This is the transcript from a presentation I gave on the research I am currently working on. The larger title is: “Lahey v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania: Reimagining Spatial Epistemology through the Fictive.”Read More
Before social justice activist, lawyer, and award-winning author Bryan Stevenson ever arrived at Emory University, his presence was strongly felt on campus. His book Just Mercy was this year’s selection for Emory’s Common Reading Program; Emory sponsored numerous trips to The Legacy Museum and The National Memorial for Peace and Justice, both of which Stevenson founded; and Stevenson and Just Mercy were topics of discussion in many Emory classes, a fact that I can personally attest to.Read More
I was a psychology major. I didn’t particularly like my classes, and I often wish I would’ve switched to sociology or English or linguistics or really anything else, but I stuck with psychology. As a result, I find myself in this constant feedback loop between theory and practice. I apply psychological theories to my 7th grade students, to my 50-something year-old parents, to my 18 year-old brother, to my 20-and-30-something year old peers, and (if you know me, you saw this coming) to myself. I’m constantly trying to make sense of human behavior. I think understanding our psychological motivations gives me a little more hope for humanity. And somehow, it makes me feel like I have more control, too.Read More
i’ve spent quite awhile trying to put this experience into words. in many ways, it is ineffable. a post-lingual phenomenon. but I’m going to try anyway. though failure is a very real possibility, there is such beauty in the effort.Read More
After months, Emory University's Robert W. Woodruff Library remains the nexus of Mari Evans' written legacy, as artists and scholars frequent her papers, held in the Stuart A. Rose Library. The winter tribute to Evans still has readers and writers of all ages jonesing on Evans' song. These lines from Mari Evans’ poem “The Rebel” describe the intention and the success of the event:
coming to see
trying to make
“There is no place on this planet, no ground, no air, no sanctuary, no wharf, no hermitage, no refuge, no time, like… when Black poets descend on an unsuspecting space and it becomes...” Although Nikkey Finney’s words are speaking about a Black writing retreat held yearly by Cave Canem, these words rather appropriately capture the space made out of the Robert W. Woodruff Library’s Jones Room on a Wednesday night. Poets who held the roles of researchers, scholars, students, activists, and mentors filled the room.
We know that the history of a people lies in the members of a body. We know that Mari Evans hosted a body. We see what she did with the head, the heart… Just over a week ago generations of Black Arts Movement artists and scholars congregated to collectively stir Mari Evans’ legacy, to imprint her into the few hours of “The Rebel: In Celebration of Mari Evans.” Opening the night were student poets such as Kira Tucker (C20), Daquon Wilson (C21), and Maya Mitchell (Spelman C18) who conjured Evans’ voice into the space by reading her poems.
Dr. Joanne Gabin, Dr. Althea Tait, and Dr. Bettie Parker Smith sat on a panel led by poet Dr. Opal Moore. The room was filled with poetry. From Evans’ poems to haikus used to introduce the panelists, this was entirely a poetic gathering. There was music, too. A jazz backdrop filled with songs by artists like Evans’ friend Wes Montgomery grew soft in the shadow of conversation and reunions. In this gathering sat years of relationships, both familial and those cherished by old friends.
Dr. Joanne Gabin began the panel discussion in the way she knew best to remember Mari. She spoke about the day. Gabin and Evans shared many phone calls to do this very ritual. There is something about following a sequence of events that situates you. Gabin situated the audience in the current national dialogue, by opening up conversation on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Repeatedly, Gabin said “Mari would say…” and she shared words derived from years of an experienced relationship.
The purpose of this event was to honor Evans, and to bring attention to the fact that Emory University’s Stewart A. Rose Manuscript, Archives and Rare Book Library now has Evans’ papers. To have a poet in file is to have a body in preservation. Evans’ papers were enlivened as many of the individuals she corresponded with were in the room. Dr. Gloria Wade Gayles and Dr. Bettye Park Smith are among the many voices in Mari Evans papers. These voices are still writing, singing, speaking. To attend this event was to watch an archive breathe with the life of its host again. Mari Evans was loved, and is dearly missed. This is a given. However, the power of her legacy is undying.
As a Mellon Fellow researching Mari Evans for some time now, this event was nothing short of church. It was as if each speaker gave a hard-hitting sermon and the audience partook in this form of communion. After huddling over Mari Evans’ poems with my mentor, Dr. Jericho Brown, and leafing through files of Evans’ papers with Charmaine Bonner, Project Archivist at the Rose Library – the most rewarding part of this program was the engagement. From the moment the first guest arrived, there entered laughter and song. It was truly a celebration of life.
