By Jada Anderson
As a child, I had always enjoyed getting lost in books, so becoming an English major was a no-brainier. Halfway through my college career, I began to resent the thing I had once found comfort in because it was so…whitewashed. Where were the stories of people who looked like me, whose experiences were like mine? Even in changing schools and finding some resolution, I still stumbled across English classes that were whitewashed.
On a summer night, in a purple-tinted room surrounded by melancholy sounds, three friends and I discussed our frustrations with not reading enough Black writers and the lack of opportunity to even be introduced to Black writers. We had finally found our resolution, and puBLACations was born.
The name itself defies standard English grammar, neglecting to capitalize the first letter the same way Black writers such as Sonia Sanchez and bell hooks have done. The acronym, BLAC, means Black Lit And Chill. “Our org is truly a safe space,” says Melissa James, treasurer of puBLACations. “We help shed light on the words of our Black brothers and sisters both past and present. Literature is timeless. Words are timeless. It’s important to never allow our history to die and to always read the words from the past to learn from as we go forward pushing for liberation in the future.”
The general format of the meetings is like any other informal book club, with an emphasis on Black writers. Members are given a forum to discuss, debate, and analyze chosen texts which they may not have otherwise had the chance to read. Despite the planning that goes into our meetings, members usually become so engrossed in discussion and digress from the text at hand.
“We don’t allow alternative facts into our meeting space,” Vice President, Fawzan Lari, says. “We only ever talk about real, personal, psycho-social race, gender and identity politics; we serve food; we keep the mental health of ourselves and our constituents at a manageable level; we advocate for fair treatment of indigenous peoples and the legalization of mystical herbs.”
What makes puBLACations unique is that not only do we primarily focus on literature by Black writers, we value and are committed to intersectionality. Melissa says, “Not many Black orgs understand or even value the importance of creating an intersectional safe space for all of its members, but that’s something we have always incorporated into our meetings.” Without understanding the concept and importance of intersectionality, we as a people can never be unified.
In many cases, puBLACations has served as a saving grace. For me, it has made me fall in love with reading all over again. “Honestly, this organization helped me find a reason to keep living,” Melissa says.
puBLACations meets every other Tuesday at 8:45pm in the Ujimaa Room of the Paul Robeson Cultural Center.