In the country, black and brown children suffer from a disadvantage of being forced into public schools with a lack of quality resources, a lack of quality teachers, and a lack of quality programs. So if a child suffering has a gift in writing, where can she find a safe space to grow in her craft? Where can she go to express her artistic vision? Who can she talk to that will actually care enough to not only help her perfect her artistry, but to use it to help her heal?
When I was in high school, I had just transferred from a school where black and brown faces populated the school halls to a place surrounded by white American suburbia. In an attempt to fit in and make deeper connections, I decided to join a literary club. My English teacher was in charge of it. She was a decent older white lady who had once called out a little black boy for spelling his name incorrectly according to the rules of standard English. And sometimes she gave another little black girl a hard time because she liked to talk, but could hardly read. But I thought to myself, ‘It’s okay’ -- okay enough for me to join her literary club -- because who else could I turn to? Where else could I go? She was the only one offering a program that interested me -- for free.
I remember my first meeting. I was running late. I ran out of the bathroom and rushed down the hall, and as I barreled my way into the classroom, I blabbered a “I’m sorry I’m late,” catching attention I didn’t want. And as I scanned the room, reading the expressions of all the little white girls -- of the teacher -- I felt a deep loneliness. A sense that they wouldn’t have cared if I didn’t show up. That they weren’t too pleased to have me there. So I never went back.
It wasn’t until years later, in my adulthood, that I was able to find information about publishing, to teach myself about the expectations of an author, to work day to day on my writing, and seek critical feedback from others. What if someone had helped me navigate the waters of literary theory, criticism and the publishing industry in my youth? What if someone gave me the resources and confidence to keep writing? What if I had a safe space where I felt wanted? Felt seen? Maybe I could’ve done big things. Or even better, I could’ve channeled my hurts into my writing. I wouldn’t have been alone, searching for acceptance. I would’ve had a lifelong mentorship. A sisterhood of guidance. A circle of healing.
It's never too late to seek mentorship, to keep steady with your vision and purpose, and to heal. That's why I founded WRITING FOR FREEDOM, a non-profit with the purpose of helping those passionate writers of diverse backgrounds find their voice.