On Wednesday, August 19, debut author Jordan Ifueko was scheduled to discuss her new YA fantasy, Raybearer, with Dhonielle Clayton, author and COO of We Need Diverse Books. The literary event would be sponsored by WORD, which has hosted dozens of readings and author Q&As after the pandemic shut down in-store events.
The reading, however, was stilted, when Zoom bombers promptly entered the digital room, compromising the authors’ safety and interfering with their ability to proceed with the event. “This was ZOOM-bombed with salsa music and we were called niggers repeatedly,” Clayton shared in a tweet at 7:17 p.m. on Wednesday night. “So we are going to find another way to do the event. Stand by everyone. I’m a little heartbroken and sad. I shouldn’t be surprised.” Minutes later she added, “I might have to never do these events again. It’s so triggering.”
“In case you didn’t know, HEARING this happened is traumatizing. Literally makes me want to stop doing any virtual events,” author Bethany C. Morrow responded.
According to Word co-owner, Vincent Onorati, a moderator was monitoring the Zoom waiting room and chatroom, with the ability to control guests’ microphones and videos, ready to remove anyone disruptive. In a previous Word Zoom event, a disruptive guest had promptly been removed. Wednesday was different, however, as the event was taken over by Zoom bombers, who removed the moderator from the Zoom, and prevented Word from having access to the controls.
Still, the Zoom bombing was not a surprise to the Black authors, who were aware of similar incidents happening over the past few months. “What sucked the most is that both Dhonielle & I told the bookstore we would be targeted by racists. We asked, repeatedly, if the Zoom would be secure & we would be protected. They told us they would handle it, & that we’d be fine. The harassment started as soon as the Zoom did,” Jordan Ifueko tweeted.
After the Zoom shut down on Wednesday, Ifueko and Clayton considered re-starting the event on a new platform, but decided to ultimately put the event on hold. Onorati accepts Word’s culpability for the Zoom bombing, noting that future events will “definitely require pre-registration,” as a measure to protect authors and guests. “We will do everything we can to make sure no one is ever put at risk like this again,” Onorati told Greenpointers. “We will not do virtual events until we are sure they are safe spaces for the BIPOC authors we adore.”
Greenpointers reached out to Clayton and Ifueko for comment, and this developing story will be updated accordingly.