We are a beautiful people. People of the drum and open spirit. People with the strength to live our lives in ways that bring us one-step closer to whole. We are beautiful when we constantly push and pull at the traditional American social fabric by just being ourselves.
When I first heard of Fire and Ink, I knew I had to go. A queer conference for writers of African decent, yes! I smiled at the thought of the conversations that one could have in a space of this type: conversations about everything from trans inclusion in lesbian spaces, to how to start a small press.
My job at the conference was to organize the massive photo shoot. Imagine this, a small sea of extremely beautiful, assured, queer, black and brown bodies of various ages. As I stood on top of a table next to the photographers, calling for silence, my knees could barely hold. We are a beautiful people when we smile and pose and shine.
One of the larger components of the Cotillion, is the workshops, and I managed to fit quite a few in. Shawn(ta) Smith’s “To Be Constantly Writing Workshop” was by far my favorite. The thesis of the workshop was to constantly acknowledge that as queer writers we have community, thereby, we always have resources at our fingertips. Examples of what community resources look like are if you attend functions at your local LGBT center, reach out and see if they need writers for their calendar or annual report. Ultimately, use your resources so that your pen never runs dry. Over time, this practice will make any writer eligible for fellowships, assistantships and awards by building their CV, contributing to the queer community, and developing their craft.
The “Contemporary Caribbean: LGBTQ Writing” as a panel, led by Thomas Glave, challenged me. Having read excerpts from Our Caribbean and tasted the gifted pens of R. Erica Doyle and Cheryl Boyce-Taylor, I was really looking forward to a thorough discussion of the work and its larger themes. Instead what I got was a visceral reality check about my own positioning within the Diaspora. The panel at points turned to discussion about who the book was for and why. I found myself, raised an African American, non-Hispanic, non-Caribbean, woman, equated with White Americans in a way that made me extremely uncomfortable. After a long series of post panel discussions with friends, I began to unravel the ways in which for non-American Black people, this parallel is possible, and relevant, and real. We are a beautiful people when we are different and when we disagree. We are a beautiful people when we debate and teach.
I am looking forward to the next one. I want to see how far I’ve pushed myself after the fumes and lessons of this one. We are a beautiful people when we grow and give and rise.