A Black Writer Asks: Where's The Love?

Last year I was thrilled to have been nominated for an NAACP IMAGE AWARD. It was one of the highlights of my literary career.

But there was one thing that did put a damper on the experience - the literary portion of the show was not aired on national television. It was "just" streamed live on the Internet.

In fact, the literary portion of the awards is part of the pre-show and so we folks have to show up an hour or so earlier than the other folks.

Sidebar: (We writers were seated in one are of the theater - out and away from the "real"celebrities - I gotta say it felt kind of leper-colony-ish.)

Now, I know all the major awards shows have a pre-show - cause if they aired every single category the show would be ten hours long!

But I think not making the literary category apart of the main show sends the message that we writers are  less important in the African-American Community than our acting and singing counterparts.

During slavery times, slaves who could read and write were esteemed members of the slave community. Laws were put in place in most of the slaveholding states prohibiting the education of slaves. The slave masters understood that knowledge is power and worked hard to keep our ancestors powerless.

I've said it here a number of times: Writers are the keepers of our history - you must celebrate them.

If we black writers all just threw our hands up into the air and said the hell with it, I ain't writing no more! Then one of two things will happen - black life will cease to be chronicled or it will be chronicled by people on the outside looking in.

Now the other thing that has been a source of contention for me is this: When was the last time an African-American author was featured on the COVER of a national magazine?

Help me out here, please. I know Toni Morrison was on the cover of Time Magazine in 1998. I couldn't find an Essence magazine cover depicting the great one. Really? Tell me that ain't so..

Which brings me to my next question: When was the last time Essence and Ebony Magazine featured an author on it's cover???

Listen, I get it. It's an economic thing. Non-African-American magazines say they sell less newsstand copies when they feature black people on their covers. Essence and Ebony magazine may suggest that they sell less newsstand copies if they don't have Beyonce, Jill, Jada or Halle on the cover.

Can I make a suggestion, Essence and Ebony? How about if you feature one of those glamorous cover girls/guys alongside one of their favorite black authors?????

That would be some kind of cool, don't you think?

I mean this all makes sense to me because I don't just buy these magazines for the photos - I buy them for the articles that are written by....uhm...writers...so yeah.....

Let's be friends

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  • Yasmin Alam

    Thank you for your wisdom in providing historical context to why it's so important that people of colour express our life experiences and perspectives .

  • Ava Bleu

    Bernice McFadden, what an honor!  I loved SUGAR.

    I'm new to this site and I'm overwhelmed by the talent and fellowship here--I'm so glad I discovered it.

    As for the awards and other media, I think everyone underestimates the value of writers.  Those actors wouldn't have parts to play without us; singers wouldn't have songs to sing.  And it would be nice to be right up there with them instead of relegated to the background. 

    Writing is an art and a talent.  People today forget what a big thing it is.  My parents were the first generation in both their family lines to read and write.  My grandparents were laborers and their parents were the same, born at the end of slavery.  My grandparents were my heroes and the strongest, smartest people I knew, but to them, I was special because I read all the time and that would certainly lead to even greater success.  They wouldn't understand how people today could make so much money from singing and acting!  Or for being beautiful--didn't have to life a finger to be pretty!

    Besides, until very recently, writers were held in high esteem.  I never heard anyone say Shakespeare was a hottie, but we certainly all know his name.  Today's habit of devaluing writers; in the large scheme of things and history of the world, it's a new thing and hopefully a passing fad.