nothing to lose but our chains

It is our duty to fight for our freedom.

It is our duty to win.

We must love each other and support each other.

We have nothing to lose but our chains.

—Assata Shakur


Edited by Poet, Writer, Activist and Public Theologian Marvin K. White. Published by Justice Matters Press.


SUBMISSION GUIDELINES: Submissions to Nothing to Lose But Our Chains: Black Voices on Activism, Resistance and Love, published by Justice Matters Press, are being accepted.



The Black Lives Matter movement, in its explicit insistence that black disenfranchised peoples be its leaders, inspired Nothing to Lose but Our Chains to offer itself as a gathering place of those bourgeoning voices. Both a milestone and time capsule for this movement—it is a record of how black people are thinking, feeling, knowing and naming how they are coming into voice. The voices in this collection are borne of this movement and are asked to contribute writings to a new and expanded civil rights manual that includes—with radical and particular attention to—black queer and trans voices, black women’s voices, and other historically marginalized black voices. Here, the combined force of black writers take up the Kingian mantel to provide prophetic insight, scholarly and political hope, direction and witness to a movement dismantling white supremacy by insisting on black love. Where once it was necessary for black resistances to state management and violence to remain hidden because of the very real threat of infiltration and cooption, today’s liberation struggle calls for a sacrosanct transparency. This collection leaves no one entering anew or returning to social transformation work without a road map. Gathered in these pages will be our demands and our prayers.


We are now accepting submissions of contemporary essays, stories, and creative non-fiction, as well as writing that pushes poetic forms into prose. We also welcome submissions of new digital writing genres (tweets, status updates, etc.) that tell compelling stories about black activism and the black experience in the 21st century.

We seek single or co-authored critical, creative, insightful writing that comes from firsthand political, cultural, academic and spiritual engagement against systemic racism and state violence. We seek analysis of extrajudicial killings of black women and men, of black queer and trans* peoples. We seek writing that is intersectional and points to how the value placed on the lives of black women show the value placed on all black lives. We seek writing that records and shares a cross-section of sectors where black people are working and writing themselves into a historicity. We seek writing that trusts and cites black source from wherever it emerges. We seek voices that know that it is not too soon, in our fast-moving history, to gather the analyses, the poetics and the syllabi of black folks’ presents and futures. We seek work that shows the ways in which black writers are teaching, mapping, redrawing and negotiating current political landscapes.


We are calling out to the voices of black writers interested in speaking candidly to black readers. We are calling out to black writers who return from their frontlines to organize anew with other communities of color. We are calling out to voices of black writers who speak regional and vernacular truths, who are not concerned with the white gaze or black respectability politics. Our contributors will speak in protest song and critical race theory, prose and creative non-fiction. We seek writing that is personal, varied, critical and creative. This collection holds sacred traditional and non-traditional writing that lifts up the authentic voices of emergent black voices actively engaged in strategies of resilience and resistance to anti-blackness.


We are not looking for second- or third-hand accounts, academic theory, postulations or objective journalism. We are not looking for writing that is preoccupied with the white gaze. We are not looking for the status quo, but instead writing that unapologetically adds homespun and theoretical analysis into contemporary discourse on race, racism, anti-blackness, state violence, black bodies, and black love. We are not looking for writing that erases the voices of activism that emerges from poverty. We are not looking for writing that does not dislodge the seemingly fixed mediums, messages and messengers who attempt to speak for a black experience—at best, and devalue black organic leadership and lives—at worst.


We understand that this is a movement where black folks must keep one another in mind always, and with this collection, we hope to help make that happen. We hope this book helps put the varied black movement voices in conversation with one another. We hope this book becomes one that activists carry in the streets and scholars teach in their classrooms. Nothing to Lose But Our Chains is the collective black self-affirmation said to ourselves—over and over.


Editor Marvin K. White is a Masters of Divinity student at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley. He is also the pastoral intern at Glide Memorial Church in San Francisco, and the author of four collections of poetry published by RedBone Press: Our Name Be Witness, Status and the two Lammy-nominated collections last rights and nothin’ ugly fly. As an ex-member of the critically acclaimed PomoAfroHomos, a Cave Canem Fellow, and a community-based artist, Marvin K. White is articulating a vision of social, prophetic and creative justice through being a black poet, artist, activist, community organizer, preacher, homemaker, cake baker, and Facebook statistician.


Justice Matters Press is the nation’s only social and racial justice-driven multiracial press. Justice Matters Press maintains a commitment to listening closely to the voices of artists, activists, women, LGBT peoples, and otherwise-identified thought leaders in our communities.


Submit your work in DOC or DOCX format to with the subject line “Nothing to Lose Submission” and your name (e.g. “Nothing to Lose Submission, Ruby Johnston”). We accept submissions of up to 5,000 words or 10 1″-margin pages. All submissions must include full contact information including Name, Address, Email, Phone Number and Website (if you have one). Previously published work is acceptable so long as you retain the rights to republish.


Previously Published and Coauthored Submissions

Nothing to Lose But Our Chains accepts submissions of previously published work that is vital and timely. Coauthored submissions should be queried to the editor and include the names of all writers, topic and format (e.g. Interview, Twitter exchange, meeting minutes, article, etc.).


Please note that submissions may require editing for content and length. We welcome submissions from writers with various levels of publishing experience, from community-based scribes, to policy shop and academy-based writers. We invite the fullest and widest representation of black folks to submit work.


Holding what you told me dear,

Marvin K. White, Editor

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