A Brief Word
Much has happened since we published The Amistad last spring.
A few months ago, I was chatting with a writer from New Jersey about the value of literary arts journals and, without knowing my affiliation, she mentioned The Amistad and Howard University. While I was aware of our growing presence in Washington D.C., I was surprised and delighted to hear how far The Amistad has reached and how many people it’s impacted. Our casual conversation helped cement what I long knew to be true - The Amistad is both a platform to celebrate Black diasporic authors as well as a bridge connecting eager young writers to the wider, creative world.
This past fall, I was invited by Dr. Benjamin Talton, Director of The Moorland-Spingarn Research Center, to support the 2022 Howard University International Black Writers Conference. The Howard International Black Writers Conference brings together preeminent Black authors for three days of readings, panels, and conversation. Dr. Talton wanted students involved and reached out to me as the faculty advisor and managing editor of The Amistad. I then called upon a group of young creative writers and former staff members. This team included: Angel Bryant, Thomas Calhoun, Daphne Arko-Dadzie, Ariel Gordon, Ja’tae Joyner, Madisyn Robinson, and Christian White. Together we organized and hosted three events: a student reading, a panel titled What’s Going On: A Panel Discussion with Howard Student Writers, and a wildly successful cypher at Sankofa Video Books & Café, the legendary Black bookstore, which morphed into a dance party of over 120 people. We felt mighty successful!
Luckily, the Howard International Black Writers Conference kept paying dividends. I had the fortune of working with Ta-Nehisi Coates on the planning committee and was struck by his passion and attentiveness. I immediately asked for an interview and Ta-Nehisi agreed—he was willing to help The Amistad in any way possible. When the time came the following spring, rather than conduct the interview by phone or email, Ta-Nehisi insisted on meeting the staff, supporting them in-person. Immediately, he settled our nerves with a few jokes and took time to engage everyone equally. When our official interview ended, Ta-Nehisi stayed another thirty minutes, answering off-the-record questions about his work, Black America, the discourse of writing, and so much more. Not only was this a profound and therapeutic conversation, but the students mentioned to me how lucky they felt; how transformative it was to pick the brain of a former HU student who so successfully describes Black life and interiority.
I should also mention that The Amistad underwent the biggest shift of the last three years, with our switch to a layout that embraces digital spaces. The decision was monumental. The staff and I spent a considerable amount of time navigating our choice. We discussed the students’ ambitious plans for the future of The Amistad and the feedback was clear—they wanted efficient and direct connection with readers. So began our research period. We discussed the merits of online spaces; we researched comparable literary arts journals; and we debated labor efficiencies in both a print online or fully digital model. Ultimately, we decided on the version you see today. It boasts a better reading experience on computers, tablets, and cell phones and because of its ease of use, we suspect it will increase readership, thereby growing the magazine’s import. Plus, we think it looks pretty great!
Now within this our updated format, you’ll find rich fiction and explosive poetry alongside interviews with poets and writers at the top of their field like featured award-winning authors Simone White and Ta-Nehisi Coates. We also celebrated the winner of the May Miller Creative Writing Award (MMCWA) Kyrah Simon for her story SHE/HER/DEVIL. Her powerful vignettes not only scaffolded layers of narrative tension, but the prose alluded to larger themes of mental health. This was another program first as it’s the only time the MMCWA has gone to a work of fiction—congratulations Kyrah!
I want to give a special thanks to Dani Badra, our judge for the MMCWA. Dani is a queer Arab-American poet, the winner of the 2021 Etel Adnan Poetry Prize, and the current Fairfax Poet Laureate. The cover image is from a photographer: Santana Bellas and Creative Director: James Stanciell.
As always, I’d like to thank the Department of English and Dr. Yasmin DeGout for their ongoing support as well as the Office of the Dean in the College of Arts and Sciences.
Of course, the core of this journal is the staff. You continue to inspire me as a writer, educator, and person. You made this semester such a joy. I can’t wait to see where the world takes each one of you.
Managing Editor/Faculty Advisor