As a continuation of its initiatives to learn from and amplify voices of color, InterVarsity Press hosted an African American Publishing Consultation June 8–10 at IVP’s main office in Westmont, Illinois. The gathering was led by IVP president and publisher Terumi Echols and Ed Gilbreath, vice president of strategic partnerships at Christianity Today. The press welcomed activists, professors, pastors, entrepreneurs, theologians, podcasters, and authors to sit under their leadership to gain insights on how to further elevate voices of color for the benefit of the church.
“These publishing events have been highlights of my time at IVP,” said Cindy Bunch, IVP Vice President, Editorial. “They are an opportunity for IVP staff to get to know a group of authors and potential authors in order to encourage them to publish—these voices are needed. These gatherings are also an opportunity for us as a publisher to learn from the consultants about the needs of their audiences and gain insights about how to reach a specific audience. The consultants in turn can learn more about publishing from us and from each other.”
From classic titles such as Free at Last? (1995), More Than Equals (1993), and The Heart of Racial Justice (2004) that are now part of the IVP Signature Collection to more recent award-winning titles such as Reading While Black (2020), Healing Racial Trauma (2020), and The Beautiful Community (2020), IVP has intentionally published and pursued authors of colors and topics surrounding race and racial healing for decades.
Since 1970, IVP has published well over two hundred titles on topics of multiethnic interest or by authors of color. With well over 60 percent of these still in print, IVP has remained dedicated to addressing the issues of the day, changing culture and speaking into and about the experience of people of color in America.
Terumi Echols, president and publisher at IVP, said the ministry is committed to continuing its legacy of giving voice to topics that impact the church and culture. She added that IVP set a priority on listening and learning from the consultants about how to authentically speak into and with the church, as a press and in collaboration with the important work these consultants are already doing. “We want and need to make greater inroads into reaching the whole church. We want to serve Black denominations, churches, and pastors. We want to serve Black communities in all its diversity. How do we do this well? We need to hear from each other in a gathering like this so that we can build on what we’ve started and move toward unity and understanding within the church.”
Throughout the three-day event, the gathering of consultants and IVP staff talked about the history of IVP and its multiethnic publishing vision, considered future writing opportunities, and explored many of the publishing and marketing challenges for African American writers and how IVP might address these challenges. There were also discussions about the legacy of the Black church and its place in their lives. Workshops were offered on developing book concepts and creating book proposals, and on academic publishing. Andrea Palpant Dilley, contributing editor for Christianity Today, also led a workshop on writing articles.
Participants of the African American Publishing Consultation included
Bunch said, “Working with authors of color at IVP has been one of my greatest joys. I have had an opportunity to learn from authors such as Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil, Paul Tokunaga, Alex Gee, Manuel Ortiz, Ed Gilbreath, Juanita Rasmus, Marlena Graves, Sheila Wise Rowe, and many others through multiple writing projects. I have also learned from our publishing consultations with people of color as we’ve brought in current and potential authors for a two-way conversation about serving communities of color. In these contexts it has been an extraordinary gift just to be able to listen in to the needs and struggles of writers of color. The journey is ongoing and I am eager to continue to grow our publishing program to serve BIPOC authors and readers.”
In October of 2020, IVP launched the Every Voice Now (EVN) initiative, which was set up to contribute to IVP’s commitment to authors of color. EVN features a sizable fund underwritten jointly by InterVarsity Christian Fellowship and IVP for the purpose of supporting the development, marketing, and sales of books by authors of color as well as aiding in the recruitment of diverse staff and the deepening of the organization’s cultural competency.
In addition to the fund, the initiative launched or underwrote several podcasts featuring voices of color: The Every Voice Now Podcast, hosted by IVP’s Maila Kim and Helen Lee and IVP author Ed Gilbreath (Reconciliation Blues, Birmingham Revolution); The Disrupters, hosted by IVP authors Esau McCaulley and Nancy Wang Yuen; and Get in The Word with Truth’s Table, featuring IVP author Christina Barland Edmondson and Ekemini Uwan as hosts.
“At IVP, we’ve established a legacy of supporting voices of color and creating pathways to showcase Black experiences, education, and excellence,” said Helen Lee, IVP’s director of product innovation. “The Every Voice Now initiative and our recent podcasts are complementing our core business of book publishing as ways to help us meet the needs of a changing population both demographically and with regard to reading habits. In these ways, we hope to connect with audiences that want to not just read Black authors but also hear Black voices each and every day.”