A time to support Black writers

A note on the police murder of Ma'Khia Bryant, struggle to write during traumatic times and fearing finishing the first draft.

There are no adequate words to describe the horror of being from Columbus, Ohio, and watching the verdict of the Derrick Chauvin trial, only to read news 10 minutes later than a Black teenage girl has been killed in your home city. The closest words that come to mind are… terror, rage, unending attempts at healing.

The past few weeks have been harder and stranger than a lot of weeks. As a young, queer Black man, organizer, and writer in this country, there is always some kind of well of pain to pull from, whether or not this is healthiest. I am a writer on submissions. A writer surviving a pandemic on unemployment. A writer trying to find new ways of articulating the highs and lows of Blackness, queerness, radical politics, and life.

As I near the 92k milestone for my current novel-in-progress, I find myself fearing the end of this project. I have been working on this book for over a year and prior to this draft, I started the first draft in 2014. As a project, this book has been with me through so many things, whether it’s been in the front seat and back seat.

With the world and the pandemic and so many recent, high-profile police killings of Black people (including 16-year-old, Ma’Khia Bryant from my home city of Columbus, OH), I find it both hard and rewarding to write. Hard because sometimes all I want to do is rest and not think about the particular burden of being a Black artist. Rewarding because the more that I write, the more I weave possibilities into the world that white supremacy aims to rob me and other Black people of.

So this first draft represents a giant leap from something that has given me comfort to something I must let go of, give some space, and allow to improve once the first draft is done. As much as the first draft can be something to fear, it also can be an opportunity to find new solutions, ideas, and terrains. From this perspective, the first draft is only the beginning, not the end.

I suppose I made this week’s newsletter to let you know that I am here and other Black writers are here in a very violent and trying world. We are navigating a publishing industry that so shallowly tells us that our lives matter while handing over book deals to cops/murderers. So if you are white and subscribed to this newsletter, here are some ways you can help.

  1. Expose the pay gap between Black writers and non-black writers | If #PublishingPaidMe has taught us anything, it’s that redistributing wealth within the publishing industry is vital to giving Black writers more opportunities, resources, and autonomy.

  2. Be vocal about the blatant and not-so-blatant racism in the industry | This can mean being vocal on Twitter, encouraging a well-known podcast to interview more Black writers, demanding that Black writers get paid more at publications that you work for, and so much more.

  3. Donate to Black Journalists Therapy Fund | A fund that was created to provide mental health resources to Black journalists often tasked with covering Black death and trauma

  4. Support my podcast, The Creative Hour, where I talk to other artists about the creative moments that changed them for the good, bad, and in-between. | Available on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.