Joel Gay Creative Fellowship Winners
I received almost 1,500 applications for The Joel Gay Creative Fellowships which was both thrilling and overwhelming. Over the past month, I have read a lot of interesting, imaginative proposals. I was reminded, once more, that there is no shortage of incredible writing and creative talent. Choosing only three applications was nearly impossible but I am excited for the three winners to start their newsletters in the next month or so, and work with with them over the next year. Below, are the winners and runners-up, with a bit of information about the newsletters they will be creating here on Substack.
Because of the volume of submissions, I was not able to provide individual feedback but I can speak more broadly as to why submissions were rejected. First and foremost, all of this is very subjective. Some subjects interest me more than others. Some writing styles hold my attention more than others. Beyond these aesthetic considerations I was also thinking about what I could contribute to each of the chosen writers as they build their projects.
Beyond taste, proposals were rejected for a range of reasons. Sometimes, the focus was too broad or too niche to support a well-developed weekly newsletter. In some proposals, I did not get a clear sense of the writer’s voice. There were proposals that lacked originality or replicated significant bodies of work that already exist. When a proposal hinged only on a writer’s subject position, I wondered how they would make the project work over the course of a year. Oftentimes people would identify the communities of which they are a part but leave it at that without explaining what they would be writing about or how an audience might connect to that work. Some proposals tried to shoehorn existing projects into a newsletter and again, it was not clear how the newsletter would work beyond the limits of what the writer had already written. Many writing samples were too short—two or three paragraphs simply wasn’t enough to get a feel for the writer or their intentions. There are all kinds of reasons why a proposal might not work but what all the proposals had in common were enthusiasm, ambition, and sincerity—always important qualities in solid writing. I appreciated getting to know so many writers and being entrusted with their work. And without further ado, the winners and runners up:
Art history is one big inside joke. The same goes for hip hop. How? Both are extremely self-referential, and the more you look and listen, the more ingrained you become in the greater story. To assert themselves in the canon, artists make their name by studying and referring to the greats. From tracing back sampled tracks, to realizing visual puns, the rabbit hole emerges at your feet, beckoning you to discover how deep those connections go. My newsletter, The Drip, is the sweet, gooey center at the intersection of hip hop and art history. These worlds are not mutually exclusive. In fact, they overlap in ways that amplify cultural perspectives, social movements, and personal memoirs. Exploring art history and hip hop together creates opportunities to highlight patterns of expression and challenge established ways of interpretation. What connections can we make across media and time to imagine greater possibilities in our own lives? For example, Gutenberg and N.W.A. used Blackletter typography 550 years apart to spread religious and cultural doctrine, respectfully. Yves Klein and Cam’ron trademarked colors that enhanced their brands both artistically and commercially, while breaking from the conventions of their own times. Creativity thrives in sharing ideas, and my column aims to build an inclusive community excited by the possibilities of creative thinking. Like a mixtape and a sketchbook, this is an experimental space for ideas to take form. I’m not here to critique, but rather, ask questions that we can consider together. Meet me in the middle.
Tiny Violences will be about identity politics, style, beauty culture, Black visibility, Queer desire, shadiness, literature, and self-reflection but framed through the little violences she experiences on the day-to-day. Because of the ways in which the plurality in Black queer women’s identities are flattened on social media, this column will explore the ruptures, frictions, abuses and maybe even victories she’s experienced in this Fat Black Queer life she’s living. While Jet has found community at the intersection of her multiple identities, she’s also found herself feeling like an outsider; this project will help her explore how her writing—by using specificity to talk about the realities of her identities, and by sometimes pairing that specificity with levity—has gotten her closer to feelings of belonging.
Jesus’ newsletter will combine personal essays, historical archives, and reported criticism to journey into the current state of American democracy through the eyes of an undocumented immigrant. Occasionally, it will also include commentary on law and politics as well as interviews with other undocumented immigrants on how they craft their own vision of success in a world that has vowed to expel them. Above all, his project is a celebration of Toni Morrison’s words: “I stood at the border, stood at the edge, and claimed it as central.”
Hood Babies Wanna Decolonize Too
Arielle Lana LeJarde
Reparations Daily (ish)