A lineage established itself from Mari, to the speakers, ultimately reaching the audience. Black women scholars filled the room. This is a testament to her legacy. Her community and those who aspire to be artists and academics gathered together. While Mari is in her poems, in the people she knew and loved, she is acutely present in the materials of the archive. This entire event was built upon it. Consider her papers a recipe. Speaker by speaker we cooked up her legacy, conjured her. Mari was in the laughter and the stillness. Call it a Celebration.
I will bring you a whole person
and you will bring me a whole person
and we will have us twice as much
of love and everything
I be bringing a whole heart
and while it do have nicks and
dents and scars,
that only make me lay it down
An you be bringing a whole heart
a little chipped and rusty an'
sometime skip a beat but
still an' all you bringing polish too
and look like you intend
to make it shine
And we be brinigng, each of us
the music of ourselves to wrap
the other in
Soft as a choir's last
lingering note our
I will be bringing you someone whole
and you will be bringing me someone whole
and we be twice as strong
and we be twice as true
and we will have twice as much
14 years ago, Emory junior, Kwame Wireko encountered something that would come to have a major impact on his life. Wireko was walking to the market with his grandmother, in his home city of Accra, Ghana when he noticed something peculiar on the side of the road. Wireko and his grandmother had passed a group of schoolkids drinking dark coffee from a calabash, a gourd used in many parts of West Africa. Initially, Wireko couldn't comprehend why kids so young were drinking coffee until his grandmother informed him that the liquid they were drinking from the calabash was actually water. The water was so contaminated that the color closely resembled that of a cup of coffee. The idea that clean water, a necessity for life, could be so inaccessible to some, combined with the imagery of that particular scene would follow him for years to come.
Since then, Wireko has had the idea that he’d one day do something to change the accessibility of clean water in Africa. His desire to make this change stuck over the years but the idea really began coming to life when Wireko met fellow junior, Cole Holan, during their time as students on Emory's Oxford campus. He recalls seeing Holan speaking passionately about a startup Holan was involved with at the time, and it was in that moment that he knew he wanted to collaborate with Holan on his idea. "I saw that Cole genuinely believed in the ideas he was presenting. And so, I believed in the person and saw the talent that he’d bring to the table". Hereafter, the Calabash brand was born, named after the gourd that Wireko watched those kids drink from many years ago.
The summer following their sophomore year, the two started thinking hard about what they would make of the Calabash brand. By this time the idea was abstract, still in its developing stages. Wireko and Holan ultimately decided that one of their main goals would be to support a sustainable water project in Africa. After a lot of research and a period of trial and error, they decided to partner with Lifewater, an NGO that aims to “overcome all forms of water poverty”. Together, Lifewater and Calabash intend to raise enough money to build a well in Mayuge, a very poor region in Eastern Uganda. Sticking with the theme of water, Holan and Wireko settled on selling water bottles to raise the funds for this project.
The second goal that Wireko and Holan intend to accomplish with Calabash, is changing the story that we typically hear about Africa. Their idea is to use the campaign to get people's attention and educate the public about a side of the continent that people may not be used to hearing about. “We really want to be a bridge between here and there. We want to showcase the positive aspects of African culture” explains Holan.
Since this summer. Wireko and Holan have put in a lot of hard work leading up to the initial release of their product and campaign. Calabash officially launches in November. The campaign takes the form of a Idiegogo page from which you can purchase the water bottles that sport a light and portable modern style. In addition to including a removable infused filter, the Calabash water bottles have double walled vacuum insulation that guards the temperature of beverages for more than 24 hours. The bottles not only support a great cause but they are also beautifully designed as well.
Wireko stresses that Calabash is “not just a company but a whole movement. We are trying to change people’s perspectives.” “We don’t just want to help people” adds Holan, “We want to tell stories. It’s so important to share these stories that may ultimately change lives.”
Follow Calabash on Social Media to Support the Cause:
Instagram : @calabashbottles
Facebook : @calabashbottles
Picture Credit: Elevate Media and Tomi Idowu
By: Adama Kamara, Staff Writer
On September 26, Black Emory’s Association for Caribbean Students and Educators (ACES), the African Student Association (ASA), the Black Student Association (BSA), the Emory chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and members of the wider Emory community united for The Linkup, to discuss the question: do students find the Black community alienating despite efforts to achieve inclusivity?
Discussion took place as a Barkley Forum moderated debate. Arguing “pro,” River Bunkley, Mame Kane, and Deen Whitaker, presented evidence on why students do find Emory’s Black community to be inclusive. Arguing “con,” Michael Andrews, Christell Victoria Roach, and Kwame Wireko argued why Emory’s Black spaces can still be isolating, despite efforts to achieve inclusivity.
