City of Asylum/ Pittsburgh

City of Asylum Pittsburgh will present its 11th annual Jazz Poetry Concert at 7:45 p.m. Saturday near the National Aviary in West Park.

The event will be free to the public, and critically acclaimed Pakistani poet and human rights activist Harris Khalique will read poetry to jazz music.

Khalique will read in the Urdu language, a language spoken in Pakistan, and English translations will be available.

Other artists will be reading their poetry during the concert as well.

A North Side-based group known most for its support of exiled writers is spreading the word, literally. 

The City of Asylum has partnered with the Pittsburgh Office of Public Art to connect its Alphabet City, a literary center, to its Alphabet Reading Garden, the residential part of the neighborhood, by creating what it is calling a River of Words. The “River” will consist of area neighbors hosting words made out of  plastic placed on the outside of their homes.

Nick Frost / 90.5 WESA

As a young writer, Moniru Ravanipur, hoped that her writing would keep her alive. But more often than not it caused conflict with the Islamic government of Iran, where she grew up.

After waiting nearly seven years to get permission to publish her work, then ten years for her first novel, Ravanipur’s work was quickly banned.

“I didn’t write before the revolution. I wrote a short collection story that immediately they burnt and banned...That was not the only story that they banned.”

The Pittsburgh community can look forward to hearing from a “Woman of Courage” thanks to the Ellis School and the City of Asylum.

The Woman of Courage is someone who, through her writing, had the courage to confront oppression and injustice in her country and has suffered as a result usually through banishment if not imprisonment.

The organizations have partnered up to bring Moniru Ravanipur, originally from Iran, to read from her books and talk about her experiences.

Joseph A / Flickr

City of Asylum Pittsburgh was launched in 2004 and has since been a hub of activity on Pittsburgh’s North Side.

Created as a sanctuary for writers in exile, City of Asylum is expanding into a vehicle for community development on the city’s North Side.

Henry Reese, founder of City of Asylum, says the organization's role in the community is constantly evolving.

“Cities of asylum” form a global network of support for oppressed and endangered writers.

In Europe they are supported by governments. In the United States they are usually sponsored by universities. City of Asylum/Pittsburgh, however, operates on a different model.

A local arts group hopes to use a grant to turn Pittsburgh into a canvas promoting freedom of expression.

ArtPlace America awarded a grant to the City of Asylum/Pittsburgh to launch its newest project, the “Garden to Garden” Artway.

City of Asylum/Pittsburgh spokeswoman Elizabeth Baisley said the artway will create spaces where literature and art are visible to the public as they walk along the streets of Pittsburgh.