The Bitter Southerner is a writing community determined to depict a Southern narrative that challenges one’s perspective. Co-founded in 2013 by Chuck Reese, Dave Whitling, Kyle Tibbs Jones, and Butler Raines, The Bitter Southerner began as a stand for southern cuisine and traditions that soon spiraled into a space of culture with a willingness to move forward. It is here where Southern people around the country discuss the environment, the Black experience, family traditions, and more topics that pull on our hearts and minds.
We recently screenprinted several prints that beautifully bring summer straight to your home. We took the opportunity to catch up with The Bitter Southerner on their current happenings, their history, and their 2020 membership drive.
Could you tell us a little about how The Bitter Southerner team began?
We started as a small group of storytellers, who felt like southerners were portrayed by most media as one of two stereotypes: dumb hillbillies or Gone With the Wind types, sitting on the veranda sipping sweet tea. The truth is, the South is a wonderfully diverse place filled with so many smart and beautiful people doing amazing things. That diversity seemed to be lacking in the portrayals we were seeing. We decided that the best way to combat those notions was to begin telling stories about all of the incredible things we saw going on in our communities and in the South at large. We weren’t blind to the baggage that southern culture carries today – much of it deserved. The atrocities of racism have plagued our region for far too long. We wanted to stare that down and have real, honest conversations about that past as a means of moving the region forward. In doing all of this, we hope to paint a picture of the South that looks a lot more like a beautiful, multi-colored tapestry than the black and white stereotypes so typically seen.
How do you think Southern food feeds into household tradition?
We love your new flower and vegetable print sets. What drew you to Southern visual artist Courtney Garvin's work?
Courtney has been a regular contributor to The Bitter Southerner since the early days. She is incredibly talented in a myriad of disciplines – graphic design, illustration, communication strategy. With design degrees from both Yale and R.I.S.D, she may be one of the most accomplished designers around – not just Atlanta, but the South at large. We call on her often and are always blown away by her contributions.
What made screenprinting your choice over other forms?
There is something about the art of screenprinting that you just can’t duplicate with a machine. The tactile quality of it is unmistakable. In this digital age, I really appreciate the element that screenprinting brings to a finished product. Danger Press nails it every time. I really feel like they are our secret weapon.
What tradition would you like to pass along?
The South has always been known for our hospitality. In the old days, that meant saying things like, "yes ma’am" and "no sir." We want to apply that hospitality to the region. This is a place welcoming to people from all walks of life. Diversity makes us stronger. I think Atlanta has always been a beacon in the South for equality and civil justice. We hope for it to become known as a welcome place for a broad array of ethnicities, religious beliefs, and cultures in general. We liken our region to gumbo: a mix of ingredients that come together to make something uniquely special.
What's next for The Bitter Southerner?
We envision ourselves as a multi-media organization. We started out as a weekly digital publication focusing on long-form journalism, and we've grown into a platform that publishes new and original content four days a week. We’ve also begun to publish books, including a series of paperback anthologies and photo books, with plans to do even more on that front. We launched a podcast last year and have recently wrapped up our second season. While we’ve produced some short films in the past, we’d love to do more on the video and film production front moving forward. We even dream of releasing music at some point in the future. The sky's the limit really. For us, it’s less about a particular medium and more about a style of purpose-driven storytelling.