showing them his vulnerability, hitting them with unflinching honesty about the state of race relations in this country, and keeping them glued to the pages with his wit and humor.” — NPR

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker is a memoir in essays, boldly chronicling Damon’s efforts to, “exist while black.” Written with candor, self-awareness and considerable humor, Damon turns an unflinching eye on himself and an American society constructed and sustained by racism.

What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You Blacker looks at one man’s Pittsburgh life while simultaneously serves as an authentic, keen and touching example of the black male experience.

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Voices from the Inside: Prison-Writing Award Winners

City of Asylum (2018)

Breaking Out: Voices from the Inside

Tuesday, August 27th
7:00 pm

How do incarcerated voices resonate beyond walls, beyond bars?

Breaking Out: Voices from the Inside is a presentation of Words Without Walls, a program of the Chatham University’s MFA in Creative Writing. The program illuminates experiences of the criminal justice system through a night of readings and performances celebrating PEN America Prison Writing Award winners. Prominent local authors will perform the award-winning pieces of poetry, fiction, memoir & theater written by incarcerated writers.

Voices from the Inside

Performers include a cross-section of activists, artists, journalists, politicians & policymakers. Performances and writings explore common ground in incarcerated and free experiences and reveals the power of sharing ones story.

Breaking Out: Voices from the Inside is presented in partnership with PEN America Center & Chatham University.

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Indie Iranian Film Examines Friendship, Belief and Tradition

City of Asylum (2018)

ReelQ Presents

Facing Mirrors

Wednesday, August 21st
7:00 pm

A low budget film set in contemporary Iran, Facing Mirrors explores an unlikely and daring friendship that develops despite social norms and religious beliefs. It is the first narrative film from Iran to feature a transgender main character.

Facing Mirrors

Although Rana is a traditional wife and mother, she is forced to drive a cab to pay off the debt that keeps her husband in prison. By chance she picks up the wealthy and rebellious Edi, who is desperately awaiting a passport to leave the country. At first Rana attempts to help, but when she realizes that Edi is transgender, a dangerous series of conflicts arises.

Rana is forced to comprehend a different reality—a task that requires reexamining all that she believes in and the traditions she values.

The film’s director, Negar Azarbayjani, won the 2012 Grand Prix at the Paris LGBTQ film festival for her work.

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First Featured on This American Life — Now at Alphabet City

City of Asylum (2018)

Abdi Nor Iftin

Tuesday, August 13th
7:00 pm

Abdi Nor Iftin was a Somali refugee who fled to Kenya in fear of the radical Islamist group al-Shabaab. In 2006, while living in a Kenyan refugee camp, Abdi got “the luckiest break of his life:” winning the lottery for a spot on the short list for a U.S. visa. This was his ticket out. But before he could get what was promise, the police start raiding his neighborhood, targeting refugees. Abdi had to fight and struggle, enduring years of difficulty in his quest to move to America.

Abdi visits Alphabet City to recount his story, first told as a radio-documentary on the BBC World Service and This American Life, and now in his urgent and timely memoir Call Me American.

Call Me American

“Riveting… [Abdi Nor Iftin] had to endure famine, war, a precarious life as a refugee, and a visa-rejecting bureaucracy before a green-card lottery win enabled him to emigrate. His narrative is both panoramic and particular, full of irreverent asides, and suffused with appreciation for the humanity of others.” — The New Yorker

Abdi’s voice reads like an old a friend and readers can’t help but cringe at his struggles and cheer for his triumphs. Abdi’s fighting spirit and eternal optimism exude from the work and we think readers will be moved to his story in person.

Abdi Nor Iftin currently lives in Maine. He is studying political science at the University of Southern Maine, and he plays soccer every Saturday in a melting-pot league of Americans and immigrants from around the world.

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Feature Film Centering Somali Refugees – Followed by Panel Discussion

City of Asylum (2018)

A Stray

Monday, August 5th
7:00 pm

A Stray tells the story of one young man’s journey for belonging.

Adan, the protagonist of A Stray, is the quintessential guy who can’t catch a break. His common refrain, introduced in the first scene: “I’m a Somali and a Muslim, no one’s gonna hire me.” The film follows Adan through the vibrant, and difficult, world of Somali refugees in Minneapolis. This city, and the people in it, are rarely seen in contemporary American films.

A Stray

The film, hailed by the New York Times as “visually striking,” shines a light on what it means for some of the most marginalized Americans to find their place in this country.

A Stray was a critical darling at both the SXSW and BAMcinemas film festivals, and received laudatory reviews in the New York Times. It stars Barkhad Abdi, a Somali-American actor famous for his starring role, alongside Tom Hanks, in Captain Phillips.

This screening is presented in partnership with the Muslim Women’s Association of Pittsburgh, and will feature a moderated panel discussion with Hamza Perez, Youth Director at The Islamic Center of Pittsburgh, Haji Muya, Somali refugee and freelance filmmaker, Suad Yusuf of Global Minds Initiative, and graduate student Ilham Abdi, born to Somali refugees.

