Kopkind marks 20th anniversary

GUILFORD — The Kopkind Colony kicks off its 20th anniversary summer sessions on July 14 with an eye to two other birthdays: Stonewall 50 and the 95th of one of America's greatest writers.

James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket will be the featured film at Kopkind's annual Potluck and Movie Night at the Organ Barn in Guilford, followed by discussion with special guest, writer, and activist Kenyon Farrow.

“Kopkind has always been about convergences. How can you think about politics without culture, freedom without art, class without race, labor without sex, death without life?” JoAnn Wypijewski, president of Kopkind's board, said in a news release about the project, which since 1999 has brought together writers, activists, and filmmakers for weeklong seminar/retreats.

“Andy Kopkind contained multitudes, as Walt Whitman said (his 200th birthday is this year, too), and across 20 years, in discussions, workshops and public forums, we have strived to do the same,” she said. “For this summer's opening free public event, we honor those multitudes in the figure of James Baldwin, a gay man, a black man, an artist, a passionate voice for personal, political, and historical honesty. A genius who spoke to the deepest questions of humanity, which necessarily involve love.”

The Kopkind Colony, a living memorial, was born of love. For 25 summers, Andrew Kopkind had made Tree Frog Farm in Guilford his home. Before that he had been part of the movement of people who founded communes in Southern Vermont in the late 1960s and early 70s.

A journalist and editor, Kopkind wrote about the 1960s rebellions and the civil rights movement. In Vermont, he came out as a gay man and then moved to Boston, resumed writing, worked in radio, and fell in love. With John Scagliotti, he moved to New York but returned to Vermont for the summers and made Tree Frog Farm a place for conversation, political discourse, and fun.

Kopkind died in 1994. In 1999, the Kopkind Colony, led by Scagliotti, brought its first group of political journalists and organizers to Tree Frog Farm.

At 20, Kopkind has hosted almost 400 people in residence and has put on dozens of public events. Kopkind alums have gone on to produce important articles, documentaries, books, and political projects.

Movie Night, a tradition since 1999, begins at 5:30 p.m., with a potluck cookout by the Organ Barn, at 158 Kopkind Rd. For July 14, Kopkind provides the main fare and asks people to bring a side dish. The screening follows.

James Baldwin: The Price of the Ticket, directed by Karen Thorsen, is told mostly through speeches and interviews of Baldwin, who was born Aug. 2, 1924. “A haunting, beautifully made biography,” according to the Los Angeles Times, it conveys Baldwin's artistic and human sensibilities, his lifelong concerns with the distorting effect of race, and the promise in the effort for love and liberation.

Kenyon Farrow, who will speak and lead the discussion after, is senior editor at and former executive director of Queers for Economic Justice. His writing has appeared in numerous publications and has been reprinted in Spirited: Affirming the Soul of Black Lesbian and Gay Identity and For Colored Boys Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Still Not Enough, among other anthologies.

The second free public event of the session will be a talk by radical historian Peter Linebaugh at Everyone's Books in downtown Brattleboro on Friday, July 19, at 6 p.m., on his new book about capitalism and the commons, Red Round Globe Hot Burning: A Tale at the Crossroads of Commons & Closure, of Love & Terror, of Race & Class, and of Kate & Ned Despard.

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