The Sunlit Project
Each year, I contribute writing and a portion of Sun Lit's profits to support a special passion project, something close to the heart of Sun Literary's ethos. The following projects are published elsewhere with excerpts archived here. - Sun Cooper
HER JOURNEY, 2020
Drafted on my kitchen table during the pandemic, HER JOURNEY came into being through a beautiful partnership. The Sunlit Project and UNUM Magazine published HER JOURNEY, a narratology mapping the unique and universally-shared experiences of women's extraordinary journeys. Find the full archive at UNUM.
Birds make an appearance as if emblems of her journey. As a symbol of freedom, as a songbird. Her music can be found on Amazon and her sopranic vocal pipes were nationally-broadcast last August. In an image we've become accustomed to during the pandemic, she stood as a lone figure with a mic in an empty public space; but her voice and fervor filled the arena. Due to a rare skin condition called vitiligo, she has referred to herself as “God's Speckled Bird.” This unique combination calls to mind the thrush, a bird well-known for its brown-and-cream spotted plumage and its full range of notes, so unique that it was often featured in poems by William Wordsworth and in Homer's Odyssey; but Cece Jones-Davis’ journey best summons the poem penned by Maya Angelou, "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings."
As a descendant of African Americans, American Indians, and Europeans, Shonda Buchanan's journey is one of reckoning with multiple inheritances. Many of us identify with a predominant identity and the familial stories we were told growing up; but Shonda’s story begs the question: if we point to various places on the map to locate all of our ancestors, how many of us would find conflicting histories of loss, removal, immigration, slavery, indentured servitude, settlers, and conquest coursing through our blood?
In a conversation with UNUM, Shonda provokes answers that are both medicine and a knife, the kind Langston Hughes describes: Let us take a knife and cut the world in two – and see what worms are eating at the rind.
Featuring Shonda Buchanan, award-winning author of Black Indian. In honor of National Native American Heritage Month, read the full feature in UNUM Magazine, November 2020. (Reprinted with permission in Advanced Studies in England)
"Let the beauty we love be what we do." Karina Puente and I meet virtually in her Philadephia arts studio where she specializes in bringing "the muse" to the table. Like her watercolors across world galleries and her hand-dyed work stirred over a kitchen stove, her journey moves in both light and shadow, led more by a muse than a map. We dive deep into cultural ancestors, ancient mermaids, and art that transcends borders.
She’s a mother to a daughter named Genesis. She’s a skilled equestrian and the founder and owner of Mulatto Meadows. She prefers to go by Bri. But chances are, you already know Brianna Noble as the famed horsewoman of the Black Lives Matter protest. Images of her and her horse became iconic worldwide the day she rode through the streets of Oakland, California, in protest of George Floyd’s murder – a handmade cardboard sign with “Black Lives Matter” written in Sharpie swinging from her saddle. Together, Bri and Dapper Dan – a 17-hands-tall horse she trained as a “bombproof” mount – strike an imposing masthead to the anti-racism movement.
Bri’s journey began long before the protest; but powerful journeys aren’t always marked in miles or years. Sometimes they arise in an hour of supreme ordeal – then surge forward wildly from a fixed, historic moment. Bri’s ride down a city street turned out to be the journey of a lifetime.
Long riders are rare today; still rarer it seems, a traveler who doesn’t construct a feed or a following. Bernice Ende camps without internet, almost full time. I had traced her map where I could, following snippets on social media where someone had driven past her on a highway or hiked across her campsite. She navigates her way through urban cities and untamed lands at 4 miles per hour, and fences have taken on the grievances they inspired in the Old West. She has encountered grizzlies and snowstorms, outrun a tornado, had a stranger pull a gun on her, and has foraged for her own food and shelter daily. The day Bernice Ende set out to ride her Fjords – a strong horse breed from the mountains of Norway – across the country and beyond, she was fifty-years-wise. At a time in life when people are usually settling in, Bernice Ende was starting out on her most extraordinary journey.
The worldwide Long Riders’ Guild defines a long rider as someone who has ridden more than 1,000 continuous miles on a single equestrian journey. From 2005 till now, she has exceeded that distance thirty times over.
When I finally got ahold of Bernice, she agreed to get on the phone with me one Wednesday afternoon, and while I sat at my kitchen table and she bunked in someone’s barn, we began to map a narrative that speaks to obstacles, transformations, and riding into unknowns.
HUNTER'S HOME, 2016-2017
"We cannot live for ourselves alone. Our lives are connected by a thousand invisible threads." - Herman Melville
From inception, I've partnered in passion projects and supported advocacy for the marginalized, such as Red with Love, Hadassah House, All Things New Safe House, and Honor the Treaties. In 2016-2017, my passion project was to elevate the narrative of The Hunter's Home in Tahlequah, Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma, an historical house on road on a map that intersects deeply with my own.