A little over a week ago, I wrote this email sharing initial steps that my team and I are taking to amplify black voices and also make DIY MFA more inclusive of diverse voices. I realize that I have been fairly quiet on the subject since, but that by no means indicates that this subject has been forgotten or that we are back to “business as usual.”
The truth is, I am wary of any organization that makes hollow attempts at addressing inequity, and I refuse to let DIY MFA be the same. Rather than make vague promises about what we will do in the future, I believe in taking action first and being transparent with you about what we are already doing. Here is where we currently stand.
1) There were several hundred messages of support to that initial message. While I appreciate the love, I also recognize that the purpose of taking a stand is not about my own ego. The purpose was and continues to be amplifying black voices in this moment and, going forward, all marginalized voices. If you would like to express support, please do so by supporting black writers and buying their books.
2) There were a small handful of negative responses to that email. Some of those messages led to meaningful dialogue and even changes of heart. The few individuals who refused to have an open-hearted conversation and insisted on standing by their prejudice have been removed from our community. At DIY MFA we have a zero-tolerance policy for racist language or behavior. We encourage loving discussion on tough topics and even heated debate, but we will not allow racist or discriminatory language or behavior, and any individuals engaging in the above will be expelled from our community and programs. Full stop. End of story.
3) If I have learned anything through the past week of deep self-reflection, it is that I am not an expert on this. But saying “I didn’t know any better” is not an excuse for willful ignorance going forward. I am determined to learn and do better, and I will challenge my team to do the same. To that end, we are creating systems to make DIY MFA a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive community. These steps include (but will not be limited to) the following:
- I have invested in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) training so as the leader of this company I may become more aware of my blind spots and can do better in the future. If I can’t use my platform to help make the world better, then what’s the point? I take this responsibility very seriously.
- My team and I are scrutinizing the overall picture DIY MFA presents in terms of diversity on our website, podcast, and summits. In the past, when listeners expressed concern about the podcast featuring a lot of white male authors, we took concrete steps to make the show more diverse and inclusive. But we refuse to rest on those laurels, especially now, and we will continue seeking out writers whose voices need to be amplified and featured in our programming.
I extend the deepest gratitude to everyone in this beautiful, resilient community. You have helped me open my mind, and you continue to challenge me to think beyond my assumptions. Your words and stories are precious to me and I am deeply grateful.
4) Some professional colleagues and collaborators have also shown their true colors through this historic moment. DIY MFA does not do business with individuals or entities that are discriminatory or racist. We have severed our ties with these organizations and influencers. We are also carefully scrutinizing our partnerships and collaborations now and going forward, to ensure that we are not aligning ourselves with individuals or companies that do not share our values. We are also actively seeking out partnerships that will amplify and expand the diversity of our community.
5) Some well-meaning folks have expressed concern that DIY MFA will become “too political” and that this community should remain a “safe space” where we discuss only writing-related topics. To this my answer is simple—this group cannot be a safe space for writers of color if we continue to ignore the effect racism has on their experience. As hashtags like #PublishingPaidMe have demonstrated, there is a deep-seated inequity in how the publishing industry treats writers of color. The pay gap is very real. The opportunity gap is very real. If we as a writing community cannot discuss these topics openly, then we are only perpetuating an unjust system.
The reality is that writing is itself a political act.
Free speech is protected by the First Amendment, and how we choose to use (or not use) the power of our words is in and of itself a political choice. While the purpose of this group is to discuss writing and issues relevant to writers, we must also recognize that racism, prejudice, and discrimination are woven into the daily experience of BIPOC writers. We cannot as a community turn a blind eye. I will not allow it.
This is not going to be comfortable.
In fact, if it is comfortable, then we are not challenging ourselves enough. Some members of this community are not going to like it and they will leave. To that, I say “They were never really word nerds anyway.” Other community members might try to derail thoughtful, heartfelt conversations in this group. This behavior is a form of racism and is grounds for expulsion.
This is where I stand as a human. This is where DIY MFA stands as a company. My heart is heavy for all the members of this community who are hurting or who have suffered. I am listening and I am grateful for the opportunity to learn.
Gabriela Pereira is an author, speaker, entrepreneur and the founder of DIY MFA.
Please note: We are disabling comments for this post. Here’s why. We appreciate all the love and support we received from our community when this message first went out via email. At the same time, we are also keenly aware that this is not about us. If you’d like to show support for what has been said here, do it by purchasing a book by one of the wonderful authors listed above. Our goal is to keep this post focused on what it’s really about: amplifying black voices. If you have something you need to say, reach out to support@DIYMFA.com.