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Fire & Ink: We Are Witnesses!

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The men and women of Fire & Ink’s Board, who made it all possible

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By Nathan James

Photos by Steven G. Fullwood

So, I’m sitting here in Detroit’s mile-long airport, reflecting on one of the best trips I’ve taken in many a year. I’ve spent the past four days here participating in Fire & Ink IV: Witness, a groundbreaking conference of LGBT writers, poets, filmmakers, and other fabulously gifted individuals, from every background and corner of America.

I came, not just to join my distinguished colleagues Linda Villarosa, D. Andrea Jenkins, and Dr.Herukhuti on a panel exploring our online writings, but to reconnect with the culture of creative people.

The culture? Yes, absolutely. The theme of Fire & Ink this time (the last conference was in 2009), was “Witness”, and its focus was an exploration of how we, as artists, express our experiences in poetry, prose, theater, and film.

We are witnessing not just the culture of the LGBT community, but our own culture, which lives every day in our hearts, our minds, in our passions, and in the transformative way we put it all into words, with color, and feeling, and power.

We as LGBT people–particularly as LGBT people of color–occupy a unique place in today’s world. As creators of our artistic vision, which we bravely shape into our work, for all the world to see, we risk ridicule, judgment, and hatred, borne out of the bigotry and homophobia that still pervades every area of our society.

But when we bring forth our dreams, our thoughts, our desires, when we make real our perception of the world, we allow those outside our community the chance to enter our sphere of existence, and open their eyes to a new culture–us–they might not discover otherwise. Fire & Ink, in its free, radical, spellbinding,

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Dr. Herukhuti and Steven Lula-Bell Fields discuss Fire & Ink

provocative exchange of ideas, is a gateway for us to embark on new journeys of possibility, and to invite the world to follow us.

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The author, surrounded by creative geniuses on the streets of Detroit

These past four days renewed my own creative spirit, which, like an olden-days sailing ship, had become adrift in the doldrums. It was refreshing, uplifting to walk with my literary siblings, to be among those like me in mind and spirit. When I heard Fiona Zedde talking about her works, Watched Sekiya Dorsett’s new film, enjoyed a lovely Thai lunch at a table with Heru, Steven Fullwood,

Uriah Bell, Marvin K. White, Damon Percy, and Steven Lula-Bell Fields, in a deep, animated discussion on the nature of what we do as writers, or chat amiably with L. Michael Gipson about the community at large, I was restoring my malnourished writer’s soul. It was exactly the healing I needed, to help accelerate my recovery from the sad, broken place I had dwelled in for far too long.

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A wide selection of attendees’ works were on sale throughout the Conference

There is greatness in our community, in our culture of artists, and to see so much of that concentrated all in one place, is a thing to behold with joy.

As we all make our separate ways home, I think our spirits will still soar like the wings of the airplane which carries me, long after the coming months and years make Fire & Ink a fond, twinkling memory.

It is my most fervent hope that organizers Lisa Moore, Steven Fullwood, and their dedicated board and team members, will find the resources they need to do this again, on a regular–dare I hope annual?–basis.

It’s a truly priceless experience, and it makes us all proud witnesses, not only of our heritage and current works, but those that will inspire the children of future generations. Go tell it!