Today, June 8, 2020, workers in publishing and media commit to a day of action in solidarity with the uprisings across the United States in response to the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, and the many, many others in the long history of Black people murdered by the state.
This action was originated by five organizers—four BIPOC and a white colleague—after processing the statements delivered by the Big Five publishers regarding the current moment in this nation’s racist history. Our disappointment in those statements gave way to a revelation: the justice we sought could be found only outside of corporate structures. Recognizing the industry’s role in systemic racism through its failure to hire and retain a significant number of Black employees or publish a significant number of Black authors, and through its pursuit of profit through books that incite racism, we decided to act. We’ve had enough experience with corporate Diversity & Inclusion initiatives to know that they are largely toothless and built on a top-down model that ultimately benefits only a very select few and often exploits marginalized workers. An effort to build collective power, we realized, was in order.
The language of today’s call to action was drafted by the five initial organizers and revised with comments from hundreds of our fellow publishing workers. Today’s action would not have been possible without these other organizers who joined us in spreading the word and working on our materials—allies across independent and corporate publishing, media, agencies, and bookselling. The directives that we circulated, including a unified out-of-office message, are as much a part of our effort to build collective power as the actions we’re taking today, and have mobilized over 1,300 workers and counting to protest, donate a day’s pay, phone-bank, join in mutual aid efforts, and work only on books by Black creators.
A petition, which was circulated last week by a small group of participants in the action, has been taken down, as it was not reflective of our collective method. We'll have to reckon with what that petition truly represents, and suspect a number of its signatories will not be joining us in further action. But we will nevertheless continue to resist corporate co-opting and building collective power.
We understand that the systems responsible for these murders will not be abolished in a day. Moreover, we cannot abolish these systems alone. We ourselves are complicit. Therefore, this action has been designed to be disruptive. In our refusal to collaborate with corporate publishers to achieve petty goals, we instead choose to activate book publishing workers in a way which they have never been; to build collective power that we intend to use in further actions to benefit our communities from within and without our industry. Together, we protest our industry’s role in systemic racism.
We stand in protest of the devaluation of Black lives.
We stand in solidarity with the protesters out on the streets. We stand together against the systems of white supremacy and racial capitalism that legislate the state-sanctioned murder of Black people, and today we refuse to participate in complicity. And we dedicate this day to acts of service toward that end.
Now that we have acted together as a group, we must press forward. We must develop a wider, more representative base of organizers and use the collective power we have summoned today to institute real change in our industry and beyond. We can pressure publishers to stop publishing racist books. We can make our industry safer and more welcoming for Black people. We can build structures outside of the corporate publishing world that support Black workers and creators, and put the force of collective power behind existing initiatives and groups that are currently leading publishing in anti-racist action.
No power but collective power, no action but collective action.
Deborah Ghim, Danny Vazquez, Lydia Zoells, Carrie Hsieh, and Anaka Allen