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Life & Work with Romaine Washington

Today we’d like to introduce you to Romaine Washington.

Romaine, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
As a young girl, on evenings and weekends, I would sit by the radio and listen to Nikki Giovanni and The Last Poets on the college stations. At 16, I went down to the local college radio studio and asked the DJ to record me. He told me he only recorded professionals and, I don’t know where I got the nerve from, but I said, “I am a professional” and that summer I heard my poetry on the local radio. Sometimes it only takes one act of generosity to encourage someone for a lifetime. Since then, I have had three books published, “Coffee House Chatter” (Counterfeit Monday Press), “Sirens in Her Belly” (Jamii Publishing) and “Purgatory Has an Address” (Bamboo Dart Press).

Alright, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I have ADHD; it’s something that I usually do not openly talk about with other adults. It is a challenge I didn’t know I had until a little over ten years ago. The more I learn about it, the more I see its impact on some of the challenges I have experienced. But my passion for literature and writing is my life’s focus and I’ve been teaching English Language Arts for over twenty years. In the classroom, I openly tell my students that I have ADHD because I know there are some who wrestle with it; and I share my reading and writing strategies with them.

Appreciate you sharing that. What else should we know about what you do?
As a poet who teaches, I have been able to encourage students who show an interest in writing poetry. When Sirens in Her Belly was published a teacher expressed an interest in teaching the book to her class. This inspired me to create a curriculum for the book with a focus on social justice. The unit lessons are available on my website and I have had wonderful feedback from both teachers and students. Most recently a student said, “I can’t believe that you do what you love. You not only teach English, but you actively write”.

When I was in high school reading black writers was something I had to find on my own. This was part of the reason why I thought writing couldn’t be a serious career option. So, to go from no exposure in my own high school experience to having my writing taught in a classroom by other teachers is one of my most fulfilling experiences. Although I have been mostly known for writing about social injustice, I do write about a variety of topics.

Any big plans?
Currently, I have been participating in a project, Bridges that Carried us over: Archiving Black History in San Bernardino. This was my hometown and when I decided to write a series of poems about Westside San Bernardino, there were no books about it and very little that it helped to capture the idyllic black community I grew up in. I have been honored to be able to interview some of the black elders and write about them and this experience.

As an educator and lifelong learner, plan to take classes that will help me to stretch my skills and write some of those screenplays and short stories I’ve had swirling in my mind. Sometimes I weave a story for my students as an example for an assignment and they will ask – what movie is that?

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Photo credit and work of art by Eunice Franco.

With Lois Carson. Photo is taken by Jennifer Tilton

With YA authors Isabel Quintero, Kerry Kletter, Jeff Zentner and John Corey Whaley. Photo credit to Jennifer Teresi.

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