It all started with a t-shirt. Three years ago, Glory Edim’s boyfriend gave her a gift that perfectly spoke to her love of books, a shirt with “well-read Black girl” emblazoned on the front. Edim loved the thoughtful present and began wearing the one-of-a-kind item all over town. Soon, people wanted one too.
“It was our inside joke, but it triggered a lot of conversations with folks when I was out in the world,” Edim tells ESSENCE. “I kept having conversations with strangers, other Black women, in public spaces about books.”
The experience inspired Edim to form a book club, and three years later Well-Read Black Girl is a bona fide movement that hosts reading with authors, a thriving online community and an annual festival.
“Now that I look back, it was a really organic thing,” Edim says. “I’m just trying to be a conduit to help other people.”
Recently ESSENCE caught up with Edim to talk about her mission, inspirations and where she sees Well-Read Black Girl going in the next five years.
ESSENCE: Since it began three years ago, Well-Read Black Girl has grown tremendously, what’s your goal for the future?
Edim: It went from a book club to now an active sisterhood of folks who really want to connect. I’m trying to do things in other industries like work with playwrights and filmmakers and really have it always rooted in the words that they’re writing and how I can boost what they’re doing.
Also, Well-Read Black Girl has gone through a lot of iterations, it was a book club, now it’s a festival and now I”m thinking about activism. As Black women, we tend to have our expertise questioned and our voices devalued and I want Well-Read Black Girl to continue to be space where our identities are centered and we can use the visibility that we are creating for activism.
This year, I’m working on my first anthology project, which will be out in October. I’d like to create more books and have multiple anthologies looking at different aspects of Black literature.
ESSENCE: Who are 5 Black women you look up to?
Edim: Obviously my mom, historian Mary Frances Berry, Barbara Smith, Angela Davis and Toni Cade Bambara.
ESSENCE: How do you hope to make Black History today?
Edim: One thing I do is read speeches. I was just reading a speech by Mary Mcleod Bethune and at the very end she says about the Negro woman in the South, “She has made and is making history.”
I think that’s the perfect sentence in terms of where we are as a people. We are constantly making and remaking history. It’s a constant evolution because of the political landscape that we’re in, and because of the times when we’re being literally assaulted and attacked. We’re always facing a level of oppression and overcoming that, so when it comes to Black History I hope to continue building upon the legacies of all the women that have come before us while adding our my magic to it and leaving something for the new generation.