EFOC 2024: Empowering Narratives: Navigating the Shades of Progress – Essence

“I love the opportunity to tell my story and to tell the stories of the people in my community and to get it right,” said author Reagan Jackson. This quote sums up many of her ideals that she shared during day two of the Author’s Stage at Essence Festival’s Empowering Narratives panel. The lively discussion was moderated by Reggie Bailey. Accompanied by authors Bakari Sellers and Ijeoma Oluo, Jackson detailed how she leaned into writing upon realizing she wanted to tell authentic stories about her origins in Rainier Beach in Seattle. 

In Still True: The Evolution of an Unexpected Journalist, Reagan said she truly is someone who fell into journalism. She felt moved to become a writer when she picked up on writings about her hometown Rainier Beach being mainly negative. Jackson took it upon herself to begin her journey as an author due to this notion. “I’m hoping to inspire future readers to do [the same].”

Sellers, a CNN commentator and author said his third book is politically charged. Entitled The Moment: Thoughts on the Race Reckoning That Wasn’t and How We All Can Move Forward Now, the work examines national politics and policies. Healthcare, education, policing, and early childhood education are a few of the key topics he explores in The Moment

When sharing insights on the inspiration behind his first book My Vanishing Country Sellers says he didn’t think anyone would read a memoir by him when he was 30. But, he was encouraged by a friend to tell his story which consisted of his social justice roots and his father’s colorful history. 

He also added that his second book which was a children’s book was tough to publish. Bakari laughed as he shared he felt he had to become a New York Times bestselling author to publish a book categorized for kids. 

The individuals who are leading the ongoing revolution we’re living through are what author Ijeoma Oluo a New York Times bestselling author feels is heavily important currently. “It’s important that we remember that oppression doesn’t exist without a story,” she declared. Oluo’s most recent book is entitled Be a Revolution.

“The way in which these systems are able to sustain…is because of a story that’s told about our worth and a story about the worth of people with privilege.” Oluo expressed that Black authors and innovators counter negative notions and actions with our work. “Our stories are a vital part of revolutionary work.” 

Regarding sharing and telling our authentic stories, Sellers says reclaiming and educating ourselves and our children is vital right now. “Reclaim your household because you know they’re not going to learn about Stokely Carmichael, Julian Bond, and Ella Baker [in their schools].”

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