A number of presses have been impacted by the aftermath of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer, but perhaps none in as many different ways as Graywolf Press, which is headquartered near downtown Minneapolis, less than five miles from where Floyd was held down until he died. In recognition of the protests that have taken part in the city these past three weeks, Graywolf is giving back to its community with $25,000 in donations to five Twin Cities organizations that work to improve the quality of life for all residents.
The $25,000 is a portion of revenue that the publisher has earned as the result of the recent spike in sales of its titles addressing racism in America, especially Claudia Rankine’s 2014 book-length poem, Citizen.
Citizen, famously, contains a list of names of Black Americans who have been the victims of police brutality and hate crimes which resulted in their deaths; the list is updated with each print run. Citizen has just gone into a 22nd printing and the list has been updated to include Floyd, as well as Breonna Taylor, recently killed by police in Louisville, Ky. in her own home. There are more than 350,000 copies of Citizen in print.
In a letter to the press’ supporters, publisher Fiona McCrae noted that the civil unrest hits Graywolf employees particularly hard, seeing as Floyd was killed by a Minneapolis police officer. "For many of us," she wrote, "The same questions keep coming up with fresh urgency: what can I do to respond to the needs of this movement, in my own personal life, as a person with institutional power, with the external work that my organization does, and with the work the organization needs to do internally."
"As part of our response to the pain suffered by the local BIPOC communities,” McCrae explained, Graywolf will donate the $25,000 to five organizations selected by its junior employees, many of whom participated in protests and/or the community cleanups that took place in some neighborhoods afterwards. Those organizations are MIGIZI Communications; Juxtaposition Arts; Minnesota Healing Justice Network; We Love Saint Paul (The Saint Paul Area Chamber of Commerce Charitable Foundation); and #RestoreNorth (West Broadway Business and Area Coalition in partnership with Northside Funders Group).
While two are community-building organizations, one in Minneapolis and one in St. Paul, two are arts organizations; Minnesota Healing Justice Network is committed to health equity.
McCrae also announced that Graywolf will expand upon its three-year-old Citizen Literary Initiative “ensuring that our diverse array of writers gets the professional and financial support they need, seeing how we can continue to find rising audiences for our books, and ensuring that diversity and inclusion are increasingly evident throughout all levels our organization.” The initiative includes a 10-month paid fellowship for people of color interested in pursuing a career in publishing or a related literary field.
There are also plans, McCrae said in her letter, to organize a series of virtual events around Graywolf authors “and possibly other thought leaders,” to be called Essential Conversations; and “perhaps a new series of short books, Critical Issues, to focus on urgent contemporary issues by younger writers of color.”
This story has been updated with further information.