I have spent the past few months in active business development for Bronzeville Books, a business unit of Allied Gardner, LLC, an investment firm I founded in 1997 with the intent to exploit emerging technologies in media. I write to you now, from Hong Kong (HKSAR,) where protests concerning the economic rights of citizens are active and ongoing, often with dire consequences. I am watching, with deep regret, the unfolding of the secret and silent labor struggles in genre fiction, across Mystery/Crime (of which I am an established author,) Horror, and Science Fiction and Fantasy. I, myself, was subjected last year to a bitter version of the same soft lynching the Private Eye Writers of America inflicted upon women of color this year. I was not there to help, protect, and defend the dignity of women, for I was here, seeking economic support so authors, editors, and publishing professionals would not be subjected to the evils that BEVERLY BAMBURY, trusted PR and Marketing professional and friend to many, suffered over at ChiZine, a publishing house most rank and file authors would kill to be in print with.
Folks should know, before they submit, what most small and mid-range publishing houses do to survive, with is abuse and malign women, black folk, and non-black POCs, refuse to pay advances, refuse to pay royalties on time, if at all, and harass, undermine, and disturb the personal lives of those who disagree with their agendas.
I meant to use this space today to write about the future, and how Bronzeville Books is ushering a new age of equality by leveraging it as a chief business mandate. I feel the current conversation is better served with Beverly’s proud and courageous account. Bronzeville stands with Beverly Bambury, and all members of our profession who seek freedom from the silent, unspoken evils we are facing. Help is on the way, folks. Injustice is over. Its carcass just has yet to begin decomposition, but it bakes in the harsh sun of cowardice. Cowardice on the part of those who take comfort in the racism and sexism white supremacy thrives upon. Many authors, black, non-black POC, and women, support these evil systems waiting on their turn in the sun. Same as that carcass I need to call animal control to come get off our lawn.
In the words of the blessed black folk who birthed me, “You see how they do us, dirty. Now, g’on over there and be a fool if you want.”
And now, here’s Beverly, presented word for word, with her permission.
Daniel Gardner, Founder, Bronzeville Books, LLC
My ChiZine story, by Beverly Brambury
I have had my own full-time on my own publicity business for about 6 years so far. It started when I worked for ChiZine Publications (CZP) for a year and three months. It was mostly for no pay, which was my choice. At one point they offered me a token amount of pay per book, but soon it appeared to me that they were struggling to afford that so I wanting to help and be supportive said not to worry about the pay. They accepted my offer and I kept working for free. I now am convinced they had a sense of entitlement and almost no appreciation for how much people did for them for little to no compensation, out of the goodness of their hearts. And how the core group at CZP abused people’s goodness, passion, and sincerity. I am getting ahead of myself, though.
I started with them because I was finishing a marketing degree later in life. (I graduated with my B.S. I was 39 years old.) Being an older student, it was harder for me to find an internship that suited my life circumstances. As a HUGE fan of ChiZine’s early efforts back in 2011, I talked to Sandra Kasturi at a convention and we both agreed that it would be a fabulous idea if I did an internship with them. I started doing publicity for some of their books not long after that. I did not at the time realize it is probably not a legal internship arrangement, but I don’t think that would have changed my choice since I was new to the Toronto area and to Canada and I had pretty much no friends in the area yet and my career was late-blooming.
I loved working with the authors in the CZP fold, the bloggers and reviewers, and the local Toronto-area community. Publicity was the perfect fit for my personality and I seemed to be thriving to all outside observers, but increasingly I was dealing with destabilizing, gaslighting behaviour behind the scenes.
Of course it started out fine. Things were exciting. I felt like I belonged. But it quickly escalated into pressure to do a lot of work. I was gung-ho and let it slide because I have boundless energy when I am passionate. It took little time to continue to escalate into Sandra Kasturi (primarily) berating everything I did or said. Gaslighting in the sense that she would say I had done something I hadn’t done, or hadn’t done things I had. Nothing I did was right. Absolutely nothing. I got to the point I was afraid to see her name in my email. Even though I was doing my best and was sincere and working hard for them and for their authors, nothing was good enough.
Eventually it got worse, with being literally physically ostracized at their events. They would keep my husband in (who they liked a lot, and who helped emcee the ChiSeries events in Toronto,) and shoulder me out of the group. Brett Savory would put his chair between me and other people or hit me with nasty comments. Many times I ended up having to sit at the back of the bar in which we held the reading series because they wouldn’t let me near them, even though my husband was with them. At some point during all this they fired me with a saccharine note about how we could be friends again if we weren’t working together, though that was false because whenever I came around it was obvious I wasn’t wanted. It was middle school bully behaviour. Ignoring, sneering, rude comments.
I forget the date and how it fits into things on the timeline, but my husband and I were having some troubles, as many marriages do, and even though things were bad with Sandra and Brett and me, in a moment of weakness and feeling isolated, I confessed the struggle I was having to Sandra. She can seem so warm when it suits her. She hugged me and comforted me and I thought maybe things might be OK. I feel stupid and pathetic when I remember this now, because I feel I should have known better after everything that transpired.
Not much later, CZP author and very close confidant to Sandra, Michael Rowe, took my husband out to lunch and tried to get him to say bad things about me. My husband says Rowe turned the conversation towards this multiple times. My husband did not let the conversation go that way, naturally. It was very odd. Later I heard from a very trusted source that Sandra, Brett, Michael and others would sit around and talk about what a terrible person I was, and try to plot to destroy my marriage and who they could hook my husband up with so they could “keep” my husband but get rid of me. They said I was ruining his life.
Sandra shared my pain with others who then used it to betray me and try to further undermine my life. Think about it. They laughed at and enjoyed my pain and plotted to make it worse.
I mean at what point does something go from an ostensibly professional relationship to trying to destroy a marriage? By the way: I have heard directly from another affected person that we are not the only couple with which they tried this, but I can not tell another person’s story.
There are other illustrative incidents, but I won’t include some of them because this is already so long and so much. All I ever did was work hard for CZP, mostly for free. I was passionate about their authors and worked happily for them as their cheerleader. Sure, some campaigns went better than others, but given that I was working for no pay and at the same time finishing my degree, taking care of my family, and working a challenging full-time job, I did my very best. To this day I don’t know exactly why they twisted my motives so badly, but I accepted a long time ago that one doesn’t create people’s actions, can’t control people’s actions, and can’t cure them.
I remain hurt by people who turned their backs on me, preferring to stick by these toxic people even though they knew what was happening. I can’t tell you how many people I thought were my friends tried to minimize what I had gone through, and then in some cases deserted me. Some of these people decried toxicity in the community and then turned around and let it slide with CZP. People thought CZP had something to offer them coolness-wise or career-wise. This is just human nature. I get it. But it sucks and we can do better.
I deserved better and Ed Kurtz deserved better, and so many of us deserved better. And I am glad you’re all finally listening.