As I sit down to write this introduction, my mind keeps returning to origins. I am reminded of my first African American poetry class, when Dr. Miller, former Director of the African American Studies Institute, pulled me aside after class one day and inquired if I'd be interested in a project. Little did I know, this project would propel me to dedicate my academic career to African American poetry, literature, historic revision, and community advocacy. I did not know that this project would help me acquire a Graduate Assistant position at the Institute for African American Studies, which in turn would lead to a teaching position, which would fuel my research (in turn assigning research) on local African American history; as I read three of my students' Civil Rights interviews that are printed in this project I understand the full meaning of Mandala - the circle, a communal symbol for unity.
I am also reminded of the origin of this year's theme - bridges. For a Journal to move from being a voice solely for those within the African Diaspora, to include all who wish to dialogue with matters concerning identity, culture, and politics, was an enormous undertaking. My intention has never been to exclude, but always to open up towards a more inclusive platform; regardless of what box you may or may not check. I am proud to say my vision has come, as close to fruition as I think is possible - at least in today's climate. Perhaps having a multicultural journal in the future will be passé. Until then, we are a creative collective and reminder of what can be accomplished across borders.
This is my fourth and last year acting as Editor in Chief. I will refrain from making a cliché bridge metaphor, and instead thank and congratulate our staff and contributors for such a varied and thought-provoking issue. This year we cross continents, generational divides, break apart racial binaries, remember silenced histories, empower ourselves through community, love, and even grapple with extra-human strength. We are proud to display this year's cover art winner: Dwayne White's photograph, "A Pause before Crossing." I hope Dwayne's photograph reminds us all to take a pause, remembering to breathe and to enjoy the diversity that makes up our world, which we have the honor to highlight here.
I would like to thank Dr. Alridge, Dr. Giles, and Kendra Freeman from the Institute for African American Studies for believing in the Mandala vision. The Mandala Journal would not be possible without the support from our sponsoring department, or without the encouragement from the English and Creative Writing departments. A special thank you to Chad Mabry, who once again helped me pick up the pieces; who works tirelessly to creatively format this year's Journal. Lastly, in correction, last year we failed to print Beth Turner's biography. Turner, author of "A New York Tale," is a Doctoral Candidate in UGA's Theatre and Film Studies Department and Publisher/Editor of Black Masks Magazine. I would like to thank everyone who has contributed, supported, or otherwise believed in the Mandala Literary Journal. It is as a unit that we can achieve.
Elizabeth Fields is a second year MFA Creative Writing student concentrating in poetry. She is the Graduate Assistant at the Institute for African American Studies. Her writing has won several awards including a Puffin Foundation Grant and the Virginia Walters Poetry award. She is moving this fall to pursue her PhD in American Studies at St. Louis University.