By George Kevin Jordan, Special to the AFRO
The Hurston/Wright Foundation has been shaping the lives of Black writers for decades. Founded in 1990. The organization’s core mission is “to discover, mentor, and honor Black writers.” And living up to legends like Zora Neale Hurston and Richard Wright, whom the organization was named after, can seem like a daunting task.
However, Executive Director, Kesha Lee said to the AFRO, “Our goal is to preserve the legacy of bhlack writers,” Lee continued, “I have the role of ensuring the legacy that the founders and the previous executive directors have put forth the past three decades.”
Lee came on board after an extensive five month search, and more than 80 applications.
“We are thrilled for Kesha to lead the Hurston/Wright Foundation as its new executive director,” said board chair Audrey Hipkins, in a press statement. “ Kesha brings an exceptional commitment to Black literary communities and proven leadership in building partnerships and creating organizational sustainability.”
The board was particularly excited by Kesha’s vision. We are confident that Hurston/Wright will thrive under her leadership.”
The organization has a bevy of programs and activations to engage the writer, reader, and community. There are writers workshops for adults and teenagers, The 18th annual Legacy awards which honors writers from poetry to fiction, and even debut fiction. There is also the annual Hurston/Wright Award for College Writers, plus several public readings and a bounty of information on their website.
Lee said that as she researched how to approach the position, she took into account what the foundation has done and where it wants to go.
“We’re thinking about how, do we do our work at the highest quality possible in service of the Black writers that are here and to come,” Lee said. “How do we get there? What resources do we need?”
“There is so much talent in our community and the onus is on us to celebrate it and create space for those voices to be heard,” Lee said.
While the foundation engages with their audience on an array of platforms including social media, Lee said she found the simple act of communing together can be transformative.
“Technology is very important. We do a good job of consuming and then twisting around technology to fit our needs,” Lee said. “But what we have also found is that, that’s just the catalyst for us to engage in person.”
“There’s something about being in a Black audience experience. There is nothing like being in that space.”
Lee has a long history working in the arts, education, and empowering Black communities to engage with literature, books and reading. She is the founder of #Ward8Reads, a D.C. based organization that provides books to families, where the community could see themselves in the works they brought home.
It was during this time that Lee understood her larger purpose.
“My life’s mission is really around making sure that all of our kids have access to culturally responsive books and resources that light their world on fire,” Lee said
That mission continues into the Hurston/Wright Foundation. For more information on the organization and upcoming events and workshops please go to: hurstonwright.org