Encouraging Black Men To Write Books
Publisher, author and entrepreneur Ardre Ordie is working to make sure more Black people, especially Black men, tell their stories and author books. She is using an initiative called the 100 Seeds of Promise project to bring those stories to market.
Ordie spoke with Eric Douglas to discuss the challenges.
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Douglas: Tell me why you think it's important for the Black community, and specifically Black men, to tell their own stories.
Ordie: You know, it's imperative that Black people have the opportunities to tell our own stories, because for so many years, much of what we've been told about ourselves has been dictated by others. And so, we are now at a point where the top has absolutely been pulled off and we can engage in meaningful conversations about racism, meaningful conversations about social injustice and economic oppression. And right now, it's critical that we chronicle our experiences according to what we are experiencing.
Douglas: Tell me about the Hundred Seeds of Promise initiative.
Ordie: I recognized there was a huge deficit in the publishing industry when it came to books that were written by Black men. My clientele was thriving, but it primarily consisted of Black women. So I thought, “Okay, Black men are not publishing their books at the same rates,” and understanding the hierarchy of the publishing industry, that black books are not favored in ways that books written by other authors are, then I need to do something.
That something was using what I had in my hands right in front of me to be impactful. And so that was how 100 Seeds of Promise was birthed. I decided that I wanted to make a commitment to ensure that at minimum 100 Black men became published authors with everything that I could do to make it happen.
Douglas: You were already consulting with Black women. Black women were already publishing. But you were seeing a real deficit in Black men publishing. That's interesting.
Ordie: If we had 50 books that were being published, we could guarantee that at least 43 of those would be by Black women. And so that was very concerning to me.
Douglas: So how do we change the publishing industry in the grander scheme
Ordie: It starts with acknowledging the discrepancies. When you think about the New York Times bestsellers list, and you think about who is on that list and who those authors are, it's plain to see that there is a disparity in the representation that is there. And when you look at what Black authors are doing for themselves, when you look at a company like 13th and Joan, we think very much outside of the box.
Our goal is about making sure that our authors understand how to make money from their books, how to leverage their careers as authors to jumpstart other streams of revenue and income for themselves and their families. We could spend the whole day talking about it, but I'm glad that we are bringing that to the forefront, because there's definitely things that should be addressed in the publishing industry.
Douglas: In West Virginia, the Black community has a double problem. They're also Black in an overwhelmingly white state. How do you break through that secondary level of challenge?
Ordie: My message has become more profoundly focused on documenting our stories for us. The prize becomes your ability to create new income because you've documented your story and spoken your truth. The prize becomes making sure that the generations that come after you have access to information; have access to blueprints of how to live life; how to overcome; how to learn; how to grow; how to evolve. The prize becomes documenting your existence and recognizing that that book, and those words atop paper, are your “I was here” moment.
Douglas: Is there anything we haven't talked about, anything you want to touch on?
Ordie: We have a responsibility to write about this era that we are experiencing. I'm really on a crusade to encourage people to write right now, because this is a time that someone will need to understand better. This is the time that someone will need to know we did make it to the other side. This is a time where someone will need to just write to make sense of it all and to maintain sanity. As much as we don't talk about it, we are all traumatized and we are in need of tools to overcome and to cope. Writing does that as well. Free your mind. I always say the paper always listens.
Ordie is the founder and CEO of 13th and Joan Publishing.