Meet the Imani Literary Group of Metro Atlanta
Ella Curry: Hello Angela, thank you for sharing a moment with the Sankofa Literary Society. We want readers to meet our fantastic bookclubs and literary groups. The publishing industry could not stand without the support of reader’s groups. Share the history of the Imani Literary Group.
Angela Reid: Rashida Sule’ Sloan had the brilliant idea to start a reading group when she realized that she and several of her coworkers were reading the same book–Terry McMillan’s Waiting to Exhale. She suggested that they meet and discuss their book, the Imani Literary Group was born!
Established in 1992, the Imani Literary Group of Metro Atlanta is a dynamic group of Black women who come together once a month to engage in literary discussions about books by and with the authors we love, we encourage and we promote.
Imani, the seventh principle of Kwanzaa means faith, for Imani has faith in our authors. Meetings are held at members’ homes, African American-owned restaurants, libraries and bookstores. Imani Sisters are serious about our books! One must read at least one of the monthly selections to attend a meeting. Yes, we usually read and discuss two books each month. We also occasionally host a meeting with our teenage little sisters to read and discuss a book with them. Presently, Imani has twelve active members with two frequent visitors and a poet-in-residence.
Over the years Imani has transitioned from a book club to a sisterhood of women who enjoy the company of each other, support each other through rough times and celebrate with each other in monumental times.
EDC: Share with us books that you would define as Literary Hallmarks.
Angela Reid: Here are a few books that I define as “Literary Hallmarks.”
Song of Solomonby Toni Morrison
Love by Toni Morrison
Blood on the Leaves by Jeff Stetson
Mama Day by Gloria Naylor
Standing at the Scratch Line by Guy Johnson
The Douglass Women by Jewell Parker-Rhodes
Tumbling by Diane McKinney-Whetstone
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel
Song Yet Sung by James McBride
The Hand I Fan With by Tina McElroy Ansa
Another Good Loving Blues by Arthur Flowers
The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
In Search of Satisfaction by J. California Cooper
Wake of the Wind by J. California Cooper
Kindred by Octavia Butler
The Sacred Place by Daniel Black
What Looks Like Crazy on an Ordinary Day by Pearl Cleage
When Rocks Dance by Elizabeth Nunez
Do Lord Remember Me by Marita Golden
After by Marita Golden
Cotton Candy Don’t Come in Gray by Roslyn Carrington
No Easy Place to Be by Steven Corbin
One Day I Saw a Black King by JD Mason
EDC: What do you define as Quality Literature?
Angela Reid: I have been a lover of lyrical beauty since my mother read to me while I was in her womb. I used to read with a flashlight under my covers when my parents turned off the lights at bedtime. When I finally had access to books about and by folks who looked like me, I had my heaven on earth! I now spend the most of my income on BOOKS for me and those I love. A book is the most precious and thoughtful gift I can give, especially to the children in my life.
So my thoughts on Quality Literature are: Writers owe those of us who love to read. I believe that excellent writers, as well as all artists have been GIFTED with the talent to write and many have been gifted with their stories. They owe us the time and care of telling their stories well, of consistently developing their craft so that everything they publish makes us proud to add their offerings to our collections. To quote Nathan McCall, “One must first decide if he/she wants to be a good writer or just wants to be published.” I want, deserve and expect good writing!
EDC: What is the primary mission of the group?
Angela Reid: Imani is the seventh principle of Kwanzaa and means faith. Imani Literary Group reads books by and about us (BLACK PEOPLE) because we have faith in OUR authors. Our mission is to support our authors and to promote reading and literacy among all with whom we are connected.
EDC: Do you have outreach programs or events that we can support?
Angela Reid: Imani members have participated in literary retreats and conferences around the country. Since many of us have children, we have begun reading and discussing their books with them at a yearly meeting. Imani also donates books to children who live in group homes, shelters and detention centers, and recently to the New Orleans Public Libraries. We have a yearly fundraiser, selling African American Expressions’ cards, calendars, etc., to support our efforts to put books by us in the hands of our children and teenagers and to bring authors to our meetings.
Since I taught in a diverse, multicultural, low-income public high school in Norcross, GA—recently I retired and work part time elsewhere— five years ago I decided to orchestrate a yearly literary festival for the school and community. Local authors and local book club members have supported my efforts each year with no monetary compensation. One year Jewell Parker-Rhodes was our featured author and last year Nathan McCall came.
EDC: What happens at a typical meeting for the members?
Angela Reid: A typical Imani meeting happens in stages: We never all arrive on time—smile. If the meeting is at a member’s home, usually the meal is ready when we arrive, so we greet each other, peruse the agenda, share a moment of thanks, fix our plates and get comfortable. As we eat we conduct a little business, highlight announcements and catch up on each others’ lives. Then we seriously begin discussing our books. If we are hosting an author or have guests, we begin with introductions, then share a moment of thanks, fix our plates and get comfortable. As we eat, we discuss the book(s) and usually drill the author with questions, but also praise what we loved about the work(s). Next and throughout, are pictures, presentation of our gift to the author and his/her signing our books.
