Words by Nyasia Almestica
Photo by Phil Sennet
Belongingness is essential: it helps us forge long-lasting relationships and positively contribute to our communities. The prevalence of racism, gender inequality, LGBTQIA2S+ discrimination, and other social issues make belongingness increasingly challenging to find. However, Rochester native CaTyra Polland fosters a sense of belonging by fighting for Black visibility in the literary world.
Polland is a published author, editor, speaker, entrepreneur, and the CEO and founder of Love for Words, an editing boutique for writers and authors. She recently registered National Black Authors Day as a new national holiday designed to celebrate Black literary talents and highlight racial discrimination in the publishing industry. May 4th, 2023 marks the first National Black Authors Day.
“I’m really excited to help Black writers become published,” said Polland. “I work with Black authors and some of them are scarred from working with White editors who don’t understand the culture or don’t respect or value it. That’s why it’s so important for Black authors to connect with Black editors, such as myself, who are a part of the culture.”
Polland’s work uplifts Black authors, and encourages professional development in editors, too.. Her interns are mentored and shaped into compassionate editors to continue the legacy of Black authorship. Many Black authors call Rochester home: Polland’s goal is to ensure that her interns become successful editors who ensure Black editors remain accessible to Black authors, fighting for their stories to be told, especially in White-dominated spaces.
Polland’s passion for writing and supporting the Black community makes it easy for her to form connections with other Black authors and help them bring their stories to the forefront. One of Polland’s favorite aspects ofcollaborating with clients is witnessing their vulnerability:
“I recently edited a book of poetry called Recovery from Unusual Attitudes by Sarah Collins,” said Polland. “The book is a revelation of mental health, so the poems talk about the ups and down of anxiety or when you’re going through depression. I really appreciate the vulnerability of her story because, in the Black community, seeing a counselor or therapist is taboo. She opens up about her experiences and the triggers in her life.”
Polland is a board member on the Rochester Black Authors Association, the only Black authors organization in Rochester. It promotes literacy, reading, and writing in the Black community by providing resources and holding events in Rochester. Each year, the organization holds an annual expo, featuring local, national, and international Black authors. It is an outstanding opportunity for Black authors to share space together and celebrate their talents and contributions to the literary sphere.
The Rochester Black Authors Association’s new programming encourages even more community engagement. In December 2022, the organization hosted its first “Books and Bubbles” event starring a child author. Children were able to speak to the author and buy his book all while enjoying free bubbles and treats. The organization also hosts an annual Marcia Jones Youth Writing Contest where Rochester middle- and high-schoolers submit creative pieces for the chance to win a cash prize. Polland, who serves as a board member, is proud of the organization’s commitment to fostering a community of Black authors, and looks to the establishment’s future with optimism and enthusiasm.
CaTyra Polland is a force to be reckoned with and whose Black Girl Magic is limitless. Her dedication to uplifting Black people is much-needed in a divisive world. Polland’s work develops safe spaces for Black writers to confidently share their stories while fostering a sense of belongingness that is vital to the Black community.