Compiled by Barbara Beckwith of Boston
October 2000: Southeast Michigan Local conducts a writers' workshop "workers-writers" at the Walter P. Reuther Library on Wayne State University Campus, conducted by poet Aurora Harris, National Diversity Committee Incoming Chair.
October 2000: Behind Our Masks IV: The Philadelphia Local staffs has information table at the annual LGBT writers' conference that draws writers from around the country.
October 2000: Vermont Local Chair Gerry Colby speaks at the State Labor Council on why the union movement should support civil unions because they would make the same secular benefits (workman's comp, etc.) to same sex couples that unions are committed to winning for all wrokers.
September 2000: Southeast Michigan Local holds workshops at the 2nd annual Midwestern Writers Conference, formerly the Black Writers Conference, sponsored by the Detroit Midwest Writers Guild. The workshops deal with writers' rights and professional and economic issues affecting writers in various genres.
September 2000: The Boston Local covers the "Boosting the Latino Presence" colloquium organized by the New England Committee of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists and staffs an information table at the event. Media speakers note that Latinos will soon make up 30% of the U.S. population yet are not adequately represented in mainstream media; that education is a major issue for Latinos (85% won't graduate), yet coverage so far is stereotypical; and that reporting must go beyond Cinco de Mayo: Latinos should be represented in photos, graphics, announcements, events, and all departments. All reporters should be required, as part their job, to be inclusive in their reporting.
September 2000: NWU Journalism Organizer Dian Killian speaks on "Unions in the Newsroom" at the National Lesbian and Gay Journalism Association conference in San Francisco.
August 2000: Bay Area Local activist Akilah Monifa represents the NWU at the 25th anniversary convention of the National Organization of Black Journalists in Phoenix, a 4-day event that draws 3,000 participants.
January 2000: Washington DC Local holds "Making Room for Us: Latino Writing and the Publishing Industry," hosted by Ray Suarez and featuring novelist Mario Ben Castro, critic/novelist Barbara Mujica, screenwriter/novelist Alturo Salcedo. The event was planned in collaboration with the Council of Latino Agencies.
December 9-12, 1999 NWU Diversity Committee holds a 3-day retreat in Chicago for NWU activists from locals that are actively working to design strategies to improve the working lives of writers who are underrepresented or marginalized in the publishing industry because they are writers of color, queer writers, writers with disabilities.
Fall 1999 NY Local holds a Breaking Into Technical Writing program in collaboration with Polytechnic University's Technical Writing Program. Approximately half the participants are writers of color.
1999 National Delegates Assembly votes to add to its Constitution, which already includes a non-discrimination clause, the following clause: "The National Writers Union commits itself to representing the interests of the full range of writing communities in the US. These include writers of diverse cultural, ethnic, racial and religious heritage; writers of all sexual/gender orientations, and writers with disabilities."
1999 Boston Local Steering Committee member Tommye-Karen Mayer, author of One-Handed in a Two-Handed World, speaks on the Writing and Publishing for Pay panel at the 20th Anniversary Celebration of the Cambridge Commission for Persons with Disabilities.
1999 Southeast Michigan Local holds a seminar titled "Braided Lives" -- a discussion of researching, writing and publishing works with mixed-race themes. Deborah Tucker, a national expert on Native American and African American historical ties and a Wayne State University librarian, introduces writers and researchers to the publishing markets seeking works with mixed- race themes, and to the unorthodox research methods such writing projects may involve. An audio-visual presentation on the historical links between African and Native-American peoples in the United States highlights the workshop.
1999 San Francisco Bay Area Local sponsors a memorial reading for Mark O'Brien, a long-time member who died in July of polio- related complications. O'Brien was a prolific writer who lived most of his life in an iron lung. One hundred people gather for the reading at La Pena in Berkeley. Six readers, four of whom have disabilities, read from O'Brien's poetry and from the screenplay of "Breathing Lessons," the film that documented O'Brien's life and won an Academy Award. The event raised $350 for the Mark O'Brien Scholarship Fund.
1999 Los Angeles Local takes on the topic "Stereotypes" at an Op-Ed Slam at the Midnight Special Bookstore in Santa Monica. The slam is co-sponsored by PEN West, International Black Writers and Artists, ASJA, and the L.A. Alternative Media Network.
1999 Chicago Local Diversity activist Karen Ford and Co-Chairs Suzan Erem and Jeff Fisher speak at a gathering of African- American writers.
