Art Activist Blog

“Stop Monsanto!” A Poem by Nina Serrano

Stop Monsanto at the March Against Monsanto Rally

On a beautiful day in Oakland California, I participated in March Against Monsanto Rally, happening simultaneously worldwide. I was excited because I’d prepared a poem for the event that would finally free me from reading a piece of paper. For almost two decades I’d see younger poets recite, their hands freely gesturing, their faces always facing the listeners, never looking down at a paper.

Now with my new poem, “Stop Monsanto” I join the 21st century poets, and its technology including my husband, Paul Richards, using his cell phone to create this video. What has earlier prevented me is the famous “senior moment”, the difficulty of remembering and memorizing. The skills I once mastered but along with other youthful attributes have long faded.

I kept the poem short 21 words. The last three lines are the same words repeated three times and are also the first line, leaving only really 13 words to remember, which conveniently form one sentence and rime. Rime and gesture are memory aids.

The gestures emerged quite naturally. I kept them simple so I could teach the poem to the listeners and still stay within the considerate time restraints of other speakers and poets where people are standing on their feet that still have to march.

The March Against Monsanto rally was in protest Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs).  The rally began at Clinton Square, a small urban grassy park with trees and bushes. At the Oakland rally, two notable bilingual banners were works of art, light weight, sturdy and beautiful, one by Angelina Angel and the other by Rafael Jesus Gonzalez.

The rally took on the social forum mode of the Occupy Movement. The first speakers laid out the facts and history of Monsanto, its sinister beginnings in Puerto Rico and the legal battles to stop it. Local activists spoke about their specific projects interspersed with poets Jack Hirschman, Dorothy Paine and me.

Then we took to the streets. There was a hesitant moment, where would we step–on to the sidewalk or into the street? We had no permits.

It was a lovely day, a holiday weekend, and few cars. It was so relaxed and natural to step off the curb on the wide boulevard. We marched along amid chants of:

“Hey Hey Ho Ho

Monsanto’s got to go!” and

“Free the Seed!”

stop Monsanto march

We marched along Lake Merritt towards the Saturday Farmer’s market. Our chants crescendo-ed when we reached the #580 underpass causing a beautiful reverb to deepen our sound.

The Farmer’s Market vendors, farmers, and shoppers cheered. Some joined the march. We settled on a grassy spot for a closing rally. Here people spoke about their experiences, a woman from the landless movement in Brazil, a man from Arkansas, a farm worker from Mexico. Everyone had stories to tell about their experience in their area with the pollution of land, air water, and seeds. Deeper themes were explored like the nature of food as medicine and sacrament. The poet, Sara Manefee read her poem and a translation of Miguel Robles’ poem, who also organized the event and served as MC for the day.

The rally closed with a chant of  “Free of the Seed” and the haunting words from an activist, who said, “When you go home to dinner tonight, remember that something gave up its life for your meal.”

Free the seed!

MEDIA – For photos & interviews: Paul Richards (510) 967 5577;

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