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Callaloo 24.4 (2001) viii-x
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A Journal Of Necessity
Notes from the Editor
This issue is the fourth and final in a series celebrating the 25th Anniversary of the publication of Callaloo. In 1976 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, I founded and began publishing the quarterly journal, an idea I had conceived in 1974, when I was visiting on my father's farm in Auburn, Alabama. I had retreated there from my teaching duties at Southern University to continue an investigation of Southern black writers' uses of vernacular traditions. It would be two years later, however, that a variety of individuals would assist me in making the idea of a Black South literary journal a living publication whose original aim was simply to identify, encourage, support, and publish excellent writing produced by black people in and from the South. With support from many friends, assistance from students in my extra-curricular creative writing workshop, and editorial help from a number of my colleagues in the Department of English at Southern University, I would gather and select manuscripts for publication by the fall of 1976, when I launched the first issue of Callaloo with funds from a campaign among friends in Baton Rouge and across the country. My friends generously supported the project because they, too, believed in its goals and viewed it as potentially fulfilling certain needs of a segment of Southern society that had been too long excluded from the discourse on the region's literature, arts, and culture. The current issue of the quarterly, along with the three that immediately preceded it, is not only a celebration of the journal's 25th Anniversary; it is also an expression of gratitude to all of those people who helped, in one way or another, in the inaugural production and publication of Callaloo.
Why another Southern journal in 1976? But Callaloo was not--and is not--just another Southern literary journal. Callaloo was--and still is--a journal of necessity. Even at its inception, Callaloo was more than "just another Southern literary journal." Founded as a forum to fulfill certain regional needs, the journal was and continues to be a statement about the human spirit: the will to tell one's story (and that of one's community) in one's own voice without interference or intervention from those forces which have tried to ignore or erase it, marginalize or suppress it, silence or exclude it, or exploit or commodify it. I have no doubt that what led me to the founding of Callaloo, then, was a combination of circumstances, forces, and events, not the least of which was the collective Black South's need of a periodical to make public the voices of its different writers, new and developing, as well as established. Since the 19th century, the White South, with its infinite resources derived in great part from the enslaved and later exploited hands of black people, has provided a variety of literary journals for white writers, but not a single one of them has ever made a sustained effort to minister to black writing communities by encouraging, supporting and publishing their work. Southern white writing communities, along with their editors and publishers, have engaged in the racial politics of exclusion, and have thereby left [End Page viii] regional black writers--and potential black writers--to go searching in vain for publication outlets outside the South. Back in 1976 my friends, colleagues, and I attempted to help solve this regional problem by founding, producing, and beginning the publication of Callaloo.
In its early stages, Callaloo, as a Black South journal of arts and letters, published work by such Southern writers as James Alan McPherson, Brenda Marie Osbey, Tom Dent, and Alice Walker. In fact, I devoted the third issue of Callaloo (the journal's first special issue, Spring, 1978) to Ernest J. Gaines, whose prose fiction is set in the rural environs of southern Louisiana. But with the publication of the fourth issue (Fall 1978), I extended the scope of the journal beyond the South by publishing work by black writers...