1999 NWU Diversity Committee activist Barbara Beckwith develops resource lists of 1. Books by Authors with Various Disabilities (includes authors' agents and editors when mentioned in acknowledgements), 2. Advice on Interviewing and/or Writing About People with Disabilities, 3. Magazines whose contributors are largely writers with disabilities, 4. Actions the NWU could take to support writers with disabilities (draft). All four lists are available free to members and non-members from firstname.lastname@example.org.
1999 San Francisco/Bay Area Local's Tech Writers Trade Group holds a Breaking Into Tech Writing Seminar, with a section that addresses special problems faced by women and people of color in the industry. Three of the four speakers are writers of color.
1999 NY Local Book Chair and National Diversity Committee Chair Sheree Thomas makes connections with the Radius of Arab American Writers via RAWI's writers' readings at Kush, a downtown Arab bar/cafe.
1999 NWU President Jonathan Tasini protests the NEA chairman's cancellation of a grant to the publisher (Cinco Puntos Press of El Paso) of The Story of Colors, a children's book by Zapatista a leader Subcomandante Marcos. Tasini tells Publishers Weekly: "Chairman Bill Ivey's cancellation is a threat to the freedoms all Americans cherish: freedom of expression, freedom of the press, and our democratic process of decision-making." NWU informs Pat Schroeder, president of the Association of American Publishers, who co-signs, with Oren Teicher, CEO of the American Booksellers Association, a protest letter to Chairman Ivey.
1999 San Francisco/Bay Area Local members support NWU member Bruce Mirken, arrested while investigating a possible story after communicating online with what seemed to be a troubled gay teenager. When Mirken went to interview the "youth," a police sting operation pursuing online pedophiles arrested him on charges of attempting lewd acts. NWU members around the country support him with letters and emails. The judge dismisses all charges. Mirken is the winner of 11 journalism awards for his reporting on queer youth, HIV/AIDS and other subjects.
1999 NY Local Steering Committee holds a diversity retreat, also attended by NWU President Jonathan Tasini and NWU VP Amy Rothman, to insure that its leadership is involved in action for diversity.
1999 NWU Delegates Assembly adopts the Boston Local's outreach brochure to writers of color for national outreach.
1999 Bay Area Local runs an article titled "Full Inclusion" in its newsletter, to help educate members on how they can make NWU accessible to writers who have various disabilities.
1999 Vermont Local organizes a Weaving Our Voices reading series featuring Vermont writers of color. "Weaving Our Voices: Linking Cultures in Solidarity" celebration at the Jamaican-owned Caribbean Corner Restaurant in Burlington. The event is co- sponsored by ALANA (African American, Latino, Asian, Native American) features writers Celina Denkins, Liza Marcato, Melissa Burch, and Kevin O. Spencer, Naima Wade, and Shannon Williams.
1999 NWU National Delegates Assembly features NWU member Barbara Smith, publisher of Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press and author of The Truth That Never Hurts: Writings on Race, Gender and Freedom. National Diversity Committee Co-Chairs Emma Morgan and Sheree Thomas invite Smith to speak; she talks about how being a Black lesbian has affected her relationship to the publishing and marketing industries.
1999 New York Local holds two Poetry Readings at Muddy Waters Cafe in Brooklyn. The first features Nuyorican Poets' Cafe poetry slam winner Andrew McCarthy, award-winning poet Suheir Hammad -author of Born Black, and emerging poet Nicole Sprinkle. The second, a National Black History Month Celebration, features NWU member Angeli R. Rasbury (co-editor of Sacred Fire: The QRB 100 Essential Black Books), contributors to ANANSI: Fiction of the African Diaspora, members of the New Renaissance Writers Guild, and guest readers Glenville Lovell, and ihsan bracy, and Lois Griffin.
1999 OutWrite99 has an NWU information table staffed by both straight and gay members. OutWrite speakers who are NWU members includes feature speaker Barbara Smith, plus Dorothy Allison, Allan Berube, Gloria Anzaldua, John Rechy, Alice Walker, Jan Clausen, Michael Rumaker, Jewelle Gomez, Sharon Lim-Hing, Jonathan Katz, Sapphire, Adrienne Rich, Sarah Van Arsdale, Dan Jaffe, Urvashi Vaid, and OutWrite99 organizer Cecilia Tan.
