A Banquet of Words and Wisdom

A Banquet of Words and Wisdom

Meeting at The Table: African American Women Write on Race, Culture and Community, brings Black women’s voices together to honestly and transparently share how race and culture affects them. Cover image by Synthia St. James

By Gwen McKinney

In the summer of survival, the challenge was to stay put and sane in the midst of two pandemics. The raging coronavirus and the racial reckoning in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder spurred Tina McElroy Ansa to check-in with her BFF. She found Wanda Lloyd, like most of us, shuttered in lockdown, struggling to normalize the surreal dark days of death, injury and Trump lunacy.   

The two women – both writers and Spelman College roomies – hatched a plan to find light and love, dismantling the walls of COVID isolation by connecting with Black women. In rapid fire they reached the guests, set the table and presented a virtual feast of words and wonder. 

An anthology was born. 

Meeting at The Table: African American Women Write on Race, Culture and Community, published by McElroy’s Down South Press and co-edited with Lloyd, rolled off the press in a matter of months. It spotlights 15 women in a collage of essays and remembrances, celebration and reflections, utterances and a-has. The voices, unique in their tone, are tied by common threads that weave the shared lived experiences of Black women. Shunted by invisibility, each testimonial navigates the path from the hostility of otherism to the security of us. Drawing on the visions of a girlchild, we see the healing hands of a familiar grandmom, momma and aunties – wise women all – who remind us from whence we come.

Co-editors, Tina McElroy Ansa and Wanda Lloyd.

Contributors are thought leaders, scholars, teachers, artists and change agents. Most are writers or journalists. Some have lived in a bubble of relative privilege or on the other side of the tracks; a few are biracial, bisexual, queer, fatherless, faith leader, adopted foster children or raised by a domestic worker.     

Each storyteller strikes notes of intimacy and universality. The opening salvo comes from Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and the parting shot is fired by social justice activist and Wiz Khalifa’s mom Peachie Wimbush-Polk, an Air Force veteran and “closet comedienne.” In the middle passages we hear from prolific author/biographer Imani Perry and star of stage and screen Anika Noni Rose. 

Like all good anthologies, the read can be nonlinear. Begin in the middle and pickup later, journey to the back and then the front without ever losing the rhythm. As you absorb each essay, you’ll surely brush with the damning, dangerous, exhausting moment we inhabit. Push forward. Insights surface that inspire joy and deep soul-settling breaths, imbuing our sensibilities with heaping rays of hope.