Dear Colleagues:

Right now—today, right after I finish writing this note—I’m teaching Elizabeth Acevedo’s The Poet X in my junior/senior English seminar on Race & Representation in YA Literature. If you don’t know this award-winning novel in verse, I highly recommend it. In brief, powerful vignettes, the novel depicts a fifteen-year-old Dominican girl’s sophomore year in high school: her conflicts with her over-protective Catholic mother, the hypersexualization and harassment she encounters from men in school and on the street, and the development of her poetic voice. My students are knocked out by the power of the poetry, the honesty of its depiction of sexual harassment and microaggression, the refusal to exoticize its Afro-Latinx protagonists. I hope that those of you who teach are having similarly enlivening experiences right now, whatever you are engaged with: for me, it’s what makes it all worthwhile. And The Poet X is one of those books I first heard about from you, my colleagues. Indeed, my entire syllabus is an homage to ChLA, filled with books I learned about in your talks and articles, or in conversations among conference-goers or committee members. So thank you: you are making my spring semester sing.

I hope we can do the same for you. As you probably know, ChLA is in a period of transition: we have not had a full-time association manager since last summer, have not had an in-person conference since 2019, and have spent the last year working with a DEI consulting firm. Things feel a little shaky at times. But our core values are solid: inclusivity, diversity, integrity, development, and celebration remain at the heart of what we do. As we move forward towards the conference in June, the Board and Executive Committee continue to keep those values in mind. They helped guide our decision to approve a pilot program, brought to us by the Diversity Committee, to waive conference registration fees for a small number of first-time attendees who are Black and Indigenous scholars and students from the conference’s area, as well as scholars and students who teach at or attend Atlanta-area HBCUs or Indigenous colleges. We hope to be able to expand this program in the future. It is a small step, but one we are happy to be able to make even in the midst of economic uncertainty, as it reflects both our core values and acknowledges the importance of diversifying our membership. My deep thanks to Michelle Pagni Stewart, Diversity Committee Chair; Cristina Rhodes, Diversity Committee Liaison; and the entire Diversity Committee for bringing this proposal to the Board.

There’s more news as well:
● Starting this month, we have a new Association Manager, Steve Gigantiello. Steve has over twenty years of relevant experience, including association management experience with Meeting Expectations. He will be working 50% time with ChLA, initially supporting Kelly Johnson and working especially on conference planning. After June he will transition to more association management duties. Email to [email protected] reaches both him and Kelly, who also continues to support us–and who has our gratitude for her generous assistance in this long-term “interim” position!