River Bunkley began by arguing that Black organizations have been making significant strides in promoting inclusivity for Emory’s Black student population. He recalled his own freshman year, in which leadership of Black organizations was not as diverse or intersectional. According to Bunkley, the fact that more Black women and Black queer students hold major leadership positions within Black organizations is a significant indicator of inclusivity, as well as the community’s emphasis that “blackness is not a monolith.”
Mame Kane highlighted the diverse audience in attendance, in addition to the fact that an event was expressly organized for debate on this topic, as additional evidence of Black Emory’s inclusivity.
Christell Victoria Roach countered by arguing that accessibility remains an issue in spaces where students may still feel evaluated on “how hot or how lukewarm [their] blackness is.” She explained that students must battle notions of authenticity in order to feel welcome in some Black spaces by stating, “it’s not a matter of who’s invited to the dinner, it’s what’s being talked about at the dinner table.”
According to Kwame Wireko, although many organizations proudly boast the idea that blackness is all-encompassing, it is extremely difficult to encompass a community as large and multifaceted as Black Emory. He argued that all Black students have varying ideologies and backgrounds, thus precluding equal representation of their voices in a single conversation.
Michael Andrews added that Emory seems to break into “sects of blackness.” Andrews stated that, “on campus there seems to be a lot of emphasis on defining blackness through the American lens.” According to Andrews, this creates inequity in the sense of belonging among African, Black American, and Caribbean students.
An additional question was posed by one moderator of the debate: “How do you deal with accepting a Black student who holds ideas that are separate from the norm?” Deen Whitaker
responded by stating that “being Black is not this one set of ideas,” and that a member of the Black community would not be alienated simply because they have a different experience than the majority. All speakers agreed that if, for example, a Black student were a vocal Trump supporter, they would still be welcomed into spaces such as the EBSU to engage in conversation.
The “pro” side concluded by stating that “inclusivity is in the pursuit,” as Emory has seen an increase in engagement with Black student organizations in recent years, and that the university has enacted practices to promote inclusivity within the Black community. Despite this, the “con” side concluded by questioning the extent to which these measures are actually effective in achieving their aims.
Following the debate, students participated in an Ideological Spectrum activity. Statements relating to various aspects of Black experience were read aloud, and students stood on the sides of “agree,” “disagree,” or somewhere in the middle. Topics ranged from supporting Black-owned business, interracial dating, separatism, defining blackness, and more. This activity emphasized the ideological diversity within Black Emory, in addition to providing space within The Linkup for further critical discussion.
As a sophomore involved in the Black community, I have experienced, first-hand, both sides of the argument. I have definitely felt welcomed in many of the spaces and events of Black Emory, such as this one. However, I hold the privilege of being a Black American student within an American context. I have not had to wrestle with the issues of reconciling my home culture, nationality, ethnicity, etc. to the same extent as some of my peers from differing backgrounds. In the interest of all of Black Emory, we must challenge the prevailing notion that Black Americans hold the ultimate authority on blackness, especially in multi-ethnic communities such as ours. I appreciated having my perspective challenged during the Ideological Spectrum event, as some African students shared their struggles of identifying with and relating to discussions of blackness in an American context.
Though the debate was very well-argued, I feel it only scratched the surface of some deep-rooted divisions among members of the African diaspora at Emory. Throughout my time here thus far, it has pained me to witness everything from social media wars reminiscent of “Oppression Olympics” between members of the Black community to the more subtle, unspoken tension among Black students navigating spaces on campus. I think that, in order to truly remedy these issues, they must be addressed in a less oblique manner. For the sake of unity in Emory’s Black community, we need to get straight to the heart of these issues through discussions that are candid and honest, but welcoming nonetheless.
The discussion fostered by the Ideological Spectrum activity was definitely a place to start. However, I often found myself occupying the middle ground between “agree” and “disagree” for many of the statements proposed to the group because they seemed to make sweeping generalizations about the Black community as a whole, despite our frequent emphasis that blackness is not a monolith. As River Bunkley stated during the debate, “our experiences while being Black are very different.” For centuries, we as a people have had a history of having our blackness defined for us by western society, often having notions of how Black people ought to exist force-fed to us. Therefore, I found it challenging to take a stance on blanket statements that begun with “Blacks must…” or “Black people should…” because the lived experiences of blackness are too diverse, multifaceted, and complex to fit into one set of expectations for all Black people.
Overall, I feel that this event brought light to many crucial conversations that need to be had at Emory. I look forward to seeing many more events like The Linkup which unite various groups within Black Emory and seek to bridge the gap between the many Black organizations on campus. While this preliminary event set important discussions in motion, I hope to see it serve as a springboard for Black Emory to dive deeper into the issues of inclusivity and community.
