Writing While Black: 20 in 2020

In February 2020, the Wright College English Department constructed a hallway gallery of Black visionaries in the writing community that highlighted authors who broke ground in specialized areas of writing in their respective time periods. That was the inaugural year of the English Department’s Writing While Black series (i.e., an annual Black History Month series). This year, the English Department has decided to focus on one time frame in particular: the year 2020. It was not the first year but certainly one of the most pronounced years of the Black diaspora unapologetically voicing that this, too, is our world. Thematically, we selected 20 texts spanning all twelve months of 2020. These texts of various genres were authored by people who wielded their Black perspectives to speak on the nuances of Black experiences. Featured below, the 20 texts range from newly found and published fiction of the legendary Zora Neale Hurston to Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham’s anthology of Black art, writing, and other creative work. After reading a quote from each text along with the text title, author or editor name(s), and publication date, feel free to submit any and every text that you read in 2020 by an author of Black/African American, Afro-Caribbean, African, and/or any other African Diasporic descent by clicking here.

  1. “Anyhow he’ll learn dat folks is human all ovah de world. Dats worth a lot to know, an’ it’s worth going a long way tuh fin out.” (Hitting a Straight Lick with a Crooked Stick: Stories from the Harlem Renaissance by Zora Neale Hurston – January 14, 2020)
  2. “We think the world is just like Chicago and it isn’t. Civilization has moved on. The rest of the world isn’t still corrupt, broken, wild, and dangerous.” (Everywhere You Don’t Belong by Gabriel Bump – February 4, 2020)
  3. “It feels impossible in the way only possible tasks can seem, when you know that despite the scale of what you must do, it’s not really beyond the realm of possibility to do it, and so it feels impossible because you know you must.” (Real Life: A Novel by Brandon Taylor – February 18, 2020)
  4. “The tone policing of respectability ensures that the fight for equality becomes the responsibility of the oppressed.” (Hood Feminism: Notes from the Women That a Movement Forgot by Mikki Kendall – February 25, 2020)
  5. “We’re not depressed all the time, some of us aren’t even depressed sometimes. We’re okay, our hearts, dusted with pink. When we cry in bathrooms together it’s about men or our mothers or our fathers or our bodies. We are resilient.” (So We Can Glow: Stories by Leesa Cross-Smith – March 10, 2020)
  6. “People who say change is impossible are usually pretty happy with things just as they are.” (The City We Became: A Novel by N. K. Jemisin – March 24, 2020)
  7. “There ain’t no easier lie to tell folks than the one they wanna believe.” (Conjure Women: A Novel by Afia Atakora – April 7, 2020)
  8. “Learn to forgive yourself … Do what you can and pay what you can and allow yourself a little joy in the meantime.” (I Don’t Want to Die Poor: Essays by Michael Arceneaux – April 7, 2020)
  9. “I’m not flaunting anything. I’m just existing. This is me. I can’t hide myself. I can’t disappear. And even if I could, I don’t f[-ing] want to. I have the same right to be here. I have the same right to exist.” (Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender – May 5, 2020)
  10. “There were many ways to be alienated from someone, few to actually belong.” (The Vanishing Half: A Novel by Brit Bennett – June 2, 2020)
  11. “There’s something about our identity as activists that is so closely related to the anger that we experience. What would it look like if we formed our activist communities around joy, not the suffering or the anger, as a basis for our change work?” (Love and Rage: The Path of Liberation through Anger by Lama Rod Owens – June 16, 2020)
  12. “What matters is the transformative power of metaphor and the stories we tell ourselves about the arc and meaning of our lives.” (Memorial Drive: A Daughter’s Memoir by Natasha Trethewey – July 28, 2020)
  13. “The price of privilege is the moral duty to act when one sees another person treated unfairly. And the least that a person in the dominant caste can do is not make the pain any worse.” (Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson – August 4, 2020)
  14. “Sometimes you see a black person above the age of fifty walking down the street, and you just know that … they are masters of the double consciousness, of the discreet management of fury under the tight surveillance and casual violence of the outside world.” (Luster: A Novel by Raven Leilani – August 4, 2020)
  15. “Ta-Nehisi said I could go anywhere / he told me in two hundred pages that Black folds could travel / said seeing the world is not a luxury / reserved for white men / we do travel though / some of us are still / on ships” (Burning Sugar by Cicely Belle Blain – September 29, 2020)
  16. “The historical foundations of white society, built as it is on a racism and colonialism that claimed to be acting in the best interests of those it oppressed, do not just magically disappear because people want to be ‘good.’ The answer is not to fall back on defensive tears that disempower and silence women of color because the very existence of these tears aimed in our direction are both an indictment and our punishment.” (White Tears/Brown Scars: How White Feminism Betrays Women of Color by Ruby Hamad – October 6, 2020)
  17. “A hooded seal gets everything they need to travel the world from only four days of nursing. No one knows how the Baikal seal ended up in a freshwater lake. And Amazon dolphins in captivity may be dying from sleep deprivation…How can we discern the differences between generative boundaries and destructive borders? Are we ready to move towards nourishing forms of adaptation?” (Undrowned: Black Feminist Lessons from Marine Mammals by Alexis Pauline Gumbs – November 17, 2020)
  18. “We need the people within our movements, all socialized into and by unjust systems, to be on liberators paths. Not already free, but practicing freedom every day. Not already beyond harm, but accountable for doing our individual and internal work to end harm and engage in generative conflict, which includes actively working to gain awareness of the ways we can and have harmed each other, where we have significant political differences, and where we can end cycles of harm and unprincipled struggles in ourselves and our communities.” (We Will Not Cancel Us: And Other Dreams of Transformative Justice by adrienne maree brown – November 20, 2020)
  19. “You are a dream queen!” (Black Futures (ONE WORLD) by Kimberly Drew and Jenna Wortham – December 1, 2020)
  20. “As a new wave of racial discourse and Black consciousness rolled in with the Obama administration in the late aughts, girl took on a new life of its own, crossed the pond, and worked its way through the entire diaspora. We became, in a word, magic.” (Girl Gurl Grrrl: On Womanhood and Belonging in the Age of Black Girl Magic by Kenya Hunt – December 8, 2020)

The English Department’s Five Writing While Black Anticipated Releases of 2021

  1. The Rib King: A Novel by Ladee Hubbard – January 19, 2021
  2. No Planet B: A Teen Vogue Guide to the Climate Crisis by Lucy Diavolo – February 9, 2021
  3. The Salt Fields: A Novella by Stacy D. Flood – March 9, 2021
  4. Holding Change: The Way of Emergent Strategy Facilitation and Mediation by adrienne maree brown – April 6, 2021
  5. Excellence Vol. 2: The Present Tense by Brandon Thomas – May 12, 2021