Photo by (top) Maya Penn (bottom) Gordon Parks
Dear AllSwell Community,
Like many, I “muted” the AllSwell feeds and spent the past week learning, listening, protesting and reflecting on how to be a force for good, personally and professionally. A week is hardly enough time to grasp the systemic subjugation of a people for over 400 years, how that system has been rigged in my favor, and more importantly what I can do about it. Unsure of how to navigate the conversation and understand my part in mending centuries-old injustices, I continue to dig deep in the hopes of having something worthwhile to say rather than reposts and sloganeering that might make me feel like I was being helpful while dodging the real work.
While AllSwell is inclusive by design, we know we must do better to advance racial equality and support long-lasting, meaningful reform. Where to start? What to do? I’m still finding answers to these questions but I’m not going to be quiet about the process. Will I get it all right all the time? No. I will probably make mistakes. But here’s how we’ll use our platform, to begin:
- I am shelving AllSwell's ticketed workshops for the month of June, focusing instead on my own education and sharing my findings with my community.
- I will champion contemporary Black writers and poets. Referencing the cannon is inadequate. James Baldwin, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou, and Langston Hughes are all wonderful and worthy (please check them out if you aren’t already familiar) but they are also all deceased. I want to support talented Black creatives who are living, breathing truth-tellers. I want to amplify their voices and help them receive compensation for their work.
- I will learn more about how to become vigilantly anti-racist and create journaling prompts for those of you who are interested in becoming an ally, using your writing practice as a tool.
- I will grow my efforts to share the mental health benefits of putting pen to paper with underserved communities through working with non-profit organizations including Creative Futures, Boys and Girls Clubs, Stoked Mentoring, and more. In doing so, I hope to help these young people value their own, individual voices so they can better shape a more just future.
- As a white woman and breast cancer survivor, I will dig into my healing journey and evaluate how my very survival was made possible due to white privilege.
Today, in this complicated moment, there is hope. Amidst the grief, we’re being given a glimmering opportunity to affect change. And, while it will not come easy, it will be exquisitely worthwhile; perhaps more so than any other occasion that has come our way as Americans.
I am admittedly not an expert on race, but I am really good at helping people find their way to the page. So here I am, inviting you to pick up your pen, to look at the hard parts, and confront the realities. Do not stay silent. Start in your journal, hone and define your messages and action items, and then bring them out into the world. Because that’s what is needed now.
Thank you for being part of this community.
Humble and hopeful,