Sometimes the title says it all.
Such is the case with “The Black Woman’s Guide to Love and Business” (BlkPen Publishing), a new book featuring some of Ohio’s LGBTQ+ luminaries, all in the pursuit of providing “a blueprint to self-mastery.”
“This process was the most seamless and efficient we’ve ever had and that was because BlkPen Publishing took away the barriers so we could just write,” says Erin Upchurch, co-founder of The Ohio REST Collective and a contributing author to the book.
The Buckeye Flame spoke with Karen Hewitt, also a co-founder of The Ohio REST Collective and a contributing author to the book, about why this bound set of words is so very needed right now.
Before we even talk about the book, let’s talk about the barriers. What has to be overcome to get a book like this out into the world?
I’m always thinking about what naysayers would say. Here’s the duality and complexity: I am non-gender conforming, and I am woman presenting…sometimes. When I first heard about this project, I really had to check my stuff about being a Black woman and not outwardly saying, “I’m a Black woman but I’m also gender non-gender conforming and I’m queer!” It was a lot of wrestling around with all of my intersections.
But knowing the person that runs BlkPen Publishing, I knew that I would be affirmed and invited across those intersections. I also know some critique will be, “But does this book include trans people? Does it include gender conforming people? Does it include queer people?” And it does.
This is pretty significant as an affinity group to say that Black women deserve a place to shine here.
Another barrier to getting a story like this out is the cost of production. Writing a book is at minimum is, in my experience, a $1500 production. At minimum. When you think about editing and formatting, these are expensive costs. And people may have their issues with Amazon. There are a lot of important conversations going on right now about racist publishing or oppressive publishing. especially for multiple intersections. So I know there are people in this moment boycotting publishing.
Given the barriers, why move forward? Why do we need a book like this?
I think as we move towards a collective healing, a collective building I think it’s important to hear stories, success, failure, lessons. The biggest thing for this one is that my words in “The Black Woman’s Guide to Love and Business” are based on my experience. Hopefully it’s something that can be helpful to someone pursuing.
The truth about this, when you look at the Black woman—and trans Black women especially—we are considered the most oppressed group in the nation. I had someone who was a white male say that he didn’t think that this book could be anything for him, but he was going to buy it for his girlfriend. And I said, “I’ll tell you a secret. If we can break down all those barriers to be successful, then anyone could with those same tools.”
On page four of the book, there is this Audre Lorde quote: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence. It is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.” What does that quote stir in you?
First of all, let’s talk about Audre Lorde and how subversive she was as a Black lesbian. When I think about how much we’ve been conditioned to think that doing anything for ourselves as Black women—and that’s “women” with a y or an x or whatever understands the width and the reach of womanhood—when you say it’s an act of political warfare, that means it’s revolutionary. That means it’s not expected.
A lot of times Black women are labeled certain things because they have a voice, because they have a loud voice, because they have a voice of knowing and ancestral wisdom. When you think about being opposed to oppression or not sanitizing oppression, Black women have always been the most revolutionary. When you think about all the movements—like Black Lives Matter movement—Black women are the suffragettes. They are the people in the front lines and oftentimes saying, “We need to free this group before we can free your group,” but they still stand on the front lines.
Think about warfare and the first things Black women need in order to be ready and equipped. To say that those things include caring for ourselves? I don’t know who would have thought of that. Audre Lorde was way ahead of her time.
And Black women caring for ourselves is still something that is challenged. It is called self indulgent. It is called bougie. It is called self-centered. It is called whatever name people can come up with to re-oppress or put people back in boxes. That’s why Audre Lorde’s quote is really so powerful and so important.
With 11 authors in this book, I think of it like a superhero team. Like your own X-Men. What superpower is Karen Hewitt bringing to that mix?
[laughs] I would say complexity. I have had such myriad of experiences in life. I’ve been a basketball coach. I‘ve worked in the construction industry. I’ve worked in the service industry. I’ve been in staffing. I’ve taught in a high school. I now work in a youth center. I have had all of these experiences that brought so much complexity into my life.
So there’s rarely anything that can ever surprise me. And I know there are still experiences to be had. But what all those experiences have done is allow me to really understand and appreciate—and need—the “and.” I can’t exist in the “or.” I have to exist in the “and” or I wouldn’t survive. I have to understand how many things can be true at one time.
Someone finishes the book and closes that back cover. What do you want them to walk away with?
I am a fan of storytelling and sharing. I want them to feel two things. I want them to feel like they can relate and that they can see themselves in some part or some experience of mine.
The second thing I hope they would have are some tools and takeaways that they can put into practice immediately, for greater success or mindset or a thought process that will benefit them in their career, love or relationships.