Although we’re meeting through computer screens, April D. Ryan’s warmth and ease of speaking radiates from her instantly. Considering how formidable she is, you might have assumed our first interactions would be more formal, this is a woman whose journalism career spanned five presidential campaigns. But no, although she speaks with intention and power, even before we get on the record, she still converses with me as though she’s saying her hellos to a longtime work colleague who feels more like a friend as they begin another day at the office. I’m already cherishing a conversation that has yet to begin.
Perhaps that is the method to her Black girl magic, despite her interviews mostly being conducted in a press room, she still maintains a level of genuine engagement with whomever she’s speaking with. Having conversations to gain the information you want is a dance most journalists find the rhythm to after much practice, and April D. Ryan is a master at the tango.
It’s an honor to speak to a legend, a Black woman legend, for a publication dedicated to uplifting our voices. We speak about her children, and our shared HBCU legacy, laughing about our commonalities until we naturally dive in.
Nahlah Abdur-Rahman: In your preface, you explain how this is a love letter to Black women. Was this your initial reason for this book? Do you feel there was a gap in these “I see you” messages to Black women in media? And if this is a love letter to the Black, female reader, what is this book to those not a part of this demographic?
April D. Ryan: I don’t think there was a lack, but I think there is always room for more. We were vilified during the Trump era. This book is not to bash or cause divisiveness. It is truly meant to celebrate, recognize, and see Black woman for all we are and the work we have done. I wrote this as a love letter to Black women, and for those to understand the work we’ve put into this world and how that deserves more awareness and celebration. A structural recognition is missing, and so we are building it.
NA: You also speak about antisemitism and its rise in this country during the Trump administration. Given what is going on today with Kanye West and other prominent Black male figures utilizing this rhetoric again, I’m curious on your thoughts and course of action on how to handle this situation within our community.
AR: I do not want to give him any more attention. His ignorance has done enough, us giving him more of a platform is only adding to the problem. But on the other hand, it’s clear with his comments that he doesn’t have enough of us in his corner, I’ll tell you that. If he had Black women around him he would be taking his medicine, he wouldn’t be speaking out of ignorance. But he doesn’t have that. He lost his mother. He’s running around.
And what Ye doesn’t understand is what self-love looks like. To take care of yourself so that you don’t make those hateful comments. I live in a Jewish community. We saw what happened in Charlottesville, it was prompted by the Robert E. Lee statue, and what that meant for those of us who descended from enslaved people. He was a symbol of that racism and dehumanization. But next thing we saw, the very people advocating for his statue to stay were chanting “Jews Won’t Replace Us.” Its the interconnectivity. Our fight for racial equality is interconnected with the fight against antisemitism.
NA: The visibility/invisibility conundrum is another concept you write about and is something every Black women experiences before she even knows how to express it. I know at the very top you have experienced it, being so hypervisible your humanity became invisible, did you notice the feeling before while growing up? Or Imposter syndrome at earlier stages in your career or adulthood?
AR: You know, I did not experience that a lot growing up. Of course in the rooms I would one day be in I felt it, often being the sole Black woman in them. But how it affected how I saw myself? I’ve always kind of known my full potential, or who I was. And who I was, was “a lot.” But that’s okay, and I learned to be okay with that early on. Because my gift made room for me, little old April from Baltimore.
NA: I am so grateful that you wrote this. To have the title be what it is. Because I agree, we are going to save the world. I felt immense pride reading this love letter. But it was a nuanced feeling, while simultaneously feeling like a badass that this is my lineage, I also felt an embedded sadness. Like it was a burden all the same. Do you share this sentiment? How do you find power in what often feels like a curse?
AR: I find power by taking it back. I take my rest. I allow myself to retreat, to recuperate. I spend time with my family. But also I realized there are structures that were never meant for us. We are creating a new reality in which they one day will be. That’s how you find power.
NA: So, with that being said, how do you feel Black women can give ourselves grace? Especially in a society that seemingly refuses to grant it for us.
AR: We must retreat. We must be able to pour back into us. Whether that is through vacationing or our families, we must be able to recuperate or else we will burn out. And our innate strength doesn’t allow us to burn out wholly. We bounce back and take care of business, as our mothers did before us. However, we must learn to take care of ourselves to ensure our strength for the long run, to keep fighting the good fight.
NA: Elections are less than ten days away as we speak, what is your battle cry to Black voters this season? I’m a Georgia girl, so I am beyond here for Stacey Abrams, what are your thoughts going into Election day for her as well?
AR: I am so proud and excited for her. But we must show up for her and her fellow candidates. And how we do that is by voting, especially the youth. We must uplift and support those who are willing to hear us and fight for us. We must go out and encourage others to vote, and become more engaged in our community.
NA: You commended Abrams within Black Women Will Save The World for experiencing her full humanity by embracing her desires outside of politics through being a romance novelist? How do you specifically embrace your full humanity outside of this realm?
AR: I write, I go on vacation. I am involved in my children’s lives, especially sports. Which happens to be horseback riding. [She giggles] I allow myself to rest, to write books such as these that celebrate Black women and all that we’ve done. Doing things that reminds myself of all I am a part of outside my work.
NA: What do you think is next in the Black women’s agenda for saving the world? What do we need to have a closer eye on?
AR: These elections. They are so critical. And what happens after also is. We must remain aware of what is always at stake. We have to fight for what comes next once our elected leaders are in office. It is not enough to just get them there. The fight continues on to ensure our voting rights are secured and so much more.
NA: You write about meeting former Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, where you both talked about everything and nothing. So, in that fashion, I have a few questions about nothing for you.
You mean to tell me your cousin Melba, who you casually mentioned is a restaurateur in Harlem, is THE Melba of THE Melba’s in Harlem? What’s your go-to meal?
AR: [She laughs] Oh it’s wonderful, my family was just there. We had everything. The egg rolls, the catfish, it’s really all so good. As busy as cousin Melba gets, she made sure to freeze dry some food for my daughter, just because she called and asked. That’s just how we are as a family, there for one another despite having a million things to do.
NA: And what is it about the vineyard, Martha’s Vineyard where you go for relaxation and retreat, that does it for you?
AR: The quaintness. The respect, and the kindred spirits around me. It’s an escape, the otherworldliness of it all.
Of course, we ask April D. Ryan for a final closeout to a memorable conversation with a pioneer for Black women empowerment: Black Women Will Save The World is out everywhere you enjoy reading from bookstores to Audiobooks.
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