1999 Twin Cities Local works closely with SASE: The Write Place, a mainly writers of color organization, to jointly organize the annual Op-Ed Slam, and nuts & bolts workshops. The Local also develops a book marketing flyer for authors including writers of color and GLBT writers, for distribution through literary newsletters.
1999 NWU staffs a table at the "New California Media" expo in San Francisco, an event about media by and for communities of color.
1999 NWU Delegates Assembly invites African-American author and activist Barbara Smith to speak about her experience as a black lesbian author who writes on issues of race, gender, and freedom.
1999 NWU Delegates funds a Twin Cities Local project to organize events in "outstate" areas (areas outside Twin Cities), mainly smaller towns and Native American Reservations. Minnesota has one of the largest Native American populations in the country, several Native American newspapers and publications, and is the headquarters of the Native American Journalists Association. Organizer Deborah McLaren is Native American. The goal is to form clusters of members that could develop into sub-locals and to make the NWU more representative of all Minnesota writers.
1999 NWU contingent marches with the Pride at Work labor section of the Gay Pride Parade in San Francisco.
1999 NY Local holds a "Seminar on Self Promotion," led by African-American author David Earl Jackson, author of The Final Word (Simon & Schuster) and Walking Through Mirrors. The Local invites agents, writers and other industry professionals from diverse communities to the event.
1999 National Writers Union attends Unity99, where 6,000 journalists from four associations (Asian American Journalists Association, Native American Journalists Association, Hispanic American Journalists Association, Association of Black Journalists). Abena Songbird of the San Francisco/Bay Area Local, is sent by the NWU to meet with Native American journalists. NWU member Emil Guillermo co-leads a workshop on writers' economic issues. Two of the conference's organizers, William Poy Lee and Diane Yen-Mei Wong, are NWU members.
1999 At Large Local participates in Atlanta's June LGBT Pride March. The contingent is greeted with cheers and applause from thousands of folks who lined the streets of the 2-hour march.
1998 Washington DC Local holds Steering Committee meetings by speaker phone to accommodate a member with chemical sensitivities.
1998 NWU member Liz Galst leads a Journalism Contract Training workshop at the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association Convention in Las Vegas.
1998 New York Local holds a Poetry and Fiction Reading in Harlem, featuring National Poetry Slam Champion Saul Williams, novelist Arthur Flowers, poet Willie Perdomo, Gha'il Rhodes Benjamin, Klini Ibura Salam, and Ahmad Wright.
1998 Vermont Local holds a conference on "One Planet, Many Voices: Writing About Nature and the Environment." Speakers include Kahn-Tineta Horn of the Mohawk nation (Quebec), the publisher of CASNP, the newsletter for the Canadian Alliance in Solidarity with Native Peoples. Native American fiction writer Joseph Bruchak must cancel due to an illness in the family.
1998 NWU translates its outreach material into Spanish, following the lead of the Chicago Local.
1998 Santa Cruz Local co-sponsors a reading, "Claiming Our Voices in This Land of Immigrants," with the League of United Latin-American Citizens and a variety of ethnic organizations (union, community and church groups). The reading takes place in Watsonville, California's first predominantly Latino city. A variety of ethnic organizations sponsor the major reading. Readers include writers of Mexico, China, Africa, and Philippine ancestry. Over 400 people attend.
1998 Michigan Local organizes a multi-cultural evening of poetry, prose and music: "Telling Our Stories - Voices of Workers," an evening of readings by and for workers.
1998 NWU holds a Book Contract Training session at Behind our Masks II, an event for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered writers in Washington DC. The DC Local hosts an info. booth, as well.
1998 Philadelphia member Gary Bowen develops The DeColores Bibliography of SF by People of Color. The list of speculative fiction by writers of color is intended to raise the visibility and document the achievements of people of color in science fiction, fantasy, horror, magical realism, slipstream, surrealism, and fantastical literature. Available from email@example.com.
1998 Activists from eight NWU locals meet in Detroit/Ann Arbor for a "think tank" retreat hosted by the South East Michigan Local and organized by Emma Morgan and Sheree Thomas. The group designs an union-wide strategy to integrate the interests of writers of color, GLBT writers, and writers who have disabilities, into all areas of National Writers Union activities.
1998 Washington DC Local Literary Caucus holds a poetry reading that features a diverse line-up. The Washington DC Local votes a $1,000 donation to the national NWU diversity committee.