By: Kira Tucker, Staff Writer
The tenets of dressing well are easily understood, but not so easily practiced, especially on a college campus, where it always feels like you’re separated from that one item to complete an outfit. The item could be at home, missing, or still on the rack at the store, but either way, it’s not there when you need it.
This brings me to my first tenet: nothing ever looks bad, it just doesn’t look right. What I mean by this is that any article of clothing could conceivably be turned into a masterpiece. Be it a Saturday night party, or gym couture, every item has its setting, a place for it to shine. Wearing a leather jacket might be cute at the gym, but it’s not doing nearly as much work as it could at an Alpha party. Clothes, even the ones your mother buys for you when you tell her not to, have value. An oversized shirt is really sleepwear; a too small shirt is really a crop top; an ugly sweater is really an ugly Christmas sweater; an ugly shirt is really just 90s throwback gear. Their utility lies only in one’s own possibility to innovate from nowhere, conjuring up new aesthetics or looks.
A big part of my wardrobe (when I used to care about how I looked on weekdays) is color-blocking. Now, color-blocking refers to pairing colors on the color wheel that are complementary or opposite. This manifests in multiple ways: wearing pastels with pastels, three different shades of the same color, all neutral colors (denim, brown, grey, navy, etc.) to block against bright colors (yellow, red, pink, etc.), and complements (e.g. green & red). It is a system with rules that must be obeyed, until you’ve mastered it; then, of course, you can break any rule you so desire, but it is a good starting point for opening your eyes to see what colors pair well with one another. Remember: outfits do not start and stop simply at shirt and pant, but spread to accessories and anything else carried on the body forming a full aesthetic.
Set pieces are a way of carrying an aesthetic. They mark the look for its setting; like, for example, a leather jacket signifying a party look or a grid vest signifying reclamation of the geek look. These pieces speak for themselves and can be obtained for the low at thrift stores and for the high at other stores, if you’re the type of person that minds wearing some presumably dead person’s clothes.
All of these tenets are essential to forming daily looks, which then comprises an individual’s aesthetic, or what a person can typically be expected to be serving, on any given day. Remember: copying someone else does not make you look better, it makes them look better. Inspiration on the other hand has no loyalties.
By: Chad Tucker, Staff Writer
On January 21, about 20,000 people gathered in Atlanta for the monumental March for Social Justice and Women. One day after President Trump’s inauguration, the rally was in conjunction with the Women’s March in Washington, DC. Buses from Emory’s Clairmont campus took students to the starting point of the march at the Center for Civil and Human Rights to be part of the historical event, including first-year Jocelyn Stanfield. Jocelyn, who was a part of many Black Lives Matter protests in high school, went because “[she felt] strongly about supporting Women’s rights and the promotion of women’s health. [She is] also adamantly against Donald Trump so [she] went to protest the proposed defunding of Planned Parenthood.” The march was significant for those who felt that Trump’s presidency threatened their human rights. Speakers at the event included Congressman John Lewis, Staci Fox-President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast and various government officials who understood that the rhetoric of the 2016 presidential election insulted, degraded and threatened the basis of American ideals for women, immigrants, Muslims, the LGBTQ community, Black and Brown people, and more. But, Jocelyn’s favorite part of the march was not the celebrity speeches. She found inspiration in all of her fellow marchers, young and old. “I saw a little African American girl holding up a “Still we Rise” sign which made me realize how impactful the march truly was to spread to even young children like that, it was truly extraordinary. I think that gave me a sense of purpose, it told me that what I was participating in would be important for future generations to come.”
The march was about the future and the question of “what’s next?” Participants were concerned with how to move forward in the face of the reality that their country’s president does not support the vibrant and diverse communities they are a part of. The main response Jocelyn found to the above concern is to speak up when you are upset about something. She believes that “there is a danger in complacency and a lot of Americans seem content with watching this country unravel which is how horrible things can begin.” No one should be afraid to speak up because it is a right promised in our Constitution. There are social and political responsibilities placed upon everyone in light of our new President. We, as Black college students, should be involved in political activism in order for us to gain and maintain the right to human dignity that history tries to block us from. After marching to the State Capitol, Jocelyn agrees with the above sentiment by saying, “I personally think they [Black college students] should; it would not be right to just watch history go by without attempting to be a part of it. As Black students who have gone through all kinds of racial prejudice, it should fall upon us to help others who might be going through the same injustice. I do understand that many students do not feel comfortable speaking out, or may not realize the significance of their words, but any help to the cause can go a long way and I hope people will recognize that.”
