Fresno Writer’s Group–Why I’m Quitting

I attended about nine meetings with the Fresno Writer’s Group and I’m quitting. I first talked about my problems with the group in the post Writing Alone. I didn’t want to leave and I tried to make it work but I have no other recourse. Its a small group and I really shouldn’t have taken it so seriously but I gave some time and effort to it and I want to give myself the space to express what I’ve experienced. These are the prime reasons I’m leaving the Fresno Writer’s Group.

BIGGGG # 1) RACISM

The day I walked in, a member of this all-white group made a racist joke and they all sat there and laughed. One of their e-mail members sent me an overtly racist e-mail after I asked them to specify if their work contains violence (including racism) before e-mailing it out for critique. The micro-aggressions have not stopped, even after I complained to the group organizers over several e-mails full of explanations when they appeared to be confused. The co-facilitators of this group, Wayland Jackson and Jeff Cates, are obviously seasoned white racists who are trying to convince me that my perception of them is skewed by unfounded prejudice. They have no intention of checking themselves.

Shannon,

You are entitled to think what you want about me, and I realize there’s nothing that I can say that will change your mind if you’re convinced that I hate anybody based on the color of their skin. You’ve been offended by things I’ve said and done, but don’t assume that I’m saying or doing anything with the intent of offending you. I hope you’ll think about this.

–Jeff Cates

2) Membership

Their membership changes monthly and its obvious that its a small club for the three or four core members who attend regularly and they don’t really care who is there otherwise; they make no effort to encourage membership growth or diversity.

3) Location

The new location is too far out of my way to bother anymore. And its summer, too, 100 degrees+ some days. Simple as that.

4) Age Group

The writers facilitating the group are not only all white but over fifty. I call it like I see it: They’re definitely set in their ways.

5) “Amnesia”

The organizers literally don’t know who’s been there and who has left until Jeff decides to drop writers from the mailing list for their absences. There have been several occasions where neither Jeff nor Wayland remember I was at a meeting.

6) Leadership

As with any group or organization, its hard to address the problems when the leaders are the ones causing it. Its even harder when you’re the only Black person in the room trying to address it because you’re the only person it effects.

~

Though not unexpected, its a huge disappointment that both group leaders refuse to acknowledge any wrongdoing. Its the racism that bothers me the most and the oblivious ease and comfort with which they deny it. I’ve been in enough situations like this and I should’ve stopped coming the first thirty minutes I noticed this bs. Can’t blame a writer for trying.

I quit. Its not worth my time.

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