Martha Southgate here. Here's another thought I want to share. In my mind, part of how RingShout can carry out its mission in addition to building community among and for African-American writers of some seriousness and ambition (although we like to party!) would be the notion of broadening who we include in that community. I don't want to to only talk to or talk about reaching black readers. The best of our work is literature--period--and people of all races can and should profit by reading it. Our experience is a crucial part of the American experience, after all. I believe that key to carrying forth RingShout's mission is that we work hand-in-hand with the"mainstream." I mean, hey, Barack Obama wouldn't be running as strongly as he is if he only talked to black people--he stands strong as a black man who will speak to everyone, without compromising or hiding his race. But he's not running on it either. I want RingShout to do the same, literarily speaking.
The founding circle of RingShout has been busy moving the conversation forward about the place of literary fiction and non-fiction by black folks in the current landscape. Besides my piece, "Writers Like Me," which got us started, Eisa Ulen has written "The Naked Truth" which appears in the Winter 2008 issue of The Crisis Magazine--you can read it in its entirety on her blog here. And Bridgett Davis appears today on The Root.com with her piece, "The L-Word." Check 'em out and join the conversation.
The RingShout launch party on February 1 was a blast. This party with a purpose drew more than 100 eager and interested folks. The ideas and the fun flew fast and furious. After taking a little breather, the founding circle is getting together on the 21st to cull the ideas and begin to reach out for assistance as we move forward. For now, here's a pic of us taken by the fabulous Sarah McNally--thanks Sarah! (I'm clearly the RingShout elf) Thanks so much to all who came! Martha S.
Founded in 2007 by a group of writers, editors and booksellers,
ringShout: A Place for Black Literature
is dedicated to recognizing, reclaiming and celebrating
excellence in contemporary literary fiction and nonfiction
by black writers in the United States.
Why the name ringShout?
One of the first dances created by
Africans brought to America as slaves
in the 1700s, the ring shout was a
sacred circle dance of salvation that enabled
a community to find perserverance,
provided solace and rejuvenation,
and sheltered many early nuances of
Africanist culture and practice. (Adapted from Thea Nerissa Barnes,
The Association of Dance of the African Diaspora Dictionary 2005-2006)
We hope that our ringShout can be the same for serious, skilled black writers creating ambitious fiction. We also want to assert our centrality to all facets of the American experience, literary and otherwise.