Founder of the BIPIC Book Critics Collective
I was raised by two powerful women in their own right. My mother was a single-mom who worked two jobs to raise me and my brother. While she was working, my grandmother (who had no more than a 6th grade education) was responsible for taking care of me. My mother loved writing, but never got the opportunity to explore it. Most of my childhood stories came from her. My grandmother read, but not well. I learned from both of these women that education and creativity were things worth fighting for. Yet, I did my hardest to fight against them.
I published stories in high school and then tried to quit. I went to college and tried to declare myself a neuroscience major, before settling on English. Even when I got into my Creative Writing program at the New School, I was always doubtful. I went further than any woman in my family had gone in her education and training, but I still never felt as if that was enough. I think part of this was that feeling of isolation in being the “first” or the “only”. Of all of my grandmother’s siblings, she was the only one who could’ve probably had a better chance at education but her doubt got to her. She had a family. That was enough for her. My mother didn’t think writing was practical or realistic, and she was told by those around her that women don’t make good writers- least of all Black women. These ideas were only reinforced in school and in conversation regarding Black books. I still see the reduction of Black women writers to this day, which is why I see so many Black women turning to self-publishing and “building” their own space. In many ways, this is why I thought it was important for me to build this space.
Over the years, I’ve received awards for my writing, I’ve published in international journals like Kweli Journal, and I’ve been invited to exclusive workshops like The Skidmore Summer Writers Institute, but none of them hit as closely to home as receiving recognition from The Hurston Wright Foundation. I didn’t know that there was a space to celebrate the works of Black writers. I went to DC with my mother to receive an award for my fiction during the 2014 Legacy Award Ceremony and I still have the image of my mother, dressed to the nines in a room filled with Black authors and me, standing beside her hero, Nikki Giovani, as she received the North Star Award. The love, the ocean of brown readers, and the feeling of camaraderie has lasted with me. I feel compelled now, more than ever, to recreate that camaraderie, but with a long-lasting purpose. Using my knowledge of pitching to publications, what I’ve learned in workshops, and the network that I’ve grown over the years, I want to build a loving space for writers and those who appreciate their writing.
I started bringing a small group of women together to discuss books and write reviews on Medium. In this space, we share galleys, discuss craft, and read each other’s work to try to better understand how we can engage with readers. During that process, I’ve networked on behalf of these women and I make it my mission to promote them at any and every chance I get. I look forward to big results, in everything from publication to employment as we build out our network. My goal is to help them build their own networks so they can retain a sense of agency and spread their reach across the globe.
I never stand behind something that I don’t believe is worth my time. After losing my mother, I realized some things are better said and done before it is too late. Instead of staying complicit during acts of blatant racism, I’ve spoken out. Instead of putting the responsibility on one group or one person, I’ve asked how I could help us get to middle ground together. I don’t think it’s my place to “school” anyone on “identity politics”. This community is about love, hope, representation, and appreciation. It’s about making a connection with other women like my mother, my grandmother, and myself, and letting them know their words are valued. That is what matters to me.