In my lectures, we are always talking about how those who work in the Publishing Industry are the “gate-keepers” of culture and the “taste-makers”. While boasting the title of The Industry most populated by women in comparison to other professions, there is still under-representation in terms of racial and ethnic diversity. It’s no longer difficult for me to find a book with a deeply complicated female lead, but as a reader and a lover of books, it is still disheartening to struggle so hard to find myself reflected physically and culturally in literature without having my identity as a black woman reduced to a cheap 2-D stereotype…
Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Kamaria Press, Grace-Emmanuelle Kabeya (born of Congo and more widely travelled than anyone I’ve known) felt the same way. At twenty years of age she is already being the change she wants to see in the world, and please pardon my use of a tired cliché, but there is no other way to describe what she has achieved in the past year while still studying at University (she’s clearly saturated in that Black Girl Magic).
So what can I say about Kamaria Press?
Other than to compliment the name choice as though I would when introduced to a new baby. “Kamaria” means “As bright as the moon” in Swahili, and honestly its a surprise that with my book of African baby names, one of my future daughters hasn’t already been blessed with this parental dream. It is such a wonderful sentiment, especially during these dark times when my generation are truly coming to terms as to the hatred Blackness inspires in some people’s hearts.
The team collaboration of several young, black women from different parts of the African diaspora. As Viola Davis said, “the only thing that separates women of colour from anyone else is opportunity”, Grace and everyone at Kamaria Press are extending the opportunity to writers whose voices and stories have been ignored with claims of their life experiences being “unrealistic” or “un-relatable”.
Last Friday, Kamaria Press announced it’s arrival at a lively event in which Grace’s inspiration and goals for the Non-Profit Publishing house were explained to the attendees. I had never been so grateful to find an event invite on Twitter, and instantly invited friends on my course who I knew this would interest. It was our first group outing together and our first Launch Event. We weren’t sure what to expect, but we definitely came away inspired by the team and their achievements.
Not only are they taking on the role of a black-voice-amplifier, but Grace’s intentions for Kamaria Press go beyond uplifting the voices of African and Afro-Caribbean creative writers. All of the profit from the company’s first anthology of short stories (due this December) will go towards providing the children of a Zimbabwean school with the books they require to continue to the next grade, with plans to expand the project as the company grows. We were also serenaded by a singer-songwriter Dinachi who ensnared the room with two original songs and a hauntingly beautiful rendition of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean”. It was clear that Kamaria Press’ launch event was not just about lifting themselves, but granting us all the chance to get our shine on.
I was sent back to my childhood, remembering Mary Hoffman’s “Amazing Grace” in which Grace, a young black girl is told that she cant play peter pan 1) because she’s a girl and 2) because she’s black. With some encouragement from her mother and grandmother, Grace regains her confidence and convinces others that her gender and race would not limit to what she could do. I was so shook remembering the feelings inspired by this book that when babysitting on Sunday night, I found a copy to share with my precious “Ghana Princess” Afiyah and she adored it as much as I had at her age.
Funnily enough the theme of Amazing Grace mimics the theme of what Grace’s mentor told us, and I may be paraphrasing here:”It’s not enough to have dreams. A dream is not reality. When you set yourself goals, then you know that you are working towards something real.”
In the past I had felt cheated as a reader, which is why I decided to enter Publishing, with companies like Kamaria Press on the rise, and my fellow black publishing students by my side (#squad) I know that I will not be a lone voice yelling into the abyss. And for that, I am glad.
Follow @Kamaria_Press on Twitter for more exciting updates!