Last week, when I arrived at the ACFW conference, in Dallas, Texas, I looked around and no one looked like me that is my skin color and my hair texture. I admit, I thought I made a grave mistake attending. Lets face it; no one wants to feel excluded when they enter a room of strangers, especially among 625 people during a four-day conference. I expected cliques, and well-to-do authors sticking with those they knew, after all these were church folks. (Okay I won’t go there.) Anyway, I forged ahead because in reality this crowd was all made in the image of God, hence we all looked alike and wrote varied kinds of fiction. I have to admit I confessed my trepidation to a few people.
However, when I said no one looks like me to Rachel, she said, “I’m black on the inside.”
Now, when I met Rachel she was posing with a friend, I jumped in her photo and said, “You need a bit of color.” They laughed and snapped the photo. Then I turned to Rachel, and said, “Girl, this morning while you were leading worship I told the Lord you needed a bit of soul. I wanted to talk with you about putting a bit of ump in your worship.”
Rachel laughed. I laughed.
Because on stage Rachel kicked it up a notch with a body wave and booming voice: “God loves me, and I look gooood.”
At worship service, I repeated the mantra: “Cause, I too knew God loved me, and I looked goooood.”
“Let’s take a photo together,” Rachel said.
I handed my iphone to a man. “She looks just like me,” I said to Rachel.By the way, six black writers attended the conference. I only got to know two of those writers: Nichole (I’m standing beside her in a chair, she’s much taller than me) and Jacqueline (We’re both wearing purple and planning to attend a black writer’s conference together).
I dreaded being the only black writer simply because writers, agents, editors, publishers and mentors need to have a common connection, other than writing, but a relationship. Yes, my goal was to pitch my work to agents and editors, to come home with business cards that allowed me to send manuscripts and proposals for consideration. Yet what I learned: without a relationship, without editors and agents understanding who I am, my concerns, and my culture a relationship is null and void.
Honestly, I did get snubbed a few times by writers, an agent and an editor at the breakfast table and in the elevator. And I was not paranoid, I spoke they didn’t. Even a few people who looked like me snubbed me.
Despite my trepidation, I met awesome people, made great contacts (will let you know the outcomes if I get book contracts), have a stack of business cards to increase my blog followers, and found someone who looks like me.BTW: at the airport Rachel and I chatted about a few black Christian authors. Now I need to introduce her to the music of Kirk Franklin, Marvin Sapp, Youthful Praise to name a few.
Isn’t it good to be confident in who you are, and know who you serve: God not people?