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tv   Panel Discussion on Diversity and Writing Programs  CSPAN  May 8, 2016 1:30pm-2:47pm EDT

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some thing if it will provide increased safety in our community. there is that one law for a bill that i could have authored or passed that would've protect this community, but it's important for all of us to play a role in making sure our communities are safe now and in the future. >> the national black writers can't continues. today we bring you for more paramount from brooklyn. today's topics including conversations on diversity in writing, a reason the digital age, a conversation between michael eric dyson and kahlil gibran mohammed and more. some panels to contain language that i may find offense is. first up for the national black writers conference, a panel on diversity and writing programs.
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[inaudible conversations] [inaudible conversations] >> good afternoon, everybody. when martine. good afternoon. you've enjoyed the three days we've had here. you know, my third straight year of coming and nature they try to offer a great selection of poetry and discussions, film. thank you so much are coming to
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join us. the reception last night, the presentation we had the honorary chair last night. the honorees were [inaudible] and woody king junior. their messages were very inspiring and really got people fired up. i hope you got a chance to see it. today's the last day of the conference we want to make sure we have a good time today. this is a black literature and the topic we have come in today. my name is patrick oliver. i thought of the readers and writers raised in chicago, illinois. we supported and not of projects, to encourage young people to become the next generation of individuals who may be at the conference monday. check us out and speak it's also my pleasure to be the emcee here to share with you all
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these wonderful things we have again happening here at this conference founded in 1986 and the center for black literature has continued in a tradition of making sure confidence is one of the most talked about conferences in the country as well as the scholars and thinkers that we bring to the conference each year and the space where we can talk about our culture, history, politics, social issues that pertain to the black experience. we are glad you are here. again, came back for coming to the conference, a success been a part of it is very, very important that you are here and we want to talk about some of the folks that we've supported over the years. schaumburg center for research, press university and i hope we got a chance to support them. sisters uptown bookstore is the official bookstore for this project are conference.
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we think it's important that we continue to encourage pad support the writers here to continue sharing the message with fran about the great time you had here at this conference and keep in mind, we want you to keep pushing in this digital age that we are written right now. keep pushing the written word. keep pushing and turning the page and keep in mind of young people as well as adults. thus keep them moving. one highlight about the program today is going to be what we will have put the schaumburg center and we will miss him at the schaumburg and he's leaving not pose. we have a lot going on. i want to make sure also, let's treat to your friends that we have on facebook. that's good enough social media because we have an exciting day going today. i want to share was going on.
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our first panel for the day i'm excited about the writing program and writing of color. kernan feature trends. >> thank you get good afternoon, everyone. welcome to the 13th national black writers conference. i want to thank everybody for joining us here today. i know that this panel will be enlightening, may throw some shade, but it will be enlightening nonetheless. i hope you had an opportunity to attend some of the other workshops that have been happening over the course of the weekend and that are going on for the rest of the day today. what i want to do is introduce our very distinguished panel and they are going to be sharing their ends ties, their experience is in their vision as well as answering as many of your questions as possible at the end of our session.
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so first we have bernice mcfadden. she is the author of nine critically acclaimed novels in limiting sugar, loving donna finn, nor is the place are the warmest december, one of my favorite comic gathering of waters which was in "new york times" editors choice and one of 100 notable books of 2012 as well as glorious, which is featured in o magazine and a finalist for an image award yet she is a three-time person legacy award finalist as well as the recipient of three awards in bca l.a. ms. mcfadden is in brooklyn in her latest book is the book of heartland. then we have maria edessa. she had to write that out fanatically for me to be able to tell you what her name was. we are going to call her maria
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to make it easy on all of us, me especially. she's author they are continuing poet crafting liberation, which was listed as one of the books they love and common for dutch. she's a poetry editor of the magazine african voices. the work is the subject of a short film. i leave my colors everywhere. her essays and poetry have been published in the black renaissance in the poet. she earned her mfa from mills college in 2002. last but certainly not least, described in this statement has this statement is undoubtedly one of the finest poets in contemporary time. she's the author born in india, raised their and at the age of 18 when to england to study
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their poetry include a literate heart, winner of the 10 open book awards, and she is the editor of indian love poems and not for the critically acclaimed memoir fault line. she has received awards from the guggenheim, fulbright and rockefeller foundation to our council of england and awards from south africa. she's the author of eight books with poetry, two novels in the two volumes of essays in the memoir fault line which was published weekly book of the year. her poetry has been trends rated. most recently by the swedish composer jan sandstrom. she's a distinguished professor professor at the graduate center of your neck. welcome to i guess. thank you very much for being here. [applause] that's pretty impressive.
