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Daily Inspiration: Meet Shonda Buchanan

Today we’d like to introduce you to Shonda Buchanan. 

Hi Shonda, can you start by introducing yourself? We’d love to learn more about how you got to where you are today?
I am the daughter and granddaughter of Mixed Bloods, Free People of Color, Black Indians who were farmers, settlers and early political figures in the 1800s and 1900s. Such a beautiful way to introduce myself and be introduced – through my lineage and heritage. I’m also a poet and award-winning memoirist who writes about her family, “Who’s Afraid of Black Indians?” and “Black Indian.” These books tell our story, and my story, of being bi-racial and tri-racial at a time when it was outlawed or dangerous to claim all your ethnicities. My writing pushes back on the white colonial narrative and covert racism that attempted to quell and crush us. I’m very Nina Simone in my creative leanings. In fact, I’m working on a collection of poetry about Nina Simone and her life.

I’m also a traveler – A true nomad or travel junkie. Literally, I’ve been on the road since I was 18, having left my small town of Kalamazoo, Michigan for the big city of Lost Angels. I’ve moved maybe 30 times in my life, driven across Indian Country at least 15 times, and traveled to 11 or 12 countries, and I still haven’t been everywhere I want to go. This world is vast and wide, which is why I am an avid supporter of preserving our earth in a holistic way and living as holistically as possible to make a smaller footprint. Sometimes it feels like nothing you do matters, but that’s not true. It takes everyone to walk lightly on their earth, as we walk in the Native American pow wow circles, teach our children and corporations to walk lightly, and then Mama Earth can heal. And then we can heal, too.

Currently, I’m working on a second memoir, a historical novel, two collections of poetry—one about the founders of Los Angeles—and two screenplays. My life is writing and I’m not afraid to say that whereas some people are hesitant to say this. I write, teach writing at my alma mater Loyola Marymount University and hang with a crew of amazing writers. It’s all I want to do with the rest of my life—tell stories; disrupt the paradigm with narratives that haven’t yet been told. I love speaking with youth and international audiences about America’s hidden narratives of Black Indians and Free People of Color.

I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
I highlighted this earlier, yet my young life, my adult life, my writing life, my body politic have been immersed in the “how” to fight and change injustice, racism, inequity, lack of diversity. It’s funny how you don’t know this as a younger person until you look back on your poems and short stories, and your work as an educator, and see the leanings of an activist. I’m a literary activist. I’m following in Toni Morrison, Ntozake Shange, bell hooks, Gloria Naylor’s footsteps. I’ve held this identity since my first poem at nine years old and I’m now 53. All my struggles as a single mother, as a woman, a budding scholar, as a Black person, as a Black Indian in America, at every intersection, have been marked by both adversity and triumph. I’m lucky to be able to share my story in multiple venues like The Broad Museum, The Music Center, in Greece, Malaysia, Amsterdam, nationally, locally, in lectures and workshops. I love the challenge of sharing unknown narratives. To be able to do this work on a larger level, I’ve decided to compile a genealogy workbook so people can follow in my footsteps to find their own ancestors. Stay tuned for this via my website, www.shondabuchanan.com, Facebook and my Instagram page.

Thanks – so what else should our readers know about your work and what you’re currently focused on?
I’m proud of all my work. Yet, the first collection of poetry, Who’s Afraid of Black Indians? and the award-winning memoir, Black Indian, are near and dear to my heart for how they tell a unique family narrative, which is in fact the narrative of America. My work also highlights institutional racism in America yet while it highlights these social ills, I also find the beauty of a moment in my work because that’s how I save myself.

What has been the most important lesson you’ve learned along your journey?
Listen for the ceremony in your heart. Pay attention to it. Know your worth and teach people how to treat you. As a child, we go through the process of asking permission to be a thing, to have, to exist, to eat, receive love, to not be hurt. As you grow older, find your craft, make mistakes and reboot, you finally learn to speak up for yourself and to set boundaries in friendships and relationships. That’s when you can say you’ve grown up. I am forever growing up. Yet I look forward to every step of this journey.

Contact Info:


Image Credits:

Michael Rababy shot pics of me in black shirt/red jacket and peach shirt. Dennis Lovelace shot pic of me in the orange shirt.

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