Today we honor Juneteenth, not yet a national holiday, but hopefully on the way. I put this blog mostly on the back burner the last few months, for so many reasons. But today requires acknowledgement, and it feels like a perfect opportunity to discuss racism and humanity. Throughout these weeks of protest and activism following the killing of George Floyd, I’ve been active on Twitter and Instagram and Facebook, trying to support and elevate Black voices. But it’s important for me to talk more broadly about my support of the Black community and that needs a little more space.
Racism comes in all shapes and sizes, but it surrounds us. As a white woman, I understand that I have grown up in this system. It’s in my DNA through decades of exposure. I have to do the work to resist that exposure because even if I am not actively, purposefully racist, I can still say or do things carelessly without understanding their effect. Doing that work means listening. It includes reading, viewing, paying attention. Supporting financially, emotionally, professionally. On Juneteenth, and every day after.
Publishing remains a painfully white industry, for all the active discussion about diversity the last few years. I am closed to queries at the moment, but when I reopen I will be rewriting my information about what I’m seeking. Currently I encourage diverse submissions, but I plan to be more specific about addressing BIPOC authors individually. As a reader and consumer, I work to diversify my reading choices, but I know I can always do better. I try to give money to a rotating list of charities and organizations that focus on providing opportunities to those who need them. In recent weeks, I’ve donated to the Thurgood Marshall College Fund for African American Students and We Need Diverse Books.
Boosting Black Voices
I’m just one person, with limited resources, but I have something of a platform. A decent Twitter following. Some terrific friends and colleagues who are on the same page about the need to boost Black voices. The older I get, the more I understand that networking can take you far, and a diverse network surpasses one with a narrow focus. More ideas, more connections, more chances of clicking with the right partner or finding that perfect opportunity. It’s not about scrambling to the top of the mountain by yourself; it’s about helping others and watching everyone rise together, then toasting your achievements with an amazing view.
Amistad Books proposed the simple idea of purchasing two books by Black authors this week. Any two you wish. The concept? Flood the bestseller lists with Black voices, fiction and nonfiction. Boost the writers, give them sales, but also introduce readers to new names they might not have encountered. Have you picked up your books yet? There’s still time for this challenge, but any week counts. Go discover a new-to-you voice.
24 Black Bookstagrammers Who Should Be on Your Radar. – Looking to read more Black authors but overwhelmed by the choices? Follow a couple of these folks for great recommendations.
A frank conversation about YA literature, police brutality, and the nuances of Black storytelling. – A very timely interview with authors Nic Stone and Kim Johnson about their writing and how their books fit into the current landscape.
Resources for Writers in Support of Justice and Action. – A varied list of links including places to donate, a reading list on racism, and some really creative ways to support the Black community, especially writers.
I Am Not Your Negro: the Film. – Many streaming services are showing an array of important Black films for free right now. Of the ones I’ve watched the past couple of weeks, this one struck me as a beautiful balance between the big-picture narrative of racism in the United States and a very personal story of James Baldwin’s experience watching his friends getting gunned downed for standing up for Black rights. Available on Amazon Prime among other places. Highly recommended.
Patronizing Black Businesses/Products
Bookstores in the United States that Specialize in Black Literature. – Plug in your state to see what’s near you, or check them all out to find out who ships.
An Anti-racist Nonfiction Reading List. – A great assortment of titles, including the broad scope ones we’re seeing everywhere but also some less frequent recs that get more topical.
49 Black-Owned Bookstores You Can Shop Online. – For those of you still shopping from your armchairs (as you should be–stay safe!).
21 Black-Authored Cookbooks to Add to Your Shelf. – For the foodies, so many wonderful-sounding cuisines to choose from. Check a few of these out.
Black-Owned Etsy Shops. – Check these out for your next round of gift giving or to splurge on yourself.
16 Black-Owned Organic Loose Leaf Tea Brands. – I love how very specific this list is. And I love tea.
I could keep going on and on, obviously. But this smattering of thoughts and links serves as a beginning, only. We need to keep having the conversation, to keep doing the work, if we’re ever going to approach a world that looks somewhat equitable. And even then, as with everything, we’ll need to keep doing the work. Change isn’t permanent; it’s a process.