WWGR: African American writers having ‘a moment’ in wake of George Floyd murder

Dr. Georgia McDade of Seattle has been writing since she was in third grade. Gaylloyd Sisson of Burien writes poetry, too.

Both say the murder of George Floyd and the fierce reaction that erupted on the nation’s streets placed an unexpected spotlight on them.

McDade says she believes Black writers are having their moment.

“I think so,” she said. “Probably the Harlem Renaissance is the only time that’s comparable to this. And this one has the advantage of so many people being able to self-publish.”

McDade, who says she was the first African-American to earn a Ph.D. in English from the University of Washington, helped start the African-American Writers’ Alliance or AAWA, a forum for new and published writers to help one another hone their craft.

She, Sisson and 18 other Seattle-area authors are active members.

“In my view, it has definitely raised the profile,” says Sisson.

In the last year, the Highline Heritage Museum came calling. “They published in the windows of the Merrill Gardens in Burien our poetry and proverbs of African proverbs,” he said.

They heard from private businesses like the Seattle Art Museum too.

“And I just received an email yesterday from the Museum of Flight interested in AAWA doing a particular poetry thing for them,” said Sisson. “It’s nothing in concrete yet. We’re just talking about it. But everybody’s interested in it. "

He says he “thinks Black Lives Matter has made a difference.”

McDade credits the pandemic, too.

It forced everyone to find new ways to communicate with each other at a safe distance, often on multiple platforms. It has also opened up a world of interest in AAWA’s monthly readings, forced to go virtual.

“You have all of these people writing their hearts out but their audiences are so small,” she says. “And this is where Zoom comes in. Now there are people everywhere.”

It is, for McDade, sweet affirmation.

“I am convinced that the world would be a better place if more people knew more people’s stories,” she says.

Consider this, then, an installment in that grand ambition.