Then after the author leaves, we handle business and some of us stick around to help the hostess clean up, unless she insists that we don’t. If we meet at a restaurant, of course we don’t have to clean up–smile. All in all, it is a full Saturday afternoon or evening, monthly time spent with each other and cherished by all who actively participate, whether we enjoyed or hated the month’s reading–smile.
We absolutely love having authors visit with us and hosting book events with them. We are fortunate to have so many willing to interact with us in Metro Atlanta (Pearl Cleage, RM Harris, Travis Hunter, Kendra Norman-Bellamy, Hank Stewart, Tavares Stephens, Margaret Johnson-Hodge, Dr. Daniel Black, Marissa Monteilth, Franklin White, etc—will meet with Nathan McCall in November and Victor McGlothin in December) and some who come to us from outside of Georgia who travel here or visit with us via speaker phone like: Grace Edwards, Mary Monroe, Jewell Parker Rhodes, Timm McCann, Diane McKinney-Whetstone, Patti Rice, Tina McElroy Ansa, Suzetta Perkins & Michelle Bowen.
Nia at Medu Bookstore has asked us to host several signings at her store and we have: DeBerry & Grant, Angela Bassett & Courtney Vance, and will do so with SIstah Souljah. We traveled to Charleston, SC and Memphis, TN to celebrate anniversaries and meet with Erica Turnipseed—A Love Noire and Arthur Flowers-Another Good Loving Blues. Several of us have traveled together and alone to SC, NC, MD and NY for literary conferences and book signings.
EDC: Do you have an open membership? How can one join your network?Angela Reid: Imani maintains an open membership for women who love to read. One must visit with Imani at least three times before joining and beginning to pay dues. All members and guests must read one or both of the two monthly offerings to attend a meeting. We also invite our menfolk to join us several times during the year when we would like their input about the books we discuss and when we host a male author.
EDC: What advice would you give a new organization forming a network?
Angela Reid: Invite serious readers to help organize your book club. Once book club is started, spread out the responsibility—everyone should contribute to book choices, hosting meetings, setting guidelines for the operation of your book club.
EDC: Would you change anything about your journey?Angela Reid: I have been president of Imani since Rashida transitioned in 1997 for I was vice president then. I wasn’t sure if I could fill her shoes, but before she left us, she told me how appreciative she was of the new energy and ideas I had already brought to the book club. I realized that I didn’t have to fill her shoes, that I could be myself. Imani has entrusted me to lead the group since ’97 and I have worked tirelessly to make sure that our members enjoy and participate in our book club events.
I love these women and enjoy being with them, as we who love Imani and the time we spend together, continue to sustain Imani in our seventeenth year. So no, I wouldn’t change the journey for I can’t imagine the journey NOT including my reading sisters of Imani!
EDC: Ultimately, what do you want members to gain from your union?
Angela Reid: Ultimately, this is what Imani members have gained from our book club experience: We are not just a book club however; Imani celebrates our beautiful moments, hosts all-nite Black movie marathons, attends theater and dance performances, hosts literary events for our favorite authors, and participates in community service activities like Relay for Life Cancer Walk in honor of two Imani members who succumbed to cancer. Our group, ranging in age from mid-thirties to mid-sixties, has seen changes during our sixteen years; members have come and gone, death and serious illness have touched us, the rigors of maintaining at home at work, and in school are a constant struggle for some. Yet, in spite of these difficulties, or perhaps because of them, we have truly become a Sisterhood and Support System for each other.
About Angela Reid
I am Angela Reid. Originally from Maryland—Army Brat whose family, my mama, five brothers and my sister, traveled with my dad, when we could from Baltimore, overseas to Germany twice, instate to Oklahoma twice and finally settling in NC after Pop retired at Ft. Bragg. Migrated to Metro Atlanta twenty years ago from NC after a divorce. Raised a teenager who graduated, went to med school, married and now resides in CA with her husband.
Retired in May 08 after teaching and sometimes coaching, in VA, NC and GA for thirty-two years and a year as an active-duty Army reservist during Desert Storm. Now teaching part time and building my business–Color Me Purple, offering my services as a manuscript editor, literacy consultant, and literary event planner.
I am still, as I always have been, an active participant in the arts and spectator sports—had to hang up my volleyball kneepads after playing USVBA ball for eleven years here and in NC. I attend and volunteer for literary, jazz, film, and theater events around town; I am active in my church; want to travel to snow country to learn to ski, and enjoy the company of my family and friends near and far. I particularly enjoy hearing from and keeping up with my former students who inform me of the impact I made on their lives.