Thursday Readin’: M. Nourbese Philip’s “Publish + Be Damned”

Follow my footnotes.

From Clyde Woods and Katherine McKittrick’s edited volume on Black Geographies and the Politics of Place to

McKittrick’s Demonic Grounds: Black Women & the Cartographies of Struggle to

McKittrick’s “I Entered the Lists…Diaspora Catalogues: The List, the Unbearable Territory, and Tormented Chronologies” to

M. Nourbese Philip’s Genealogy of Resistance and Other Essays to

Philip’s Frontiers: Essays and Writings on Racism and Culture to

M. Nourbese Philip, “Publish + be Damned,” in Frontiers: Essays and Writings on Racism and Culture, ed. M. Nourbese Philip, (Stratford, Ontario: The Mercury Press, 1992). 

And I am enthralled by black artists and intellectuals who write about publishing, autobiography, slavery and the colonial.  There is no greater sorcery than the alchemy of changing yellow manuscript and cold paper to red blood, black flesh, power in exile.

And I borrow Farah Jasmine Griffin words (who writes on the black artists and intellectuals specializing in music, music criticism and black popular culture):

“I feel a sense of community with this group of writers who love the music, who believe it to be fundamental to our racial and national identity and in some instances to our spirituality and humanity as well.” (Griffin, 122)

And I tiptoe around Nourbese Philip’s words, awed by this literary #ancestresswork:

“One frequent explanation for the success of such writers is merit:  that because the books written by these writers are good books, everyone (and if we are honest, we must admit that “everyone,” in this context, means the white mainstream audience) can read them.  However, these books become, by definition, “good” books because the white mainstream audience reads them.  The argument, refined, would go something like this:  Canadian writers of African, Asian or Native backgrounds have a difficult time getting their work published because of the small size of their respective ethnic audiences, except if their works are “good” enough to appeal to a white audience….

…The reason why African, Asian and Native writers have difficulty getting published has little to do with the audience and markets and much to do with racism and power: power to exercise that racism by deciding which books ought and ought not be published, reviewed and critiqued.  Fear is the other important variable at work here:  fear, as James Baldwin wrote, ont he part of those who hold power at “being described by those they’ve been describing for so long.”” (161, 164) 

Can’t nobody tell me that black girl media-making isn’t a necessary act of survival.

Can’t nobody tell me that we aren’t here despite the onslaught of academic and publishing institutions, the white literatti, the black literatti, and Western Civ itself.

We make #AntiJemimas out of the disparate parts of ourselves; legs, arms, hearts and nappiness stolen back from the dark.  We do this like we breathe.

In a speech at Broome Community College in Binghamton, NY, Austin Kleon, poet, artist and author of Newspaper Blackout gave advice to artists and writers like himself.

Including this:

Sometimes surviving begins with knowing our own names.

And I may be going out on a limb here, but somehow this fits. Go through the door. Dance it out.

(Today, at least) Naming herself,


Kismet Nuñez is one of the Skillsharers of the of the 3rd Annual INCITE! Shawty Got Skillz workshop at the 2011 Allied Media Conference!  Help us get to Detroit!  Click here! 


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