Unveiling the Judging Panel for the Global Black Women’s Non-Fiction Manuscript Prize

Cassava Republic Press is delighted to present the esteemed panel of judges for the first ever Global Black Women’s Non-fiction Manuscript Prize, following its recent launch. In keeping with the prize’s ethos of championing Black women writers and thinkers, the distinguished panel is composed of five accomplished Black women writers and scholars from across the globe. Through their experience and insight, they are best placed to achieve the prize’s goals of identifying and publishing Black women writers who bridge the gap between “creativity” and “theory” with brilliant work that is rigorous and beautiful, engaging and thoughtful.

Chairing the panel is the celebrated, award-winning author, academic and Booker Prize recipient, Bernardine Evaristo. Joining Evaristo are: Sylvia Tamale, a prominent Ugandan feminist, legal scholar, and human rights activist; Natalie Baszile, distinguished African-American author and film-maker; Carole Boyce Davies, renowned Caribbean-American feminist, professor and literary scholar; and acclaimed Zimbabwean-South African essayist, novelist, and scholar, Panashe Chigumadzi. Their combined experience and expertise in literature and knowledge-making underscore a deliberate commitment to recognising the diverse voices and contributions of Black women writers, marking a crucial step in addressing the historical underrepresentation – particularly in the non-fiction sphere.

The Global Black Women’s Non-Fiction Manuscript Prize was established with the goal of expanding the perception of Black women writers beyond their role as writes of fiction, poets and memoirists, to recognise their role as producers of critical ideas. Building on the rich and impactful legacy of Black women across Africa and its diasporas such as Anna Julia Cooper, Amy Jacques Garvey, Claudia Jones, Noni Jabavu, Audre Lorde, Ellen Khuzwayo, May Ayim, bell hooks, Toni Morrison, and more, the prize strives to highlight and give visibility to the breadth of critical ideas and knowledge-making that exists but may otherwise be overlooked by the publishing industry.

Judging Chair, Bernardine Evaristo commented, “This is a groundbreaking prize which will support, champion and elevate the writings of Black women who are interested in expanding the universe of ideas, the imagination and critical thinking, and I am overjoyed to be chairing such an illustrious panel of leading intellectuals.”

On the timeliness of the prize, Sylvia Tamale said, “Today, more than ever, African women’s voices are powerful in shaping the terrain of decolonized knowledge production. I’m honoured to join Cassava Republic’s panel of distinguished judges for the Global Black Women’s Non-fiction Manuscript Prize that is set to unearth fresh and creative critical writing.”

Also commenting on the prize, Natalie Baszile remarked, “I am thrilled to be able to uplift and celebrate the work of Black women writers from across Africa and the diaspora. This prize is long overdue.”

I stood at the border; stood at the edge and claimed it as central and let the rest of the world move over to where I was” is how Toni Morrison framed how we must position our excellence. A Global Black Womens non-fiction prize represents this powerfully.” Carole Boyce Davies noted.

“What an honour to be part of a prize that honours the centuries-long tradition of Black women’s knowledge-making with not only a global vision but the kind of deep historical consciousness necessary to build what Cassava Founder Bibi Bakare-Yusuf calls, the archive of the future.’” Panashe Chigumadzi said.

The judging panel will select manuscripts based on the specified criteria, including originality and depth, vision and accessibility, impact and relevance. The prize carries a total value of $30,000, with the winner receiving a publishing contract with Cassava Republic and a $20,000 advance, and two runners-up each receiving a $5000 advance and a publishing deal.

The Prize is sponsored by Alitheia Capital, the largest Black woman-owned impact investing private equity firm in Africa, and Open Society Africa.

The co-founder of Alitheia Capital, Tokunboh Ishmael has this to say about the partnership: Alitheia Capitals pioneering role as a Black women-owned private equity fund, managing the worlds largest impact investment focused on African women-owned businesses, makes us a natural partner for Cassava Republic Press timely and necessary Global Black Women’s Non-Fiction Manuscript Prize. As an avid non-fiction reader, I am always looking to read more from Black women and I am excited about this prize. This partnership underscores our longstanding commitment to championing initiatives that empower Black women across various sectors.

The Global Black Women’s Non-Fiction Manuscript Prize is open for submissions until June 30th, 2024. Further information on the prize and submissions guidelines are available on the Cassava Republic website.

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