Making Room for Black Women - A Reading!
A few months ago, Natashia Deon presented me with the incredible opportunity to host an installment of her insanely popular reading series, The Table Lit. Each month a new team of hosts brings a diverse collection of writers to the table. So, I teamed up with my best friend and the founder of My Lit Box, Sanura Williams, to co-host my very first literary event.
Immediately, we knew exactly what we wanted our event to do - make room for black women writers. Period. So often, black women find themselves alone in a room, representing the entirety of what it means to be a black woman (and sometimes simply black or a woman) in their industry. The writing world is no exception. Readings often feature one or two black women and it's usually the same one or two black women. As a writer or performer, it can be difficult to find an audience. And as an audience or reader, it can be difficult to find variety.
But, on March 11th, we changed that.
Guests were greeted by Sanura, who brought exclusive My Lit Box goodies for sale and giveaways (psssssst . . . check out her exclusive poets tote bags for sale now!). My Lit Box is a quarterly subscription box service that brings new books by writers of color to book shelves across the nation as well as bookish items every reader should have. The company seeks to bring more color to our conversations and communities so Making Room for Black Women was a perfect fit!
The reading opened with Darlene Kriesel, a writer and activist, who dazzled us with skillful prose, and debuted a "trap" poem (approved, of course, by her darling son) that had us nodding and bopping our heads. We loved it! For more about Darlene's projects and her upcoming books, check out her website at DarleneKriesel.com!
Darlene's a tough act to follow but Chenel King was up for the challenge. An emerging writer, Chenel flexed both her poetry and fiction muscles, giving us an exclusive listen to her MFA thesis project. Chenel, a self-proclaimed storyteller, has always reminded me of a young Lorraine Hansberry or J. California Cooper. Her work was on fire! Check out her work featured on Shondaland.com!
Next, Saliha DeVoe took to the podium. Filled with grace and poise, her poetry carefully dissected and laid bare all that stands between a woman of color and the world. Her voice was in itself poetry! She left us all filled to the brim yet wanting more. I still have a line of hers stuck in my head. Listening to her read, she reminded me of LA Poet Laureate Robin Coste Lewis.
Jessica Gallion aka the Yellawoman was the first poet on my list as we planned this event because I knew that she was both an incredible writer and a consummate performer.As I knew she would, Jessica did her thing! Her poems were like an etouffee, savory and spicy! She had everyone in the room rocking and fanning themselves! If you've never seen the Yellawoman in action, you need to go on and get yourself a taste! Check out her Social Media for her upcoming performances and pick up her book, Can't No Woman, Woman Like Me!
Ashaki Jackson was just what the doctor ordered and she would know because she is a doctor! After giving us pieces from her books, she revealed some "outtakes" of those poems. So many mmm-hmmm and ah-ha moments in her poems, at one point I had to say, "You can't just say that and keep going! We need some time to recover!" What a treat! She even brought out exclusive copies of her chapbook, Surveillance! Pick up your copy today, all proceeds go toward helping our community!
And last but not least, I wrapped the event up with a few pieces of my own. Why on earth would I do that after being bowled over by 5 of the best writers I know? I have no idea. But I think I held my own. Later, when I asked him what he thought of the event, my father called my poem selection "gritty." I'll take that!
Women's History Month, wedged between Black History Month and National Poetry Month, was the perfect time for us to make room for black women writers! They were the room! While planning this event, we expected 20-30 people to show up, which is a lot! I contemplated what would happen if we had too many empty seats. Well, we didn't have that problem at all. Before the show even began we were at standing room only. In the end, we estimate at least 60 folks were in attendance and we are so humbled that they all made room for us on that Sunday. They made the room. Thank you!
For more pictures of our features and guests, check out the gallery below!