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before we get started, what i want to do is kind of set the table to bring some context to what it is we will be talking about today. this particular panel is bar none of several essays written on the topic of marginalization of student of color and msa in the publishing industry in general. gina diaz for "the new yorker" in which he writes about his experience as an mfa student at cornell university. in my workshop, what was to send it was not the writing of people of color ,-com,-com ma but the right of white writers to write about people of color without critiquing and the critiques of people of color. his message was that the program was to why. then ultimately 20 years later,
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not much has changed. so that is the foundation which our discussion will stem from today. i want to put the first question to maria. she earned her mfa at hills college in 2002. what was your expert patient and what were your conclusions coming out. >> thank you. that's interesting. >> when i went to melt, one of the things about me with before it went into an mfa program, i was already the part of a really vibrant community of writers. that is one of the big differences between me and a lot of folks about msa programs initially. i was doing my poetry. i was here in brooklyn at the brooklyn moon. i had people and i have mentors.
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i had folks who are already looking out for me. cheryl boyce taylor and massive african voices. there is a community for me. so when i went to mel's, i went there because i felt i needed to learn the more and i wanted to go to the west coast. i'm being honest with you. the other thing sounded like i needed to get another degree in order to open certain doors. and i was didn't teach him and those are my reasons for going. so when i applied, i applied in poetry and fiction. my poetry is blatantly political and so i didn't get into their poetry program. i found out later it's a very experimental type of poetry that they really champion. i did get into the fiction program, however.
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and so there were no black faculty. there weren't any. there weren't any teaching at that time. i think that to the bow came later, but as a guest, not as full-time. my entire time in workshop i did not have a black professor in workshop. in other courses they did, but it sure classes and things like that. and i'll not have major or a memoir, which is something i took largely because she was teaching at. i wanted to have someone whom i did then in a similar vein. and so that was my experience. i was one of the only people. i think i was actually the only black woman, black person in my workshops in two out of the three of the workshops and i
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showed up in some interesting ways which we can talk about later. >> all right, cool. bernice, you are currently taking your msa at st. joseph's. you'd already established as an author before you took the course. what was your goal in attending and what has your experience been? >> good afternoon. so i was encouraged by some mentors who are to teach in academia to go and get my msa. i realized that if i wanted to teach on the collegiate level, i would probably need that. not everyone does, but the way i look, i do. so it was really for the credential. was the second car? [inaudible] >> my experience. in my program there's about four people of color.
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one experience really comes to mind when all of the racial upheaval is going on with our black men getting shot down in the street, obviously that sounded way into the classroom and we discussed it and i found that a lot of the ways didn't did not want to discuss it. some of the youngers dunes just came out and said simply i don't understand it, so i don't have this conversation because i don't understand it. most recently, in i wrote an essay about the prison issue about lachman being sent to prison and how there more black men in prison than were slaves in 1850. i focused on three companies that are profiteering from the system. one of the lines says that the head of each of these companies are white males, just like it
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was during the plantation system. the young lady who was assigned to edit my piece, is also in the mfa program, she asked if i would remove that line. so my response was i'm not going to remove it, but i'd like to know why you feel it needs to be removed and i'm still waiting on that response. >> so that is the next variant. i was lucky and not an article in poet and writers. it is the ranking that was done in 2012 that states nearly all professors of mfa programs were white. they're just 14 tenured writers about 13% of the 262 tenured or tenure-track faculty in the past 50 programs in the united states
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so as a distinguished, not just professor, but a distinguished professor at the graduate of hunter. you do with creative writing classes. why does the lack of diversity matter and how do you see this issue they diaz raises rear its head in their clash and how do you deal with that in your classroom? >> well, thank you for the question. worst of all, i do not have an msa. i was in england and none of the writers i know of my generation generation -- [inaudible] as we all know, you don't need an mfa to be a writer. that's a ridiculous idea. it can give you a piece of paper and also give you a table and a few people around the table who are really responding well.
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the other thing is that hunter, i used to teach in was teaching in the program for some time. but now, i no longer teach and i can tell you the hunter faculty as far as i can tell is the light. there are very few students of color and i don't think it in some ways is like an isolated example. this is a very strange thing because if you look at the arena of american writing, there's extraordinary writers of color in this country that have remade the landscape of american writing. what is it about the program and i think it's a good topic to talk about some very interesting things to say.
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at the graduate center, i teach phd students and poetics that we don't actually write poems. a lot of people would come there and then they do phd's. i think this is in issue. one of the things that happened happened -- one of the things that happened is there is some idea as some professionalization and i think we should think about what does this mean. we've had writing for many centuries in many cultures in many languages. what is this piece of paper do for you? i know people of color have gone to amazing programs. decisive because it was isolation. these are issues that i think we should try and think about and
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they are difficult issues. >> definitely. i mean, i don't have immediate answers to that, but i think it important to ask the question. >> i'll open it to any of you that want to ask the question, answer the question. when we look at the writing arena in the publishing industry as a whole, very often writers of color are isolated from that arena. and if in fact we look at degrees of your capabilities, if writers of color who are already left out of the mix, kept away from the table, if they are not
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pursuing these degrees, what are their actions then? >> okay, so there is so much here that is that. a few things that you outside permit the idea of professionalizing writing. i'm definitely coming. dig is such an interesting thing because when i professionalize what i think immediately is capitalized. i was thinking about this today. this is another hoop to jump through in a sense. you already had all of these published books. i mean, some of your professors probably aren't on the same level as here. >> it is like what in the world, whether she may die for? it's absolutely outrageous, but i think this is what it comes down to in this country is figuring out how to make money.
