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When I think of the resources that are available to support writers—and especially graduate student writers who aim to be teachers in colleges and universities—I think of our professional organizations (like NCTE, CCCC, and RSA), and I think of writing centers everywhere and the IWCA. But to that list I now add DBLAC—Digital Black Lit (Literatures and Literacies) and Composition—an organization started by and for grad students of color just three short years ago, and one that has expanded exponentially just in the last year alone.
Be sure to check out their website at dblac.org to read about the founders (Lou Maraj and Khirsten Scott), members, and especially programs. The website announces their mission:
Digital Black Lit (Literatures & Literacies) and Composition or DBLAC is a digital network of Black graduate students in the United States, formed in May 2016 at the Digital Media and Composition Institute (DMAC) at The Ohio State University. We are comprised of graduate students who self-identify as Black in the fields of Literacy Studies, Literature, Writing Studies, Rhetoric, English Studies, Creative Writing, Digital Humanities, and other related fields. This network provides safe spaces for members to testify to, discuss with, and share support for each other in response to the continued marginalization of Black bodies in academia. DBLAC also acts as a learning community for professional development, networking, and resource-pooling aimed at the academic retention and success of its members.
From what I’ve seen, DBLAC is carrying out this mission with great energy and commitment—not to mention a high degree of organization. They have sponsored sessions at MLA and CCCC (and I expect they will also sponsor sessions at RSA); their membership has expanded by 300% in the last year; and their flagship programs—a writing retreat (the first one was held in October 2018), a series of virtual writing groups, and a reading series—are all in full swing.
The Retreat is reserved for students of color, but the virtual writing groups and the reading groups are, I believe, open to all. Last year’s Retreat, held at the University of Pittsburgh, where Lou and Khirsten are both assistant professors, brought fourteen participants together for four days and over 15 hours of writing sessions, working with a special faculty mentor, Professor Beverly Moss from Ohio State. I spoke with one woman who had attended last year’s retreat and she said it had been a “life-changing experience” for her, one that left her more confident than ever that the dissertation she is writing is significant and that her voice will be heard. The second Retreat is scheduled for October 3-6, 2019, so spread the word to all grad students of color you know.
The virtual writing groups made up of 8 to 10 participants meet online to work on their writing together: the sessions have grown from ten, to fifteen, to twenty, and now to twenty-eight, and they are open to everyone interested in sharing their work and collaborating. Reading groups take up important texts—such as Tamika Carey’s Rhetorical Healing, Ersula Ore’s Lynching, and Eric Pritchard’s Fashioning Lives—examining the rhetorical moves these writers make and learning from their substance and style. Just hearing about these reading series meetings made me want to be able to join in.
It probably goes without saying that I am a big fan of DBLAC and see it as a major step in providing support for young scholars of color (and others as well). It’s all about building community and supporting one another rather than competing against each other, which has been the model in graduate education for far too long.
So Bravo/Brava to DBLAC. Watch out for them: they are making the very best kind of waves!
Image Credit: Pixabay Image 3230661 by rawpixel, used under the Pixabay License
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