SEATTLE, Washington — In light of the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, many black, indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) individuals are stepping forward to tell their stories. Equality is a topic often gaslighted in today’s culture, yet it is a reality for numerous individuals, particularly diverse female writers and creative entrepreneurs. From the captivating voices of African American storytellers Toni Morrison and Maya Angelou to the poignant observations of Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, female BIPOC storytellers are finally receiving recognition for their impressive contributions to literature, film and other avenues of creative expression.
The Women’s Creative Mentorship Program
The Women’s Creative Mentorship Program (WCM) is one of these avenues. The WCM is a six-month training course that empowers diverse female writers to embrace their storytelling abilities. Founded in 2019, the WCM’s mentors hail from varying countries such as Italy, South Africa, Argentina, Botswana, Kenya, Mauritius, Colombia and Mexico. Mentees can work under the tutelage of domestic and international writing mentors. The mentors are teeming with professional creative writing experience as many of these women are well-known for their novels, poetry and short stories. For example, one of the mentors, Ubah Cristina Ali Farah, is an Italian-Somali poet and novelist with a doctorate in African Studies. Mentees have the invaluable opportunity to not only learn from some of the most phenomenally talented and diverse female writers in the world but also gain a glimpse into another person’s cultural heritage.
WCM Program Outline
When WCM participants begin the program, they receive instruction at a four-day conference in Portland, Oregon. “The in-person WCM conference will be comprised of masterclasses, manuscript consultations, and one-on-one meetings between mentors and mentees,” according to WCM’s webpage. Mentees learn how to combine their distinct voices as writers with their cultural identities while learning immensely from one another. Colombian mentee Paula Silva said, “Getting women from different corners of the world to meet and work together is fantastically relevant for establishing deep, insightful international dialogue across cultures about the roles of women.” The WCM cultivates female authorship skills while also providing a point of connection for women across oceans and borders.
Women Who Create
Similar to the WCM, Women Who Create is another mentorship organization dedicated to providing BIPOC and minorities with resources to confidently tell their stories. Women Who Create is a diverse nonprofit community of female writers, particularly women of color, supporting creative women in their creative endeavors. This mentorship program consists of 500 women operating in 16 states, 84 universities and 162 companies in the U.S. Two troubling statistics through the workforce lens is how female creative directors are few and far between, even in a commonly regarded age of equality. In fact, “90% of creative directors are male” and “70% of young female creatives say they’ve never worked with a female CD.”
Women Who Create boldly challenges stigma and creates an environment where mentors help diverse female writers and creative minds know the value of an individual’s voice. According to Women Who Create’s website, “Nearly 50% of women of color believe that their race has played a role in missed opportunities.” It is imperative that willing voices do not fall through the cracks, particularly in the job market. Similar to the WCM, Women Who Create seeks to emphasize the importance of sharing one’s story with confidence.
Rising Storyteller Delight Ejiaka
The Borgen Project interviewed Delight Ejiaka, a digital media and English-writing university student. Ejiaka grew up in Lagos, a bustling city in Nigeria. When asked to describe instances of discrimination within the creative field, Ejiaka stated, “I have experienced my story from the wrong perspective for too long. Growing up, many of the books that I read in my formative years did not feature me or my sisters. It somehow told the five-year-old me that blonde or auburn hair and green or blue eyes are default characteristics for children.”
Post-grad, Ejiaka desires to explore a career in screenwriting, creative writing, marketing and business, fighting the current of predominantly white, male storytellers. Ejiaka concludes, “Stories about the joys and triumphs of black and brown people are not at the top of our national consciousness. Stories that show different experiences of black and brown folks must be celebrated on a more global and academic level.” Ejiaka is one of many rising, diverse female writers stepping into the spotlight and boldly sharing her story with others.
Mentorship programs such as WCM and Women Who Create invest in the BIPOC community and foster an inclusive climate. Diverse female writers and creatives can tell their stories and speak directly to the hearts of individuals spanning numerous cultures. Additionally, female writers can step into the predominantly male-led roles of leadership in the fields of film and writing. Breaking barriers such as these, global women’s rights are upheld as women step into their power and contribute to global strength and resiliency. Programs such as these are vital as women’s empowerment can be considered a weapon in alleviating global poverty.
– Hannah Roberts