Today’s guests are owner of Gulf of Maine Books and poet Gary Lawless and teacher, refugee, and activist Eklas Ahmed.
Love Maine Radio #317: Ekhlas Ahmed and Gary Lawless
Ekhlas Ahmed is a refugee and activist from Darfur, Sudan. She fled with her family to Egypt and lived there for two years before being resettled in Portland, Maine in 2005. She has since graduated high school with honors and earned a degree in sociology with hopes of helping resettle other refugees. She is the vice president and co-founder of Darfur Youth of Tomorrow, an organization raising awareness in her community of the violence and needs in Darfur. The Darfur Youth of Tomorrow has taken Ahmed to a number of places, most recently to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., where she was invited to speak about the genocide by the UN Refugee Agency and read a poem about her homeland. Ahmed teaches English at Casco Bay High School, her alma mater. She also runs a program called Make It Happen, which prepares multilingual students for college. She is writing a book called The Bridge Between, an autobiography in poetic form to share her experiences and raise awareness about Sudan.
The author of 21 poetry collections, Gary Lawless has often pursued and expressed the development of his own ideas, but he also works to encourage others to find their voices. He and Beth Leonard opened Gulf of Maine Books in Brunswick 38 years age as a community hub. Through working with various communities in Maine for decades, he has encouraged and published the work of combat veterans, prison inmates, immigrants, and refugees. At Spindleworks Art Center in Brunswick, he has helped adults with disabilities produce three anthologies of poetry and is in the process of contributing his talents to a film about their dreams; as an artist-in-residence at Preble Street Resource Center in Portland, he has produced an anthology of poems written by homeless and low-income authors. In honor of his community work, the Maine Humanities Council awarded Lawless the 2017 Constance H. Carlson Public Humanities Prize, and the Emily Harvey Foundation offered him a residency grant to spend one month in Venice this past autumn.