Q&A with NaBeela Washington, Executive Director, Lucky Jefferson
Location: Chicago, Illinois
Lucky Jefferson is conducting focus groups to evaluate the needs and interests of Chicago-based Black, African, and African-American writers and artists, ahead of the rebrand of their digital zine for Black authors, “Awake.”
Project Update: Lucky Jefferson is excited to launch their virtual focus groups in January 2023, with more to follow thereafter. Stay tuned!
Founded in 2018, Lucky Jefferson is a print and digital publisher reimagining books by creating interactive and collaborative experiences that center the writer and artist and cultivate inclusion and representation in contemporary literature.
@LuckyJefferson Current Happenings:
- Call for Submissions…
- “Sonder,” an upcoming print issue
- Awake, A Zine for Black Authors
- “365 Collection”
- Collabs and Other Programs
Q: How do you see the arts/culture/humanities as being essential?
Nabeela Washington: Without the arts and humanities, people’s ability to boldly translate their experiences, tender moments, and the world around them would be severely harmed, and limited. Art, the humanities, culture in itself, serve as a window, a peek behind the curtains of other people’s existence. I can’t imagine a life void of it. I don’t want to.
Q: What is the most important thing people should know about your work?
Nabeela Washington: Lucky Jefferson is a nonprofit publisher committed to amplifying stories that most represent our modern world. We publish social change, meaning we are dedicated to reimagining the way writers and artists are represented, including the systems that have perpetually stifled contemporary works and harmed marginalized communities. We operate with a collaborative mindset and are intentional about everything we do because the work and people we encounter are like critical relics that should be handled with care.
Q: How did you arrive at doing what you do?
Nabeela Washington: I grew up wanting to be a writer but I was too afraid to make that leap and frankly not strong enough at that moment in time. Before Lucky Jefferson, I didn’t have the tenacity and willpower that it takes to be a writer and was on a more traditional path, having studied Marketing and Communications at a research University in Birmingham Alabama. And before that, I was on what felt like an endless pursuit of acceptance from others, with the intent of becoming a Neonatal Cardiologist. It wasn’t until I began my graduate studies in Creative Writing & English that I felt a spark to build a community of writers and artists to encourage me on my journey. Those embers were the early blaze of Lucky Jefferson.
Q: Who makes your work possible?
Nabeela Washington: Too many people to list, but first I’ll excitedly acknowledge The Community of Literary Magazines & Presses. They have helped Lucky Jefferson (and myself) grow tremendously.
I’d also like to show appreciation to Jamie O’Reilly (she was our very first monetary supporter before we even thought of becoming a nonprofit). We have a fabulous board; and amazing interns who bring Lucky Jefferson to life through the arts!
We’re also excited to continue working with The Book Worm Bookstore (they are helping us reach Southern readers); the African Women’s Cancer Awareness Association and The City of Beaverton (we won a grant earlier this summer to catapult our communal experiences!).
Suggested Reading by NaBeela Washington:
A Fortune For Your Disaster by Hanif Abdurraqib
About The Illinois Humanities Grantee Partner Spotlight
Illinois Humanities highlights the work of our Community Grants program partners through our “Grantee Spotlight.” It shines the light on our grantee partner’s work, offering details about the organization and the funded project, as well as a Q&A with a team member at the organization. More: ILHumanities.org/Spotlight
About Illinois Humanities
Illinois Humanities, the Illinois affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities, is a statewide nonprofit organization that activates the humanities through free public programs, grants, and educational opportunities that foster reflection, spark conversation, build community and strengthen civic engagement. We provide free, high-quality humanities experiences throughout Illinois, particularly for communities of color, individuals living on low incomes, counties and towns in rural areas, small arts and cultural organizations, and communities highly impacted by mass incarceration. Founded in 1974, Illinois Humanities is supported by state, federal, and private funds.