We had the good fortune of connecting with Camari Carter Hawkins and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Camari, how did you come up with the idea for your business?
Mama’s Kitchen Press – the name itself – was birthed out of my grandmother’s kitchen. One evening, my mother, grandmother, and I were having an intimate conversation. I thought about how the kitchen is sacred ground for many families, especially African American families. We wash our collard greens and hair in the same sink – and don’t blink twice about it. Of course, we clean it but it’s the idea that cooking and therapy can happen in the same place. So many memories are built there. That is where the name came from. I always knew I wanted to start a business, but I didn’t know what. After working several years with a local press publishing books, I came up with the idea to start my own press but with a twist. I only want to publish anthologies and help individual writers self-publish.
Let’s talk shop? Tell us more about your career, what can you share with our community?
I am a journal writer turned poet and newbie fiction writer. My poetry is typically about justice for children, racial injustice, and self-reflection. By participating in writing groups, I was able to grow exponentially. I am not remotely the poet I was five years ago. I believe my dedication to workshop and critiques is what sets me a part. I’m not afraid to get my work chewed if it means there is an opportunity for a better poem. It is not easy turning over your work into the hands of others to be critiqued. If not careful, you can fall into the rabbit hole of thinking you aren’t enough as a poet. I am still learning to separate my feelings from the critique. The best piece of advice I was given was to “write drunk, edit sober.” That means to lay it all out on the page and not be afraid to look at your work with sobering eyes willing to make changes. I want people to know that I am just a woman who wants to write just to better articulate herself and her world.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
The World Stage and Leimert Park on any given night – preferably Wednesday night. We would get a veggie patty from Ackee Bamboo, a Croissant donut from Hot N Cool, pick up a book from Esowon, grab some coffee from Sip N Sonder. We could chill at Hilltop Cafe then hang at Hermosa Beach. We could shop at my friend’s store downtown called Eightyfiveightysix, Hang out downtown at any local bar, pop into ArtShareLA to see if there are any shows or art galleries.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I could write a book filled with shoutouts. I am fully aware that I would not be where I am today without prayers, support, and wisdom provided by someone else. I shout out my husband who is my biggest supporter. As a creative himself, he understands the plight and always affirms me to get back to what makes me happy – which is doing something creative. I shout out Hiram Sims who has taught me a million things when it comes to writing, publishing and cultivating community. In many ways, he has been a mentor to me and a great teacher. I shout out all the fabulous poets who I met through Community Literature Initiative and The World Stage: V. Kali, Jaha Zainabu, Nadia Hunter Bey, Penelope Lowder, bridgette bianca, AKoldPiece, October BLU, Alexander James, Jessica Gallion, Shakirah Peterson, Noro Otitigbe, Kuahmel, Michelle Williams, and listen …. so many more. My life is rich with poets. If I missed listing anyone, they are not missing from my heart. I am immensely grateful. I also shout out my mother, grandmother, father, sister, and brothers who I hope to make proud.
Camari Carter Hawkins