The diversity discussion, whether it is being held on Twitter or in the comment section of an industry article or a Facebook post, is never an easy experience. It is difficult as an already established author, grasping your tenuous position and evading microaggressions and the continuous stress of what you shouldn’t say, who you shouldn’t isolate. It is difficult when you cannot help but glance over your shoulder at the bridges you are sure you are burning, when you judge 140 characters or less for too much anger, too much emotion, too much you for palatable, politically correct consumption by outside viewers.
What is not as often discussed, though I can assure you that it is thought and worried about even when you cannot see it, is how you – the unpublished, the unwritten, the tentatively lifting a pen to the untouched sheet of paper – may feel about this, about the assumption that your experience and your voice isn’t as important to be heard about or written about or read about or made into a movie one day or even merely acknowledged as something present and real and true to begin with.
I have been there. I am there. It is hard to read, constantly, continually, about people who are one shade of skin color, speak in one accent, come from one cultural background that is decidedly not yours, and then turn to your abandoned notebook and cast a net through your own mind for something important in your own world.
Speaking from a personal perspective, I used to judge my own people, my own perspective, and find it wanting. Muslim girls couldn’t have adventures. Muslim girls didn’t have adventures worth writing about. Muslim girls just weren’t worthy of the gilded spines I used to trail my hand over in the local library. We just weren’t.
We couldn’t be. At least, in our own skins. Whitewash us, turn the cover another way, pick out the intimate seeds in the flesh-fruit of our own folk tales and romances and tales spun from a night of boredom between our own grandmothers’ hands, and we are suddenly a hundred times more palatable.
It makes it seem as though we are the problem. I’ve been asked recently how to stop feeling like we are the problem. We aren’t, dear readers. We are not, we are not, we are not. The push for #ownvoices in literature – the subtle acknowledgement that we make our stories, we make them the thirst-quenching, beautifully mouth watering works of art that they are – proves that.
We are not the problem. We are our own. And we need to be able to own our own, without accepting the manufactured shame from those who would rather us continue to uncomfortably digest co-opted narratives and unhappy stereotypes. Your #ownvoices matter, all of you.
With all of that said, I am extending an invitation to all young marginalized voices who seek the encouragement and hope to let their own voices blossom in their written words. This is going to be a week-long celebration, for you, from authors who know who you are, who thrill with the same love for words and the same yearning to be seen and heard and known for who they are.
We are going to #OwnYourOwn, with advice, with encouragement, with anecdotes so that you can know just how long we’ve been where you are, and how eagerly we’re waiting for you to take our hands and step forward to where we are. You are not alone on this path. You are not alone in your #ownvoices.
#OwnYourOwn will begin with a day-long Twitter hashtag on June 20, 2016 – from 10 AM EST onward – where marginalized authors, bloggers and voices will be encouraged to share their thoughts and wisdom for younger creatives and aspiring hearts. We are planning to host a Q&A with enough enthusiasm on June 21, also from 10 AM EST, with details to come.
As already stated, marginalized voices will be prioritized and marginalized voices are crucial. If you are a diverse author or blogger who wishes to offer their platform with posts, advice and resources for the rest of the #OwnYourOwn week, please fill out this sign-up sheet. You may also fill out the sign-up sheet to confirm that you will be interested in the hashtag event. Bloggers and authors who wish to participate as allies in the #OwnYourOwn hashtag and follow-up posts are welcome, with the acknowledgement of respect, yielding to marginalized voices and experiences, and acceptance of the fact that this is a celebration and encouragement of rising #ownvoices.
I hope this will encourage and warm you. I hope it is what you need in order to do what you must and create what you love. I hope that you will join us and #OwnYourOwn. We are waiting for you.