I just came back from the second of the three readings by women writers of the African diaspora, a series conceived, curated and moderated by writer and educator Carolyn Holbrook.
The series is entitled “More Than a Single Story,” to highlight the diversity of Black women’s stories. She was inspired by the Ted Talk by novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, who notes that single stories are the stuff of stereotypes that disempower.
The first session on September 27, featured Minnesota African American women across the age spectrum: Tish Jones, Shannon Gibney, Andrea Jenkins, Lori Young Williams, Pamela Fletcher, and Mary Moore Easter.
Today’s session featured three Caribbean/Minnesota writers: Valerie Deus, Beaudelaine Pierre and Junauda Petrus.
Holbrook used her own 2015 Minnesota State Arts Board Artists initiative grant to bring together 14 other women writers and shine a light on them. At today’s session I bought her book, Ordinary People, Extraordinary Journeys a beautiful collection of stories of individuals who used a neighborhood grant to build the commons in St Paul. Like her More Than a Single Story series, Holbrook uses the book to shine a light and build power in as many grassroots places as possible.
Holbrook is a gifted writer. She read an exquisite essay about being visited by an ancestor at a time when she was 50 and broke and had moved in with her parents. She is also deeply committed to feeding the tide, sharing the stage, advancing the work and telling the stories that extend the grants. In the ego-centered world of academia, writing and nonprofits that is rare and precious.
Carolyn Holbrook, Ph.D is an adjunct faculty at Hamline University and Minneapolis Community and Technical College. At the first presentation she talked about how the State Arts Board Grant gave her the opportunity to write everyday this summer. All I could think was: the Universities she works for should be providing enough for her to do that every summer.