At the end of the day, speaking out and standing up happens in all different ways and no way is better than next because action of any kind is productive. But, the question is what will your way be?
By: Imani Brooks, Staff Writer
A group of Emory students created images and messages in chalk to show support for Muslim and immigrant students on Wednesday night.
Six students spent three hours writing messages of solidarity in Asbury Circle, outside of Cox Hall, and in other locations near the center of campus. The messages were in response to an executive order issued by President Donald Trump that effectively bans immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.
"We wanted to help students feel welcome and raise spirits," said Patti Gerta, a College junior. "It's easy to get overwhelmed with hate, and we wanted to show that we as Emory students support those who are affected by the ban."
College junior Jamani "Roe" Montague says that the move was spontaneous and planned by a small group of students.
"We thought that if people could write Trump 2016 all over campus, we could make people feel welcome," Montague said. "We wanted to make it look beautiful and welcoming."
"We wanted Emory students to know that they didn't have to feel alienated, and that they belong," College junior Asha Fradkin said. "We also wanted to get people thinking about everything that's going on."
The students who created the messages said the experience was uplifting and that several passing community members showed curiosity and support for their message. They agreed that the image of a Muslim woman wearing the American flag as a hijab required the most work.
"That was Patti's idea," Montague said. "It was inspired by an image floating around online."
"We wanted to be intentional about drawing it on brown bricks," Gerta said. "And at one point we ran out of chalk and had to run to CVS to get more. It was hard work, but it paid off."
"I love that image," Fradkin added. "When I look at it I think, 'That's what an American looks like to me.' And I think that's the most important part of all this. Muslim Americans deserve to be treated as first-class citizens just like everyone else."
By: Ashley Graham, EIC
A platform with an emphasis on contemporary African art, NATAAL takes film, fashion, music, art, culture and media to a whole new level with striking visual aesthetics.
Our very own creative director, Mark Igbinadolor, has created a space to showcase his amazing photographic talents. As he highlights on his beautifully minimalist about page, AGHATISE is a “visual and social platform and portfolio.”
With an eye towards traditional African aesthetics, GHUBAR magazine initiates a fashion, arts and lifestyle magazine in to the digital space. It is essentially “dust, culture and aesthetics with a twist of Arabic.”
Because it is a Solange produced project, you know the visual aesthetics are going to be beyond creative imagination. She combines her musical background with her talents in creative direction and makes a platform that represents a new movement of visionaries and independent artists of all realms.
Finally a magazine that wants to tell our hairstories, CRWN magazine provides gorgeous content represents our hair as the crown that it is and seeks to expand the edges around standards of beauty. It “exists to create a progressive dialogue around what it really means to go natural in America.
Charity Gates, Digital Director
In an age where anything can be created literally out of thin air, Emory alumnae Jovonna Jones 15C and Samantha Scott 15C are carving out their own space in the digital world. Creating a space for Black women, girls, and femmes to express their unique narratives and creativity has continued the pathway of producing a multiplicity of voices in the realm of art and media. Only a few short months from earning their Emory diplomas, the two college besties formed BlacQurl. The following is an interview showcasing everything from how they started the platform to what it means to be “a free Black woman living on your own terms.”
Black Star Magazine: How would you describe BlacQurl?
Jovonna Jones: Pretty much, when you visit our site, you’re entering a room of Black girls absorbing and discussing art & media on our terms. You’ll hear about dope new music, engaging films, captivating artwork, complicated cultural happenings, etc. Sometimes we invite guests (in the form of Q&As and podcast specials), and other times, we just contemplate our own experiences as writers, actors, visual artists, and screenwriters (like in “Confessions of an Almost-Actress”). It’s a platform to promote more energy and engagement around the creative works Black women produce.
Sammie Scott: BlacQurl is a space by, for, and about Black girls + art and media. We make, analyze, and critique art and media with Black women, girls, and femmes at the center.
BSM: Which digital and/or print publications do you look to for inspiration in curating the site?
JJ: For our communal aims, I look towards The Madbury Club and Crunk Feminist Collective. Madbury and CFC became the go-to collectives for insights on their respective interests: music/design/culture, and social commentary/popular culture/Black feminism. Essentially, these folks knew their ideas meant something—even if just to each other.
For our emphasis on Black women’s voices, I’m inspired by Fashion Bomb Daily, For Harriet, and of course, Essence Magazine. These sites always remind me why Black women are so f*cking important in every facet of life. We need fulfilling spaces that cater to us in all our identities and interests.
For art /media, I’m greatly influenced by The Fader, Contemporary&, and Fashion Bomb Daily. Each site makes art/media accessible, from music to contemporary art to style. They foster space for the celebrities and the little-known. They promote, they question, and they celebrate. They provide original features and comment on the stuff everyone might already be talking about.
