Well-Read Black Girl hosted its second festival in Brooklyn this past weekend. Headed by WRBG founder, Glory Edim, the event was a celebration of Black women and girls and their love for literature. We got a chance to talk with this awesome entrepreneur and literary curator about making WRBG Festival a success, her new book, and the importance of having an adviser.
Talk to us about what goes into making Well-Read Black Girl Festival a success.
So much of it is managing my time and working with a group of wonderful volunteers and board members that really help me come out with the vision and goals. Like this year, we were very adamant about looking for things that would ignite folks—to really get folks to be more active…whether it meant voting, or protesting, or really understanding what it meant to be a citizen in this landscape. Also, that is why I invited the Black Youth Project 100, that is why we have poet Patricia Smith—because she’s an incredible poet, but she’s also a fiery activist—and looking at the books that we’re reading, the stories that we’re telling one another, they’re really all about black women coming together in support and solidarity. So much of it is, like, planning and getting people in the room, and discussing ideas, and finding what the rhythm is and what feels good, what uplifts us, what inspires us, but also, just what motivates us. That’s the gist of it…making a community with a lot of people that I admire, like Renée Watson — she’s not only a wonderful friend, but she’s on my advisory board. And I talk to her so much about, like, what I’m doing, and the things I should be reading, and just when I need help or advice I go to her. So that’s what makes this doable—and feels like, manageable—is having people I can talk to and rely on.
What made you start Well-Read Black Girl?
It’s been…it’s just been so many different iterations of my life…Like, I told this story a bunch of times, but the reason I even started the book club, and the newsletter, and the Instagram, and all these things was because my boyfriend gifted me a shirt that said “Well-Read Black Girl”…and I wore it out into public—and New York is a small place and so when you wear something on the subway, people see it and they comment. And thankfully black women commented, and they were very kind and generous, and we ended up talking a lot, and we were talking about the books that we read, but also, what it meant to be a black woman. It happened unexpectedly, and from that energy that I found—just motivated me to start something bigger. So, initially it was just a book club, then I started looking at ways to just, like, find a community and get groups of women together—and the first year it was relatively small, maybe like 8-10 people, and with social media—that really helped the following grow. And I became more strategic in the planning of it, how I was getting people together—and to now fast forward, we have the festival and the anthology. But I would say it wasn’t like this “one thing” that helped take it over, yeah; it felt like a lot of small pieces coming together. And because the energy and the tension behind it was about, like, bringing folks together around books—the space that, to me feels very sacred—it just continued to grow because of the pieces of this…After the book club was gaining popularity, the festival felt like the most logical step. So this is year two, and we’re still learning a lot, and, you know (laughs), it’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of work. But, it’s worth it…it feels like a family reunion of sorts.
So, you still have your 9-to-5?
No, I don’t. I quit my job. I used to work at Kickstarter and I left the end of January, this year.
Yeah, thank you. Thank you.
How did you balance that, when you had your 9-to-5, and then still being an entrepreneur?
It was really, really hard. My job was very demanding. I traveled a lot. It meant me doing a lot of public-facing work but there was an intersection of—because my job was in publishing—so, I did do a lot of stuff in publishing, but… like, trying to do a passion project, that can be very tedious. That takes up a lot of mental space and then you’re trying to be your most proficient at your 9-to-5… It’s just hard to balance. You just have to be in practice with it, and figure out, like, what’s most important, and how you could balance the thing that pays your bills with the thing that motivates you.
Lastly, can you talk about your new book, your anthology, Well-Read Black Girl, Finding Our Stories, Discovering Ourselves?
Yes, the anthology—it just came out, at the end of October, October 30th. It’s a Scorpio (Laughs).
And it’s a beautiful collection of 21 different contributors who talk about the first times they saw themselves in literature, and what happened was—I felt a very organic conversation…When I was curating the book I wanted it to feel like you were in the book club, you were having a very one-on-one personal conversation, that you were getting the advice that you needed to hear as a young person, as an aspiring writer, as a black woman. And it feels –it almost feels very precious to me—like, I never anticipated that the book club, and all the things that—the good fortune I received over the years, would come to this. I really did not expect to do an anthology or to have a book. So to have this now, I feel an immense sense of gratitude and that’s why when I’m talking about it, I’m like, “WE did this”. Because I feel like it is a very shared experience with the members of the book club, with the contributors—just everyone who has supported me over the years. And as I continue to grow in my career and have, you know, more success—or failures, whatever comes my way—I feel like I want to share that, be as transparent as possible with the women that have supported me along the way… because there would be no Well-Read Black Girl if people didn’t come to the book clubs, if people didn’t like the posts on Instagram… I really do say it’s bigger than—yes, it’s an idea that I had—but ideas are different when they come out into the world, and they become interpreted by the community and people. They hold on to them to and they take a part of it. So it just feels like, super community-driven. And I don’t know, I just wanna keep doing this, like forever (laughs)…and I want to find ways to grow this institution, and I’m asking a lot of questions to try and figure that out. And it’s challenging. It’s definitely challenging, but it just feels worth it.
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