Black Lives Matter. Some truths are so self-evident that having to say them at all seems both inadequate and an indictment.
Black lives—Black artists, thinkers, musicians, activists, struggles, and history—pried open the sense of possibility that gave birth to Kaya Press. Without the ideas, example, and radical acts of imagination gifted to us by Black writers—from James Baldwin to bell hooks, from Adrienne Kennedy to Malcolm X—Kaya’s work as a publisher of Asian diasporic literature would not even be conceivable. Full stop.
That it’s not always easy to perceive the ways in which Kaya’s work has been deeply influenced by Black lives and struggles points to a kind of failure. We live in a world of interconnectedness. Only by making visible this network of influence and indebtedness does it become possible to shatter the illusion of competition and division that white supremacy thrives on.
For the past 26 years, we have worked to center immigrant, queer, forgotten, and overlooked voices. We have striven to stay independent and experimental, to prioritize mission over profit. In so doing, we have striven to create a literary space that refuses to participate in the competitive tokenism that props up white supremacy.
But the powerful, transformative wave of protests and critical conversations around Black Lives Matter and the movement it represents has us asking ourselves more questions about how to expand and deepen our work in a way that can contribute to the systemic change that needs to happen in this country, in publishing, and every aspect of life. Privilege is not just a question of blindness or inattention — it’s a failure of the imagination.
How can we make the publishing work that we do count? How do we work actively towards a world in which the lives and deaths of Black people and Brown people and Indigenous peoples are as much a matter of consequence as the preservation of our own sense of self?
What guides us now is a belief that political work begins with a sense of possibility. Transformation is, among other things, an act of the imagination. That is what makes writing and publishing so powerful. Something we read or hear or experience or see can change our life in an instant.
As ever, it remains important to start from where we are. We begin by reaffirming the importance of cultural and creative work in this struggle. As Toni Morrison reminds us in her Nobel Prize speech, “Narrative is radical, creating us at the very moment it is being created.”
Here and on social media, we will seek to make public and to invite you to join in on ongoing conversations around literature, systemic racism, and political transformation. We will highlight organizations across the U.S. and throughout the diaspora that are working on the ground to shift individual consciousness and institutional structure. We are also revising and retooling Lit in Color, a campaign we launched in 2015 as a response to the Black Lives Matter movement.
Thank you. We look forward to being able to say, again in the words of Toni Morrison: “Look. How lovely it is, this thing we have done – together.”
– Kaya Press Staff