SS: Man oh man, there are many. Ebony, Essence, For Harriet, Very Smart Brothas, Mater Mea, Rookie, The Fader, Broadly, Racked, The Establishment, Teen Vogue, Mask Magazine, and more. Some for design and aesthetics, some the content, and some for both. Oh and of course I looked back at a lot of the work I did for Black Star!
BSM:What was the process like in establishing this digital platform?
JJ: At first, it was terrifying. I was really excited about the idea and I felt like it was necessary, but as soon as you go online, it seems like someone else is already doing it. Or, that we aren’t good enough to pull it off. Imposter syndrome is real AF, yo. There are so many things I thought we’d have to lock down in order to make our site worth visiting or our voices worth hearing—do we have enough followers on Twitter or Likes on FB? Does our site look streamlined so it's like we’re already on your ish even though we’re just starting out? Do we even have any authority or ~clout~ to speak on art & media?
Sammie and I had so many conversations about all these anxieties, and I’m glad we could be so open about it from the jump. Once we got past the doubts, we remembered the blogs/platforms we grew up reading (and still read to this day). We remembered why those places felt so special, and what made us seek out their content without needing Twitter or FB to facilitate. Ultimately, blogs/digital publications called attention to topics that mattered to a group of folks, no matter how big or small. Whenever I found a site that spoke to my interests, I felt my world open up just a bit more.
If Sammie and I were struggling to find a digital space to just contemplate and call attention to other Black women creators, we knew we couldn’t have been the only ones.
In regards to the mechanics of this whole thing, the process of establishing BlacQurl has been pretty chill. Sammie and I have worked together on so many things: publications, class papers, communal spaces. So, BlacQurl just flowed out of all that we had learned individually and together thus far about content strategy, website platforms (Weebly, Squarespace, etc.), promotion, management, networks, etc.
It also really helped that Sammie and I share very similar values as it pertains to Black women and creative spaces, but pursue different professional paths. She’s more into design and media strategy, while I’m into writing and scholarship. Our skills definitely overlap, but we usually don’t have much conflict regarding who does what. We stay in our lanes, and that helps us to stay focused.
By far, the most rewarding aspect of growing this digital platform is being able to establish more space for other Black woman culture writers to produce work and actively engage artists. It is really tough to write about art & media in fresh and engaging ways, especially if you’re not in a program or working with a mentor who can train you. So, at the very least, BlacQurl allows me, Sammie, and the four other BQ writers to try out new ideas, co-edit, and consistently practice our craft.
SS: A lot of text messages, emails, Google chats and FaceTimes. A lot of naming and claiming – choosing and buying a domain name, housing the site (#shoutout to SquareSpace), getting on social, etc. Another huge part was being brave enough to talk about BlacQurl IRL with family, friends, colleagues, and strangers.
BSM:What do you think is the importance of providing a space for Black women’s narratives, creativity, and intellectuality?
JJ: I hate to quote directly from the site, but I don’t know another way to say it!
“Frankly, racial/gender inequity in the art & media world limits when, where, and how Black woman artists are seen, heard, and actively supported on a daily basis. Yet still, Bflack women constantly redefine the possibilities of creative industry and everyday life, from groundbreaking motion pictures to Instagram art sales.”
Growing up, I thought that if you were a Black woman, there were only so many spots for you at the editors’ table or on a website’s homepage.
The significant Black woman bloggers I knew of made influential careers in the gossip and lifestyle sectors, but whenever I looked at the team pages of my favorite music and fashion blogs, I would primarily see white men, Black men, Asian men, and white women. Even if a Black woman’s art was being featured, there were only so many things the writer knew to express or analyze. In general, culture writers have a very limited lens of analysis for work created by Black folk. Those limitations and that erasure is exasperated when we’re discussing Black women artists.
There are still many articles about art & media industry inequities like, “Where Did All the Female Rappers Go?” and “Artists Carving Out Space for Women of Color in Art World.” Through BlacQurl Q&As, we’ve also been able to hear first-hand accounts of the ways in which inequity still impacts (and motivates) Black woman creators. Producer Numa Perrier, curator Renata Cherlise, and writer Morgan Jerkins all mentioned to BlacQurl some of their strategies for addressing industry inequity.
I write for an art publication that not many people know about, and I get paid for every article. Sammie influenced her major media company to pay more attention to Black entertainers and content producers. Black woman photographers can make BANK off of running a studio, and you might never know who they are unless you live in their town. But, if you’re an up-and-coming artist and outlets aren’t paying attention to you because they don’t see you? They don’t know how to engage you? That’s unacceptable to me. And that’s why we started BlacQurl.
