In our two-part series, Black Canadian writers talk about the politics of everyday life and art

From left to right: writers Nigel Thomas, Canisia Lubrin and Téa Mutonji — all featured guests in our series, Behind the Lines. (Submitted by Nigel Thomas/Anna Keenan/Sarah Bodri)

This is the first of a two-part series called Behind the Lines.

What kinds of responsibility does a Black writer have?

Is there an obligation to take on culture, class, colour, or is it enough to write based on one’s own inspiration?

These are some of the questions host Nahlah Ayed explores with Black Canadian writers in a two-part series, Behind the Lines. In this episode, panelists Canisia Lubrin, Nigel Thomas and Téa Mutonji discuss why they write and how they deal with the power — and the burdens —  of making art with language.

Here are some experts from their discussion.

Canisia Lubrin

Canisia Lubrin is a writer, poet, professor and editor. She was born in St. Lucia and lives in Whitby, Ontario. The Dyzgraphxst is her second collection of poetry.

I’m wondering, in your opinion, whether you believe a writer has responsibilities to society that a non-writer or non-artist doesn’t?

I think there’s certainly a responsibility that writers have that is distinct, simply because we work in the materials of language and language is located in a very central and ubiquitous form of power. This is where we imagine through the gateway of language.

And so I think there’s a huge responsibility that writers have that is unique. But I don’t think that it is somehow removed from what non-writers themselves are up to, because in a sense what we do is try to show the way that things are connected, try to bring into focus difference — and the way that difference operates in a sort of shared ecosphere.

Do you think of it as a responsibility or an obligation? Is it a must?