1998 Vermont Local hosts a day of reading, writing, music and the arts in celebration of diversity. The event, co-sponsored with ALANA Community Alliance, featured fiction writer and yoga master Harry W. Kendall, poet and musician Elliot Levin, writer Naima K. Wade, and visual artist Victor Montoya.
1998 Boston Local, at its "The Writers Life" series, holds a discussion on "Culture and Ethnicity: Sources of Inspiration" at which three writers describe how they draw from their backgrounds -- African-American, Polish, and Jewish -- in their writing. The series included an evening on "Mixing Fiction and Social Issues" - speakers include African American mystery writer Barbara Neely and first-time author Michael Lowenthal, a novelist and non- fiction editor who is gay. A third session in which authors describe how they wrote and published their first book, included Florence Ladd. The fourth session, on publishing with a small press literary book publisher, featured African-American poet Charles Coe.
1998 At-Large Local's Miami members hold a book donation drive for people who are being held by U.S. Immigration officials.
1998 Boston Local's "The Writers Life" series includes and evening of discussion on "Culture and Ethnicity: Sources of Inspiration." Three writers -- African-American, Polish, and Jewish -- describe how they draw from their backgrounds in their writing. The "Mixing Fiction and Social Issues" session includes African-American mystery writer Barbara Neely and Michael Lowenthal, a novelist and non-fiction editor who is gay. The "From Idea to Bookshelf" session, in which authors share how they wrote and published their first books, includes African- American novelist Florence Ladd. The session on publishing with a small press literary book publisher, features African-American poet Charles Coe.
1997-98 Bay Area Local co-sponsors "Yo Tambien Soy America: A Reading in Response to Columbus Day by Poets/Poetas," a reading organized by Latina writer Margot Pepper and the local's Fiction Writers and Poetry Caucus. A second reading follows, this time to support bilingual education.
1997 NWU votes to become a sponsoring organization of Pride at Work, which in turn becomes a key factor in Pride at Work gaining full status as an AFL-CIO constituency group.
1997 Santa Cruz Local holds a reception for writers contacted at the NWU booth at the Gay Pride Day Parade. The Local keeps contacts with The Lavender Reader, the principle GLBT publication in the area, and has advertised events in that paper.
1997 Michigan Local holds a panel at which Arab-American, African-American and Latino journalists talk about reporting on their people in the American media.
1997 Philadelphia Local launches a Writers on Writing series, featuring poet Sonia Sanchez, novelists David Bradley and Diane McKinney-Whetstone, columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner Acel Moore, memoirist Lorene Cary, and oral historian Lisa Funderburg. 1997 Santa Cruz Local joins a march in support of Watsonville strawberry workers and organizing efforts by the United Farm Workers.
1997 New York Association of Black Journalists asks NWU member Brett Harvey and Juliette Fairley talk to their members on "The Business of Freelancing."
1997 New York Local co-sponsors, with the National Lesbian and Gay Journalism Association and the Publishing Triangle, a Writers and Editors Roundtable panel: "Beyond Out: How Mainstream Magazines Cover Lesbian and Gay Lives." 1997 NWU diversity activist Barbara Beckwith develops a Database of Publishers, Editors and Agents who have handled writers of color, covering African-American, Asian-American, Native American, Latino, and Arab-American writers. The database is updated and expanded regularly. The resource is free to NWU members from firstname.lastname@example.org or 617-868-3143.
1997 Los Angeles Local co-sponsors a literary reading to support Guess garment workers whom the jeans manufacturer is suing for libel and slander. The workers have been organizing their fellow members into UNITE, the garment workers' union.
1997 The San Francisco Local sets up an information booth at the Urban League Jobs Fair, to reach writers of color who may want to attend its "Breaking Into Tech Writing" workshop, at which three of the four presenters are writers of color.
1996 Boston Local moves its office into a wheelchair-accessible building and holds its events, social-networking gatherings, in accessible spaces, after three members resign in discouragement or protest over the course of three years. "If we cannot be mindful of the needs of all our members," one (non-disabled) accessibility advocate wrote the Local's newsletter, "then we are failing one another and failing the democratic movement that we purport to cherish. the purpose of the Union -- any union -- is to gather together for strength. People with disabilities understand that in a way no one else can."
1997 NWU members of color successfully press for a variety of actions around diversity at the Plenary session of the annual NWU Delegates Assembly.