SS: To reference André 3000, Black women got something to say; we always have. Our narratives, creativity, and intellectuality are not only interesting, fun, difficult, and insightful, they will also help us map out better lives and futures.
BSM:What advice do you have for others trying to create a publication or digital platform?
JJ: First, write a proposal. Mission, vision, allathat. When I first thought up BlacQurl, I wrote a full proposal before sending it to Sammie. Proposals help me organize all my jumbled thoughts, clarify my purpose, specify my angle, identify gaps, and brainstorm an action plan. After creating the action plan, I started to see BlacQurl as a legitimate possibility, not just a cool idea. Additionally, I realized that if I was going to do this, I couldn’t do it alone and I couldn’t just rely on my own initial vision.
Second, don’t get too caught up in the hype of metrics, numbers, ads, followers, and likes, at least in your first year or two. There’s nothing more off-putting that a platform that focuses more on its brand than its content. But, more importantly, there’s something really special about being able to let your content speak for itself. We’ve reached out and worked with some amazing Black woman artists, those who are up-and-coming and pretty established. I’m not saying our content is the dopest out there because we certainly have growing to do. But, folks have appreciated our writers’ genuine engagement of Black woman artists and their work. So, they’re down to support us, too!
Finally, have fun! That probably sounds hella cheesy, but its true. We have too many chances in this world to do work we don’t want to do. If you’re going to create something, make sure it is something that will feed and excite you, even if you were the only one looking at it. I’m always reminded that BlacQurl is that outlet for me when I get to interview an artist I greatly admire, hear about new tracks from our music writer, and receive an in-depth recap of Black Girls Rock from our Screen/Stage writer, straight to my inbox. It’s so fulfilling.
SS: The one thing that we didn’t do initially (and are now in the process of) is asking for money, whether it be GoFundMe, Kickstarter or Patreon, PayPal, Venmo or Cash.Me. Ask for money!
BSM: What does Blackness and creativity mean to you?
JJ: Creativity is process. Doesn’t have to be distinctly unique, but it’s still genuinely yours.
Blackness…….lawd. Blackness is nothing and everything.
SS: I think about creativity as a means of survival – making a way out of no way, conjuring what we want and need into existence. It’s kind of a magical thing but also very practical because like, what else would we do?
BSM:What does it mean to be a free Black woman living on your own terms?
JJ: To be a free Black woman living on my own terms can be summed up in two very short, unrelated passages from authors Valerie Boyd and Toni Morrison:
“There was never quite enough for Zora Neale Hurston in the world she grew up in, so she made up whatever she needed.”
“And she had nothing to fall back on, not maleness not ladyhood. And out of the profound desolation of her reality, she may very well have invented herself.”
These lines are of the same spirit, and this to me, is the spirit of liberation.
SS: I guess day-to-day that means doing what I want…so like, not wearing pants, taking really good selfies, calling out the bullshit, and loving on people that I care about. In terms of doing the work to make the world a better place remembering that first, my labor deserves and really requires compensation and second, to operate from margin to center and to lift up and stand with those who are oppressed in ways that I’m not, particularly Black queer, trans and gender-non-conforming folks.
Charity Gates, Digital Director
We, the Black and Brown students at Emory, stand firmly against the intimidation, lies, and deeply rooted racism that people of color continue to face--on our campus, nationwide, and globally. #1969not1836 #BlackBrownAndHere
On Monday, March 21st, 2016, students on Emory University’s campus were met with an overwhelming number of pro-Donald Trump messages, which were chalked onto buildings, walkways, brick and concrete around campus. The messages included, but were not limited to: “Vote Trump 2016”, “Build a Wall”, and “Accept the Inevitable Trump 2016.” Prior to the Georgia Primaries, posters and chalkings also appeared on campus in favor of various candidates including Donald Trump. However, in this situation, permission was granted from the University, and posters were placed in an observant manner. On the 21st of March, the intense presence of pro-Trump statements and/or rhetoric could be seen in every direction students walked. Most notably, in the Dobbs University Center--where the Black Student Union, Centro Latino, and main dining hall are located--the phrase “Vote Trump 2016” was deliberately placed on 58 steps. This means, Black and Brown students saw these messages on their way to class, meals, and their places of fellowship.
Trump’s messages of division (racist, xenophobic, homophobic, ableist, and sexist) make reference to a non-post racial state. Fellow students’ complacency with the narratives of Donald Trump and the aggressive condemnation of Black and Brown students’ responses reflects a lack of concern for the very real consequences of his campaign policies.
