the [margins.] awards
the story of the [margins.] awards is as the story of the conference:
reclaiming the beauty of what we create without denying the battles we fight to be here
centering our souls in imagination, celebrating the reality of our industriousness
and so were born three awards that are ours—that hold our words, our journeys, as our own:
the rishi award
is an acknowledgment of a literary artist, a seer or sage and culture bearer whose work reminds us that diverse voices are essential to a thriving cultural landscape
our 2020 rishi award winner is:
Echo Brown is a visionary storyteller from Cleveland, Ohio who strives to inspire and provoke. Her first solo show, Black Virgins Are Not for Hipsters, ran for two years to sold out crowds in San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley, Chicago, Cleveland, Berlin, Germany, and Dublin, Ireland. As a result of the success of that show, Echo was invited to give talks and workshops at places like Facebook, Google, & Dropbox and she was also invited to give two Tedx talks. The play was also named one of the top ten best shows of 2015 by Rob Hurwitt of the SF Chronicle and Sam Hurwitt of KQED.
A graduate of Dartmouth College with a B.A. in political science, Echo took an unusual path into the arts. Echo began her career as an investigator, investigating allegations of misconduct against members of the New York City Police Department. Echo went on to study investigative journalism at Columbia Graduate School of Journalism before moving to California to work for Challenge Day, an award winning non-profit that provides transformational workshops in high schools.
While working as a motivational speaker for Challenge Day, Echo created and performed dynamic and moving stories for high school audiences across the country. Seeing the impact on audiences, Echo decided to become a full-time storyteller. After discovering the Marsh in February 2013, Echo began developing Black Virgins Are Not for Hipsters with renowned theater maven and visionary, David Ford. Black Virgins is written, produced and performed by Echo.
Echo’s search for creative expression continued with the birth of her first book, Black Girl Unlimited: The Remarkable Story of a Teenage Wizard. The book is an attempt to come to terms with Echo’s difficult and traumatic childhood and make meaning out of incomprehensible experiences. Heavily autobiographical and infused with magical realism, Black Girl Unlimited fearlessly explores the intersections of poverty, sexual violence, depression, racism, and sexism—all through the arc of a transcendent coming-of-age.
Image: Book cover picture of Black Girl Unlimited, featuring an illustration of a young Black girl with short curly hair, with small birds flying in from the sides of the page.
Image: Picture of Echo Brown, wearing red earrings and a red necklace, a black shirt and blue jeans, sitting with arms crossed, head resting on her right arm, in front of a concrete wall background.
for Black Girl Unlimited: The Remarkable Story of a Teenage Wizard
Now more than ever the re-claiming of our stories is essential to remaking the world. Our legacy dwells in the stories we tell. Our bodies will die, but the words will live on forever, stoking the hearts and minds of the generations that follow. That's why it's critical those words come from us.
For so long, we could not tell our own story. It was told for us by others who could not understand us. They in their misunderstandings conjured wicked and wrong tales about who they thought we were. They said we were savages, because they couldn't understand the nature of light. They said we were ugly because they couldn't behold such beauty without supreme jealousy. "They tried to bury us as," Dinos Christianopuls said, "because they didn't know were seeds."
This book is the seed of my struggle. Let it be planted in the souls of those that need it most. Let it set fire to every marginalized heart asking the universe "Do I belong? Am I something?" Let the answer be a resounding, "YES." Let this book be a blueprint for understanding the resilience and brilliance it takes to rise from impossible circumstances. Let it be a reminder that nothing can stop the ascent of a person, or a people determined to rise. The rise is called and prophesied by the beyond and the call can never be prevented no matter how many centuries it may take to answer.
I am honored to accept this award. Thank you for answering the call of this book. I wish you all well in your journeys ahead, especially in such difficult times. Let even our darkest moments light the path ahead.
the rasquache award
is an acknowledgement of a literary artist whose way of working honors and celebrates inherent cultural wealth and the ability to sustain our communities with our existing resources
our 2020 rasquache award winner is:
Yosimar Reyes is a nationally-acclaimed Poet and Public Speaker. Born in Guerrero, Mexico, and raised in Eastside San Jose, Reyes explores the themes of migration and sexuality in his work. The Advocate named Reyes one of "13 LGBT Latinos Changing the World" and Remezcla included Reyes on their list of "10 Up And Coming Latinx Poets You Need To Know."
