When I read that Jill Scott’s Blues Babe Foundation is teaming up with Hallmark’s Mahogany brand to do a nationwide search for two college-bound students interested in a career in writing, my heart skipped a beat. The lucky winners will both receive a $10,000 scholarship and an all-expense paid trip to Hallmark’s headquarters in Kansas City for a three-day writing workshop. And while I know why I’m jumping for joy at the thought of Jill Scott discovering two talented writers, some are probably thinking, ‘writers are a dime a dozen.’ For anyone foolish enough to be that jaded, here’s why it’s so important.
Writers shape our world. They give us context. It was through writers like Langston Hughes and James Baldwin that the Harlem Renaissance existed. Yes, Duke Ellington would have still been band leader at the Cotton Club, and surely someone would have noted that he was great innovator of jazz, but who would have tied him to Louis Armstrong or Billie Holiday, or anyone of the other great artists like Aaron Douglas of that time? Can there be an explosion of art if no one writes about it? It’s like that saying, ‘If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it does it make a sound?” The Bible says that God spoke the world into existence, but we only accept that to be true because it is written. No one was there to verify it. Does anything exist that is not written?
Like the endless supply of voices so beautiful they sound like they were dropped from heaven season after season on TV talent shows, I believe that there are writers out there that would blow our minds. So many that Jill Scott and Hallmark Mahogany would have to host another search next year and give out five scholarships instead of two.
I imagine that a lot of our talent is sitting in small towns like the one made famous by Zora Neale Hurston in “Their Eyes Were Watching God.” Places where people don’t always go to college and even the thought of being a writer sounds unrealistic. Even bigger cities where the written word has been replaced by video and selfies. Write what’s going on? Nah, that’s old-school. But the stories they would tell if given an opportunity. If someone would remind them of its importance.
I’m so glad Jill Scott is doing this search and giving out these scholarships!
I remember when I first heard her sing…
Let’s take a long walk around the park after dark
Find a spot for us to spark
Conversation, verbal elation, stimulation
Share our situations, temptations, education, relaxations
Elevations, maybe we can talk about Surah 31:18
She wrote the hell out of that song, and I must have taken that walk with her 1,000 times. That happened because she said so. Because she wrote it down. Jill Scott the writer. Poet. Singer. All parts of the same voice, telling those stories so we can know that as a generation we exist. Without writers we don’t exist. Without writers nothing exists. If that’s not important I don’t know what is.
Applications for the contest are being accepted until October 30th. For more information and official rules visit hallmark.com/truemahogany
This article first appeared on Madamenoire 10/20/15