For the past year, we, Aziza Barnes and Nabila Lovelace, The Founders of The Conversation, debated how we could create space for folk we love, whose work is critical, in the South. We had been living in New York, which is regarded as something of a safe haven for the Black writer. In the heat of gentrification, state-sanctioned murder of Black citizens, and a national investment in “color-blindness” as the panacea for injustice, we realized New York had neither space nor agency to provide, and those who could afford to take over our buildings could equally afford to dictate the way that space functioned. Simultaneously, we were applying for our MFAs in poetry in the South. The South had space. We at The Conversation are seeking to build a sustainable organization that refocuses the literary landscape, moving from accolade into agency, from inaccessibility to service. We want to complicate how Black American citizens perceive the South, interrogate our myths and fears of the South, embedded in our psyche since the Reconstruction era.
This week, we are proud and honored to showcase our fellow’s work in the form of interviews and poems. We asked them the question we asked ourselves a year ago, and the question we ask you today: Could you envision a life for yourself in the South? We pray you enjoy the diversity of their responses.
The Conversation continues tomorrow with the poets Cortney Lamar Charleston and Danez Smith interviewing each other, and with a poem from each of them.