I’m Writing to You: Letters From Writers of the Black Literary Community

From the September/October 2020 issue of
Poets & Writers Magazine

On June 11, 2020, during the third week of protests in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and against police violence, we posted an open call at pw.org inviting writers of the Black literary community to submit letters written to any individual or group—a friend, a family member, the publishing community, other writers, themselves—that loosely pertained to their lives as writers. Our intention was to give Black writers a platform to directly address whatever they wanted, and on their own terms. The following selection of letters is further evidence that, as Melva Graham puts it, writing, too, is a form of resistance. “Every time you sit down to write your true voice becomes louder,” she writes, “and in the fight for racial justice we need all the voices we can get.” 

Top row, from left: Melva Graham, Shanay Bell, Kameron Bashi, and S. P. Middle row: Sarah Valentine, Candace McDuffie, and Donald Quist. Bottom row: Myron McGhee, Noro Otitigbe, Leslie-Ann Murray, and India Gonzalez.  (Credit: Graham: Photos by Jamaal; Bashi: Sean Pessin; Valentine: Marcello Rostagni; McDuffie: Daniel Irvin; Quist: Dalton Rook Barber; McGhee: Gina McGhee; Murray: Veronika Savitskaya; Gonzalez: Justin Aversano.)

Dear Fellow Black Writers by Melva Graham

To My Precious Black Son by Shanay Bell

To the Tentatively Hopeful by Kameron Bashi

A Letter to the Allies by S. P.

To Writers Struggling With Their Whiteness by Sarah Valentine

A Note to the Shareholders by Donald Quist

Dear White Readers, Gatekeepers, and Members of the Media by Candace McDuffie

Dear White Publishers by Noro Otitigbe

Dearest Tayari by Leslie-Ann Murray

Dear Black Queer Boy by Myron McGhee

My Beloved Black Ancestors by India Gonzalez