Shonda Buchanan of Choctaw, Coharie, Cherokee & African Heritage is an Award-winning Poet and Fiction Writer.
An educator for the last 20 years, Shonda was born and raised in Kalamazoo, Michigan where she spent much of her adolescence curled up in libraries, bathtubs, and on her front porch, reading. Her book, Who’s Afraid of Black Indians? is a difficult yet beautiful collection of poetry that peeks into one American family’s cultural window.
“Trust the first drum, your heart, for all your answers. The ancestors will follow…” ~Shonda Buchanan
This chapbook of poetry explores how Shonda’s ancestors wanted to forget the past and the journey took from North Carolina to Tennessee, to Indiana and finally Michigan, and the flight and fight to escape racial persecution and racial classification.
Yet it is also a book about the recovery of an identity — the intersection of Blacks and Indigenous American Indians in this country. Shonda and her family, like so many other “bi-racial” American Indians, suffered from not knowing their full roots, and the ills of assimilation, all the while enduring society’s ever-evolving definition of them. This book will hopefully help other Black American Indians, as well as bi-racial and tri-racial peoples, research, reclaim and celebrate their multifaceted heritage.
Over the years, Shonda Buchanan has received many accolades and fellowships. An Education Specialist for the U.S. Department of State, she is a Sundance Institute fellow and a PEN Center Emerging Voice fellow. She freelances for The Writer’s Chronicle and The International Review of African American Art. She is published in various anthologies, including the anthology she edited, Voices from Leimert Park Redux, Urban Voices: 51 Poems from 51 American Poets, Strange Cargo, Step into a World: A Global Anthology of New Black Literature, Arise! Magazine, Def Jam Poetry’s Bum Rush the Page, Geography of Rage: Remembering the Los Angeles Riots of 1992 and Rivendell. She received the Eloise Klein-Healy Scholarship, a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts and several Virginia Foundation for the Humanities grants.
Editor of Harriet Tubman Press, her memoir, Black Indian, is under consideration at a University press. She is working on a collection of essays about the first migration of Free People of Color from the Southeast to the Midwest. Shonda’s book, Equipoise: Poems from Goddess Country, is forthcoming from San Francisco Bay Press in July 2017.
Fall 2017 Writer-in-Residence at William & Mary College, Shonda has been an assistant professor in the Department of English at Hampton University for the last 14 years teaching fiction, poetry, narrative nonfiction, magazine writing, composition, and senior seminar. While researching her memoir, Black Indian, Shonda Buchanan discovered that her ancestors on her mother’s side had originated in and had migrated from North Carolina to Michigan. The often said “you know we got some Indian in us” from her childhood became real when she discovered she was 11th Generation Coharie and Cherokee.
This knowledge was clarified for her, though she already claimed the Choctaw Nation on her father’s side, that her work as a writer and researcher about Black and Native American culture confirmed what her ghosts had been whispering all along. Tell our stories. Shonda conducts presentations and panel discussions on the shared heritage of African Americans and Indigenous Americans. Ms. Buchanan sang on several drums, including Eastern Sky American Indian Drum, an intertribal Virginia-based drum. Her collection of poetry, Who’s Afraid of Black Indians?, was published in September 2012 and her second book of poetry, Equipoise: Poems from Goddess Country will hit bookstores July 2017.
At her Jentel Artist’s Residency in beautiful Wyoming, Shonda completed a third collection of poetry about Nina Simone. Shonda is also working on a novel and a second memoir as well as two screenplays. Shonda Buchanan received her B.A. and M.A. from Loyola Marymount University in English with a Creative Writing Emphasis and her M.F.A. in Creative Writing/Poetry from Antioch University. Ms. Buchanan reads poetry locally and nationally, as well as conducts book discussions for libraries, schools and community organizations. She is former managing editor of Turning Point Magazine. A personality for TravelJunky.club, Shonda Buchanan is a voyeur and bi-coastal photojournalist living in Virginia and Los Angeles, California, however, she considers herself a citizen of the world. Follow her on Instagram, @shondabuchanan @harriettubmanpress @traveljunkyclub and on Twitter.
Note: African Native American or Afro Native? People who call themselves “Black Indians” are people living in America of African-American descent, with significant heritage of Native American Indian ancestry, and with strong connections to Indian Country and its Native American Indian culture, social, and historical traditions. Black Indians are also called African Native American people, Black American Indians, Black Native Americans and Afro Native Americans.
SOURCE: Based on materials from the website www.shondabuchanan.com.