Grantee Partner Spotlight: Lucky Jefferson

Covers of Lucky Jefferson's "Awake" digital zine collection

Lucky Jefferson Awake Covers

By Mark Hallett, Director of Grants Programs

Read Time 4 minutes
September 19, 2022

Lucky Jefferson, dedicated to publishing social change, received an Illinois Humanities Vision Grant to conduct focus groups to evaluate the needs and interests of Chicago-based Black, African, and African-American writers and artists, ahead of the rebrand of their digital zine for Black authors, “Awake." Lucky Jefferson is a print and digital publisher reimagining books by creating interactive and collaborative experiences that center the writer and artist and cultivate inclusion and representation in contemporary literature.

Read more about this organization and its passions in the Q&A with Lucky Jefferson's executive director.

A Q&A with Lucky Jefferson

Featuring NaBeela Washington, Executive Director

Q: How do you see the arts, culture, and the humanities as being essential?

Nabela Washington: Without the arts and humanities, people’s ability to boldly translate their experiences, tender moments, and the world around them would be severely harmed, and limited. Art, the humanities, culture in itself, serve as a window, a peek behind the curtains of other people’s existence. I can’t imagine a life void of it. I don’t want to.

Q: What is the most important thing that people should know about your work?

Nabeela Washington: Lucky Jefferson is a nonprofit publisher committed to amplifying stories that most represent our modern world. We publish social change, meaning we are dedicated to reimagining the way writers and artists are represented, including the systems that have perpetually stifled contemporary works and harmed marginalized communities. We operate with a collaborative mindset and are intentional about everything we do because the work and people we encounter are like critical relics that should be handled with care.

Q: How did you arrive at doing what you do?

Na Beela Washington NYC 1

NaBeela Washington, Executive Director, Lucky Jefferson. (photo by Olalekan Dada)

An emerging Black poet, NaBeela Washington holds a Master’s in Creative Writing and English from Southern New Hampshire University and Bachelor’s in Visual Advertising from The University of Alabama at Birmingham. She has been published in Eater, The Cincinnati Review, The Washington Writers’ Publishing House, Crazyhorse, and others.

Nabeela Washington: I grew up wanting to be a writer but I was too afraid to make that leap and frankly not strong enough at that moment in time. Before Lucky Jefferson, I didn’t have the tenacity and willpower that it takes to be a writer and was on a more traditional path, having studied Marketing and Communications at a research University in Birmingham Alabama. And before that, I was on what felt like an endless pursuit of acceptance from others, with the intent of becoming a Neonatal Cardiologist. 

It wasn’t until I began my graduate studies in Creative Writing & English that I felt a spark to build a community of writers and artists to encourage me on my journey. Those embers were the early blaze of Lucky Jefferson.

Q: Who makes your work possible?

Nabeela Washington: Too many people to list, but first I’ll excitedly acknowledge The Community of Literary Magazines & Presses. They have helped Lucky Jefferson (and myself) grow tremendously.

I’d also like to show appreciation to Jamie O’Reilly (she was our very first monetary supporter before we even thought of becoming a nonprofit). We have a fabulous board; and amazing interns who bring Lucky Jefferson to life through the arts!

We’re also excited to continue working with The Book Worm Bookstore (they are helping us reach Southern readers); the African Women’s Cancer Awareness Association and The City of Beaverton (we won a grant earlier this summer to catapult our communal experiences!).

Nabeela Washington's Suggested Reading

A Fortune For Your Disaster by Hanif Abdurraqib
In this much-anticipated follow-up to The Crown Ain't Worth Much, poet, essayist, biographer, and music critic Hanif Abdurraqib has written a book of poems about how one rebuilds oneself after a heartbreak, the kind that renders them a different version of themselves than the one they knew.

About Lucky Jefferson

Founded in 2018, Lucky Jefferson is a print and digital publisher reimagining books by creating interactive and collaborative experiences that center the writer and artist and cultivate inclusion and representation in contemporary literature. MORE



@LuckyJefferson Current Happenings

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About the Grantee Partner Spotlight Series

Illinois Humanities highlights the work of our Grants partners through our monthly Grantee Partner Spotlight. It shines a light on our grantee partners' work and allows readers to get to know them better through a Q&A with members of the organization. Read more by browsing the "Grantee Partner Spotlight" series here.