1996 Boston Local co-sponsors a panel "CybeRights and CyberWrongs: Protecting and Promoting Your Creative Output in Cyberspace," with speakers from each co-sponsoring group: the National Writers Union, the Asian American Journalists Association, and the Boston Association of Black Journalists.
1996 NWU defends Luis Rodriguez, whose La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A. is removed from the Rockford Illinois school library. The Chicago member's book, which won the Carl Sandburg literary award, had been dismissed as "filth."
1996 Diversity goes on-line. Yleana Martinez oversees an on-line exchange of actions and ideas between diversity activists in NWU locals across the country. The on-line posting also advertises jobs (staff positions, retreats, writers conferences, calls for submissions, staff positions) to writers of color.
1996 Boston Local activist Vanda Sendzimir creates a NWU brochure for outreach to writers of color, which becomes the model for a national brochure.
1996 The NWU's Diversity Committee hires Diane Wong, former executive director of the Asian American Journalists Association and Unity organizer, to coordinate the union's diversity efforts. Wong organizes an outreach project, sending personalized recruitment material, signed by Jewelle Gomez, E. Ethelbert Miller, Piri Thomas, Charles Coe and Alice Walker, to about 225 writers of color.
1995 San Francisco/Bay Area Local activist Alice Wilson-Fried speaks at the International Black Writers and Artists meeting during Banned Books Week. Her talk about the union's newly formed Fiction and Poetry Writers Caucus is followed by an open discussion about rapper Tupac Shakur (killed a few weeks before), and a poetry reading.
1995 NWU President Alec Dubro calls for the NWU to drop the reference on our outreach brochure to the union as a "tribe," after conferring with the Native American Journalists Association.
1995 Santa Cruz Local has an outreach table at the annual Santa Cruz Gay Pride celebration.
1995 Newly elected NWU President Jonathan Tasini and Bay Area Local activists discuss writers' issues with Oakland's largely African-American PEN Chapter, a Bay Area African American Writers group, and a Chicano publisher.
1992-1995 NWU Political Issues Committee (PIC), spearheaded by Bob Chatelle, galvanizes NWU members to defends members such as Dorothy Allison when she was disinvited from her reading engagement in Oklahoma because she is a lesbian, and Leslie Feinberg when Bradford College in Massachusetts canceled its commencement speech invitation because she is a transgendered lesbian. Other campaigns support New Hampshire school teacher Penny Culliton when she was fired for assigning E.M. Forster's Maurice and May Sarton's The Education of Harriet Hatfield. PIC also defends Cincinnati's The Pink Triangle bookstore, after its manager and a sales clerk were arrested on obscenity charges for renting an undercover detective a copy of Salo, by internationally acclaimed director Pier Paolo Pasolini.
1994 NWU GayLesBi Caucus holds a Pride Day Reading at Boston Public Library, organized by Russ Lopez.
1994 NWU holds an event at the Boston Public Library for writers of color: "Maintaining Your Integrity" with Barbara Neely, Tino Villanueva, and Charles Coe.
1994 The Boston Local pickets the week-long Boston Globe Book Festival events pointing out the almost complete lack of writers of color as speakers. The New England Aquarium, one of the Festival's co-sponsors, publicly acknowledges the problem at the plenary session of its Environmental Writers Conference and commits itself to a representative line-up at future events.
1994 The NWU campaigns to reverse California's Dept. of Education decision -- taken under pressure from the Traditional Values Coalition -- to remove Alice Walker's story, "Roselily" from its assessment test. The teachers' union leads the protest. NWU leaders testify before a legislative committee, write articles, speak out on radio, etc. The governor kills the test.
1994 The Santa Cruz local co-organizes a reading with Spanish- language El Andar:the Latino Voice for the Central Coast, to raise money for a Santa-Cruz-Watsonville area bookstore.
1994 Boston Local members Charles Coe and Yleana Martinez publish an NWU survey, developed from in-depth interviews with members and non-member writers, naming the most crucial problems facing writers of color. The NWU publishes a parallel report (researcher: Dr. Jack Porter) on issues facing gay, lesbian, and bisexual writers. The Boston Local holds a Writers Rights Day that features speakers who are writers of color and a panel specifically for writers of color.