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>> or something else that's a little scary to me, which is perhaps there is an idea of a particular kind of language in the model of writing which is prescribed in that i find difficult. >> that's why i have an msa, but i was thinking nobody goes to college. i got one because i wanted to learn something. but if you don't get an mfa from the right place with the right type of language and that rice faculty, then you are wasting your time. you will not capitalize off of that degree. that is something else i've been thinking a lot about like you've got to be with the right people. you've got to have the right venture. you've got to go to the right mfa program. if you don't do that come you continue to be marginalized. when you talk about what the alternatives are come with the alternative is always community. we were here talking about john oliver killings the other day. it was amazing to hear he has
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this workshop every week for years. from 10:00 to 1:00 and it was free. every single person who went through that with ms now i published, respected, loved community member who continues to nurture. community is the real thing. that is what we as writers need is community. >> just started speaking to the whole idea of finding the right program, if in fact you decide you want to go after this mfa, me very much like renée, i've been published for like 20 years before i decided that i wanted to get an mfa. i didn't get an msa because i wanted to be validated as a writer. i knew that i wanted to teach in in order to teach i wanted a masters degree. i always thought fine art sounded really nice.
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that's what i decided to do. i was lucky enough to be able to go to a program. i am not the opposite end of the spectrum in terms that diaz experience. i had an incredible it here and. i missed my classmates. i missed the experience of being there. it goes back to doing your research. who went there? who are the professors? you know, like what is the pedagogy? same thing if you are applying for a job, you have to figure out if your right fit for this and what is it that is going to come out of it? in an interview for the paris review, toni morrison said i would like to write novels that
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are unmistakably mine. but nevertheless, first into african-american tradition is very important to me that my work be african-american. i shouldn't have to be asked to do that. joyce is a master did not. they can be russian, french, irish, catholic. they write from where they, and i do too. she made that statement in response to a question about race. so many of our students here and at other colleges that are predominately students of color are already in that space base. they are nurtured and encouraged you have their authentic voice. they celebrate their otherness in the same spaces. for those users who intend to pursue a career in writing, a field that is inherently white, how can they maintain their
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voice and navigate through, not around, but through as tony morris has often that. >> you know, i was thinking if we think back a little bit, how did writers teach themselves to write? think of james baldwin. it's not oddly lured, my next her neighbor hunter and was a friend and mentor to me. these are people who read what they loved and learned from it and was a response to things that pushed against them. i mean, when he think of the individual voice, the system being so deep that you have to find the material they give your genealogy as a writer. just because i'm indian doesn't mean i can't learn from a nigerian writer for a writer
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from italy. the great thing about writing is that we learn from our different ways which is also one of the things that the conference as a whole. raised in the united states is a question. when i think back to india, there was a whole. for the british used to say that indians could not write. so the multiple forms and how that affects the individual writer, this is something that is not gone away for months. i think those conduct a kind of quarrel with us and come out of it. william buckley eight, when he says i have a quarrel with others, we right rhetoric, but out of the quarrel with ourselves we write poetry. when you internalize some pain,
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you can actually construct an extraordinary work of art if you have the good fortune to do so. so i mean, i think that these are difficulties that they have to be voice, they have to be shared. but that doesn't mean that one can't write and write very well. i know this doesn't directly address the issue of mfa programs, which is our topic, but i think it is not a relevant. just as donna said, you can go to the program which may be largely white, but you may actually find people whom you retrieve. i think the democratic spin this country, in the united states to face her year or maybe irony there was a so-called minorities are actually the majority. this is an amazing misnomer if you think about what the population as and i think these wonderful connections we can make a train multiple ethnic
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cities and languages and history are all very, area important. >> did you want to add anything to that? >> about maintaining voice. again, in i love the way you put that about the genealogy. i really like the way creating your own genealogy as a writer. if you stay in touch with whatever the incidences that move you in the first place, it will be difficult for you to lose your place. that's what i found if i keep in touch with the balkans and saki sanchez then all of those people, all of those choices that i think has influenced my wok in my path. i surround myself with amazing writers. that is really important, too. people who i admire not only their writing, but they're wok on the planet. the act to visit them, their
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teaching, their scholarship, all the different things they do. that is how i maintain their voices by doing that. the people around me do something to mueller. >> i think that before we had this mfa program, the writers were celebrated for being self-taught. i am self-taught. i don't think that you can teach creative writing. i think you can provoke it. i think it is innate authority and if you find the right professor to bring it out, that's a wonderful thing. i had tweaked it that i am less interested in the english language and more interested in what i can create from the english language and why should that not be celebrated? language is fluid and it changes and now we have distilled language that includes emerging.
