“You write in order to change the world.”
More than anything else, that quotation from James Baldwin has animated our project here at Seven Scribes. We’ve been at it for a year and a half now, publishing essays, articles, commentary, art, and conversations that eschew convention for originality and value care and nuance over quickness. That mission taken from Baldwin’s pen has guided us as editors, and we’ve been thrilled to produce an amazing range of stories.
We’ve had an interview with John Legend about his criminal-justice activism, an essay about “Trap Queen” as an all-time great love song, an exploration of environmental justice and its role in shaping black history, and a discussion about breast cancer and genetics for black women, among dozens and dozens of other works. Our articles have been featured in major outlets and read across all corners of the internet. And to our great pride, our greatest achievement has been editing, mentoring, cultivating, and promoting young rising writers and artists who are women, members of the LGBT community, or of color, and—most importantly—always paying them. Things have moved much faster for Seven Scribes in the 18 months since our founding than the editors expected, but through those young scribes and the sheer necessity of their work in the world, our mission has been crystallized in one word: Resistance.
Resistance hasn’t always been easy. For one, all of our responsibilities as site editors working a passion project have greatly expanded even as our professional lives and personal lives have taken off. In May 2015, we were six unmarried people living in two cities, and none of us wrote full-time as a living. Today, none of us has the same job as we did then, most of us write or produce content as a daily part of our jobs, there’s a few book deals between us, and our two co-founders have each married wonderful partners. The first Scribe baby is due in April. One of the Scribes has had to step down from a full-time role as an editor to take a position at the University of Chicago. There’ve been family issues, personal issues, and a number of other things to pop up to each of us. In short, life has happened to us each in abundance, and most of it has been in the richness and fullness of growth. Seven Scribes has been part of that growth for us, but unfortunately we know that our output has suffered as a result.
We want to let you know that we’re still here, and our mission still remains. As of this week, we are re-dedicating ourselves to our original mission. Donald Trump has been elected president, validating a return to naked white supremacy in rhetoric and policy and signaling a counter-revolution to the meager gains of minorities in the country. All the while, protesters stand being sprayed by water cannon and concussed with grenades at Standing Rock and Black Lives Matter chants still ring the streets after the latest in the litany of black bodies killed by police is added, reminding us that white supremacy and bigotry were already integral parts of our lives as Americans. But we also know that a renaissance of sorts has happened in the spaces on the margins in response to the inexorable march of awfulness on display right now, and we consider ourselves part of this enrichment of media with voices that have never had power before. That renaissance itself is resistance, and resistance is what we offer in response to the future politics of this country.
Maintaining that resistance means we’re gonna change some things up around here in 2017, in how we operate and in how we maintain our support. As a digital magazine completely supported by the crowdfunded generosity of our readers, Seven Scribes will keep all of you abreast of the changes as they coalesce, but hopefully it’ll involve some exciting developments, including our first paid staff members, some changes to our editorial structures, the addition of a marketplace, and perhaps a change in our funding structure. Our biggest goal for 2017 is to learn the lessons from our experiments and merge our quality and innovation with volume and a sense of pace.
In the immediate future, our first major project on the horizon is our Beyond Ourselves print anthology of fiction stories, due out very soon. We had the opportunity to read hundreds of short stories from an incredibly diverse field of authors, and the incredibly difficult task of winnowing that field down to just ten stories for our anthology. That anthology is by our estimation the best thing Seven Scribes has ever produced, and we’ve been thrilled to have award-winning authors Daniel José Older and Kiese Laymon along to review the stories and provide input. Our prompts and submissions are as divergent as can be, but you’ll soon find that each of them fits the theme of our simplified mission in the age of Trump. Resistance is the watchword.
In closing, though the political situation does not look favorable for the kind of society we envision, now more than ever our mission becomes more important to the realization of that world. In remembering Baldwin’s quote, we take care not to forget the second half of it; that you write to change the world “knowing perfectly well that you probably can’t.” The road is long, winding, and difficult. Progress is not always guaranteed. But we do what we must.