Founded in 1950 as a direct response to a lack of exposure, support, and diversity in American literature, the HWGis not only the oldest, but also the longest, continuously running writer’s group comprised of African American writers in the world. Through the decades a roster of phenomenal talent such as John Oliver Killens (another founding member, and author of Youngblood) and the missed and beloved Ossie and Ruby Davis (With Ossie and Ruby: In This Life Together) have graced our family reunions, aka our bi-monthly meetings.
While there are a handful of reputable writers groups and workshops who can boast of an impressive list of scribblers, and who nurture and provide a safe space to publish like Callaloo and Kimbilio, along with a history of publishing excellence (dozens upon dozens of works of fiction and nonfiction), the HWG has a mission. Our mission is not merely wider exposure and publishing opportunities for our coterie of canon worthy writers, but also an expansion of our family. It is imperative that our members such as Miriam Kelly Ferguson (Weaver), Eartha Watts Hicks (Love Changes), Minnette Coleman (The Blacksmith’s Daughter) and our esteemed Director Diane Richards (Sowa’s Red Gravy Stories) rub shoulders with other like-minded, ambitious scribes in order to stay relevant. Because sadly, our dirty little family secret is that although we are old, wise, and respected in some circles, we do not enjoy our fair portion of literary light. Over the years, we have lost a touch of our shine but with our newly revamped website (www.theharlemwritersguild.com) and our fancy new blog, we are determined to take our rightful place in the literary sun.
We want and deserve to be a touchstone for new and emerging writers, as well as a valued, historical archive that MFA and doctoral candidates and researchers can access. We want and deserve to be the first ones that come to mind when an editor is looking for a quote on the state of black writing, or an event planner is looking for an author for its panel. Holding our bi-monthly meeting at the world renowned Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture with whom we often collaborate, we are extremely cognizant of the importance of chronically our past, but we also understand the importance of the here and now. We need to embrace the past and the present so that we may march purposefully into the future.
And this is why the HWG has launched our Harlem Writes blog. On a monthly basis, we will showcase our works in progress, let you know about new releases and upcoming events, share our thoughts on recently released books, and our excitement over new writers we’ve discovered, whether they’re members of the guild or not (although of course we hope they will become members!) We cherish our motely brood of current members, but we also cherish writers of the African diaspora who didn’t originate in Harlem. I, myself, started in California, migrated to Brooklyn for twenty-one years, and now live in Washington Heights (Harlem adjacent to be sure!) We will never turn anyone away at the border!
In the coming months you will learn more about our HWG family, our goals, hopes, and dreams, and we hope to learn more about you as you reach out to us and let us know what you’re interested in. Just remember, Harlem is not just a destination, it’s a state of mind, and as Harlem continues to write its fascinating story, so to shall the Harlem Writers Guild.
Be sure to check back next month when we explore Harlem’s rich literary history and how it has influenced current writers, and the importance of tradition and longevity.
Write to delight