Rochester NY, Newest “IT GIRL” CaTyra Polland
In a time when literacy rates point to a complex picture for educational disparities in the United States. From elementary, high school for students of color are often at a disadvantage. “Understanding the facts about black literacy can better understand the importance to support black authors, black children and adults tell their stories in a way that is true to their experiences as black people in America.In fact, As the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) examines Black Resistance, it is important to consider “Black Literacy” as a form of protest and triumph in the journey for freedom and equity., says CaTyra Polland.
Rochester native, new “It Girl” businesswoman CaTyraPolland helps Black authors stay true to themselves. Here’s how
On May 4th, 2023, the first-ever National Black Author’s Day will commence, an auspicious occasion for its founder, CaTyra Polland, a Rochester native, published author, editor, speaker, entrepreneur, and CEO in her efforts to give Black writers across the world their due time in the sun and shine a light on the publishing industry’s long history of systematic racism.
n a turbulent world such as ours, where racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, etc. continuously rear their ugly heads, community becomes increasingly important. Thankfully, people like Polland seek to make big strides to provide exactly that.
Polland already has much experience under her belt with being an advocate and consultant for Black writers. A nine-time published author, she released her first book in 2017, entitled Professionalism What’s That, which addresses topics like informational interviews, professional development, and code- switching. Since then, she has been featured in several anthologies and podcasts and published a journal called What Black Women Think About and a compilation of poetry entitled Dear August, Love August.
Then Polland’s career saw a major milestone when she became CEO of her very own business, Love for Words, an editing company for writers and authors to help them take their first step in the daunting world of self-publishing. The company fosters a caring, compassionate environment where interns are inspired to engage with clients with empathy, letting them know their stories can be heard in an industry that favors White authors.
“I’m really excited to help Black writers become published,” said Polland. “I work with Black authors and some of them are scarred from working with White editors who don’t understand the culture or don’t respect or value it. That’s why it’s so important for Black authors to connect with Black editors, such as myself who are a part of the culture. I recently edited a book of poetry called Recovery from Unusual Attitudes by Sarah Collins. The book is a revelation of mental health, so the poems talk about the ups and downs of anxiety or when you’re going through depression. I really appreciate the vulnerability of her story because, in the Black community, seeing a counselor or therapist is taboo. She opens up about her experience and the triggers in her life
“With the advancement in technology, we control our own narrative which includes the publishing and writing industry. We have to wait to be commemorated by the white industry professionals. We are the change we want to see. We are enough,” said Polland.
However, in the recent dystopian age of book banning in states like Florida and Texas, hostility against authors, in general, has been worse than it has been in decades. But writers of color, in particular, have much to fear.
“According to Pen America, ‘Banned in the USA.,’ 41 percent of banned books in 2022 include protagonists or prominent secondary characters who are people of color; 22 percent of the titles directly address issues of race and racism,” stated Polland. “During the first six months of 2022, 30% of banned books were written by Black authors. These statistics are a clear indicator that we are still censored. By looking at literacy statistics we can see that Black children are still behind the reading curve. The school
system is failing our students.”
But Polland is already seeking to ensure the next generation of Black authors will thrive, as she is already a board member of the Rochester Black Authors Association, an organization in Rochester devoted to promoting literacy, reading, and writing in the Black community with resources and events in Rochester. Each year, the organization holds an annual expo that features local, national, and international Black authors, allowing them to convene and celebrate their skills. It has even made bigger strides in creating a space for Black authors to commune. In December 2022, the organization hosted its first “Books and Bubbles” event where children were able to speak with a local child author. Annually, the association holds a Maria Jones Youth Writing Contest where Rochester middle- and high-schoolers submit written
pieces for a chance to win a cash prize.
But there was still one gap in the exposure of Black authors that still needed to be filled: A national holiday devoted to celebrating Black literacy. Upon discovering that no such day existed, with some help from National Day Archives, Polland made it her mission to register the first-ever National Black Authors Day, which will fill that void on May 4th, 2023, and be the culmination of her career as an activist for authors who have been voiceless in the industry for too long.
National Black Authors Day can be celebrated by reading or donating a book by a Black author, planning an event, or sharing a quote by a Black author.
Polland will be using her experience with RBAA to host an authors’ panel at 25 State Street in Rochester, New York from 5:30 pm-7:30 pm. The event already has media sponsors like WXXI and CITY News and board members of the Black Authors Association as moderators for the authors’ panel.
Thanks to the connections she made in her journey for representation and elevating Black writers, Polland has already amassed a team of authors with much to show for their work for the panel. All of these writers have their own experiences, but they are united by a single goal: to inspire, entertain, and motivate those around them with their talents.
Other writers who will be in attendance as speakers and vendors include:
Darrick Elijah Dunham, an accomplished writer at the age of fourteen who is dedicated to sharing his faith with others, Akilah Roberts, who has her own business that provides services similar to Love for Words.
Calvin Eaton, disabled scholar, author on the topics of African American history & culture, anti-Blackness, gluten-free lifestyle/cooking. He is also the founder of the blog, Theglutenfreechef and the non-profit education platform, 540WMain, Inc.
Ebony Stubbs, a life coach, and certified Parent Leader in the Community.
Tysharda Thomas, the author of The First-Time Homebuyers Handbook: From Credit to Closing and Beyond, a culmination of her success as a stockbroker.
Erik A Mythril, a radio personality devoted to spreading benzodiazepine awareness with his book Boogeyman in the Orange Bottle: A Love Story as Told by (TEAMS).
Kristen R Walker, the founder of the Noire Reading Room, a bookstore devoted to elevating and providing a safe space for Black LGBTQ+ writers.
Renée Boykins-Addison, a registered nurse who seeks to inspire people to make healthier choices with her writing.
Willie A. Price (Speaks), a self-published author of more than eighteen publications and creator of several youth and family development workshops meant to help with leadership, personal, and financial development, for which he has received many community awards and recognition in schools and media outlets.
Participants from Literacy New York, Inc., SUNY Brockport, and The Center for K-12 Black History and Racial Literacy Education have offered to be involved in the event as well.
CaTyra Polland’s drive as a consultant and activist is about to pay off in an extraordinary way on May 4th, and if the fire in her eyes is anything to go by, there will only be bigger things to come in the future for her and the many Black authors that she seeks to elevate.