Discover more from a sorcerer's notebook
A brief word from Lenny.
Foreword: For all BIPOC, Queer folx, or Trans folx who can’t afford to subscribe, this is content will always be free.
I have been thinking a lot about the ways in which you as a white consumer are granted access Black thinking. The ways in which the Black creator often must compromise his/her/their vision to reach publication. Or the way the publishing world treats my white peers’ work; how it is often received with thunderous critical and academic applause and a lot of hearty “Thank you for your words!” or “Inspiring work that is the future of the church!”—cheery, effusive reviews.
I, on the other hand, tend to hear things like:
“I wanted to throw your book across the room.”
“...challenging and eye opening.”
“We struggled with his first book, but I think it’s going better for us as a congregation now.”
When I hear things like this, I am acutely aware of how little the average white person, or white Christian, is exposed to Black thinking and thought. Foundational truths that are entire presuppositions on which I have based my entire interior, spiritual landscape are entirely new terrain for a lot of folks who read my work.
If you think it’s hard to find Black work in the publishing world, try getting it published. Look, I love my publisher, but if you think they treated treated “Dear Church: A Love Letter from a Black Preacher to the Whitest Denomination in the U.S.” like a slam dunk, you would be wrong. The first time I sat down with someone and they explained the low expectations in general for a small, Christian, publishing house and my work, well, I almost cried.
I was told they would be happy if I sold 3,000 copies in a year.
I had just bared my soul in front of the entire church body I serve, putting in writing several things that would make it extremely difficult for me ever to find another job as a pastor—just so 3,000 people could read it? Nevertheless, I was deadly serious about the premise of Dear Church. If the Christian church in America doesn’t engage in the work of dismantling white supremacy with wild abandon, there will be no Christian witness in America in 50 years.
What further struck me was how small they thought my work's impact would be, when all I could see was its potential. There are 3.5 million people in the ELCA, the church body I serve. That’s roughly 1% of the country. Convincing just 40% of these people to engage in real anti-racism work would change entire towns, communities, and electorates.
But two years ago, I was just an angry, Black, madman on the fringes of theology, so I was just grateful Broadleaf had even given my book a home.
And that’s the problem.
If capitalism has rendered art no longer truly independent, that goes doubly so for Black writers. We could list all the first-time contracts and advances; we could compare numbers side by side across the industry by race. But in your heart, you already know the truth.
It's fucked; incredibly unequal. It's America.
I want to write for Black people, to Black people, and that’s almost impossible in the industry. If you are white, I love that you are along for the ride. However, you have to know that several weeks of a few Black authors being on the bestseller lists doesn’t change the systemic issues in media, art, writing, corporate publishing houses, as well as the way Blackness policed and marketed to you.
So, I want to split the difference with you. If you are white and you have ever received anything from my work or my writing that has impacted your life, I want to offer reparations pricing.
This newsletter and blog will always be free.
But, if you are white and understand that it is a gift to peek into a Black writer's mind, then I ask you to subscribe and pay up to what you can truly afford to support this work, even if you won’t turn to it much. Just support the joy of it being in the world.
For all BIPOC, it’s always free. Queer folx or Trans folx who can’t afford to subscribe, you will be offered a 90 day trial. If you want to stick around, send me a message and I’ll add you to the permanent list.
When we talk about reparations as the people of God, I mean opportunities to support Black peoples—to be the canary in the coalmine for a nation that’s lost its way.
In Dear Church I write : “Dignity doesn’t have price. Human worth doesn’t have a price. Justice does have a price, and it is often paid by the blood of the oppressed. It is time for us to bring everything into the light and pay back the debt. We need to be a church that is leading the way by putting our very bodies in the spokes of the wheels of injustice until the wheel breaks. For some of you, these are just words on a page, abstract concepts that are high-minded and noble—elusive at best and seemingly impossible at worst. Right now, I am sitting in a dark room, staring at a screen, trying to think of creative ways to plead for my life—again—to white America. That is the difference I’m trying to make clear to you. Treating me with dignity won’t cost you anything, although many feel like that is asking too much. Recognizing the Christ in me and my inherent human worth is free.”
But writing isn’t. The process even to get those words out in the world took years of my life. United States of Grace is wholly different work not aimed at the church but at the very solar plexus of America. As RTJ4 put it, “a gut punch to your Atlas shrug”. This community we are growing (450+ subscribers) is the place I want to have the freedom as the Black creator to say, share, and create.
So, if you are white and interested, please click subscribe or upgrade and join the reparations club. The rest of y’all sit tight, because dope creative work and content is coming your way too.