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Five Black Writers You Should Know

August 18th, 2020     by Team Shameless     Comments

Illustration by Beena Mistry

On May 25, George Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer, sparking protests against racist policing and police brutality across the globe. Among calls for justice for George Floyd were calls for justice for the many other Black folks who have been killed by police violence and racism: Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Regis Korchinski-Paquet, Tony McDade, and others.

As the protests gained momentum, social media became a critical tool for sharing information, and social media users urged each other to stop posting regular content like selfies and food pictures to let this information through. Many non-Black Instagram users posted an image of a black square and tagged it #BlackLivesMatter in an attempt to show solidarity with the protests, but this action ultimately backfired by drowning out critical protest information. While that action did not go as hoped, more complex conversations emerged about how to support the movement, and many – including us at Shameless – realized the best thing we could do was listen. The Shameless blog paused our regular content to listen to and make space for Black voices leading these critical conversations about mutual aid, prison abolition, police brutality, and anti-Black racism. We are excited to engage more with these ideas on our blog as we move forward.

In the spirit of continuing to highlight Black voices and perspectives, the Shameless team has compiled some of our favourite pieces written by Black authors over the past few months. Here are five Black writers we think you should know:

Jean’s Pick:

“On narrative, reckoning and the calculus of living and dying” by Dionne Brand

This piece is a deep call to the inner and outer reckoning many BIPOC have been wrestling with since the beginning of the pandemic. It really calls into question the idea of normalcy and that idea is for. And, it beautifully criticizes the packaging of normalcy in these spaces where we find ourselves to be or pointed out to be the only ones. It is a moving, powerful and encouraging read that lifts the spirit to accept that what we’ve known all along is what we’ve known all along.

Jackie’s Pick:

“The Manic Pixie Dream Entrance” a poem by Victoria Mbabzi

Mbabzi has written a brilliant poem on subverting and examining the layers of misogyny underlying the “manic pixie dream girl” stereotype. She uses crossed out text, both playfully and brutally at times, to reframe or cross out these fantasies entirely. It is vicious and electric, and so uniquely crafted.

Naz’s Pick:

“Who Gets to Be Afraid in America? Americans don’t see me, or Ahmaud Arbery, running down the road—they see their fear.” by Ibram X. Kendi

A personal essay on running in a predominantly white neighbourhood in Oakmont, Florida as a Black Male in light of the terrible killing of Ahmaud Aubrey.

“As a black male—not to the people who know me or who know Arbery, but to the Americans who don’t know me and think they do—I am Ahmaud Arbery… They don’t see me wearing the same white T-shirt, shorts, and sneakers that they wore the other day. They don’t see themselves in me. They certainly don’t see their own innocence in me. They see only their own guilt in me—their villainous fear marking me as the villain. They don’t need to figure out who I am. All they see is what I am. A black male. And what I am pronounces who I am. A criminal. The embodiment of danger. The producer of fear.”

Sadaf’s Pick:

“’Keep the Volume Low:’ Being Black On Campus In Canada” by Laila El Mugammar

In this essay, Mugammar poignantly describes what kind of space and how much of it is offered to Black students in educational institutions, and how the limits enforced are not easy to see and understand when you aren’t experiencing them yourself. The way she details the reminder of where she is studying has, historically, been an unwelcoming place for Black youth and students, how she describes carving out a single room of comfort, is tough to read but hits hard in a way it needs to. … “Being #BlackOnCampus in Canada makes me feel straitjacketed. Our diversity is lauded only when it is convenient.”

Andi’s Pick:

“I Was a Weird Black Emo Teen in a Misery-Obsessed White Subculture” by Eternity Martis

Writing on the heels of My Chemical Romance’s reunion, Eternity Martis shares what it was like to be an outsider in the white-dominated emo subculture of the early aughts. She describes how the music genre has survived through fusion with hip hop and how, despite being ostracized from it, emo should have belonged to Black kids all along. Martis is a senior editor for Xtra, and writes for outlets like Vice and Huffpost. Her first book, They Said This Would Be Fun, about her experience as a Black university student came out in March.

Tags: black lives matter, black writers

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