Kwame McPherson wins Commonwealth Short Story Prize with “Ocoee”

Kwame McPherson has won the 2023 Commonwealth Short Story Prize for his story “Ocoee,” named after the Florida town and site of a 1920s massacre of Black residents. The prize is awarded annually to the best unpublished short fiction in English from the Commonwealth. The Jamaican writer’s story was selected from over 6,000 entries and was praised by the judges as “a memorial to the enduring nature of the human spirit.”

The ceremony for the award was held virtually and during the event, McPherson expressed his gratitude for the recognition and spoke about the importance of storytelling. He said, “Stories make up the tapestry of our everyday lives. They are the threads that connect us to our past, present and future. I am honoured to receive this award and to be able to share my story with the world.”

McPherson also touched on the significance of the story’s setting and the historical events that inspired it. He said, “The Ocoee massacre is a tragic chapter in American history that is often overlooked. I wanted to shine a light on this event and pay tribute to the lives that were lost. I hope that my story can help to raise awareness and promote understanding.”

The Commonwealth Short Story Prize is a prestigious award that recognises emerging writers from across the Commonwealth. McPherson’s win is a testament to his talent and the power of his storytelling. His story “Ocoee” is a poignant reminder of the importance of remembering our shared history and the resilience of the human spirit.

The Ocoee massacre was a violent attack on Black residents that resulted in the deaths of dozens of people. McPherson also wanted to interweave African American reality and history with Caribbean folklore. In his acceptance speech, McPherson mentioned that he hoped his story could help raise awareness and promote understanding.


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