Asheville’s non-white literary scene

“In a lot of places in the United States, you can still get a degree in English literature and not have to study any people of color,” says poet, author and educator Frank X Walker.

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This postcard of a child with a book is from the The East Riverside Photographs Collection associated with the East Riverside urban redevelopment project of Asheville. Photo courtesy of Special Collections, UNC Asheville

“It’s part of the whole master narrative that displays the idea of a hierarchy in our society, that suggests whose work in this culture is more valuable. And it’s not women or people of color.”

I spent several months working on a three-part series about the history of black writers in Western North Carolina, and why the voices of those artists have been excluded from the dominant narrative.

Find Part 1 here (with quotes from Walker, UNC Asheville history professor Darin Waters and Asheville-based author Monica McDaniel); find Part 2 here (with quotes from authors Meta Commerse and Ann Woodford and poet Glenis Redmond); and find Part 3 here (with quotes from poets Nicole Townsend, James Love and Damion Bailey and author Charles Blount).

Music venues shouldn’t be white spaces. Not even accidentally.

What is the responsibility of venue bookers, music promoters, club owners, and festival organizers to create a platform for artists of color? It’s a tricky conversation to introduce, because there are so many issues — ticket sales, popularity, potential tokenism — but I think it’s more important to have the conversation than to be graceful about it.

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Photo by Jorge Salgado from this year’s Neon Desert Festival

So I’ll start here: Asheville, where I live, is a predominantly white town with a nationally recognized music scene and a high per-capita number of excellent concert halls and listening rooms. But peruse the lineup of at least three of the most popular venues in town and you’re lucky to find one person-of-color-led act in any given month. I recently browsed the calendar for one such music hall that lists no artists of color from September through December. Continue reading