"Black in the Middle" Virtual Book Conversation Series: Pt. 3, "Now"

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Contributors to the new anthology (Belt Publishing), "Black in the Middle," respond to questions about contemporary midwestern Black life

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RSVP for Part One: "Home" (12/12/20) and Part Two: "Past" (1/16/21)

Join us for part three of a three-part Virtual Book Conversation Series with contributors to Black in the Middle: An Anthology of the Black Midwest! February's event features the "Now" panel and will include Curtis L. Crisler, Nia Easley, Lyndsey Ellis, Deva Rashed-Boone, Wylliam Smith, Vanessa Taylor, DeMar Walker, and Kim-Marie Walker.

What do we do in light of recent studies that have found that housing and school segregation and racial disparities in income, education, incarceration rates, and other measures are starkest for black people living within the Midwest and Rust Belt regions of the United States? What might our writing and our art reveal about the experiences of black life in the midst of all that we are struggling with and against? How do we find joy, even and especially now?

Copies of Black in the Middle are available here on our ready-to-ship website, which also has a wide selection of recommended and best-selling books, store merch, book subscription boxes, and more. You can request specific books you don't see on the site through this form, too. All orders ship from our store in Pittsburgh.

You can also purchase Black in the Middle, as well as several of these contributors' books, on our list for recent and upcoming events. Check out our curated lists and picks on our main affiliate page, or use the search bar in the upper center-right to look for any book. (Using the book's ISBN usually works best.)

This event will be hosted on Zoom. You'll receive the link to the Zoom meeting the day of the event via email. Free registration/ticket sales will end at 6:30pm ET on 2/13. Please email if you miss this cut-off and need a ticket. For questions, check out our FAQ for events here.


About Black in the Middle:

Essays about the Black experience in Middle America

Black Americans have been among the hardest hit by the rapid deindustrialization and accompanying economic decline that have become so synonymous with the Midwest. Since the 2016 election, many traditional media outlets have renewed attention on the conditions of “Middle America,” but the national discourse continues to marginalize the Black people who live there. Black in the Middle brings the voices of Black Midwesterners front and center. Filled with compelling personal narratives, thought-provoking art, and searing commentaries, this anthology explores the various meanings and experiences of blackness throughout the Rust Belt, the Midwest, and the Great Plains. Bringing together people from major metropolitan centers like Detroit and Chicago as well as smaller cities and rural areas where the lives of Black residents have too often gone unacknowledged, this collection is a much-needed corrective to the narrative of the region.

About tonight's contributors:

Curtis L. Crisler was born and raised in Gary, Indiana. Crisler has five full-length poetry books, two YA books, and five poetry chapbooks. He’s been published in a variety of magazines, journals, and anthologies. He’s been an editor and contributing poetry editor. Also, he created the Indiana Chitlin Circuit. Crisler is a Professor of English at Purdue University Fort Wayne (PFW) in Fort Wayne, IN. He can be contacted at

Nia Fitzmaurice Gnall Easley is an artist and designer based in Chicago. She creates works that address issues of visibility, accessibility, urban migration, social justice and data visualization. Her artist's books are currently in the collections at SAIC, DePaul University, Northwestern University, and the University of Iowa. She has participated in exhibitions in the United States, Switzerland, and the Czech Republic. Easley is the recipient of several grants and awards including the ThreeWalls Outside the Walls Award (2018), and a Chicago IAP Grant (2019). She enjoys contributing to the culture by any means necessary. Insta: @niaeasleydesign.

Lyndsey Ellis is a fiction writer and essayist who's passionate about exploring intergenerational resilience in the Midwest. She was a recipient of the San Francisco Foundation’s Joseph Henry Jackson Literary Award in 2016 and the Money For Women/Barbara Deming Memorial Fund in 2018 for her fiction.  Ellis is a Kimbilio Fiction Fellow and prose editor for great weather for MEDIA. Her writing appears in midnight & indigo, The Offing, Joyland, Entropy, Shondaland, and elsewhere. Ellis's debut novel, Bone Broth, will be published by Hidden Timber Books in spring 2021. Find her at 

A writer and educator born and raised in rural southeast Texas, grown by St. Louis, MO, and cultivated in Columbus, OH, Deva Rashed-Boone earned her undergraduate degree in African and Afro-American Studies, with a minor concentration in Women's Studies, from Washington University in St. Louis. While Ohio is the sole historically “free state” in which she has lived, the only truly free states she has encountered to date are merely states of mind stemming from her love of her Faith, words, education, children, Afrodescendants throughout the Diaspora, women of color, and other marginalized people.

Wylliam Smith is a comic book writer and columnist from Grand Rapids, Michigan with a focus on race relations and male gender norms. A University of Iowa graduate, Smith has worked throughout his career as an activist in many mediums and is most known for his columns in the Daily Iowan newspaper where he was named 2019's Master Columnist by the Iowa Newspaper Association. During the summer of 2020 his primary focus was working with the Iowa City, Iowa BLM protest group known as the Iowa Freedom Riders as their PR manager. Now based in Brooklyn, New York, Smith is still working on redefining Black superhero comics with his podcast Black Ice.

Vanessa Taylor is a Philadelphia-based writer focusing on Black Muslim womanhood and technology. She is the curator of NAZAR, an independent journalism project on surveillance, and the founding Editor-in-Chief of The Drinking Gourd, a Black Muslim literary magazine. 

DeMar Walker is the Artistic Director of Ko-Thi Dance Company & the Ton Ko-Thi Children’s Performing Ensemble based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. As a dance teaching artist, they are trained in Hip Hop/Street, West African & Afro-Caribbean techniques. Since 2014, DeMar has been an Associate Lecturer in the Peck School of the Arts/Department of Dance at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. They have also traveled to Guinea & Senegal, West Africa to participate in international workshops with acclaimed dance artists Youssouf Koumbassa, Patrick Acgony & Alesandra Seutin.

Kim-Marie Walker is a nonfiction and fiction writer recently published in Literary Hub, Killens Review of Arts and Letters, Our Voices, Our Stories Anthology, Birds Thumb, The Compassion Anthology, Talking Stick, Track Four, NILVX; and author of Zebras from Heaven, a memoir. A travel memoir about her solo pilgrimage to America’s transatlantic slave trade ports, honoring the first footsteps of Middle Passage Africans, is a work in progress. Writing residencies include VONA/Voices Writers Workshop, Rhode Island Writers Colony, and Wildacres Retreat. For more information, please visit

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