1992-4 Boston Local's GayLesBi caucus publishes WORDS, a monthly newsletter. Under Candace Van Auken's editorship, WORDS soon becomes a national newsletter sent to GLBT members around the country: interviews, publishing news, NWU activism, submissions, member book blurbs. The Caucus's steering committee meets monthly with Russ Lopez as chair. Events include "From Inspiration to Bookstore" with authors M.S. Hunter, Warren Blumenfeld, and Candace Van Auken, a reading series featuring Jeffrey Nickel, E.J. Graff, and Neil Miller, an event featuring Sasha Alyson. 1988 Boston Local activists meet with Liberia Association of Writers president K. Moses Nagbe during his U.S. sponsored tour of the United States.
1993 NWU protests non-payment of four members owed a total of $1,700 by Reach New England, a magazine for minority business executives. At first there is no response. The NWU tells the publisher we will attend the magazine's upcoming fundraising bash and inform guests of the publisher's refusal to pay his freelancers. He then promises to pay, but fails to produce the checks. The NWU say we will notify area business organizations, public agencies and all major media outlets. The day before the fundraiser, the publisher shows up in person--with the checks.
1993 Boston Local's "Poetry on the T" project solicits poetry from locally-known poets and works with the transportation authority to post their poems on placards inside subway cars for passengers to read during their ride. Poems include "New Year's Day" by Wai-fong Loh, "Black Child" by Patricia Pickett -- a love poem to her grandchild, Garry Emmons' translation of a poem by Columbian poet Juan Gustavo Cobo Borda, and "Slum Landlord," by Lisa Fay, a housing activist who often writes of disability issues.
1993 The Boston Local holds three OutWrite93 panels: "Negotiating a Book Contract," "Writers' Rights," and "Writers' Organizations: What Do They Offer the Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual Writer?" with panelists from PEN, the Authors Guild, the Dramatists Guild, the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association, and the National Writers Union. NWU members John Preston and Jewelle Gomez are OutWrite keynotes that year.
1993 Boston Local leaders, at the invitation of gay and lesbian caucus leader Max Hunter, meet with Men of All Colors Together group for a summer picnic.
1993 Boston Local "For Love and Money" Writers Conference features a plenary with a diverse line-up: John Preston, Cheryl Woodruff and Jill Nelson. Panels include "What Independent Publishers Offer Writers" with Kassahun Checole of Red Sea Press and Martina Tristana of Arte Publico.
1993 The Boston Local profiles the writing careers of two members with disabilities in a newsletter article, "The Writing Life: With Complications," and in the same issues, profiles the four NWU members and staff (from Boston, Chicago, NYC, and San Francisco) who are experiencing the sometimes disabling Repetitive Stress Injury (RSI) from computer use.
1992 New York Local's Gay/Lesbian Caucus revives under leadership of Michael Broder and Kate Walter. Several events are planned and members march in the Gay Pride parade.
1992 Boston Local's GayLesBi Caucus, under the leadership of Max Hunter and Candyce Rusk, holds several events: "Breaking Into1991 Print," "The New Censorship," a reading by Stephen McCauley,Twin Cities member Sanford Berman works to get library to catalogue ethnic groups by the designation they prefer; specifically, Ojibway rather than Chippewa.
1991 A member donates $500 in the memory of her civil rights activist sister, Ann Kalosh, to the NWU for an award to a promising writer of color. The NWU gets the grantor's permission to agree to use the money to advice the welfare of not just one writer but of writers of color in general.
1991 NWU affiliates with the United Auto Workers, a labor union known for its progressive history and its commitment to organizing non-traditional workers. At the pre-affiliation Delegates Assembly, George Dias and Bob Chatelle call on the NWU to spearhead a campaign to have the UAW amend the anti- discrimination clause in its constitution to include sexual orientation to protect all gay, lesbian, and bisexual UAW members. NWU President Tasini introduces the motion at the UAW convention. It passes overwhelmingly approved.
1991 More locals (NYC, San Francisco, Boston) form diversity or multicultural committees. Others (Los Angeles, Minnesota, Westchester) initiate outreach to writers of color, including Hispanic and Native writers.
1991 Boston members join a group of progressive media-related organizations, to analyze the dynamics of racial diversity in largely-all white organizations, and to discuss changes all-white groups may need to make when people of color join their ranks.
1991 Boston Local co-sponsors a program with Rising Words Bookstore and the Boston YWCA. "Getting Published" features African-American writers Irene Smalls, author of several children's books, and LaRita Pryor, author of The African- American Writer's Survival Handbook.
