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Arts & Antiracism Convener.
Zenique Gardner Perry spent her formative years “across the Mississippi River” in East St. Louis, Illinois. She often attributes her love for writing to her elementary and junior high school teachers who, while living and teaching in the small, impoverished town, managed to exemplify Black Excellence amid the chaos of the crack epidemic of the 1980’s and ‘90’s. Zenique eventually moved to Philadelphia where she received an English Writing degree from Eastern University and, while there, spent a semester abroad in East Africa where she studied African literature and creative writing. In 2013, Zenique was the sole American writer selected as a Farafina Fellow by award-winning Nigerian author, Chimamanda Adichie. There, Zenique joined writers across the Diaspora in a two-week residency in Lagos, Nigeria.
In 2015, Zenique moved back to St. Louis after living in Philadelphia for over a decade. She has since worked in youth violence prevention and co-founded Undo Bias, a consulting group that accompanies local organizations in their movement towards antiracism. In all things, Zenique has found ways to incorporate a writing component in her work. She is a graduate of the MFA Creative Nonfiction Program at Washington University in St. Louis and recipient of artist's grants from the Columbia Journalism School’s Delacorte Review and Regional Arts Commission of St. Louis. Zenique has also been awarded residencies at The Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow in Arkansas and Storyknife Writer's Retreat in Alaska. Zenique lives in St. Louis, Missouri with her family and their pets.
What They Call Us is Magic
We were kids who wore talking shoes and too small clothes, spending paper dollars from the feds on hot pickles and penny candy at the corner liquor store. Kwintessa and LaCreshia, Tameka, Shaunta, Tanisha, and Miesha were the names my friends were given. The boys who chased us were Lamont and Tyrone, Demetrius and Malik, DaQuan, Jamal and Javion. It was the nineties. And a post-industrial, Black, Midwestern town was home. Here, everything about what we called ourselves and each other felt right.
I told Granny, many years before she died and after a tangent she’d started about “going on to be with the Lord,” that whenever she made her transition, she should leave her collection of books to me.
I was fourteen: a memoir
It is 1994. East Saint Louis. Mississippi River town. Post-white flight. All Black folks. House on corner. Brick and mortar. No picket fence. All ours though. Family stayed close. Friends were too.
Homie, You Can Do It Too
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