Skip to main content

Capturing Our Stories

In Black Ink shares the absent narratives of Minnesota’s people of African heritage


By definition, a story is an account of incidents or events. When certain narratives are absent, we miss points of view that strengthen the rich colorful fabrics of community.

In Black Ink (IBI) has made it their purpose to make sure the stories of Minnesota’s black communities are heard. With a FUBU (For Us, By Us) mentality, IBI strives to capture the untold stories of African-heritage Minnesotans by creating and publishing a database of black writers, editors, illustrators, distribution reps and other publishing resources.

“Part of our mission is to really use publishing as an economic engine in our community,” said IBI co-founder Rekhet Si-Asar.

As owners of Papyrus Publishing, Rekhet and her husband Anura have made it their duty to showcase and highlight the literary art of Minnesota’s black community. The idea for IBI came to the couple in 2015, right before the passing of legendary Saint Paul activist and artist, Robert “Bobby” Hickman. It was during the process of trying to complete his story that the literary community realized just how important it was to have the necessary resources available to gather, capture and tell stories.

“People really want to hear their stories,” said Kimberly Nightingale, executive director of the Saint Paul Almanac. “And these are stories that no one’s heard.”

In collaboration with Nightingale, the Si-Asars and other community leaders were able to secure funding to start this journey. With $90,000 of initial funding from the Minnesota Historical Society, they were able to enlist support from 21 creative consultants to hold listening sessions around the state. These sessions would serve as gauges for uncovering how to best tell these stories and as a tool for IBI to know what stories to cover next.

According to Rekhet, IBI holds annual meetings to address the topics and ideas best suited for publishing. Last year’s theme focused on the Rondo neighborhood in Saint Paul and its rich black history. IBI helped publish two books, “Mr. Rondo’s Spirit” by Ericka Dennis, and “Joey and Grandpa Johnson’s Day in Rondo” by Dr. Artika Tyner, both part of The Rondo Children’s Book Series Project.

“We have to save and create space to tell our stories”

In December of 2018, IBI received funding from the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation. Funding from the Foundation will go toward IBI’s Sankofa series, an anthology piece they are doing around education. The hope is that this funding will also allow them to hire on full-time staff.

“We have to save and create space to tell our stories,” Rekhet said. “And we have to be able to allow experiences of people who’ve lived the stories to be the voices that we hear when the stories are told.”

She and Nightingale agree that in their findings from the community, people want to have their narratives told by people who look and think like them.

“The thing we really heard was, ‘I don’t want a white person telling my story,’” said Nightingale. “‘That’s happened my whole life; and they’re not really saying the true story of my life or my community’s lives, I want my community to tell my story,’ and that’s really the power of In Black Ink.”

Their goal is to do away with intermediaries, providing authors of African descent in Minnesota an outlet to get their voices heard and seen. They hope IBI will also serve as a training ground for others who are interested in the literary arts and don’t yet have the skills. IBI wants the youth to see the viability in literary talent and Minnesota’s black story.

To learn more about IBI and their work, visit their Facebook page.

More Stories

Read Building an Environmentally and Socially Equitable Community

Building an Environmentally and Socially Equitable Community

Learn how Board Member Mary Jane Melendez’s passion for giving shaped her career in sustainability and social impact.

Learn More
Read How MDRF Made a Statewide Impact

How the Minnesota Disaster Recovery Fund Made a Statewide Impact

See the statewide impact and learnings from the Minnesota Disaster Recovery Fund for coronavirus.

Learn More
Read our response to the Derek Chauvin Trial

Response to Derek Chauvin Trial

The Foundation wants to acknowledge the emotional impact that the Derek Chauvin trial has had on our entire community. As such, we are planning to pause our daily operations to create a period of respite.

Read the update
Read Racial Justice IS Climate Justice

Racial Justice IS Climate Justice

Sam Grant, executive director of MN350, speaks to why the path to climate change will inevitably center the intersection of racial and climate justice.

Read the post
Read Call For 2021 Facing Race Award Nominations

Call For 2021 Facing Race Award Nominations

Nominations can be submitted in English, Hmong, Somali and Spanish until May 3 at 3 p.m.

Read the News
Read Three Generations of Giving

Three Generations of Giving

Christine Noonan shares how giving has become a family tradition.

Watch the video
Read Unlimited Connection

Unlimited Connection

Internet access has helped families in Rice County stay connected during the pandemic.

Read the interview
Read Equity Inside Out

Equity Inside Out: Creating an Equitable Work Environment

Nadege Souvenir shares how the Saint Paul & Minnesota Foundation internally advocates for equity.

Learn More

COMMUNITY IS OUR COMPASS

JOIN
US!

* Indicates a required field