1991 NWU publishes its report, Books in Chains, documenting the connection between chain bookstores and marketplace censorship. The NWU calls for chain bookstores to increase the availability and visibility of books by people of color, as well as other books of special interest to minority communities.
1991 Boston Local holds conference featuring Toni Cade Bambara as Keynote Speaker. Plenary include gay author Edmund White and Bill Banks of the Harlem Writers Guild. Panels include "Multilingual Writing," with Guodong Wan, Rosario Morales, Alicja Mann, "Magazine Writing," with Linda Villarosa and Elaine Ray, and "Poetry and Ethnic Diversity," with Cyrus Cassells, Paul West, Kathleen Aguero. Conference draws 500 writers. About 30 writers of color, energized by Bambara's talk, meet together and form an on-going networking group. Gay and lesbian attendees meet with Edmund White and go on to revive the local's gay/lesbian caucus.
1990-91 Boston Local's gay and lesbian members form a caucus, with monthly events and a monthly newsletter. Its first event "Lesbian and Gay Writers: Where Do We Stand?" with Amy Hoffman and John Preston, draws 30 writers. At its height, the Caucus has 100 members. The Caucus, started by the initiative of Wayne Curtis, goes through a succession of leaders over the next several years, but eventually fades when leaders must step down because of illness, relocation, and the demands of a PH.d program.
1990-91 Santa Cruz Local sets up meetings and poetry readings in areas where they will draw ethnically diverse groups of writers and works with Spanish/English newspaper and a women's newspaper to do a reading. Elba Sanchez, poet and teacher and co-editor of Revista Mujeres, a bilingual journal of poetry and fiction, reads under a banner reading "In Your Ear, Jesse Helms!" in support of National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) refunding without restrictions.
1990-91 NWU starts a Multi-Cultural Union Newsletter, compiled by NWU VP for Internal Organizing Barbara Beckwith, for locals to share information on actions they are taking (grievances, events, outreach) to support writers of color.
1990 Boston Local makes Guidelines for Reporting and Writing About People With Disabilities available to members through its Free to Members service. It also makes available through the service write-ups of talks/workshops on publishing topics of particular relevance to writers of color and to gay and lesbian writers.
1990 Nancy DuVergne Smith submits a report on census data on white and black writers in U.S., and calls on the NWU to support Black writers. Cornelius Foote of the Black Journalists Association and the American Association of Newspaper Editors, addresses the Delegates Assembly.
1990 NY Local holds a four-hour "Breaking the Silence" anti- censorship event. The reading and performance draws 200 people to oppose NEA restrictions. Readers include Sarah Shulman and Quincy Troupe.
1990 Boston Local campaigns to persuade WGBH to keep its "South Africa Now" program, which the station had decided to drop. The campaign succeeds.
1990 Santa Cruz co-sponsors an "In Your Ear, Jesse Helms!" reading with local newspapers, magazines, bookstores, and the cultural council. The event organizers call for NEA refunding without restrictions. The local also defends lesbian-feminist paper, Matrix, after it was removed from several area libraries.
1990 Chicago Local starts a multicultural diversity committee with Luis Rodriguez, Jack Hayes and Alfredo Gonzalez. Bay Area Local activists Daphne Muse and Stacey Frederick start a multicultural diversity committee. The Los Angeles Local does outreach at the annual meeting of the National Association of Black Journalists.
1990 Bay Area local cosponsors a "Torpedo the Censorship" demonstration and reading in front of the San Francisco Federal Building, to connect attacks on writers and artist with right wing attacks on homeless, elderly, gays immigrants. The event features a multicultural spectrum of readers. The event is organized by a Coalition of Writers Organizations
1990 Boston Local and the Boston Association of Black Journalists hold a "Creating a Career as a Writer" panel at Roxbury Community College. Speakers include a newspaper columnist, newsletter editor, and sports writer. The local offers to set up "shadowing" experiences for students who want to go into journalism and visits by authors of color to RCC's library.
1990 Twin Cities Local holds a Bastille Day cookout with writers from groups representing various cultures and ethnicities -- American Indian, Vietnamese, African American.