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Mary Norris Shares Her Passionate Greek Travelogue

City of Asylum (2018)

Mary Norris

Tuesday, July 16th
7:00 pm

A passion for punctuation meets a love for all things Greek.

Mary Norris’ new memoir Greek to Me, traces a decades-long obsession with Greece: its language, literature, mythologies, people, places, food, and monuments. It’s a captivating and satisfying account of a great passion, and is sure to move anyone who’s ever fallen in love with a place.

Mary Norris

Norris is the famous New Yorker copy editor who’s New York Times bestseller, Between You & Me: Confessions of a Comma Queen, delighted readers with her irreverent tales of punctuation in the celebrated copy department. Norris visits City of Asylum to read from Greek to Me, another witty record of her equally passionate fascination with Greece.

A combination of memoir, travelogue, and funny ode to the art of self-expressio, Greek to Me will illuminate for audiences the music of a language that so deeply influences our own.

Mary Norris worked for the New Yorker as a copy editor and query proofreader for more than thirty years. Originally from Cleveland, Ohio, Norris now lives in New York and Rockaway.

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Iraqi Poet and Translator in Conversation

City of Asylum (2018)

Dunya Mikhail

Monday, July 8th
7:00 pm

Iraqi poet, memoirist, and journalist Dunya Mikhail writes in both Arabic and English. Arabic is the language she thinks and dreams in but, Dunya notes, English has made her more sensitive, more aware of her word choice. Translating between languages allows her to better understand her own words, her own thoughts.

Dunya Mikhail

“The popular phrase is ‘lost in translation’ but I think, really, things are found in translation.” —Dunya Mikhail

Dunya will read from a selection of her newest works, discuss her process of self translation, and reflect on the strange and sometimes emotional experience of external translators working on her most personal pieces.

Dunya last read for a pack City of Asylum crowd in 2015. We’re excited to welcome her back for the fourth installment of our Art of Translation series.

Dunya Mikhail was born in Baghdad. After graduation from the University of Baghdad, she worked as a journalist and translator for the Baghdad Observer. Facing censorship and interrogation, she left Iraq in 1996, first to Jordan and then to America. Mikhail’s honors include the Guggenheim Fellowship, the Knights Foundation grant, the Kresge Fellowship, and the United Nations Human Rights Award for Freedom of Writing. She is the co-founder of Michigan-community-based Mesopotamian Forum for Art and Culture. She currently works as a special lecturer of Arabic at Oakland University in Michigan.

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Celebrate a Jazzy Pre-Independence Day with Yoko Suzuki

City of Asylum (2018)

Yoko Suzuki Trio

Wednesday, July 3rd
7:00 pm

What better way to kick off the July 4th holiday than with crowd favorite Yoko Suzuki Trio?

Yoko Suzuki Trio

A musician known both locally and nationally, and an ethnomusicologist, Yoko’s playing is deeply informed by jazz across the globe, especially Japan where she trained. Yoko’s concerts are not only a musical treat but also deeply informed by her rich historical knowledge.

Featured Musicians

Yoko Suzuki: Alto saxophone
Cliff Barnes: Organ/piano
James Johnson III: Drums

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Stirring Film Features One inspirational Senegalese Girl

City of Asylum (2018)

Sembène – The Film & Art Festival Presents

The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun

Saturday, June 29th
3:00 pm

The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun (La Petite Vendeuse de Soleil) is a luminous portrait of Sili—a twelve year old paraplegic girl in Dakar.

The Little Girl Who Sold the Sun

“A masterpiece of understated humanity” – The New York Times

Against the wishes of street boys, Sili is determined to be a street vendor of “Le Soleil,” the national newspaper of Senegal. It is at once a tribute to the indomitable spirit of the street children of Dakar and to the individual’s capability for transforming her situation.

This film will be presented in Wolof with English subtitles. Run time: 49 minutes.

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Documentary Reveals Pittsburgh’s “Quiet Soldier” for Civil Rights

City of Asylum (2018)

Sembène – The Film & Art Festival Presents

Wendell Grimke Freeland:
A Quiet Soldier in the Fight for Civil Rights

Monday, June 17th
7:00 pm

Tuskegee Airman. Civil Rights attorney. Powerful advocate for the poor and the disenfranchised.

Wendell stands at the top. He was that kind of guy, with a deep-seeded sense of commitment.” — Civil rights advocate and New Pittsburgh Courier columnist Louis “Hop” Kendrick

Wendell Freeland

Wendell Freeland devoted seventy years to fighting injustice wherever he found it, from the age of Jim Crow to that of Barack Obama. Though a Baltimore native, Freeland made the most impact in Pittsburgh. He blazed a trail for racial equality by working largely behind the scenes in America’s courtrooms, boardrooms, and political backrooms. He served as Chairman of the board of directors of Pittsburgh’s Urban League and as Senior Vice President of the National Urban League Board of Trustees.

This is his inspirational story and a significant piece of American history.

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