Callaloo: A Journal of African Diaspora Arts and Letters • Published by the Johns Hopkins
University PressDown in College Station, Texas, the Callaloo offices are gearing up for another whirlwind of activity. For an upcoming issue on the arts and history of the Afro-Mestizos of Veracruz, Dr. Charles Rowell has an international launch planned: The governor of Veracruz state will be there, the president of its university, possibly even officials from the American embassy in Mexico City.
“This will be a major event. It’s a moment where for the first time in history the United States is doing intellectual and cultural exchange with that particular state of Mexico,” Rowell says as he reels off details on the special issue: six poets, six or seven fiction writers, two painters, three photographers.
Not bad for a journal with a circulation of around 1,500.
Indeed, Callaloo may have started off as a venue for Southern writers shut off from northern and northeastern publishing channels, but it is clear that it has become much more. Through travel throughout the Diaspora, Rowell has forged links with, and published the best work of, writing communities throughout Europe and the Caribbean and south to Brazil.
In addition, Rowell’s lifelong focus on new and emerging voices has led to the establishment of the Callaloo Creative Writing Workshops at Texas A&M University, one of only three national creative writing retreats for African American poets and fiction writers.
A point of pride for Rowell is the fact that “I never allowed Callaloo to be narrowed by one focus on one particular idea or tone, if you will, of blackness. I operated on the principle that there is infinite variety in Black art.”
The selection of the name illustrates the notion. “I didn’t want a title that said Black review of this or Black journal of that. I wanted a name that had blackness, the whole notion of a Black aesthetic, embedded in it.”
He asked all his friends — Tom Dent, founder of the Free Southern Theater, and the many women who supported his efforts while he was at Southern University. It was Lelia Taylor who mentioned the name of a stew, enjoyed not just in Louisiana, where Rowell was then living, but also in Jamaica and Trinidad and Brazil. It seemed absolutely perfect.
“If Callaloo has had any success at all, it’s been because of our many friends,” Rowell says.
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