They say curiosity killed the cat, but insatiable inquisition is a common trait among some of the world’s most intelligent people. In today’s digital age, the importance of the printed book and the great authors of yesteryear can become lost in the shuffle, but in 2012, story-passionate Glory Edim saw this niche as an opportunity to meet and grow an online community of fellow information-devourers.
Three years ago, she launched Well-Read Black Girl as a personal platform for expressing her passion for authors such as Toni Morrison, Alice Walker and June Jordan, and to share relevant articles, photos and quotes. Since then, her community of follower-turned-friends has grown into a Brooklyn-based book club and newsletter that celebrates the uniqueness of black literature.
Today, Glory is joining us to share the three tips — that helped her get to where she is today — on how to curate and create your own virtual community. –Sabrina
Photography by Erin Foster
Just say the name Toni Morrison in front of curious, bookish black women and there will be immediate, spirited conversation. We’ll gladly exchange favorite novels. Perhaps quote her infallible wisdom. The 84-year-old author’s captivating storytelling and vivid dialogue has left an imprint on the lives of countless readers. I remember my first encounter with The Bluest Eye as a naive seventh grader. Pecola’s infatuation with Shirley Temple and the innocent question, “How do you get someone to love you?” left me bewildered. I was slowly developing my own self-awareness and wondered if I was more like Claudia or Pecola? Did I have to choose? With every page, I expected Morrison herself to answer my questions.
My inquisitiveness only increased as I grew older. I had questions for every author I encountered at Howard University: Gwendolyn Brooks; June Jordan; Toni Cade Bambara; Audre Lorde; Alice Walker; Zora Neale Hurston. My reading list was endless. Along the way, I met young girls like myself: creative, self-determined, and all seeking answers and affirmations in the books they read. Together we celebrated our narratives and proclaimed our inner joy.
Honestly, my book club is simply a manifestation of my lived experience. Fortunately, I’ve always been surrounded by #WellReadBlackGirls.
I started Well-Read Black Girl to honor the phenomenal writers on my bookshelf and, ultimately, highlight the uniqueness of this unspoken sisterhood. I turned to Tumblr and Instagram to share my reading list, and to my pleasant surprise, oodles of book-reading people responded. I couldn’t be happier with how the community is growing — both online and off.
So, where do you begin when you want to share your story? How do you discover people that resonate with your vision? Here are my three tips for finding your virtual community:
1. Engage Online
Explore the Internet and make it your mission to find likeminded individuals. Social media helps you discover people who are passionate, engaged and share your enthusiasm. Participate in Twitter Chats. Use hashtags. Share photos on Instagram. Follow people you admire on Facebook. Comment on Tumblr posts. And yes, attend events in person! I met author Naomi Jackson at the Greenlight Bookstore and our friendship grew on Twitter. I absolutely loved her debut novel, The Star Side of Bird Hill, and used every opportunity possible to start online conversations with fellow readers. With enough consistency, what can seem like relatively small digital connections can lead to amazing collaborations.
2. Be Authentic
Start a blog, podcast or newsletter on a subject that interests you and start building your own community. The WRBG newsletter is distributed biweekly. I primarily share book recommendations, Beyoncé gifs and articles I find intriguing. I’m very intentional about how I curate the newsletter. Creating with intention means focusing on authenticity. My longtime friends can “hear” my voice in each message. Your community are the ones whose values align with your own. You need to be true to yourself, whatever the platform!
3. Start Small
Remember, when it comes to finding your virtual community, it’s okay to start small. Every action you make builds momentum online. It starts with posting an image on Instagram, making one new friend on Twitter, or having an inspiring IRL conversation with a mentor. Cultivate those relationships. And the more regularly you connect with others, the deeper your relationships will become (and the more benefits you will enjoy!).
Although I’m still figuring things out, there’s something I’m learning with each Well-Read Black Girl newsletter I write: the more you embrace who you are, the more vivid your presence will be, and the easier it will be for you to grow your community. It’s likely that one community member will lead you to another. You’ll start to see the synchronicity. Be open to it.