On Thursday, June 2nd, Seattle City of Literature, with support from Seattle’s Office of Civil Rights, will present the first of three free workshops on racial equity in the literary arts. This is important stuff; you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who argues that literature is anywhere near parity in its representation. In fact, we saw some high-profile incidents last year — the Seattle literature anthology, the ridiculous white dude who pretended to be a different race and then pretended it was a political statement — that reminded us of exactly how far we have to go.
Stesha Brandon, the interim executive director of Seattle City of Literature, helped organize the workshop. “What we’re hearing is that people know there’s a problem and they don’t know what to do about it,” she says. “We’re hoping this will be one step toward addressing the issue.”
Brandon interviewed a number of prospective facilitators, but she settled on Dr. Caprice Hollins because Hollins “understood the challenges of working with a group as diffuse as the literary community, as well as the challenges of crafting a workshop that will meet different individuals and different organizations where they are on the continuum of race and social justice.” Hollins oversaw the creation and the implementation of the Department of Equity & Race Relations for Seattle Public Schools, and she has over two decades of experience working on racial equity issues.
This will be the first of three workshops that are open to anyone who participates in the Seattle-area literary community: writers, booksellers, publishers, editors, readers. The subjects of the next two workshops could potentially change, depending on how this first one goes, but they are tentatively scheduled to be about the power of stereotypes and understanding privilege.
The first workshop will take place between 1:30 and 5 pm on Thursday the 2nd. If you would like to attend, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by May 31st. If you’re unable to attend next week but would like to be alerted about future workshops, Brandon urges you to send an email, too.
Seattle loves to have conversations about the conversations that Seattle should have. This is an opportunity to finally be in the room and have a real conversation about a real problem in the community. Frankly, when it comes to matters of race and representation, literature should be held to a higher standard than other disciplines, because literature is, at its core, about empathy. If those of us in the literary arts can’t empathize with each other, there’s not much hope that anyone else will be able to do it. We must do better, so that we can lead the way for everyone else.
And it’s important to note that these sorts of workshops are exactly why an organization like Seattle City of Literature is so necessary; we have such a bustling, always-moving scene here that it’s important for someone to have oversight over the whole community and to keep an eye on what we need. Thanks to City of Lit and to Brandon for fulfilling their charge and bringing something meaningful to the community that wasn’t here before.