Letter of Support for Suzanne Brockmann and Diversity and Inclusion
Here is a copy of the letter I wrote to RWA's board, for those who'd care to read it:
Dear RWA Board:
My name is Lisa Lin and I have been a member of RWA since 2011. I am writing this letter to express my full support for Suzanne Brockmann's speech Thursday night as she accepted the Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award during the RITA awards in Denver. During her speech, I saw some who did not appear to react well, and I have seen some negative reactions on social media. I wanted to counter those voices and let the Board know that I, and many others like me, applaud her message, and the work the Board is doing.
I thought Suzanne's speech was a strong impassioned plea for empathy, compassion, inclusion, tolerance, and diversity. No doubt she ruffled some feathers, but in my opinion, she spoke from the heart and while for some, the things she said were difficult to hear, they were important, necessary, and had to be said. It was long past due that someone openly acknowledged how far RWA has come, but how far it still has to go.
I am proud to be part of an organization that is doing its best to move forward and be inclusive of EVERYONE. The one rule we have is that we believe in HEAs for all. I applaud the BoD for their hard work to fulfill that mission statement. Little things like including closed captioning during the awards and luncheon ceremonies, making sure the hotel and meeting rooms were accessible to those with disabilities speak volumes. I am proud of how hard RWA is working to help authors of color and marginalized voices be heard. I know authors who have, in the past, felt that RWA has not been as welcoming and inclusive as it should be. Some have long since left the organization because of it. I am extremely lucky that from the beginning, I have felt embraced and accepted by RWA. Tessa Dare and Katharine Ashe actively encouraged me to bite the bullet and join this organization in 2011, and I have renewed my membership every year because the community of writers and women I have found here has been nothing short of amazing and inspiring.
But I want that experience for everyone. During her keynote speech in 2016, Beverly Jenkins talked about how at a RWA conference, a more "established" author literally turned their back on her. I cannot imagine the strength, determination, and resilience it must have taken her to keep believing, and to keep coming back to the RWA conference year after year after receiving treatment like that. We can only be grateful that she did. But if someone like Beverly Jenkins could be treated like that, imagine what treatment authors of color or LGBT authors, attending their first conference or publishing their first book may be subject to. Those who are just starting out don't have the platform or network or support system to weather such slings and arrows. RWA should be a place where ALL can feel welcomed and embraced, just as I was back in 2011.
In fact, it is so important to me, that for the past two elections, I specifically looked at the candidate statements and supported those that wanted to build on the direction RWA is going, and discussed the importance of supporting the mission to be open, diverse, and inclusive. This year will be no different. Strong voices for openness and diversity like Tessa Dare, Courtney Milan, Farrah Rochon, and Carolyn Jewel will be termed out. I am hoping those that take their place will follow in their footsteps to continue their work to ensure that RWA is an organization that is open to all.
RWA is not perfect, and will never be perfect. But the goal is to always strive to do the most good for the greatest number of members. I believe this current Board is doing that. We have come a long way. But there is still a ways to go. But I believe that as long as RWA keeps listening, doing its best, and keeps embracing diversity and inclusion, it will keep going in the right direction.