By Ah-Keisha McCants
“Diversity ensures that the next generation moves beyond the stereotypes, the assumptions, and superficial perceptions that students coming from less heterogeneous communities harbor, consciously or not, about people who do not look like them.”
- Justice Sandra Sotomayor
On Tuesday, April 22, 2014, the Supreme Court upheld the state of Michigan’s ban on Affirmative Action in college admissions. The 6-2 ruling struck a chord with those concerned about the state of race and the shaping of opportunity in the United States. Justice Sandra Sotomayor, in an unprecedented display of dismay over the social implications of such a ruling, released a 58-page response. In it, Sotomayor echoed group discussions we've been having lately at Duende: “The way to stop discriminating on the basis of race is to speak openly and candidly on the subject of race…with eyes open to the unfortunate effects of centuries of racial discrimination.”
As we approach the launch of Duende's inaugural issue (due out in October 2014), we’ve had to ask ourselves complicated questions about our vision. It was just one week ago that we began the spring semester at Goddard College, welcoming students new and old to the Plainfield, Vermont, campus for their required eight-day residency. During that time, Duende welcomed new editors, readers, and contributors to the family. One of our newest team members, Jeric Smith, shared a heartfelt statement about the importance of diversity in Duende’s future. As a group, we addressed issues of race, ethnicity, sexuality, and class in an effort to define our purpose as a vehicle for social change and acceptance.
It has become evident that to live our mission of embodying “authenticity and soulfulness,” we must broaden our view beyond the superficial. We must be specific, inviting not only a diverse range of art, but of artists to populate our pages.
We had to ask ourselves what it means to be a literary magazine that goes against the mainstream hegemony of literary magazines. For example, the VIDA count, in an effort to expose the disparities between women and men published in “prestigious literary venues,” has begun, after four years of reporting, to show a decrease in gender bias in some literary publications. But as a recent Salon Magazine article noted, “We need a VIDA count for race as well as gender.”
What will it look like to be inclusive of nontraditional narratives, or better yet, to challenge our own implicit biases? What better way to answer those questions than to revise our focus?
Duende seeks to create a space that welcomes eclectic voices, moving beyond the cursory and concealed mechanisms of publishing that keep so many writers of color, women, queer writers, and other underrepresented groups from being heard. It is essential that we create a space that opposes discriminatory traditions in publishing.
At Duende, we intend to continue the dialogue about how we can better support diversity in our journal, as well as at Goddard College. We welcome our contributors and readers to lend their voices to the conversation.
We are committed to publishing a majority of work by those marginalized in the literary world: LGBTQ, people of color, youth and elders, differently abled, and immigrants. These stories deserve a wider view. To paraphrase Langston Hughes: we, too, are America.
We cannot wish away inequality, but at Duende we will work to create a literary journal built on a vision of equality, one issue at a time.