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Introduction to Black Writers Week 2024

WELCOME TO BLACK WRITERS WEEK 2024!

This week of Juneteenth as we reflect on and celebrate the myriad facets of Black experience and Black culture, I am happy to turn over the duties of Black Writers Week to our Associate Editor, Robert Daniels. I first noticed his writing some years ago and invited him to be a Guest Editor, and then a regular contributor, and finally an Associate Editor. I revel in the careful way in which he constructs his articles and reviews and in the thoughtful instructions he gives to help guide others to do their best work. So today I am stepping aside while he introduces Black Writers Week 2024. And I invite you to drop in every day to see what he has in store for us. Thank you Robert! Chaz Ebert

ROBERT DANIELS

What does it mean to be a Black writer? I’ve never really known the exact answer to that question. 

To whittle down the brightness, complexity and richness of Blackness into a single essence seems to do a disservice to the connective yet distinct experiences that courses through the various branches of the diaspora. And yet, I do feel the pull of a kind of essence. I feel it around my kin: in the living rooms and wide streets they occupy, in their laughs and whispers, cries and heartbeats, their music, cadence and fashion. These elements aren’t all carbon copies, duplicated across each person like a Xerox machine. They are varied. And in their variations they are distinctly Black. Because to be a Black writer is to be the recorder of those distinctions, to show the multifaceted corners of Black life and to say that Black life is as imperative as the written word.

Four years ago, when Chaz Ebert asked me to be an honorary editor for Black Writers Week in its inaugural year, I did not hesitate. To celebrate the contemporary expanse of Black writing, timed to Juneteenth, felt wonderful and profoundly integral to the spirit of this site. In the years since that first iteration, this celebration has become a highlight of my year. Because more than film, I love great writing—especially when it comes from great Black voices. I love having a window into the writer’s experiences, fears, and desires. I believe that in the space between words lie honesty, empathy, and potentiality. Returning to Black Writers Week, now as Associate Editor of RogerEbert.com, is an equally incredible honor. It feels like I am ever closer to the power writing emits. 

I am equally humbled to have such dedicated souls say ‘yes’ to participate in this year’s event through their reviews, articles, and interviews. I can scarcely describe my gratitude to those who wholly revealed themselves, their sacred passions and personal histories—who warmly went through the rigors of the editorial process. I also cannot thank Chaz enough for continuing to support this endeavor and for entrusting me with the immense responsibility of putting this week into reality. 

As I’ve read the submitted pieces, I’ve been reminded of Tennyson’s words—“I am a part of all that I have met.” 

Here's a brief rundown of the many pieces gracing the site: Brandon Wilson analyzed Black villains in the MCU, Eric Pierson wrote a piece about Bad Policing, David Moses compared “The Shield” and “The Wire,” Carla Renata talked about how women of color are shifting theater, film, and television, Kaiya Shunyata shared their personal connection with “Under the Bridge” and surveyed Black Final Girls in horror films. 

Sherin Nicole imagined the kind of Sci-Fi films women could make if given the chance; Reginald Ponder considered the invisibility of Black couples ads in one piece, and in another talked about the need for more than just a college degree; Filmmaker and Executive Producer ‘Seun Babalola looks at the present divestment by streamers from Africa; Cortlyn Kelly illuminates the role of film festivals for fostering community; Shawn Edwards profiled director David Kirkman; Brandon Towns explored Black masculinity in contemporary media; Lance Williams examined video game writing; Ife Olatunji wrote about their work in visual anthropology; author Doreen Spicer-Dannelly weighed the benefits of publishing versus pitching; Christine Swanson spoke with actress/singer Renée Elise Goldsberry; Mack Bates celebrated the 30th anniversary of “Fresh” and Niani Scott showed her appreciation for Bridgett M. Davis’ recently restored film “Naked Acts.”

I am especially happy to see Boston Globe Film Critic Odie Henderson return to RogerEbert.com with a personal piece about the Ossie Davis staged play “Purlie Victorious.” He and I will also have a published conversation about “Wild Wild West” (this month is the box office flop’s 25th anniversary). And I will have an interview with Barry Jenkins about the upcoming Criterion Collection release of his groundbreaking limited series “The Underground Railroad,” along with reviews of Jeff Nichols’ “The Bikeriders” and Mouly Surya’s “Trigger Warning” published during the week. 

There will also be reviews of “Janet Planet” and “Fancy Dance” (Jourdain Searles), “She Rises Up” and “Copa 71” (Peyton Robinson), “Thelma” (Brandon Wilson), “Black Barbie” (Carla Renata), “Chestnut” (Sarah-Tai Black), “Hummingbirds” (Travis Hobson), “Humanist Vampire Seeking Consenting Suicidal Person” (Rendy Jones), “The Exorcism” (Charles Kirkland Jr.), “Slave Play. Not a Movie. A Play” (Brandon Towns), “What Remains” (Craig Robinson), and “Orphan Black: Echoes” (Kaiya Shunyata) going up over the next few days.  

We’ll also have a festival report from Washington D.C.’s Lightreel Film Festival (Charles Kirkland Jr.), along with a preview of the 2nd annual Juneteenth Film Festival in Kansas City, Missouri (Shawn Edwards).

As evidenced by the wealth of writing arriving over the next seven days (Monday, June 17- Sunday, June 23) in the fourth year of its existence, Black Writers Week has only grown stronger. I hope you find as much richness, diversity, and delight in these voices as I have found in reading them. 

Here are our past Table of Contents for BWW 2021, BWW 2022, and BWW 2023.

 

 

 

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