This post is part of a Nat. Brut series in which feminist writers, artists, and activists discuss people, publications, or organizations who are working toward inclusivity. Today, Jules Wood, editor-in-chief of the Berkeley Poetry Review, shares her choices.
Virgie Tovar is the badass, radically honest, fearless feminist fat activist of my dreams. In addition to being featured by the New York Times, Al Jazeera, NPR, Huffington Post, and more, she recently started writing an advice column for one of my favorite local magazines, Wear Your Voice, which works to change how women are represented in the media. She’s behind the brilliant hashtags #LoseHateNotWeight and my personal favorite #TrustNoWhiteManWithCornFlakes, and she edited the book “Hot and Heavy: Fierce Fat Girls on Life, Love & Fashion.”
“Virgie Tovar is the badass, radically honest, fearless feminist fat activist of my dreams.”
I admire Tovar’s writing and fat activism most for the attention she pays to race, gender, sexuality, class, and, at the same time, form. As she says about the book she’s writing and posting on her website — “I ultimately chose [the] blog format as a way to profane the idea of the American novel, to destabilize the respectability of book writing, and to question what a book really is.” She’s hilarious and sharper than a switchblade disguised as a tube of lipstick. I love her.
Ashara Ekundayo has accomplished, in my opinion, one of the most beautiful meldings of social justice and business. She’s a self-described “cultural worker of the urban landscape” who’s created a job for herself that allows her to be a successful entrepreneur and remain deeply invested in her community. Hub Impact Oakland is one of many new “coworking” spaces available to entrepreneurs in the Bay Area. Ekundayo describes the Hub as seeking to reflect the racially, culturally diverse demographics of Oakland. “I try to create opportunities for everyone to feel welcome. How do we get the kids in deep East Oakland to know that they can come here too? … Our job was to create a safe container for them to be creative. We’ve tried to make it very clear that this is your home. That the people who run this business look like the people in your community.” Ekundayo nails the intersections between business, activism, and art, in a way that often seems impossible to those of us who feel distance between our day jobs and our personal ideologies.
“Ekundayo nails the intersections between business, activism, and art…”
In addition to being one of the founders of Hub Impact Oakland, she’s the director of Omi Gallery, which currently houses an amazing exhibition on the #SayHerName social media campaign called “Who Taught You How To Love Yourself? Black Womyn!”, featuring photographs by April Martin. I’m excited to see what emerges from the contiguity of these two projects in the future.
Mary Meriam and Risa Denenberg
Headmistress Press is a relatively new publisher of books of poetry by lesbians, co-founded by Mary Meriam and Risa Denenberg. They describe themselves as “dedicated to honoring lesbian existence, discovering a range of lesbian voices, and promoting lesbian representation in the arts.” In addition to deeply appreciating the irony of selling lesbian poet “trading cards” (I’ve collected all twelve), I think it’s incredibly important for specialty presses to exist, to give the groups they represent the opportunity to observe themselves in relief of and against themselves.
“They are a historical recording and a foundation for experimentation.”
Certainly, many amazing poetry journals and anthologies exist honoring queer women, but there’s something so deliciously improbable and brave about an already small poetry press publishing solely work from a marginalized community. Headmistress is a new press, but I could see them developing into a mirror for queer women to look into — what have we written, what are we writing, and what will I write in response? They are a historical recording and a foundation for experimentation. And all of their books are $10! (Poetry-loving millennials with shitty day jobs, rejoice!)
Jules Wood is the current editor-in-chief of the Berkeley Poetry Review, a journal dedicated to publishing formally brave, experimental poetry that challenges prevailing conceptions of race, gender, sexuality, and ecology. She also works as the marketing intern at Omnidawn Publishing in Oakland. Her own poetry can be found in Lana Turner, Word Riot, and The Cossack Review, among other journals. A Bay Area resident and senior English major at UC Berkeley, Jules can often be spotted in San Francisco bars conducting research on queer burlesque performance.