Feels Blind Literary, Issue #4
We are launching Issue #4 of Feels Blind Literary in the middle of one of the most divisive, but also one of the most hopeful years in recent memory. We’ve been isolated due to Covid-19 and, while many of us continue making the sacrifices necessary to protect the health of ourselves and others, it hasn’t been easy to retreat from the spaces and places that shape who we are and who we are becoming. For me, this meant retreating from college classrooms to instead teach online. It meant my service-learning students abruptly ending reciprocal relationships with community partners that took a great deal of time to establish and nurture. This also meant withdrawing from the literary community, as readings, conferences, and retreats were canceled. I recognize how privileged I am, however, as having the ability to work remotely is a luxury many have not
been afforded. The pandemic has put on full display the economic and health disparities that always have existed in this country. Many hardworking Americans faced financial ruin after missing just one paycheck and communities of color continue to be hit the hardest by the virus due to preexisting medical conditions caused by years of environmental racism. Despite the number of reported cases rising, politicians have failed to offer meaningful financial relief to those who need it most and Trump has managed to make political protective measures like wearing masks, an ignorance that very likely will lead to a longer, deadlier outbreak in this country.
Despite such isolation, the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd have united many in this country in ways I’ve never before witnessed. As Trump and his enablers switched from racist dog whistles to blatant racism on full display and called for violence against nonviolent protestors, people from all classes, races, ethnicities, and gender identities marched against police brutality side-by-side with #BlackLivesMatter organizers, demanding justice and racial equality. And the protests are working. When I moved to Richmond, Virginia from the Northeast in 2005, I had difficulty comprehending its landscape. The city’s centerpiece was a grand avenue decorated with monuments to Confederate soldiers who seemed untouchable despite the ways the country and city was changing around them. Over the years, committees were assembled to study possible outcomes for the monuments, such as adding context via signage or placing them in museums. There was a renewed push for their removal following the violence in Charlottesville as well. Each time the voices of racists won, however, sometimes because they were louder and sometimes because they were the ones in office making decisions. Over the past several weeks we’ve finally seen these monuments to racism and bigotry start to come down, not just in Richmond, but across the country. Some were removed by city officials, while others were pulled down by protestors who were sick of waiting. We’ve also seen changes to laws and policies. Some jurisdictions have banned no-knock warrants, chokeholds, and qualified immunity, while also implementing community review boards to hold police officers accountable when charges are brought against them. These are positive steps, but we obviously have a long fight ahead of us. For instance, the changes described above vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and we are in need of national guidelines. Also, and I'm going to put this in all caps because I am screaming it in my head as I type, THE OFFICERS WHO MURDERED BREONNA TAYLOR STILL HAVE NOT BEEN ARRESTED. She is just one victim of police violence whose family hasn't seen justice, however. Many more individuals are killed by officers and never receive media attention. This is especially true for those in the transgender community. Individuals still are needed on the front lines protesting to continue pushing for change, just as much as they are needed behind the scenes calling and writing representatives, canvassing for candidates who better reflect the values of diverse and inclusive communities, and increasing public pressure on elected officials to follow through with the promises they have made to their constituents. If these past few weeks have taught me nothing else, they've taught me that when people work together and don't back down, we often have more power than our institutions.
Feels Blind Literary always has been committed to speaking out against social and environmental injustice, police brutality, and unconstitutional attacks on our free press. With that being said, we didn’t feel just saying we're committed to these causes was enough. Rather, we knew we needed to demonstrate that commitment in tangible and monetary ways, both by continuing to elevate marginalized voices in the work that we publish and by raising money for causes we believe will help directly combat racism in our communities. As such, our submission policy for our next issue has shifted. We still will offer free submission windows on the 15th of each month, as we still are adamant about dismantling the financial barriers present in the literary community. If you submit on any other day, however, you must include a $3 submission fee through the donation tab on our website. All of the proceeds from these fees will go directly to Unicorn Riot or the Richmond Community Bail Fund. Information about these organizations is linked on our website. We are based in Richmond, so the latter felt of particular significance to us. Additionally, if you include a $10 submission fee, we will guarantee a 2-week or less response time to your work. We can offer words of support, but even as writers we recognize words too often fall short. When we say we're in this together, everything we do needs to be in direct service to this sentiment.
We hope you enjoy this issue as much as we enjoyed putting together. Many thanks to our contributors from across the country and globe, as well as to all of our readers who make this work possible. XO, Lindsay #BlackLivesMatter