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we have to embrace that. when you have an institution and saying that there is only one type of story are we only accept one type of story coming out of your particular community, there is an issue. >> i will kind of go back a little bit to the value for the works of pursuing an mfa degree. in many circles it is considered a little frivolous because people sit around and talk and look at work and talk some more and look at work and talk some more. am i on the mathis who is the author or wrote an article, which is set for a student of color, especially network created an mfa program can open doors to the hollowed and strikingly un- diverse colla
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publishing houses. do you find or do you believe that to be true? >> no. you see it how many people of color do we have in the publishing house? how many people do we have editors in the pr department? you go to school, you receive this mfa. so if your track as you want to go work in publishing, they will allow a small percentage. and if you want to write, you can write. you can all write and you can all publish. or will you receive the recognition from the predominant way white, predominantly not unless you are writing a certain type of book. >> okay. and then, to piggyback on not a
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little bit, still, even so. .. or should we even try? >> i wanted to pick up on something bernice is said about one kind of story coming out of the community that i think this part of the struggle because i think certain kinds of marriages
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seemed acceptable for a whiter audience in terms of other kinds of narratives or not it's relevant or audible because there is a kind of narrative that is available to the broad scope of the american publishing world. if you don't fit into that, then what happens is a real question. one f the things i think it's important to recognize is in many ways small publishing houses are like the bloodstream of the literary world and many of the writers who are now very well known and published in major print is probably some of them may have published in smaller houses particularly-- that is a whole other world. i couldn't take you out for dinner. sounds like a poem. may be a french fry or something
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maybe not even t, but i think the other thing i wanted to say about an msa program is that at its best and this is an idea like it ought to provide a nurturing atmosphere for young writers. it's like a hothouse where you have the right kind of water and right soil and should be able to grow, but if it's only a certain kind of plant that grows then it becomes a little iffy, but certainly i think msa programs introduce their young writers to publishers and i have also taught as a visitor at the columbia university writing program. i taught at hunter and you know, i think that it's wonderful to see what happens that there are young writers who are exciting and meeting up with editors or agents, but there is also this
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other large issue. my voice and my kind of way of looking at the world and what ever into the table is not recognized and in fact, not only is it not recognized and not really permitted in some way to tell that story whether it's fiction or nonfiction and then of course i should be a kind of challenge in some ways i think. if you would do something like what cornelius, you know, or inspirational american poets of units-- i think there are places that nurture young voices for people of color and you can be in an msa program, which maybe does not help you so much in that way, but you can also find your mentors elsewhere, which is probably what everyone does in some fashion. you said i had my community.
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>> i wanted to say something. i mean, what happens to us, what happens to us, so i was taking notes and it's the same thing happening over and over and over and over and over again is what i feel. i have moments where like consider the fact a wp is happening right now. just let's put that on the table and i think it's important because for a lot of us we were nurtured here at this conference. this is where we got to the folks who pushed us a long and who give us the nurturing and love that we need, rig here in brooklyn. and i think this is critical. why are we here not there? because this is our place. this is our place. one of the things i was thinking about what is being influenced like something like the black arts movement, i mean, you know you got to create your own.
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you got to do your own thing and when you do your own thing, what you don't want to do is become the gatekeeper on them. so coming doing your thing and creating your own spaces you have your own publications or you have your own press like a jessica has more black press or like you know, the folks who i published with art-- independent. the other one is in england, but they are both men of color and they have decided that this is what they need to do. they need to create these publishing outlets, you know, for us, basically. so, you have to be resilient. you have to be really really resilient in this and you have got to be willing to either create your own thing or support those folks who have created their own thing. however you choose to do that. if you choose to go with them and get published with them or buy their books or whatever it is, i'm really serious about that. about us not being afraid to have an alternate to whatever it
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is alternative to whatever out there is mainstream. why not? why shouldn't we? then, the question becomes how do we build that; right? you said what-- do you want it regain entry and if you do should we make sure that this is as viable and important to the invoices as i spaces? would lead to from their? >> then there is the question picking up on what you set of what does it mean or what does it take to alter the mainstream, which is also a big question. >> maria, one of the things you were sort of e-mailing back and force you had i believe you had a question. in these types of programs, how do we deal with the lack of programs that focus on work that deals with social injustice? especially come understanding that social justice with
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impotence for many students wanting to write the first place. so, how would you expand on that a little? >> i think when i was talking to doctor green before this program i think one of the things that has to happen, people in order for people to care about social justice i think they have to care about you, if this is you as a human being, emphasis me as a human being, so when you said the young woman said she does not want that, they don't want to talk about that; right? the don't understand and therefore they don't to talk about it. when i don't understand something i need to talk about it, so this is critical and one of the things i didn't say to doctor green, but i will say to you now is something that happened in my msa program which was difficult for me, so i had a great professor whose name is cornelius nickerson.
