Underrepresented groups in religion publishing are finding a voice thanks to a new initiative titled Publishing in Color—a series of conferences aimed at African-Americans, Asian-Americans, Hispanic-Americans and others.

Goals of the conferences, according to founder Brian Allain, include fostering relationships between prospective authors and religion book and magazine publishers, and providing networking and educational opportunities that hopefully will lead to more books and articles published by these underrepresented groups.

Allain, director of the Frederick Buechner Center and who also founded the Writing for Your Life conferences, had attended another writers conference where he heard a panel member say that there was a lack of representation of people of color in books published and publishing house staff.

“That sparked an idea that maybe I could help this situation,” said Allain. “What I can do best is foster relationships and understanding. Publishers say they want to have more diverse authors and employees. Here’s an opportunity to put their money where their mouth is.”

The first Publishing in Color conference, designed specifically for African-American authors, will take place June 19-20 at New Brunswick Theological Seminary in New Brunswick, N.J.

Keynote speakers are Patricia Raybon, journalist and book author; Sophfronia Scott, fiction and nonfiction author; Rev. Frank Thomas, professor of homiletics and director of the Academy of Preaching and Celebration at Christian Theological Seminary; Rev. Jacqui Lewis, senior minister at Middle Collegiate Church and host of television’s Just Faith; Joyce Dinkins, executive editor of Our Daily Bread; and Yvonne Hawkins, chief content officer for Urban Ministries.

“The time is overdue to make changes in racial relations, and Christian publishing is part of that change,” said Raybon, who writes for InTouch Ministry magazine, Our Daily Bread, Christianity Today, and has published books with Thomas Nelson, Tyndale House and Penguin. “There are too few voices of color, especially if they are not celebrity authors. Lots of stories aren’t getting shared, published, and advanced. To get to those narratives takes a passion to find them and the courage to search.”

One of her dreams for Publishing in Color is that “significant stakeholders in publishing show up and make the effort to attend,” she said. “Relationships are how publishing works. I’m grateful for the doors God has opened and the opportunities he’s provided for me, but at the same time I’m eager to see women and people of color get those same opportunities.”

Allain is tapping into his contacts with publishers and partnering with Urban Ministries to introduce attendees and publishing professionals to the conference, as well as advertising on Facebook, Twitter, and Google. No dates are set for subsequent conferences yet.

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