The field of Black Speculative Fiction is blowing up right now, with new publications that feature Black creators joining established journals and book publishers. Together, old and new provide more opportunities for authors to have their short stories given the time and space they deserve. To explore the growth in the industry, we interviewed Kenesha Williams, the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Black Girl Magic Literary Magazine. The magazine addresses the need for diverse, non-majority writers, particularly Black women writers, in speculative fiction. Their 4th issue is available now. We talked about Lemonade, cover art, Zora Neale Hurston, and the Fireside Fiction report.
Black Nerd Problems: What’s your favorite song or scene from Lemonade. And “I prefer Rhianna’s Anti” is a valid answer. Is there a song there that fits to your style of activism?
Kenesha Williams: My favorite song from Lemonade has to be “Don’t Hurt Yourself” with “Freedom” coming in at a very close second, almost a tie. In fact I wrote an article about the song and it’s parallels to Zora Neale Hurston’s short story “Sweat” on Medium, but never hit Publish because I felt like there were so many think pieces out on the album. I had written it a week after the album dropped, after 1 million articles have been written on it and then the Lemonade syllabus came out. I feel like the song, like Hurston’s story, is one about a singular marriage but it’s infused with universal truths about the relationship dynamics between men and women. And like the song, the woman Delia in “Sweat” is also a woman that can take a care of herself in a financial sense and doesn’t need a man for her survival. I think the idea of a woman having her own agency is both revolutionary and necessary.
BNP: What was the 1st piece of media that reinforced your own personal Black Girl Magic?
KW: I would say the first piece of media that reinforced my own personal Black Girl Magic had to be Alice Walker’s book The Temple of my Familiar. It was the first piece of adult spec fiction I’d ever read and the character of Miss Lissie, who was an ancient goddess who’d been reincarnated hundreds of times, was a revelation to me. This book taught me history in a way that no history class ever taught me and the character was once again a woman who had her own agency. The other main character of the book was a young woman named Fanny who finds herself by listening to her dreams, and journeys back to Africa to meet the descendants of her ancestors. It was one of the first books I read that spoke of women who look like me and had them doing fantastic and important things.