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our first book, the interpreter. you see, i'm going-- so, when we were reading going to meet the man, the title story is some difficult difficult stuff and in it we meet a character, a main character who sexually assaults a white male police officer and he sexually assaults black women and physically abuses black men and so at some point in this story we see that he was brought up going to lynching's. so, the professor asked the class, all right, in this story do you have compassion for the police officer because of the late james has given you his past and everyone in the class said yes except me. i just sat there. i was really having a hard time with this and so the next week what a my classmates brought in a story and in the story is a man who was really really frustrated. he has got this job. he is working overtime.
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the dog does something that upsets him and so he takes the dog and throws against the law and so the professor asks the class, because-- what you know about this man do you have compassion for him when he throws the dog against the wall and everyone in the class said no except me. and that's when you realize that you can't deal with issues of social justice in a classroom if people are not seeing you as a human being, if they are not seeing your concern and your being; right? you're not-- the dog is more important than you are right and that was a hard hard, hard thing for me. very difficult. >> can i just read a quote since we are talking about john killen and he talks about this in a 1965 book and it's still relevant. he says ended this is about publishing, white publishing, he
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says keep criticizing society, black writers. keep criticizing society and you will continue to incur the wrath of us white reviewers who are not that fellows at all and would like to bring you into the fold if you'll just played down your nigro ness and they are still asking us to do that. >> one of the things i was thinking as you are both talking and everyone was talking with my mind sort of went back to that extraordinary section at the end of the book in that last section is called colonial wars of mental disorders and some of you may remember this. of course he was trained as a psychiatrist and was sent by the french to algeria, where he was tending to both algerian patriots and the french colonial
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army. this white man comes to him, this french man comes to him and said i spent my time beating out that all is an engaging in torture in these close rooms and when i go home i can't help myself i keep beating my wife and can you treat me so i stop beating my wife and i could go back to work and this is quite a extraordinary moment because he says what am i supposed to do. , supposed to treat him so he goes back and engages in torture and i don't know why it just came into my head because the question of what is our humanity what does it mean to engage in nonviolent, which is very active thing a very difficult, i mean, what are we, you know, what kinds of love duly task yourself with as writers? what of the great traditions nonviolence, i mean, you have gandhi and his acts of
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nonviolence through influence of martin luther king and the black civil rights movement has influenced the untouchable communities, india. there are-- of course, you think about overthrow of apartheid in south africa. there are these extraordinary currents in the world in which writers are also part, we partake of them; right? so, you can take star nursing about a good book is that it can open a window out of these constantly returning circles of violence and of despair and i think that something else as possible, which is also why we write. i think this should bring us back to wire we writers or poets or novelists? because there is something in the world we are struggling with and we are perhaps altered if only for a brief second, signing i think that you come back to
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msa programs and probably all agree that they ought to nourish and nurture very diverse communities and that is perhaps probably actually that is not happening at this moment. scenic i have been a high sign. sandman is like back your right now, but before we open the floor to questions, i hope you have questions for our panel. i just want to sort of close it out with a quote from james baldwin for all the potential writers out there. if you are going to be a writer, there's nothing i can do to stop you. if you are not going to be a writer, nothing i say will help you. so, thank you all very much. and so if you have questions, they are here to answer your questions.
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elected afternoon. minimus cheryl and i'm wondering out of conflict there's often opportunity and i'm wondering if there are msa programs that you know of-- they are saying we have a problem and are looking at color in a different way because i'm writing-- ready to enroll to my msa program. >> i know there is a wonderful when it queen's college. it is really made a very deliberate effort to include in nurture writers of color and also faculty of color on board. >> i don't know if you are intending to go to classes like all the time, but if you are
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looking at like low residency programs, i would highly highly recommend gardner. i loved. i had a really really great experience there. the instructors are nurturing, what we are looking for. i had the same kind-- when i got there the first thing that we all do when we go is like okay how many of us are there. i think i counted like six, but it did not matter because the instructors were so wonderful and the friendships that i made and that networking and we talked about that is so important to your growth as a writer, so that would be a suggestion. >> thank you for coming in. for hearing your stories, this is a important topic and for me it's really important from a number of prosortant topic and e
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it's really important from a number of prospective's. i'm sure of the english department and we have a creative writing and professional writing concentration and our students want to know what can i do when i graduate because it looks as if i'm not teaching that is the only way i can really make money if i want to be a writer i have to figure out what else i can do. so, i went back to the writing programs, the msa programs that you talked about going to them for a various reasons, but not necessarily getting the support that you can have. what's a role does the writing workshop have within mfa program in other words what are the strategies or solutions given many people are enrolled in writing workshops with a few marginalized and they feel isolated and just to close out in the house again this in.