1989 Boston Local members Geri Hamlin, Peter Desmond, Vanda Sendzimir, and Barbara Beckwith help support writers of color by going to readings held by Writers of Color Workshop, Dark Room literary cooperative, and the Codman Square Library. They set up NWU Traveling Book Displays at 20 Boston-area libraries including those in ethnically diverse communities. They display an illustrated poster on Writers of Color Who Live in New England at libraries, bookstores, and the Museum of Afro American History. They get to know multicultural bookstore owners and publicize their bookstores (Rising Words-Rising Images, Savanna Books, Cultural Connections). They pass out NWU information at Boston-area talks by Isabelle Allende, Gish Jen, Terry McMillan, Gordon Parks, and others.
1989 NWU members hold demonstrations in five cities when chain bookstores remove Salman Rushdie's controversial novel, The Satanic Verses, from their stores. Over 1,000 people from a dozen organizations hold a round-the-clock vigil in support of Rushdie. The NWU's multi-city demonstrations create a groundswell of national media attention. The chain bookstores return the book to their shelves.
1989 Delegates raise diversity issues at the NWU's annual decision-making assembly. The National Executive Board commissions a report on whether the percentage of writers of color in the U.S. matches their number in various sectors of the publishing industry.
1989 NWU National Board Member Eleanor Arnason, who is also an active member of the Science Fiction Writers of America, raises the issue with the SFWA of whether, considering the lack of non- white images on science fiction books, racism is a factor in the science fiction publishing genre.
1988-89 The Bay Area Local co-sponsors a "spoken word" performance series. Wildcat Words, organized by Julia Gilden, features a diverse line-up and every other month presents a multicultural youth line-up.
1988 Demetria Martinez, At-Large member from New Mexico, is charged with conspiracy to violate immigration laws for accompanying two Salvadoran women on an illegal journey across the US border near Juarez, Mexico. NWU President Alec Dubro testifies on Martinez' behalf. He argues that independent writers provide expertise and reporting not to be found elsewhere and that they ought to be protected, not persecuted. Writers have an obligation to report crime only in most dire circumstances, he says. Martinez is found not guilty.
1987 Boston Local supports a member with disabilities after the Massachusetts Rehabilitation Commission questions her need for editing services she needs to pursue her writing career.
1987 Gloria Naylor keynotes NY Local's 2nd annual all-day conference.
1987 Boston Local contributes to a fund to defray medical expenses for New England author Andre Dubus after a truck hit him after he stopped to help stranded motorists. Dubus, who has a large family and no health insurance, lost one leg and the use of the other.
1986 NY Local's Gay Caucus, led by Brandon Judell, holds its first meeting, drawing 60 writers. Speakers include Dorothy Allison, Arnie Kantrowitz, Rebecca Lewin, Darrel Yates Rist, and Jeff Weinstein.
1986 DC Local negotiates one of the NWU's first contracts with Black Film Review. The contract covers terms for freelancers.
1986 DC Local holds a reception for Margaret Randall, threatened with deportation to back Cuba because of the content of her writing. The event attracts media interest in Randall's case. Randall is not deported.
1986 NWU campaigns on behalf of Faith Berry, whose publisher, Lawrence Hill, has refused to abide by contractual obligations to advertise her book, Langston Hughes: Before and Beyond Harlem or to return the rights to Berry so she could find a new publisher. The campaign succeeds.
1985 New York Local holds a Conference on Censorship and Culture at which Alice Walker, Ariel Dorfman, June Jordan and Dennis Brutus were speakers. NWU activist Ethelbert Miller points out the presence of African American star speakers but the paucity of Black writers in the audience. Ethelbert calls on the NWU to reach out to new and younger Black writers.
1985 Boston Local holds panel on "Reporting on South Africa" with David Goodman and South African journalist Saki Macozoma.
1983 NWU launches a campaign to support Dennis Brutus, whom the U.S. Immigration Service has threatened to deport back to South Africa, where the poet would face certain persecution. The campaign is successful: Brutus wins asylum.
1983 Ethelbert Miller, in an article in The American Writer, proposes that the union focus on small press writers (poets, etc.) to recruit Black writers to the NWU.
1983 NWU is formally launched with writer-organized locals in several cities. Early 8-member national executive boards include are overwhelmingly white and heterosexual; most include only one writer of color and/or one gay writer.
1981 A workshop on the possible unionization of freelancers, becomes the unexpected "best seller" of The National Writers Congress, sponsored by The Nation Institute. Speakers calling for a union include Thulani Davis and Luis Rodriguez. At the plenary, 3,000 writers vote to organize such a union. Writers start to organize grassroots locals all around the country.