The Writers’ Colony at Dairy Hollow rewarded author Jodi Savage its Aging Mind Fellowship, which allows her a free two-week stay at The Writers’ Colony in Eureka Springs. The fellowship allows the writer to work on a project about Alzheimer’s, dementia, or the effects of aging on the brain during the stay. Savage will write an essay collection about caring for her grandmother, who had Alzheimer’s. Her work will discuss how black people experience Alzheimer’s disease, and the ways race, class, gender and faith affect that experience.
“Any sort of inequities get multiplied when you add illness,” Savage explained, “and black people are twice as likely to be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.”
She said she decided to apply for the fellowship, despite living in Brooklyn, New York, because she felt like it was meant to be. She had heard about the Writers’ Colony before and had wanted to do a residency there, and the fellowship fit her work perfectly. She will be staying in July, which will be her first time in Arkansas. To make it even more special, she found out she won the fellowship the day after her grandmother’s birthday.
Savage describes her grandmother as her favorite person in the world.
“She raised me – she really was my mother,” she said. “I called her Mom.”
Savage said seeking out help for mental illness was just seen as something that black people don’t do. She said her church saw mental illnesses like dementia as a form of punishment for sin. She also discussed the way that white people reacted towards her grandmother and likely towards others going through the same thing.
Savage mentioned that her grandmother used to have hallucinations, and would call the police, which unfortunately might not be the safest route for a mentally ill black person. She explained that this was before the Black Lives Matter movement, which made Savage aware of the possibility of police violence. She also discussed the way she was talked to by her grandmother’s doctor.
“I remember the doctor asked me, ‘How long do you want her to live anyway?’” Savage said. “He just felt perfectly comfortable saying that.”
Savage created an event in 2016 called Writers Slam, which was a literary event for people writing about Alzheimer’s. The event charged a small fee, and donated all proceeds to the Alzheimer’s Association.
Savage writes about topics on mental health and black women’s issues.Some of her writing has been in Catapult, Women’s Studies Quarterly, Kweli Journal, Wear Your Voice Magazine, and The Establishment. Savage graduated from Barnard College and Seton Hall University School of Law, and now works as an attorney and contributing editor for Kweli Journal. To learn more about her work, you can visit her website, jodimsavage.com.