Seven Authors from the Black Writers Workspace Weigh In
No one can tell the story of the black experience like a black person.
Because of this fact, writers on the Black Writers Workspace (BWW), an online community of over 9,000 new and independent writers and avid readers, decided to share in their own words Why Black Writers Matter.
As black writers use the written word to mend the underbelly of a tattered history, these seven contributing writers hoped to inspire more black stories that will uplift the culture and alleviate the literary world’s stereotypical image of the black community.
“When we say black writers matter, we acknowledge that black voices are well-worth celebrating,” said author and BWW founder Michelle Jackson. “To truly know black writers matter is to understand that the stories we carry within us must be preserved and valued.”
The history of the written word started long before stories of Blacks in America could be authored. Dating back to 3200 BC, the written word has documented the development and destruction of civilizations. From Egyptian writing to Olaudah Equiano’s account of the Middle Passage, the written word brings together cultures and experiences that have withstood the test of time.
“We are that invincible bridge that links past and present and bring into life the missing chapter of our history, and that is why Black writers matter,” said South African author of A Chorus of Rustics, BK Maqhuzu Ngwenya.
True stories about the Black experience in America threaten the unsteady pillars of democracy. Stories riddled with centuries of slavery, discrimination, and racism hold an unrelenting grip on the American legacy. Yet, Black Americans withstood hatred in its most revealing form, and this is the story many White Americans long to omit from history.
“Black writers matter because our voices are often silenced or talked over, even for those of us who aren’t writers,” said author, blogger, and poet Ernest Sandefer. “Black writers have the power not only to be a voice for ourselves but our families, our community, our future, and even for our ancestors. Just like other avenues, black writers bring a flair and are an important piece of any organization because we know our story and can tell it accurately.”
Even as the written word successfully fermented cultural inclusion across the globe over thousands of years, in the 21st century, black writers continue to wonder if the stories of their existence matter to people outside their own community. And if they do not matter, how can new writers cultivate a future that ensures diversity in literature?
“Our stories need to be told by those who lived it,” said Carlton Tyrell Richard Sr., co-author of When The Walls Speak: Fathers Restoring Generational Confidence. “Some of us know the tragedy that encompasses a bi-polar mother, a disgruntled former wife, an absent father, an abusive sibling, an addicted uncle, and a confused child. Only those who have experience in these areas can tell the story as it should be told. A fancy degree does not take the place of real-life experiences.”
According to Audrey Snyder, author of The Organization: “Black writers matter because we are the credible sources of our stories. We have experienced the hardships and struggles that others write about based on what they think happened. We can express the value-added emotions that come from the struggle. Through our experiences, we have developed strategies that can work to help others as they travel their journey. We matter because our stories need to be shared with those coming behind us.”
When allowed to flourish, black writers give voice to those silenced by poverty, injustice, and inequality. Through the written word, they build bridges between the oppressed and the empowered.
“Our stories have been hidden, made inconsequential, and are now being capitalized on by those who do not share our heritage. It is imperative that we continue to write and support each other,” said children’s book author Sheryl Middleton. “First, we must refute the awful stereotype that all Black people are uneducated, inarticulate, and illiterate. Secondly, our forefathers embraced storytelling as griots, passing down gems of history orally. Therefore, it is only right that we continue the tradition of telling our stories. These are just a few of the many reasons why Black writers matter.”
With the future in mind, the writers hope to accentuate the beauty and strength of Black culture.
“The next generation needs a new story,” said Scarlet Jei Saoirse, co-author of Froetry and Afromations. “They need a different narrative where we are the heroes. Where we are the winners, and we are more than just flat and minor characters. To rebuild the integrity and culture of our people, we need our people in a position to do so.”
The black voice plays an essential role in the story of America. According to Jackson, “America the beautiful doesn’t exist without an honest account of black history. Writers who fight to control the narrative will create a world where no one needs to ask if Black writers matter because the truth will be told, and the world will be better off because of it.”
For information about the Black Writers Workspace visit our webpage.