American Academy in Rome President Mark Robbins awards the 2019-2020 Joseph Brodsky Rome Prize in Literature to Samiya Bashir and the 2019-20 John Guare Writers Fund Rome Prize to Nicole Sealey in a ceremony at Cooper Union, NYC, April 9, 2019

Lissen. Fam. Loves. Friends. I am beside myself with gratitude and joy. In the last 48 hours I have cemented and celebrated the next year and next life moment that I have the *IMMENSE* joy for, eagerness and gratitude to, share with my sister Nicole Sealey (still -- screaming). I have missed two flights, which I never ever do. I have been loved and cared for by my absolute sister Torkwase Dyson who I love more than liquor, and gotten to reconnect with old friend and badass Adreinne Waheed while making a new bestie in Mia Neale. I have seen and loved and supported and been supported by my born family (thank you to my beautiful and brilliant and beloved aunts Wendy Hilliard and Gloria Mayfield Banks, and thanks to my li'l cousin K.C. Mensah who was the best Rome Prize dinner date ever (charmed everyone and we are all now waiting to celebrate his prize(s!) in the soon soon future). I have been resoundingly reminded, back in the context of my people, my homespace, my community, my culture, MY CONTEXT (which, for all the gifts Portland gives me, and there are many, I have never remained so wildly out of context as a human since my old hometown and honestly, there are fairy doors in my home town so still I'm in some sort of weird context there) about who I am, what I do, with whom and for whom I work, with whom and for whom my work exists and is in conversation, and that not only is that seen and celebrated, but supported and appreciated. I can't be more grateful to this year's Rome Prize literature judges (including the great and brilliant Cornelius Eady--to anyone who doubts the importance of having black folks in the room and at the table, here you go: history) for selecting the first black women literature fellows in the Academy's 125 years, and the first pair of poets in recent memory. To follow along in the footsteps of my beloved beloved June Jordan (FAAR, 71, Environmental Design for her radical architectural re-imaginging of Harlem with Buckminster Fuller--don't miss that magic) in this most honorific way only helps me know that I'm on the right path. I know (like, teary-eyed, I KNOW) she would be so proud of us right now, Nic. So so glad. I am ... beyond. Come visit us in Rome. We will be the most fabulously dressed, prolifically making, diasporically loving, fiercely family-ing poets in town. I've already met and made friends/fam with my favorite Roman/Somali writer Ubah Cristina Ali Farah and can't wait to see and hug her again. I just. My heart is beyond full, y'all. And now I sit waiting for what must be the 3rd flight I've tried for out of NYC to Austin, Texas. Those of you who know I've had an Austin phone number for 12 years now may remember that it was my home during a most important moment in my life and work. When I think of the cradle in which family like Priscilla A. Hale, Florinda Bryant, Omi Oshun Joni Jones, Sharon Bridgforth, Lorenzo HerrerayLozano, Wura-Natasha Ogunji, Ana-Maurine Lara, Kiyana Horton, Mat Matt Richardson, Lisa C. Moore, Amanda Johnston (& her whole beautiful family!!) and so so many more, held me so I could get past the bridge I needed to walk to get me here I just. And now -- to finally return 10 years after I left: Gratitude. Folks: we are here because we have helped each other get here. We have supported and pushed toward and through our own survival. Our own thrival. This is what this work is; what it's about. And I am so fortunate to do it. Grateful to Reed College and Dean Nigel Nicholson for ensuring that I was here for the ceremony and to meet so many of my 29 other fellow fellows. I won't continue to gush. I just want to express my gratitude. My joy (really, don't sleep on Adreinne Waheed's new book on black joy worldwide!). My promise to give back all I receive and more. And more. And more. Thank you all for the love and support. I *am* because *you*. Love. Love. Love.

Posted by Samiya Bashir on Thursday, April 11, 2019