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everyone has that creative writing urge and i remember attending writers workshop and really feeling very marginalized and feeling as if i had to be the voice of all of the black people and they didn't even really get my work commented on because i was too busy addressing the perception that were out there of what my writing should look like and what was considered valuable, so maybe one strategy could be that if you are going to enroll in an mfa program, make sure you have other kinds of support around you cook i just want to hear your ideas on the. thank you. >> i will definitely say you have to make sure you have some other support around you. i don't imagine that you could make it through without, i mean, not in an environment like that;
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right? you have to stay in touch. >> one of the things that is interesting and curious is if you are a writer of color there is an expectation that your voice is going to stand for the whole of the community and that's ridiculous because you are an individual with your voice. i remember-- and he gets to such an extent i remember i was reading at the university of michigan in an asian american class some years ago as i was working on my memoir and an indian woman stood up and said we still publisher memoir whatever you do and i said why she said because they will think we are all like you and i thought this is totally ridiculous. why should everyone be like me? one would never say that of all white writers. direct that's what colonialism does. >> this whole question that you were talking about that you have
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to highlight certain kinds of things, which makes it exhausting or is heard on airwaves, but i think that is precisely have to go against this and as you are saying also you do need support. you need your mentors enter friends who can listen to you. it's difficult. >> i just wanted to add one thing with what doctor ring was saying. i think also goes back to much of our foundation, which are here in places like maker and our colleges where there is a predominance of people of color. we have to as educators as well prepared as writers who are going to step out into the world to really understand, this is what you're up against. this is what you're up against. it's-- they are not going to
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embrace you and say this is so wonderful what you have written. it's not going to happen in most cases, so you have to be prepared for that. prepared for that reality and i think that we have a responsibility, those of us who are teaching english courses and create abrading courses and those who are conducting these mfa workshops and things like that to really make sure that as part of the teaching component that we are actually letting students don't understand what it is they have to do with and to be able to help them to put those support systems in place before they go out into this other world that is not willing to accept them. >> the scariest part would be as the young writer or older writer started to self censor herself because of that. >> exactly. >> my name is rochon allen. thank you so much for this
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conversation and outlet. i'm encourage student in the mfa program. it's the stony brook mfa program in manhattan and basically one of the classes we actually read the mfs say versus people of color and when i entered and did the survey i was one of one, so we started the discussion and it kind of the food me in a sense that we didn't have a real discussion about the issue because of programs that failed to be self reflective and say what can we do and all you had to do is go on their website and say out of 27 faculty, 27 are white and what i find as a black
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student in this program is i have this one part of me as a writer and the other part that has to kind of push this agenda to say there are other people here that need to be present, which takes an equal amount of energy where i will give example of one of the things i did, so amongst writing essays and poetry and memoirs i wrote an essay to the faculty that said okay, here is a nurturing program, which most of the faculty that i appreciate and provide that support, but this completely-- it's a complete myth when it comes to people of color. they just totally miss it and we need to address that in one of the responses i got and i went to hear comment, faculty that you can't find them. where are they?
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i know that's kind of more of a rant, but i want your impression on some of that and what you suggest going forward? >> i'm looking for suggestions. so, i have received my mfs-- mf as a last month and since october i've been applying for professorship. [applause]. >> thank you. i have been applying for positions all around the country i had submitted about 30 applications. i have had two interviews. when i look at the committees, they are almost always white and i will tell you that i have more books, my one and the entire committee, so their responses ridiculous. if they wanted black faculty they would have black faculty
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work they don't want to black faculty. >> exactly. >> tip the scales. >> thank you. >> hello, my name is kevin angry and i'm a first-year graduate at queens college. first and foremost i would like to say that i love everything you have been talking about today. it's extremely important pivotal to our growth as writers and creators in our literary space into kind of playoff what this young gentleman said here, i would say that i am in a way a example of that because last year when i was applying for grad school i wanted to enroll within that mfa program at queens, but after doing research and i don't mean to either make you feel-- or attack you, i felt
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me personally i didn't feel as if my work like my creative writing work would be just going back to what we are talking about, didn't feel as if my work would be embraced among the faculty and understood anywhere -- we were not only by the faculty, but my peers and understand avenues and lanes that i would be coming from, so instead i'm enrolled in the ma program because i'm thinking as a ma i am also a great writer and academic writer and maybe i could use those skills to teach while also pursuing my creative writing lanes on my own and so with that being said, you know, especially in queens because queens is so excluded from the rest of the boroughs that it's much harder to even find another young person of color who is into writing as you and i feel queens dislike it that attention , so with that said, it was something i wanted to bring up and the fact that he actually
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just told all of us here about his experiences i thought was profound, so i myself at this current moment in time have started my own publishing press and how can i say this, like i am just try not only to support my work because i said without my own support it's not going to get anywhere, but i would just love a fellowship of the more people of color to talk about these things with so that we as people can harness each other's ability and play off of this and was even crazier is that i'm in the ma program again this is my first year, second semester and in every class i neither one of three black people or the only black man of color. i'm like, man, if it is how it is in the ma program alone i wonder what it looks like in the mfa, so i just thought i would share that with you guys and i'm just trying to see if we can all
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figure out-- i know a solution will not be reached overnight. that's not happening, but just to make you aware of this so that down the line we can figure out what we could possibly do because the last thing i will say is that especially with my writing i'm definitely influenced by the rights-- likes of richard wright, so self-identity, nationalism, racial conflict and finding inner peace amongst white supremacy, so something that is as heavy as those topics and something you have to really in price with an open mind and not see something for color, but do with the racial issues at hand, so i thought i would bring that to your attention and i just want to say thank you guys for everything and i truly, truly, truly appreciate this because the moment i saw this i said to myself this is something that only not needs to be discussed
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at the national black writers conference, but discussed at every summit and writers conference in general and its usually kept under hush-hush, which should not be allowed. >> thank you for your comment. i wanted to respond. i completely honor what you are saying and i'm glad you spoke the truth of your experience because i think that these things are difficult, i mean, when i think about my own experience i got a job teaching literature, but i was to my creative writing on the side. it was always done behind a curtain and gradually that took over, so i think we have to constructive strategies if line one doesn't work take line two or three, but keep true to the calling. >> i wanted to respond as well because i'm also from queens, born and raised in queens and live there now, so i do understand what you are talking about and increase it's interesting because now there are folks really trying to create some literary community out there, so we should be in touch about that.
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i think i used to come to brooklyn, by the way and still do as you can see in order to really get my community going. but, something i was writing down just as far as alternatives go, i mean, you mentioned-- i was thinking about mona; right? fantastic program as well and it's not-- it's different. i was thinking about a program that i went to and i taught at the watering hole, which is a amazing space. this is for poets cynic i think he is a fiction writer. >> the lottery hole is for poets right now, but it's only in its third year, so who knows what will be added. vona has everything in them. [inaudible] >> these are programs that are
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created by people of color for people of color and, you know, they are nurturing spaces, but they are challenging spaces; right? that's what i really love. that's one of the things i love about being at the watering hole. we worked like i don't know what over there. it was intense. so, strategies, you know. you are getting your ma and i think that's a brilliant's. some work-- some folks will to you that if you get an ma you might have to struggle to keep your voice. i mean, i recommend get a phd if you want to teach. knock it all the way outdo your writing way you do your that's where i'm at right now. that's actually what i'm thinking now. everyone's path is different, though. everyone's path is different. >> my name is diane ward and when you write and you feel you
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want to be creative you do that, so i have done that through theological dance. i have been writing and writing and writing and i'm happy we have this conference. one of the things i want to ask and like you said you will find your niche, find whatever, so i used talk radio, whatever i have to do to get my stuff out because i'm going to get my stuff out, but one of the things i want to ask because i was recently at another conference where someone mentioned that retreats are also-- these writer retreats are also another venue that will get you publishing entrée. i have never attended any. i don't have a mfa, i do have a master, but it's fine arts. could you give a little comment please about these writers retreats? >> my experience with the retreats is that i don't have a publishing outlet, but you can
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make friends, perhaps, and that can be nurturing and your conversations they say. i don't think they are specifically geared to publishing outlets or putting you in touch with publishers. it's more to sort of have the retreat and right. >> it's is a networking opportunity if you can get in. >> i make man and i'm a writer. i came to writing late in life and i just want to lift up a point of view that i'm not hearing a lot of the conversations about being nurtured and conferences like this. this is my first time at this conference. i have been to other conferences and there is a point of view that what you do whether its
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workshops or conferences like this is you get sliced up and that makes you tougher and that somehow makes you better and i came to this kind of writing so late in life that i didn't mind it. it kind of throws off the back. but, i don't even know what the question is except how do you react to that point of view that you got to make your writer's tougher? >> well, that's a great question and one of the things we were saying is a good program is challenging and nurturing and i think that is critical. challenging and nurturing, but i feel like when someone gives you a critique, if the critique is
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given in a way that is constructive, i mean, you are able to receive that. i am big on love and giving critiques with love in a loving way. give the critique in a way that is meant to help someone grow and there's a difference between that and a critique that is meant to stunt someone's growth and oppress someone, so the approach of that critique is critical. that is critical. all of my mentors have been challenging. they have challenged me, but the way they have challenged me are ways that did not leave me weeping on the floor unwilling to move a pen. that's real. >> i think the other idea-- i don't agree with that approach at all. but, once you get out in the real world, there is no one to have mercy on you, so i think some instructors i believe i will be you appear and force you to grow that sick skin, because when you get out there with the bulls no one will hold your hand
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>> by the same token, i mean, i think-- i have taught msa, but i've never done one and i personally would be terrified to be a student him and m program. i say this upfront in public or just because i writing secret and i sure to maybe one friend, if that. in, i work at it and put it under my pillow, put it in a drawer, spend a long time. the hardest thing is to read your own stuff from a certain distance and if you are an mfa program and that helps you do that to honor your own voice and to reach her own work on hatcher perfected that it's fantastic, but if it makes you feel like i will never be a writer, then it's useless. >> i think also at any level of the workshop process whether it's one of those sort of like
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in this rates the writer or one that nurtures, you still have to at some point developed the ability to be able to accept critiques. some people go into writing programs and they just think, my work is wonderful and it just needs a little editing and that's the case. so, on some level you have to develop credibility because the matter what 100% of the people will not like what you do. they just won't. i don't care how good you are. so, you have to be able to develop that within yourself in whatever program you are in and you have to find the right fit. >> good afternoon. i'm a writer and my experience as a mfa graduate is probably different from most because i did go to a predominantly black program at chicago state university and i have also
