Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Afro Europe writing emerging - Kadija Sesay and Araba Johnston Arthur

The recent reports on social uprising and rioting in Britain raised awareness about the social tension in the Black British community, or in many cases, made people aware that there is a Black British community,  at all.

Kadija Sesay, Publisher, Sable Lit Magazine
At the Harlem Book Fair in July, I had a brief conversation about the growing emergence of new Black British writing with Kadija Sesay, publisher of the literary magazine, SableLit, and a writer and activist. Kadija had just participated in a panel on Black British writing standing on its own merits. The panel included poet Dorothea Smartt (ShipShape). The writers discussed Black literary activity in England and elaborated on complexities of ethnic and mainly Caribbean national identities that inform the writing categorized under the umbrella of Black British writing in the "post-colonial" era.

Here is a link to a radio interview today that Kadija Sesay participated in on the program Africa Now with another guest, activist Araba Johnston Arthur; topics include the new brand of Black British writers who have emerged in the last four or five decades, following what is known as the post-colonial era (writers such as Kwinton Lesi Johnson and Caryl Philips).

Araba Johnston Arthur, a Black Austrian writer, talked about Black Austrian writers tending to write in the English language rather than in the German, and intentionally using the term, "Black," because the term carries with it the force of Black power and Black consciousness (associated with the Black power/ consciousness movement in the United States.) Araba implied that there is essentially no equivalent term in German that carries the context of "Black power." Literature has played a significant role in resistance and, she said, "[it] still does play a very important role in making our experience more visible in talking back in the form of art." Admittedly, I have read no Black Austrian writers (that I know of)--this interview has raised my consciousness of the existence of a Black Austrian community at all.

On Africa Now, Kadija spoke of the social unrest that exploded a few weeks ago in Britain. Acknowledging that social media played a role in instigating riots--and suggests that the authorship of some text messages she saw were questionable--perhaps fabricated to perpetuate the unrest. She is right about the critical importance of literacy among Black youth and the significance of the arts in developing young people's potential. Agree with her also that critical reviews of art is essential. SableLit is working with youth, sixteen and older, to help them to advance their literary talents and to get published. In this its tenth year, SableLit has been awarded government funds to expand its work.

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