Introduction to the Black Lives Matter Special Issue

March 5, 2018

Introduction to the Black Lives Matter Special Issue

by RESTLESS Guest Editor Katrina Otuonye

Read the rest of the Black Lives Matter Special Issue here.

When my mother cleans anything, she takes everything out. Of the fridge, the pantry, the papers in the bill box. Everything is strewn on the floor, on the countertops, on the dining room table. I used to find it endlessly frustrating. Sorting everything out seemed to take forever, when I wanted to go outside and play or stay curled up in my room with a book.

I wanted to do a quick sweep around the things that were already there. I wanted to dust only the pieces of shelf I could see, I wanted to wipe down only what seemed a bit stained in the fridge, or any leftovers that might have a whiff of something the baking soda didn’t soak up and waft away. I wanted it to be easy. But the immediate way, the passive once-over, always ended up being much worse later on. When I’m searching for something that I know is right there, hidden somewhere in this desk.

Writing is connecting. One thread, one phrase, and one story at a time, patching people together. There are so many things in the world that we don’t do for ourselves, but the ability to try to place the intangible on a page, to make people feel, to dig and struggle and find, in order to convey some aspect of our existence…. it’s what can make us whole. My hope is that this issue is for all the people who have a story to tell, even if they are not currently ready to share it. For people who have put their stories out there hoping make a difference, for people striving to improve their craft.

I don’t know how to teach people empathy, how to encourage the world to know that they should care about other people. Each of the artists in this issue aims to inimitably capture and illuminate our lives. We’re trying to take the intangible and make it whole. We have been holding “Black Lives Matter” in the palms of our hands. We have been passing this along like an offering, holding it out to different people, passing it one to another, chanting it from the streets, demanding it in our courtrooms, whispering it on rooftops.

We clasp these stories in our own hands and we carry them with us. It’s just one person holding a small piece of their heart over and saying, “Here is my story. I hope you’ll take care of this.” It’s all in the hopes that the readers in return accept the gift of our work, and says, “I see you clearly.”

Because all of this storytaking and storykeeping can be cathartic. It’s worth it in the end. But writing and sharing these stories is a lengthy, soul-searching process. And it’s never easy.

When I was younger, all those years ago, I would open the pantry door and realize what progress my mother had made, how clean and shiny and new everything looked. How we knew where everything was, and exactly where to find it. You won’t actually see the mess at all if do this in a rush. If you’re aiming for the endgame instead of reveling in the process. Make a list. Open the pantry door. Start at the top, and work your way down. You’ll get it all cleared out, eventually. And you’ll bring other people along with you.


Photo of Katrina OtuonyeKatrina Otuonye is a writer and editor from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. She thought she’d make it as a medical doctor, before she realized she wouldn’t get to hang around with Dick Van Dyke and solve crimes on “Diagnosis: Murder.” Her interests in public health and bioethics, along with her preoccupation with fairness, led her to writing extensive lab reports instead of doing actual lab work. She graduated with an Honors BA in Creative Writing from the University of Tennessee and holds an MFA from Chatham University in Pittsburgh.

Katrina’s creative writing focuses mainly on intersections of race and culture, but she is also known to write about Batman, health disparities, traveling, and her spotty karaoke skills. Her fiction and nonfiction have appeared in Crab Orchard Review, Litro Magazine, The Feminist Wire, Atticus Review, and The Toast, among others. She is currently hard at work procrastinating on a novel and a collection of creative nonfiction. You can find her collecting quotes and posting links on Tumblr and Twitter or tinkering on her website:


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