His first collection of poetry, For Colored Boys Who Speak Softly… was self-published after a collaboration with the legendary Carlos Santana. His work has also been published in various online journals and books including Mariposas: An Anthology of Queer Modern Latino Poetry (Floricanto Press), Queer in Aztlán: Chicano Male Recollections of Consciousness and Coming Out (Cognella Press), and the forthcoming Joto: An Anthology of Queer Xicano & Chicano Poetry (Kórima Press). Reyes was featured in the Documentary, "2nd Verse: The Rebirth of Poetry."
He is a LAMBDA Literary Fellow as well as the recipient of the Undocupoets Fellowship. Reyes previously served as Artist-in-Residence at the media and culture organization, Define American.
Reyes has toured and presented at university campuses across the United States. He is currently working on his one-man show, "Prieto," to premiere in the near future. Reyes holds a B.A in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University.
Image: Picture with a purple and green tint effect, of Yosimar Reyes sitting and looking at camera, wearing a white hat, white jacket, black shirt, and jeans.
the alchemy award
is an acknowledgement of an organizer or organization whose work in the literary arts is to craft and conjure a more inclusive and equitable world
our 2020 alchemy award winner is:
Alice Wong (she/her) is a disabled activist, media maker, and consultant. She is the Founder and Director of the Disability Visibility Project® (DVP), a community partnership with StoryCorps and an online community dedicated to creating, sharing and amplifying disability media and culture created in 2014. Alice is also a co-partner in four projects: DisabledWriters.com, a resource to help editors connect with disabled writers and journalists, #CripLit, a series of Twitter chats for disabled writers with novelist Nicola Griffith, #CripTheVote, a nonpartisan online movement encouraging the political participation of disabled people with co-partners Andrew Pulrang and Gregg Beratan, and Access Is Love with co-partners Mia Mingus and Sandy Ho, a campaign that aims to help build a world where accessibility is understood as an act of love instead of a burden or an afterthought.
In 1997 she graduated with degrees in English and sociology from Indiana University at Indianapolis. She has a MS in medical sociology and worked at the University of California, San Francisco as a Staff Research Associate for over 10 years. During that time she worked on various qualitative research projects and co-authored online curricula for the Community Living Policy Center, a Rehabilitation Research and Training Center funded by the National Institute on Disability, Independent Living, and Rehabilitation Research.
Recognized for her service to the community and activism at the local and national level, Alice received the Beacon Award by the San Francisco Mayor’s Disability Council in 2010 and the Disability Service Award by the University of California, San Francisco in 2011. From 2013 to 2015 Alice served as a member of the National Council on Disability, an appointment by President Barack Obama. Alice is the recipient of the 2016 AAPD Paul G. Hearne Leadership Award, an award for emerging leaders with disabilities who exemplify leadership, advocacy, and dedication to the broader cross-disability community.
Currently, Alice is the Editor of Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-first Century, an anthology of essays by disabled people.
for the Disability Visibility Project
Photo of an Asian American woman in a power chair. She is wearing a blue shirt with a geometric pattern with orange, black, white, and yellow lines and cubes. She is wearing a mask over her nose attached to a gray tube and bright red lip color. She is smiling at the camera. Photo credit: Eddie Hernandez Photography
Image: book cover of ‘Disability Visibility: First Person Stories from the 21st Century Edited by Alice Wong’ the book cover has overlapping triangles in a variety of bright colors with black text overlaying them and an off-white background. Book cover by Madeline Partner.
Thank you very much to the award committee for selecting me and everyone involved with The Word. I still feel like a relative outsider or new person in the literary arts and I appreciate your recognition of my work to advance the conversations on disability, accessibility, and inclusion in publishing.
More about the project: