by Janelle Williams, In-School and Outreach Lead Instructor
In the first year, first semester of my MFA in creative writing program, we discussed a short story by African American writer Dana Johnson, “Melvin in the Sixth Grade.” One of my favorite professors, a white man who lives on the Upper West Side, largely praised the story with one small aside- Johnson’s lyrical reference to Peabo Bryson, a Rhythm and Blues artist now in his late sixties.
“Raise your hand if you know who Peabo Bryson is,” my professor said in an effort to prove his point. I scanned the third floor room of the college’s epicenter, and decidedly raised my hand. I looked for *Matthew, who was older than me but younger than my dad, shades lighter than both of us, a high yellow that resembled chewy caramels, sitting at the far end of the long rectangular table. Matthew managed to reference Smokey Robinson and Snoop Dogg in his work, and we found each other quickly, smiling. Along with one other black writer, we were three hands raised, three out of twelve, the minority in our majority white common space. Continue reading “On Being a Present Black Writer”