by Troy Landrum
“So be it! See to it!” wrote Washington’s very own Octavia Butler, as a source of encouragement, in her personal notebook. The bestselling and award-winning author would be read by millions. In 1995, she became the first African American woman to win the MacArthur Fellowship. She is one of the greatest (if not the greatest) science fiction writers of the 20th century.
As participants of the Media 2070 consortium meeting on Thursday, April 21st, we meditated on those words and then were asked, “Now what will you do with your writing?”
Continue reading OPINION: Organization Honors Black Contributions to Journalism
by Patheresa Wells
“She stared at her father’s lifeless body, and the thoughts she could not voice dissolved into her blood, where they would stay with her for the rest of her life.”
—Liu Cixin, The Three-Body Problem
There was a poem I started to write about my mother’s death but I could not finish it. I have probably started and stopped as many times as I take a breath in a day. I inhale in the breath of an idea but the exhale, the writing, doesn’t come. Maybe it is because I was there, alone, when she died. It was 2010 when she died during surgery at the age of 48. I was 30, 18 years younger than her. I was the only witness to her death. And like the air that could not make its way out of her after her final exhale, my words are trapped. They are stuck in my throat, that essential highway that brings us air, food, and water. That releases something I have always relied on: my voice.
Continue reading OPINION: The Voice Inside
by Nura Ahmed
A Washington-born mother of three and grandmother of five, Sharon Blake grew up in White Center in the only Black family in her neighborhood. She grew up with members of the KKK harassing her family often. Meanwhile, at home, her alcoholic stepfather abused her because she was the darkest-skinned member of her family. Blake grew up angry and afraid. She did not know how to handle the racial trauma she experienced both inside and outside her home and ended up resorting to drugs as a teenager.
Blake became addicted to crack cocaine for over two decades. Through therapy, dedication, and hard work, she was able to get clean as an adult. Three years into her sobriety, Blake realized she wanted to help others like her. She worked as a case manager at the Tacoma Rescue Mission for five years, helping the houseless population in Tacoma get the resources they needed to get back on their feet.
Meanwhile, to try to heal from all the trauma she had personally gone through, Blake turned to writing. In 2014, Blake ended up writing her first book, Chronicles of Pain: Leaving the Pain of the Past Behind, a memoir about the racial violence she had experienced both inside and outside her home, her struggle with addiction, and the trauma she had experienced as a result. Writing her first book became her salvation. “When I say writing literally saved my life, it really did,” Blake said.
Continue reading Sharon Blake Is Creating Space for Healing With Life Chronicles Publishing
by Sarah Neilson
Like every facet of life before March 2020, creatives had a very different relationship with their work and practice before the COVID-19 lockdowns started. This was true for the people who ran and participated in Whidbey Island-based literary nonprofit Hedgebrook. Hedgebrook is a global community of women and nonbinary writers and well-known in the literary world for its prestigious residency and retreat programs, as well as craft seminars and public events. One of Hedgebrook’s defining aspects is its strong network of alumni who often continue to cultivate a writing community long after their residencies are done.
It was this network of alumni who came together during the pandemic to create Flying Flounders, a unique group that ended up being a vital source of support and creativity during a time when virtual community was both a blessing and a burden.
Continue reading Local Writing Nonprofit Sparks Important Creative Community for Women
by Mark Van Streefkerk
In an effort to increase access to journalism for BIPOC youth in the Duwamish Valley, journalists and community storytellers Bunthay Cheam and Jenna Hanchard are launching the first-ever Duwamish Valley Youth Storytelling Project. The project is in collaboration with the Port Community Action Team and sponsored by the Port of Seattle.
A series of four workshops, the project will help youth shape a story of community interest that will ultimately be featured in South Park Roots, on the Port of Seattle communications website, and on Hanchard and Cheam’s own storytelling platforms, Lola’s Ink and TnouT, respectively.
Continue reading Tell Your Story: Apply to the Duwamish Valley Youth Storytelling Project
In her favorite dancing grounds, beneath the wisteria tree so purple in the moonlight, a hole opened up in the earth. Out of it, a hand reached. One she recognized as easily as her own, for she once had held this hand in hers every day. Studying its lines, its rises and falls, its peaks and valleys, its shadows and swirls, the way this hand sumptuously softened in the light, how its veins ached verdantly as its pulse quickened beneath her gaze.
Now, her ex-lover was before her, yellow haired and milky skinned, skirts and boots textured with dirt, cheeks aglow with need, teeth bared, tongue discolored purple with wine.
“Come home with me,” Orcus said, in her grit-lined, silky sinister way.
Continue reading Friday Fiction: Crocus
by Jasmine M. Pulido
There’s the phrase, “Together we can move mountains.” But in Filipino/a/x culture we start even smaller. There is a word for the long-held custom in which a village comes together to literally carry on their backs the home of a neighbor, to move it from where it was to where it needs to be. When I told my Filipino father-in-law what I was looking for in Seattle over dinner one day, he responded, “Ah, yes. Bayanihan.”
Bayanihan. It’s when you inherently trust a village with your sense of belonging. Your home.
Continue reading Yours in Community: A Year of Writing for the Emerald
by Andrew Engelson
Responding to a strike and campaign by more than 200 writers of color and members of the community, the Seattle nonprofit writing center Hugo House announced on Friday that its Executive Director Tree Swenson is stepping down. The campaign began in July of 2020 in response to what the Writers of Color Alliance (WOCA) says is a long term, persistent pattern of structural and systemic racism, tokenism, performative statements, lack of equity in pay, and a failure to provide a welcoming space to all races. Leaders of the strike by more than 180 writing teachers at Hugo House welcomed the departure of Swenson and the announcement that the organization’s development director position would be reopened to a competitive hiring process.
Continue reading Hugo House Director Departs, but Writers of Color Alliance Says Demands Unmet
by Luna Reyna, contributing columnist
In June 2020, Hugo House, a Seattle nonprofit writing center, posted a brief message via email and on their website in an attempt to condemn racism and show solidarity and support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Below the statement, Hugo House promoted a short list of poems and essays by Black writers. But by July, over 200 writers of Color and allies had signed an open letter addressing the performative nature of the statement and the organization’s lack of real investment, advocacy, and endorsement of local Black writers and communities.
“Hugo House’s recent email professing solidarity with the Black community rings hollow,” the letter reads. “The new civil rights movement makes clear that breaking down systemic and structural racism is all of our work, and we demand that Hugo House move concretely and transparently to invest its resources and make that change happen.”
Continue reading OPINION: Hugo House’s Passive Response to Racism Prompts Writers to Address the Violence of the Past
by Mark Van Streefkerk
“You see that I am always getting in trouble
Trouble follows me
like a shadow right behind me, always
You see that I am always in fights
Always rebel fights, arguments
But you don’t know me. I’m not that type of person
I’m really caring, giving
Always trying to help people”
Those are the opening lines to “Josiah,” a poem by 16-year-old Damian, a youth incarcerated at Seattle’s Children and Family Justice Center (CFJC), formerly King County Juvenile Detention. “Josiah” appears in The Shadow Beside Me, a new anthology of poems from youth at CFJC, published by the Pongo Poetry Project. In the poem, Damian writes about how life changed when his friend Josiah was shot and killed. “Josiah was the only person we knew who had graduated / had a job, and had something going for him / When he left, it broke me.”
Continue reading ‘The Shadow Beside Me’: Seattle Nonprofit Debuts Poetry From King County Juvenile Detention