Okey Napier, Jr. Diversity & Inclusion MFA Scholarship
Okey Napier knew what it meant to write in and from the heart of Appalachia. Okey started the MFA in creative writing program at WV Wesleyan College, studying nonfiction, in January 2017, and he was entering his fourth semester when we lost him on July 17, 2018, only two days after we all departed from summer residency. Our community mourns the loss of one of our great lights, a writer of deep compassion, sassy humor, and a yearning for justice. Okey’s vision for his writing was to make space for voices that often go unheard in the dominant Appalachian narrative, and his vision for the human family was one of welcome and belonging. He was a contributor to the 2017 collection Unbroken Circle: Stories of Cultural Diversity in the South and was slated to be included in a 2019 anthology of LGBTQ literature from Appalachia. Because diversity and inclusion were such important aspects of Okey’s life and work, the WV Wesleyan MFA program has established this memorial scholarship to offer tuition assistance to incoming MFA students who identify with underrepresented or marginalized communities. Reflecting on his recent summer MFA residency experience, Okey wrote: “I totally and completely felt like I belonged. The ghosts and self-doubt were held completely at bay this time. Each residency I’ve danced with imposter syndrome. This time, I did not. I know I belong there and because of that I felt opened to listening and working and doing in a way that I’ve not before.” Okey never stopped growing as a person and a writer, and we’re grateful to all of you who will honor his memory by helping other writers banish their ghosts and self-doubt so they can mature as writers working toward their MFA. We have set the donation goal at $20,000 so that we will be able to endow the scholarship and ensure a consistent annual yield for scholarship disbursal. Thank you for giving so that more writers may be welcomed here.