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Black Pride event focuses on writers [9 July, 2008]

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Will print survive? That’s a question that plagues the publishing industry as it struggles to redefine itself in an era of web technology.

Within the world of African-American publishing, such questions are particularly complicated, given the marketplace of the book world.  The fact that most of the “mainstream” readership is construed as white leads to the illusion that Black authors are not as commercially viable.  Given all this, the issues and experiences of LGBTQ African-American authors are seen as less likely to garner attention, making it more difficult for them to make inroads in the publishing world.

On July 5, Chicago Windy City Black Pride held a reception for authors at the Center on Halsted, 3656 N. Halsted, to introduce them to the community.  Approximately 150 people came to meet established figures like Naleghna Kai (Every Woman Needs a Wife) and Rodney Lofton (The Day I Stopped Being Pretty).  But also present were newer writers, like the novelist Diane Martin (Never What it Seems) and Raymond Berry, a poet whose work appears in To Be Left with the Body, an anthology of work about Black gay and bisexual men living in a time of HIV/AIDS.

Michael Hunter organized the event, along with C. C.  Carter, and he spoke about some of the issues facing African-American LGBTQ authors.  Hunter said the reception was conceived within the concept of “a place to call home, to be Black and gay at the same time.”  Hunter was speaking of how authors have to find ways to navigate their way through the writing process, which is already “so lonely,” and also establish their visibility in the publishing world by networking.

Martin’s excitement about being at the event confirmed much of what Hunter had to say about its potential.  She saw it as “a wonderful opportunity” to meet fellow writers.  As it turned out, Martin’s table was next to that of Verlean Singletary, the owner of Da Book Joint, a South Side bookstore specializing in African-American authors—including Martin.  The two were meeting for the first time.

Following the reception, attendees listened to the authors reading selections from their works.  They included Neledi Tafari, a native Washingtonian who read from her debut novel, Dykin’, which she said was about “Black lesbian culture in late-’90s Washington, D.C,” and Carter, who read from Body Language, her 2003 Lambda-nominated collection of poetry.

Originally published in Windy City Times, 9 July, 2008

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