At a New Cabin Workshop, Words Can Change the World 

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Harrison Berry

Francisco Salinas learned about the power of words at a very young age.

"My name is 'Francisco Salinas,' but in kindergarten, my name was 'Frank,'" said the Boise State University director of Student Diversity and Inclusion while discussing Anglicization—changing non-English words and names to make them fit more easily in the minds and mouths of English speakers.

Salinas offered his insights at the Feb. 15 meeting of Words in Action, a drop-in workshop hosted by The Cabin literary center, which he co-presented with Frank Church High School Writer-in-Residence Danny Stewart. The workshop, which will take place on the third Thursday of each month, pairs an activist in the Boise community with a local writer to discuss issues around social justice and prompt attendees to incorporate those issues into their own writing.

At the Feb. 15 event, more than a dozen attendees listened as Salinas offered insights into how two people with different viewpoints can have a productive conversation, and Stewart, a poet and essayist who teaches writing to incarcerated youths, talked about how writing helps people from marginalized backgrounds express and define themselves.

"They have the ability to control their message," Stewart said. "They are understood the way they want to be understood."

Stewart then directed the class in a reading of a Danez Smith poem, "CREAM," which touches on intersections between race, class, sexual orientation and capitalism, and asked them to write and share responses to the poem.

The workshop was organized by The Cabin Program Manager Katie Fuller, who briefly interviewed Salinas and Stewart to kick off the evening. In an email, Fuller wrote the workshop is an extension of a class Salinas participated in following the terrorist attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017, and is meant to explore the role "creative writing plays in opening important and difficult dialogues."

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