The Job of Black Writers

Me + Baldwin @ a beach in Long Island, Summer ’08.

I Love Baldwin and it seems that every summer I return to his collection of essays published by the Library of America.

What is the job of Black writers? The work?

Baldwin addresses this in the essay “Notes for a Hypothetical Novel.”

I like this quote because it gets at how writing is profoundly rewarding and often a Sisyphean task as well.

The importance of a writer is continuous;?? I think it’s socially debatable and usually socially not terribly, but that’s not the point; his importance, I think, is that he is here to describe things which other people are too busy to describe. It is a function, let’s face it, it is a special function. There is no democracy on this level. It’s a very difficult thing to do, its a very special thing to do and people who do it cannot by that token do many other things. But their importance is, and the importance of writers in this country now this is, that this country is yet to be discovered in any real sense…

Baldwin doesn’t say that this is the job of Black writers, but in reading this it certainly made me think of it in these terms.

Black people are richer than ever before, financially. More Black men and women are in jail than ever before. We also have a Black president.

As media, and the rest of our lives moves online, I am mindful that most of the popular Black websites are concerned with the lives, affairs and misery of the Black famous rather than using the space to cultivate what Dayna Cunningham calls Black voice.

Black people have continually forced the United States to live up to being the democracy that it claims to be.

What happens when Black people who are media savvy are not primarily concerned with cultivating Black voice during a time of great change?

If everything that is digital is free, and as books become digitized, what will happen to Black writers ability to sustain themselves and how will this impact Black people?

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Comments

  1. Very54 says

    Many thoughts came to my mind as I read that article.

    1st. What is black voice? I mean there are son many different vibes with black people that I am not sure anymore. 4 real.

    2. Very few people are concerned with cultivating what Steve Biko calls Black Consciousness (is that your Black Voice?). So it makes it difficult for the average Jo to get a hold of it. One has to really dig and do his or her research to feel it. It’s unfortunate but at the same time it wouldn’t be unique if it becaame mainstream (Do I need to remind u what hapened to hip hop).

    3. I LOVE how Baldwin describes the job of writers. Thanxs again 4 keeping my mind thinking.

  2. says

    What happens when Black people who are media savvy are not primarily concerned with cultivating Black voice during a time of great change?

    ===

    I think every writer has a personal choice to make concerning what they write. For some, the writings will be significant, for others, not so much. There is room for everyone to write what they want to write.

    In regards to “The Black Voice”, some are definitely “louder” than others on the net, but because of technology, everyone has an opportunity to be heard. People need to maximize technology for maximum exposure.

    Also, collaboration is key. Connecting with others who have the same agenda as yours is important.

    ========

    If everything that is digital is free, and as books become digitized, what will happen to Black writers ability to sustain themselves and how will this impact Black people?

    Everything digital is not free. People will pay for things that they really want. (ex. iTunes, e-books)

    I think the key for writers to make money is to first cut out the middlemen (publishers, agents, etc.) and realize that these days, being a writer also means being a business person.

    Writers no longer have the luxury of just writing. They need to consider self publishing with new technologies (ex. Amazon) so that they are able to keep more of the money that people will spend on digital products as well as traditional books.