Fire Through Dry Grass is available to stream for FREE on PBS.org through the end of January 2024.
Registered participants will receive a link to watch Fire Through Dry Grass the week of February 19th. We hope to see you there!About Fire Through Dry Grass
Wearing snapback caps and Air Jordans, the Reality Poets don’t look like typical nursing home residents. In Fire Through Dry Grass, these Black and brown disabled artists document their lives on lockdown during Covid, using their poetry and art to underscore the danger and imprisonment they feel. In the face of institutional neglect, they refuse to be abused, confined, and erased. Learn more here.
Francene Benjamin came to the U.S.A. in 2004 from Antigua and Barbuda. After a fall that resulted in a back injury, Francene found out she also needed neck surgery, and multiple medical procedures have left her with limited mobility. She’s passionate about disability justice and often includes what she’s learned about the movement in her work. Her poetry has appeared in Wheeling & Healing: A Poetry Anthology Edited by OPEN DOORS Reality Poets, and she loves to perform at Freestyle Fridays and other gatherings.
Andres “Jay” Molina
Andres “Jay” Molina left the Dominican Republic in his late teens for New York’s Lower East Side. In 2014, Jay developed a rare lung condition that attacked his vital organs and left him paralyzed. A former baseball player and truck driver, today Jay is nourishing a passion for film-making and animation, and being of service and advocate for people living with disabilities. He is the co-director or the feature-length documentary film, Fire Through Dry Grass, about the group’s survival and activism during the pandemic from inside an NYC nursing home. His poetry and writings have been published in NYU’s Literacy Review, The Wire, and Wheeling & Healing: A Poetry Anthology Edited by OPEN DOORS Reality Poets. He’s a recipient of the NYC Mayor’s Office Safe In The City Grant and the AXS Film Fund.
Vincent “Vince” Pierce
Born in Newburgh, New York, Vincent Pierce is a music producer, gun violence survivor and community organizer. At the height of the pandemic he founded Nursing Home Lives Matter to protect the lives and freedoms of the primarily Black and brown residents of the facility where he lives on Roosevelt Island. He envisions NHLM growing into a national movement. Vince is a Reality Poet and the Director of the arts-and-justice initiative OPEN DOORS, an artist collective who, prior to the pandemic, traveled around the city sharing their poetry and stories. They continue to do so through virtual events. In 2019, Vince produced his first hip-hop album, OPEN DOORS Reality Poets Vol.1., and with a grant from the Center for Cultural Innovation launched the music program ZING!, aimed to keep kids off the streets and in the studio. In 2020, Vince was the only nursing home resident invited to speak before the New York State Joint Hearing on Residential Healthcare Facilities and COVID-19. In 2021, Vince presented before Congressional staff to introduce federal legislation and the following year, the Reality Poets received the New Mobility Magazine “People of the Year” award.
Theresa Williams joined OPEN DOORS in December 2021. She grew up in Ghana. When Theresa was a teenager, she moved to Washington DC and later Queens, NY. In 2003, an illness left her unable to walk. She became an advocate for herself and her friends. She is passionate about disability justice, writing poetry, and reading non-fiction books. Theresa also loves to volunteer. She hopes to become an advocate for people with disabilities and work with the United Nations.
Having contracted polio as an infant in Belize, Pete has lived with a disability all his life. In 1970 he immigrated to Brooklyn and met the mother of his children. After that relationship ended Pete got into the street life—using and selling drugs. In 2015, many years sober, he moved into a long-term care facility on Roosevelt Island, where he met his OPEN DOORS family, aka the Reality Poets. Pete is a member and manager of the group and played the narrator in their original play FADE, which premiered at the Main Street Theatre in 2019. He has led poetry workshops for youth and people with disabilities, and co-led the creation of a community archive called Pandemic Island. Pete is an associate impact producer on the forthcoming documentary film Fire Through Dry Grass.