Black Women. Black Words.

by Athena Dixon

Founder, Linden Avenue Literary Journal


 

Seven years ago, when Linden Avenue came to be, I never dreamed it would still be a part of my life. To be honest, I never fully saw beyond the first few issues. All I knew was that I had a Tumblr page and a publishing agreement. I knew that I felt there were so many voices left out of the literary conversation and I wanted to find a way to give them a forum. Over the years, the journal has ebbed and flowed. However, one thing has remained constant, our dedication to having black women at the helm and the heart of what we do.

It has always been important to me that Linden Avenue be led by a variety of black women writers, editors, and creatives. Each of us are fully committed to our creative pursuits no matter our walks of life or location. That passion extends into our work with Linden Avenue. We give our eyes and our ears to writers who may not have another path into this world. However, being able to create a space where black women are able to gain not only publication credits, but also experience behind the scenes of a journal is something that brings me joy.

Mary Helen Washington remarks in the forward to the Perennial Classics edition of Their Eyes Were Watching God , that Richard Wright, and his male contemporaries, were not willing to hear “the quieter voice of a woman searching for self-realization.” Hurston, and her sisters, struggled with the notion from both white society and their own men that their protests, their stories were not as important. Washington elaborates, “Here, finally, was a woman on a quest for her own identity and, unlike so many other questing figures in black literature,  her journey would take her, not away from, but deeper and deeper into blackness, the descent into the Everglades with its rich black soil, wild cane, and communal life representing immersion into black traditions.”

Hurston makes Janie unabashedly black and female. She does not allow her self-discovery to devolve into a denial of either aspect of who she is. And here is the crux. I always wondered how in the literary landscape can black women achieve the same? Just as Janie’s pear tree dream from the opening chapter illustrates, black women are often left wondering when the world will be made for them. “She had glossy leaves and bursting buds and she wanted to struggle with life but it seemed to elude her. Where were the singing bees for her? Nothing on the place nor in her grandma’s house answered her. She searched as much of the world as she could from the top of her front steps and then went on down to the front gate and leaned over to gaze up and down the road, Looking, waiting, breathing short with impatience. Waiting for the world to be made.” Hurston wrote.

For generations now, black women have looked up and down the road, and oft times, when offered a place on that road, have been asked to walk paces behind. How much longing has been built waiting for our worlds to be made? A world where body and beauty acceptance isn’t advertised by the same shades of pale? A world where the pay gap isn’t simplified into cents on the dollar as a blanket statement? A world where our disappearances, rapes, assaults, and murders aren’t blips on the radar, if mentioned at all? A world where we aren’t expected to hold fast while feminism moves forward? A world where the acceptance of the sassy, black sidekick is just as unacceptable as blonde jokes?

In our seventh anniversary issue, we are proud to showcase the words of a group of amazing black woman writers. Each of them has trusted us to give a platform to their experiences, triumphs, and tragedies. These worlds have been shaped by black hands who know the care it takes to craft voice and character. By black women writers who offer up bits of a collective soul to make sure we are seen and heard by shout or by whisper. These women, these writers, are digging deeply into the rich soil of their lives and experiences and for that we are grateful. It is our honor to share their work with you.

Thank you for listening to us since Issue One and thank you for giving us a chance to move more deeply into the future one writer at a time.

 

 


Athena Dixon is a poet and essayist. Her work has appeared both online and in print at Narriatively, The Grief Diaries, The Rising Phoenix Review, Blackberry: A Magazine, THIS Magazine, Pluck!, Compose Journal, and OVS Magazine among others. Athena has been a presenter at both AWP and HippoCamp, has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net, and is a Tin House scholar, VONA, and Callaloo fellow. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte and bachelors degrees in English and Sociology from Kent State University and Youngstown State University. Her chapbook, No God in This Room, is available from Winged City Press. Her work is also forthcoming in The Breakbeat Poets Volume 2: Black Girl Magic. She writes, edits, and resides in Philadelphia. Learn more about Athena at www.athenadixon.com