Meet Anti-Racism Writer, Maya L.
And learn how she's using her writing to inspire people to take ACTION on racism
I’m pleased to introduce another anti-racism writer whose work I’ve discovered recently. I love the way she’s bringing her lived experience and her academic background together to fight racism. Please meet Maya L.
Maya, what made you become an anti-racism writer?
I've been writing almost all of my life, but in college, one of my mentors taught me creative nonfiction writing styles. I fell in love with it and learned how to have more fun with essay writing while still infusing some poetic elements. I currently have three degrees: a Bachelor's in Pan African Studies, a Bachelor's in Creative Writing, and a Master's in Humanities. All of those help shape my writing because it naturally makes sense for me.
Last year, I was really angry. People who were making fun of my academic background and questioning my education for years were scrambling on social media to learn about Black culture. It's like, "huh, ain't that some nerve." So I figured, screw it, I'm gonna write about what I see and put it out there that not only do I know what I'm talking about from personal experiences, but I also have the academic skills to back it up through research and analysis. Basically, I’m demanding some respect not only for myself but for my Black community and fellow African American studies scholars.
What response have you had?
It’s funny, because with the racial upheaval last year, I remember talking to another mentor about how maybe this might be when we’re taken seriously. But of course, performance activism and social media outrage are temporal. I may not have names, but I see who’s engaging with what I create and activating change and who isn’t. A couple of classmates from my Master’s cohort inspired me, they started restructuring their class curriculum, so that is a reminder of truly valuing those who can put some weight behind their words. A few people from my personal life are supportive, but those who I’ve let read my writing like it.
I guess I don’t want people to just like my writing, I want them to be moved into action. I want them to channel their sadness or anger into something productive because this movement needs more hands-on deck. I want more than protest, I want change. I’m tired of conversations, we talk too much. What are we gonna do now? That’s where I’m at. Let’s do something already.
In relation to racism, what is your vision for the future?
I wanna say mine is kinda simple. I want to be done with the firsts already. Barack Obama was the first Black President. Halle Berry was the first Black woman to win an Oscar for Best Actress. Jackie Robinson was the first Black Major League Baseball player. Why do we still have so many firsts yet to come? That’s ridiculous. For example, Bong Joon-ho was the first Asian director to win an Oscar for Best Director in 2020, are we serious? In almost 100 years, with the amount of great films out there? It’s not that he didn’t deserve it, but goodness.
That’s where I want the future to be, where things like that are normalized. Where my children don’t only see Shakespeare as the pinnacle of great writing and things like that. I saw a children’s book display that was celebrating the LGBTQ+ community the other day. It had a book on Stonewall and one on RuPaul, we’re talking children’s books. That’s what I want, a future where it’s okay to have differences, but they’re celebrated and those stories are treated with value. I will always be a Black woman, what’s wrong with me celebrating it?
What are your top three anti-racism articles you have written?
This was the first article I ever posted on Medium. Funnily enough, it’s my best performing, but regardless, a year later, I think people forget that the Amy Cooper incident and George Floyd murder happened within hours of each other. I couldn’t and still can’t unsee their connection. Amy Cooper will always lead to George Floyd.
My father is from Charleston, so I’m always hypersensitive to how our history is revealed there. Plantation weddings are something I’m completely against and because there’s not much talk about them, they still exist for celebration. Even Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds were married on a plantation and it’s plain disgusting.
I always find it hilarious when Black women and Women of Color showcase their sexuality. Their joy has absolutely nothing to do with me and the level of outrage from the opposition is plain ridiculous. If you don’t like someone’s art, then don’t engage in it, nobody’s forcing you to do so.
Share one anti-racism article you've read written by someone else that resonated with you.
I honestly don’t have a specific one to plug but I contributed to the Writers and Editors of Color’s inaugural project: The Case for The 1619 Project. We each picked a topic related to The 1619 Project and developed our own defenses. The essays went through a peer-review process, so reading the collective’s work is phenomenal. To everyone, I recommend reading those essays because they’re so important and such dedication went into them.
© Sharon Hurley Hall, 2021. All Rights Reserved.