The story of the MelaNated Writers Collective (2010-2015):
In 2010, jewel bush formed the MelaNated Writers Collective to create a safe space for established and emerging writers of color in New Orleans to cultivate their literary, artistic and professional growth, but most importantly to build community. The multi-genre group operated for five years and at its peak had 20 members who workshopped once a month and held regular readings of their original works where they invited local literary elders to participate. Members have published plays, web series, books and countless other original works. It was a great ride.
From a 2013 Q&A:
How did the MelaNated Writers Collective get started?
I was in newspapers for 6 years, and when I left to begin doing communications and marketing for nonprofits and various organizations, I missed the camaraderie of the newsroom. I freelanced for awhile, but it’s not the same as being in a space with other writers. Around this time, I started to take my creative writing seriously and began attending literary workshops around the country like VONA (Voices of our Nation) the only multi-genre workshop for writers of color, co-founded by the Pultizer-prize winning author Junot Diaz and Callaloo when it was at Texas A&M. Spending time with other writers, talking shop with them was amazing. It was what I needed and as close as I could get to the newsroom energy without being in the newsroom. In fact, it was a little bit better, because this bunch of creatives weren’t as jaded or cynical as newsies can often be. They were motivated and psyched about writing.
After I did Callaloo and did VONA for the first time, I knew a week here or two weeks there of this was great, but it wasn’t enough. I knew I wanted and needed this year round at home. I knew I needed to recreate this here; and that’s what I did. I began talking to other writers, poets, bloggers, MFA students/graduates, journalists, teachers about this idea; and from there, the writers I knew introduced me to writers they knew and before you knew it there were nearly 20 people in my living room talking about their work and what it meant to be a writer of color living in New Orleans.
What does it mean to be a writer of color in New Orleans?
You’re already a part of a legacy, whether you know that legacy or not. Kalamu ya Salaam is here. Dr. Mona Lisa Saloy is here. There is a legacy that a lot of folks don’t know. Marcus Christian was a prolific poet and writer. He was the poetry editor and a writer for the Louisiana Weekly and he was an integral part of the The Negro Federal Writers project at Dillard University. He had a writers’ group. His poem, ‘I Am New Orleans,’ was published on the front page of the Times-Picayune in 1968. He was a mentor to Tom Dent. There’s also the Tom Dent festival.
Really, I look at it as just really being a part of that legacy. People think of New Orleans in terms of music and food, but they don’t know New Orleans has a rich literary history. People think of New Orleans and being black in New Orleans, and think, ‘Oh, you’re a musician.’ But there’s a lot of deep literary tradition here too.