2020 Tournament Cancellation
Dear friends and family of Southern Fried Poetry,
We held onto wishfulness as long as we could, but unfortunately, we must cancel the 2020 Southern Fried Poetry Slam. As we prepare this statement, the United States has surpassed Italy as the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic, with more confirmed cases of coronavirus than any other country. This decision was not easy, as this is the first cancellation in the 28 year history of Southern Fried.
We know that Southern Fried is a life-affirming event for our attendees, but we also know that our status as an international tournament poses added risks to our community. Members of the board and the organizing host city have been discussing these risks each day, but we have also been discussing the likelihood that the stay-at-home order in Tampa will be lifted to a degree that would accommodate a festival of several hundred travelers from out of state. Regardless of the wishes to push through and host this event, organizers recognize that hosting a public festival in June is increasingly unrealistic.
The board and host city are also thoughtful of how this pandemic will impact poor and working class artists. Southern Fried is already a financial strain for attendees and organizers alike. We know that Southern Fried is so special that many of our attendees scrape together what they can to make it there, opting to skip meals and sleep on the floors of hotels. We have a duty to support the most vulnerable members of our community, and this includes our economic well-being, as well as our health. This is a time to support and uplift one another in different ways.
Ultimately, we recognized that no matter our efforts, we would be unable to gift you the festival that we have come to expect. What is a Southern Fried where we can’t shake hands, hug, and hold one another? Could we trust ourselves to practice safe social distancing rules around our loved ones? Would we as organizers be able to live with ourselves if even one of our festival attendees got sick or died? A major motivation to go forward with this event was to honor the legacies of Tessica Williams and Rage Almighty, but we also know that further loss in our community would be devastating.
Regardless of how this situation may escalate in the coming months, we know that members of our community are going to be missing each other in June. We have discussed this as organizers, as well. Unfortunately, we do not have the infrastructure to host an online tournament this year, though this is something that could be developed for the future. At this time, we don’t have any concrete plans to host virtual events, though we are exploring all options and would love any feedback or suggestions from our talented community. Please forward questions or ideas to firstname.lastname@example.org. We encourage poets in our community to use social media to connect with each other and discuss the possibilities.
Given the uncertain nature of this pandemic, we cannot say concretely whether this is a cancellation or a postponement. We want to give thanks to the host city of Tampa, who have worked hard to bring us all to their city. There may be an opportunity to host an event in Tampa later in the year, and we will keep you updated in the coming months. We will also be in talks with Lance Newman from Louisville, Kentucky, because we want to ensure that any possible plans don’t interfere with his festival in 2021.
This is sad news to bring you, but there are many silver linings. This is an opportunity for us as artists, educators, and activists to collectively organize and support one another, in what is sure to be a trying time. This is also an opportunity for board members to take some time and care for their families. When we return to our duties in the coming months, we can focus on growing the infrastructure of our organization. There are several items on our task list, such as hosting elections for board members and launching a number of subcommittees intended to improve our institution. Though we will miss you, this is a chance to embolden our community, and to make Southern Fried better than ever when we come back together.
Thank you for your patience and understanding. The world is going to need poets to see us through this global challenge. Please be safe. Long live the spoken word, and we will see you on the other side.
The Board of Directors
Southern Fried Poetry, Inc.