This year marks a decade since Octavia E. Butler’s untimely passing. In celebration of her life, the Huntington Library posted this poignant example of Butler’s dedication to her work and to her community. These paragraphs, written on the inside of one of her journals, aren’t just encouraging mantras for a writer fighting to have her voice heard in the wider SFF world. This is the mission statement of an African-American author who is determined to make a space for the people of color who come after her.
As you begin reading the notes, this could be any young, hungry author, promising themselves that they’ll make their mark and work their way up the bestsellers list. But as you get further down, and see the promises being made:
I will send poor black youngster to Clarion or other writer’s workshop
I will help poor black youngsters broaden their horizons
I will help poor black youngsters go to college
This is a writer whose commitment to her community was woven into her own identity as an author. It’s both heartening and heartbreaking to read this. You can learn more about Butler’s work through the Huntington Library’s blog – the Huntington became the recipient of Butler’s papers, which included 8,000 items, and took three years to process. It’s now one of the most active archives at the library, and has been accessed by scholars almost 1,300 times since spring 2014. The Library has also partnered with an arts organization called Clockshop to create “Radio Imagination”, a yearlong series of events honoring Butler’s life. You can learn more here. And if you’re in the San Francisco area, the Live Worms Gallery is hosting an Afrofuturist show, “Octavia’s Attic: ARTifacts From Our Possible Futures”, from February 24th to March 2nd.