Alumni Alumni in the News

January 20, 2019 at 6:13 pm

Alumni News | Russell Publishes Essay, ‘The Only Black Man in Medina, North Dakota’

Phillip Russell, portrait

Phillip Russell

by Kristin Distel

An essay by Creative Writing alum Phillip Russell (’18M) was published in Entropy. The essay, titled “The Only Black Man in Medina, North Dakota,” formed the basis of Russell’s Ohio University master’s degree thesis.

“The Only Black Man in Medina, North Dakota” describes Russell’s deeply frightening experience of visiting a small town, cataloging the ways in which minority status can not only isolate a human being but also render one vulnerable to gross abuses of power.

“There is a shame associated with the acknowledgement that sometimes, our fears are intrinsic to our experience, especially if you are black living in America. They are like brands given to us at birth and sometimes those anxieties are inescapable, we didn’t ask for them or see them coming, they just were there, they just are there,” he writes.

The essay grows out of a podcast project, “The LoonCast,” that Russell and three friends undertook during the summer of 2015. During those months, they traveled more than 8,000 miles in an effort to interview and catalog the experiences of people across the United States. Of all of the cities Russell visited during that time, “Medina has stuck with me the most,” he explains.

Russell began writing the essay nearly two years ago and received guidance and feedback from OHIO’s Creative Writing director Dinty Moore and fellow English graduate students.

Russell is a Master of Fine Arts candidate at the University of Washington, where he studies prose writing. He holds an M.A. in Creative Nonfiction Writing from Ohio University. His work has been nominated for the Best of the Net anthology and has appeared in the Brevity BlogHyperText MagazineBurrow PressNew River Journal, and more.

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