The latest issue of Merge Literary Magazine wasn’t composed with Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson in mind, however, the collected works therein reinforce the weight of her achievement. “It speaks to the strength and fortitude and significance and intelligence of Black women,” said Malkia M’Buzi Moore, the associate editor of Merge, regarding Jackson’s confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court. “That is all a part of the womanhood now, having to answer insane and inane questions about children’s books and things like that.”
During her Senate hearings, some questions from GOP senators were acrimonious and invective. They were not limited to the nature of children’s books she didn’t write; Jackson was also pressed about her religion, whether she had “hidden agendas,” and asked to define what a woman was. Yet, on Thursday, April 7, following two weeks of Senate hearings, Jackson made history as the first Black woman to be confirmed to the Supreme Court.
When she officially sits on the Supreme Court in a few months, as the Associated Press reported, Jackson will be joining a court simultaneously more diverse than ever before and the most right-leaning it has been since the 1930s. The court’s 6-3 conservative majority likely means Jackson will be on the losing end of nation-shaping cases in the coming years. As luck would have it, the current issue of Merge was created to celebrate and showcase the innumerable achievements of women – Black women in particular – in their uphill fight through history. Titled “Celebrating Black Women: Our Resilience, Our Progress, Our Power,” the volume contains works from 36 writers and visual artists.
“[Our editor-in-chief] has always been really gung ho about women’s issues and that’s been a focus from the very beginning,” Moore said. “We wanted to give voice to the achievements of Black women initially that was the overarching focus and we knew that there would be writers who wanted to discuss the inequities as well.”
Those included are not just nationally significant talent, like Toni Simmons Henson (a poet who also hosts the “Black Family Table Talk” podcast), but also individuals with international reach. Ayisha Jeffries Cisse, for instance, is the vice president of global affairs and senior policy advisor on gender equity to the president of the African-American Islamic Institute, which is based in Senegal, West Africa.
Photo griot Susan J. Ross is featured in the issue with images of icons such as Toni Morrison, Sonia Sanchez, and Toni Cade Bambara. Meanwhile, Harlem artist Omi Gray supplies visual art in jewelry and fiber art. The images, essays, and poems celebrate women in the roles of athletes, writers, revolutionaries, mothers, and more. To summarize some of the collection’s overarching themes, Moore pointed to “The War That Was Waged,” an included poem from Merge’s editor-in-chief, Mari Rice.
The piece contextualizes the experiences of Black women within the history of the past few hundred years. The poem describes “the front line of the human trafficking trade” and having to endure “misogyny and abuse through deceptive scriptures.” Nonetheless, the poem’s end asserts they are “transforming the world, that waged war against us.” “The ending speaks to the fact that there are always those who would render us helpless… but we keep ascending, and [Jackson’s] confirmation is indicative of that ascension,” Moore said.
This latest issue is currently readable through mergeliterarymag.com, as is the inaugural Merge release, which came out on Juneteenth of 2021 and focused on political affairs and social justice. Moore said that issue three of Merge would come out on June 19 of this year with pieces speaking to Black culture and Black love.
As Merge continues forward, Moore hopes the publication continues to gather contributors and readers worldwide. “We’ll also be embarking on some fundraising endeavors,” she said. “We definitely want to grow not just our submission in terms of being global and also our readership, but we also want to expand our support.”