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attended most of the workshops i've attended either been probably black or there is african-american fiction writers for example and i have to say i have one major awards and a lot of my supporters have not been black and i also write a lot about africa, which confuses people, frankly. it is possible to get there without having done etc., but i want to ask you guys, what is your experience teaching on black students? like you, you are going to earn your mfa and will probably be teaching in a program that's predominantly white on the what do you anticipate that experience been like and what is your role to nonwhite students? >> that is a very interesting question. for me, i don't teach mfa programs, but i teach creative writing programs that i teach english courses, said this last
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semester was the very first time that in the times i have been teaching that i was teaching nonwhite students and i will be honest, i went into the classroom and i was a little intimidated for the first time because i had to start thinking do i need to restrain my voice? into a need to restrain my opinion, are there certain things that is a no-no in the classroom and how will they react and respond. but, what i found was that as long as i remain true to myself, it came across in the classroom and that opened the dialogue in places that it never would have been open before. so, that was a learning process for me. so, that was kind of like my experience. it was challenging at first. can i say this in the class, something i would have said to a class full of african-american students, for example. can i say this to these five italian guys sitting here and
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how will they respond. it's not again, like i said it's not pulling your voice back or your beliefs back or the way you approach the topic, but if you present it in such a way that gives them the opportunity to sometimes for the very first time to see things in a way that they have never seen before, that's when the light bulb goes off for them and that's i think as an educator that is part of our response ability as well. >> and i think the crucial thing is the work. the work that stands that you share, that the student produces i think you bond of the work in a powerful way, whoever the student is and that's crucial because we are also all individuals. i mean, everything we that is crucial about race and culture and colonialism, but also with the individual writer, what's in front of you and you respond to
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it as a person and as a writer. >> thank you for your panel. on varian spidered. i'm very inspired. i have two related questions and i think one was answered by professor hill, but i will reiterate what my colleagues that a bit. so, i know that the professor at i was workshop, which is the most prestigious mfa in the country as far as i know. i also know that thomas ellis is a professor at the state-- same workshop. i also know that's in the fiction side of mfa, which is partly taught by mathis, the student body is way more diverse than in alice's class, which is poetry. actually, i know there is one black student in his class,
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whereas in her class it's much more diverse and mike initial question, which i think you answered was if from the position of the black professor, which is a position of authority within that class, is there-- is it possible for the professor to inspire his white students and not just white students to have a sense of solidarity, a sense of being our allies to people of color in the writing, that is one and a second of all, and related to what was said about being accepted in the fiction, but not poetry side of her mfa program, is there anything about poetry that sort of prevents black people are not about poetry, but how poetry is received by whites that prevents
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people of color to be accepted in an mfa program and i will speculate that maybe because poetry is such a highbrow thing that poor white supremacists it doesn't really compute to be, you know, taught to black student or being created by a black person. thank you. >> so, i willed to you with a question about the poetry in the mfa. thank you for the question. i tend to think from the time i put the pen to the paper one of the things i was thinking about was art for our sake. not art for art's sake, so there is this kind of idea that poetry is this thing and it's got to be treated in a certain way. this ivory tower. i'm thinking that because of where i want, okay and because
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of the type of work i wrote it was more narrative. like i know it i write. it was dealing blatantly with certain types of issues. where i went was-- experimental poetry. you mentioned doing your research and this is critical because i have ce mentioned doir research and this is critical because i have certain things in mind. i didn't do that type of research. it was obvious why they didn't let me in the poetry program took it was obvious. by a static was completely different than anything they did their. so, i think a lot of times if you're coming and you are on a mission, sometimes people think you are putting the message in front of the craft and so they think they are going to bump heads with you and they don't want you in there for that purpose. honestly, i'm glad i did not get my mfa in protest poetry. i'm a poet. even when i write prose i'm a poet.
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i'm glad i did not let anyone touch my heart. i'm really glad in that way. i keep my stuff to myself to enjoy to certain people. i'm very very particular with my work. that is my take on what happened to me here i can't say what has happened to someone else. [applause]. >> does great questions from the audience because they brought up really good points. so, very quickly, there are vendors in the hallway, so please support them. also, official book vendor is sisters uptown bookstore. lets support them. the lot that evaluation forms.


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