Hosted by Maine’s Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous, and Tribal Populations

Tuesday, April 4, 2023 from 5:00 – 7:00 pm ET
On site at Maine MILL 35 Canal St Lewiston, ME 04240

Space is limited, so please register today to reserve your seat

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Join us for the fourth event in the Place Justice Event Series—free and in-person at Maine MILL in Lewiston—where we will welcome an extraordinary panel of local poets, scholars, and activists in conversation about language, land, and belonging.

The Place Justice initiative, a project of the Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous, and Tribal Populations, seeks to uncover the histories and meanings of place names in Maine/Wabanaki territory. Underpinning these efforts is the broader question – what is the relationship between language and land? Further, when people must leave the land to which we belong, how do we carry it with us through language? How do humans use language to cultivate a sense of belonging wherever we are? In the context of colonization, slavery, and migration, language has been a site of genocide, erasure, and assimilation. Yet, can it also be a form of resistance against displacement and a tool of solidarity, persistence, and place-making?


Samaa Abdurraqib (she/hers) taught at Bowdoin College, transitioned into the non-profit world in 2013, and currently serves as Executive Director at the Maine Humanities Council. She enjoys writing poetry, birding, being outdoors, and coaching leaders of color. Samaa deeply loves Black and Brown and queer and trans people. Samaa’s poems can be found most recently in Enough! Poems of Resistance and Protest (2020), Bigger Than Bravery: Black Resilience and Reclamation in a Time of Pandemic (2022), Cider Press Review, Writing the Land: Maine (2022) and her chapbook Each Day Is Like an Anchor (A Clearing, 2020).


Mihku Paul is a Maliseet writer, visual artist, and storyteller. She is a member of Kingsclear First Nation, N.B., Canada. Look Twice: The Waponahki in Image & Verse was her first multimedia installation, and includes archival photographs, poetry and original graphic art. Mihku co-authored a chapter on culture-based education with Dr. Kelly Hrenko (USM) in the Indigenous education journal Transforming Our Practices: Indigenous Art, Pedagogies, and Philosophies. Mihku is a 2010 graduate of the Stonecoast MFA program and current Executive Editor of Dawnland Voices 2.0 (online journal). Her chapbook, 20th Century PowWow Playland, has been used at various colleges in Maine as resource content in teaching Waponahki history and DEI. Recent work includesAtlantic Vernacular, and poems in the anthologies Wait: Poems from the Pandemic as well as Enough! Poems of Resistance and Protest (Littoral Books).


Marcelle Medford is an Assistant Professor in the Sociology Department at Bates College. Her research and teaching interests lie at the intersection of urban sociology, immigration, race, and ethnicity. Specifically, she examines how black immigrants understand their own ethnically-specific identities in the United States. This shift in perspective explores how black immigrants produce ethnic boundaries that extend far beyond ethnic conflict with African Americans and incorporates dimensions of cultural performativity, nationality, political and class ideologies, transnationalism, and citizenship status.


Ian-Khara Ellasante (they/them) is a Black, queer, trans-nonbinary poet and cultural studies scholar. Ian-Khara’s poetry has been published or is forthcoming in We Want It All: An Anthology of Radical Trans Poetics, The Feminist Wire, Nat. Brut, Hinchas de Poesía, The Volta, Writing the Land: Maine, and From Root to Seed: Black, Brown, and Indigenous Writers Write the Northeast. Ian-Khara is a 2023 Cave Canem Fellow and has received the New Millennium Award for Poetry and the Ashley Bryan Fellowship. Their critical writing, including the essay “Radical Sovereignty, Rhetorical Borders, and the Everyday Decolonial Praxis of Indigenous Peoplehood and Two-Spirit Reclamation,” has appeared in Ethnic and Racial Studies, Transgender Studies Quarterly, and Families in Society. Proudly hailing from Memphis, Ian-Khara has also loved living and writing in Tucson, Brooklyn, and most recently, in southern Maine, where they are an Assistant Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies at Bates College.

*(Ian-Khara also took the photograph of the Androscoggin River featured above, titled “a name for the sky IV”)

Maine Museum of Innovation, Learning and Labor (MILL) is a history and culture museum that tells the diverse stories of hard-working people and creative invention. By sharing extraordinary stories of work and our unique collection, Maine MILL preserves and celebrates the past, gives context and meaning to the present, and inspires an inclusive, unified, and engaged tomorrow.

Place Justice Event Series

This event is the fourth in the Place Justice Event Series, which will feature free, virtual and in-person panel discussions and film screenings to engage the public in considering some often complex and contentious issues. Whose stories are being told and whose suppressed? Whose legacies are being forwarded, and at whose expense?

The Permanent Commission & Place Justice

Place Justice is a statewide truth-seeking and historical recovery initiative of the Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous, and Tribal Populations that seeks to engage Wabanaki and Maine communities in examining a wide range of commemorative practices to better understand and respond to the ways in which racialized and Indigenous populations are represented in or absent from the narratives inscribed on our natural and built environment.

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