For the last few years I’ve had the privilege to meet amazing writers across all groups and ethnicities. I’ve had the chance to connect, write and break bread with them. Across the spectrum the ages are varied.
When I jumped into blogging a couple of years ago, I wasn’t exactly sure where it would take me. But I knew I wanted to write. I wanted to share and I wanted to do it in “real” time. As this journey continues, I’ve began to seek out new ways to meet writers.
When I was looking for a writing group, one that focused on black authors and those who love literature from the Diaspora, I realized there was very little in DC that was ongoing and a continuous group focusing on African-American authors and literature.
But it’s DC …. how is that possible? I thought this over for a while. I applied for various workshops in the meantime. I spoke with other writers around the area. But there wasn’t a place, a group for all of us to meet at. Many of my friends are African-American writers and bloggers.
So, I decided to start a meetup group – Washington Writers of Color.
I chose that name because for so many years, we were “colored.” We were everything but African American. Historically, we’ve barely been a negro. Despite that, the art, the literature and the creativity prevails.
The group is described as:
This group is for all writers of color and those interested in work created by writers of color.
An open group to everyone – at this time we will focus on work about and of the Diaspora. The group focuses on the work of African American, African and Afro-Latino writers and may explore other works written by or about other people of color.
We will discuss prominent works, but most importantly discuss and work on our own work.
We will have informational meetings, happy hours, mixers, write-ins, workshops and overall critiques. This group will also focus on writers who may be blogging and/or are working on their novels.
I anticipate this will be a place for Black Writers and those who love literature by and about the Diaspora.
I also love the fact that no sooner than I posted about it, someone challenged the name of the group – that because I’m only focusing on the work coming through, out of and about the Diaspora, it’s not about “Writers of Color.” So, I addressed it. Calmly. I’m going to address it again – calmly.
First, as a Black writer and as a Black woman, I don’t feel the need in 2013 to have to explain to anyone why I’ve chosen the name for the group. I also don’t feel as if I need to qualify and make sure things are perfectly politically correct. They never will be. That being said, there’s a shortage of work of Black folks being published, being given shine and I’m going to change that in my own way. While we manage to be some of the highest content creators (writers, producers, musicians, et al) I can’t say we’re thriving when it comes down to the publishing world. At least not the traditional publishing world. Sure there are those who manage to be published. However, I see so many amazing not good, but amazing writers who are self-publishing and blogging in order to pave the road.
I shouldn’t have to explain this. If you’re in any disenfranchised group, this doesn’t have to be a long and drawn out discussion. No matter what, if you’re a fan of the work, then join. If not, then don’t – it’s simple.
And then there’s Bill Cheng, the Chinese-American author making headlines because he’s written Southern Cross the Dog about blacks in Mississippi. He’s Asian, not African-American, he’s never set foot in Mississippi and well, he still wrote a story – about Black folks. It’s a story that has been debated, but is winning others over. He had this to say:
“I don’t have the advantage of being from there, from that region, of that race,” Mr. Cheng said. “It’s tough. But my responsibility is to tell stories, to tell the story I want to tell in the way I want to tell it. And if there are repercussions from that, I’ll just have to face it.”
Also, here’s a great interview Cheng had with NPR. I plan to read the novel. There’s also a great article addressing the things writers of color CAN’T get away with that white writers can, highlighting Bill Cheng. So how is it there can’t be a group focusing on writers of African heritage? Or on Blacks, African Americans or those across the diaspora? I have to make the name compliant to someone else’s feelings? No….
By the way, I really love Bill Cheng right about now and I am going to have to find him and hug him – just based on his interviews alone.
Then there’s Zora Neale Hurston who wrote Seraph on the Suwanee which is from the perspective of a white family. I promise you, if I’m feeling it and everyone else is too, then can’t we read As I Lay Dying (which is one hell of a novel by the way)? We can. I’ve said it before and I will say it again – focusing on me, my culture is not in any way an indication that I am against anyone. It’s only an indication that I love who I am, where I come from and that I choose to celebrate it.
There’s much to be discussed. There are many writers, many works to be discussed. There are new books, essays, short stories, vignettes and poems to be written. Given that, I’d like to welcome everyone to join the group. Even if you’re not in the DC area, but are interested in literature by Black authors, you’re welcome to join. I’m addressing this now and upfront because I know where questions like this – like the one presented yesterday – can and will lead.
There’s a song called Make the Road by Walking. I’m charting this course and will make this road. Please join me in support. If you know of Black writers in the Washington, DC area, or teachers of Black literature that may want to join, please spread the word.
What are your thoughts? Do you find yourself having to fight and qualify yourself every time you have a new venture, create something new? How have you handled it?