During the protest, students were invited into the Administration building by Elizabeth Cox, and met with President Wagner to voice their concerns and discuss other matters of importance, such as the university’s slow progress on the Black Students’ list of demand and the limited support for undocumented students. Following this demonstration, several students of color once again took to social media to voice their concerns over the university’s lack of acknowledgement of the incident. Many of these students were later subjected to a series of targeted attacks via social media including death threats.
Subsequent media reports have tried to frame this case as one about “coddled” and “oversensitive” students; however,
LET US BE CLEAR: We are not scared of the chalk. We are not mad about being politically challenged. We are rightfully angry because we also exercise our first amendment right to freedom of speech and there are people on this campus, and in this country, who as a result choose to threaten us and twist the truth to protect their own bigotry.
Firstly, we are not asking that these students censor their politics, nor are we asking that administration chooses to intervene in student politics. Rather, what we are asking for is equality and equity -- we want a streamlined, consistent method of communication to deal with instances of unrest on Emory's campus. This means race, color and economic status should not determine whether or not the University needs to be prompted to send out a response of acknowledgement of events. Secondly, we ask the Emory University Student Body and individuals nationally to fight for our right of freedom of speech the way they have for Trump supporters.
Black and Brown people and student activists around the world remain in danger and under siege, by their classmates, universities, and governments. We only need to look to Mizzou and University of Cape Town, among others in the recent past, and now the University of Hyderabad in India, where student protesters for Dalit rights have been unjustly arrested, assaulted by police, and denied access to food, drinking water, and Internet.
Emory claims to be an institution that cares about its students and that fosters a sense of diversity, inclusion, and a community of care on campus. It claims to be engaged with issues on a global scale. Yet, since 1969 when the first Black student demands were issued, we have seen Emory administration fail time and time again to fulfill its promises to students of color. While people are writing endless renditions of the same article about how we are afraid and cowards, we continue to sacrifice our student experience. What we are advocating for is accountability on behalf of Emory University, the rights of students to protest for change without putting their safety at risk, and a recognition of the daily physical and emotional assaults on Black and Brown people worldwide.
-The Black and Brown Students of Emory University
Everyone knows that college students have a lot on their plate when it comes to being academically successful and alert for constant intellectual challenges. So it’s understandable that apathy creeps into the mind of your average student when it comes to getting dressed for class. In order to lessen the severity of this apathy for campus style, I present to you five college bloggers’ whose Instagram will give you the right ounce of sartorial inspiration to make you want to dress up for class. Prepare to be visually stimulated.
Sam Yohannes, Ryerson University, @samhannes
A mixture of eccentricity and vintage classic classifies Sam’s unique style. She understands how to mix and match pieces that are seemingly unmatchable and turns it into a beautifully unique aesthetic that is all her own. Her quirk looks make for the chicest fashion statements that are begging to be followed. Follow Sam’s Instagram for cool architectural perspectives, gravity defying hair shots and super stylish friends.
Andy Jackson, Delaware State University, @anndyjackson
If norm core style were a person, it would be Andy. His looks take on classic and timeless elements with an overall modernity that completes his sartorial vision. Andy’s ode to the quintessential Ivy League style of the ‘40s through ‘70s is like a breath of nostalgic air. Follow Andy’s Insta for major urban chic inspiration and a glimpse of a fashionable life well-lived.
Penda Sarr, University of Toronto, @pendasarr
The ultimate style maven, Penda assembles looks that are chic and stylishly executed. She has the layering game down to a T with the perfect accessories to elevate every look. Her international sensibilities certainly add another dimension to her sophisticated style. Follow Penda’s Instagram for an insider look at how a fashion girl socializes, eats, lives and travels in style.
Oguguam Ugwuanyi, Loyola University Chicago, @oguguam
Communicating her fashion sense through menswear inspired pieces and throwback shapes, Oguguam is the epitome of a fashion cool girl. It’s easy to see her fun personality through the quirky details she adds in her accessories and the completion of her style. Catch a glimpse of the fun side of fashion on Oguguam’s Instagram full of playful shots and scenes of Western African lifestyle.
Cheyenne Adler, New York University, @adamantlyadler
One-part fitness guru, another part style guru, Cheyenne has all the elements of a well-balanced life. She infuses her athletic tendencies into her highly sophisticated urban looks with just enough grit to make it that much more effortless. Follow Cheyenne’s Insta for daily dosage of a little visual imagination of city life and decidedly modern metropolitan style.
Charity Gates, Web Content Editor
Distinguished Harvard Law Professor and former legal advisor of O.J. Simpson, Dr. Alan Dershowitz, had a conversation with me this week pertaining to the growing student movements spreading across the nation. Though he told Business Insider that the protesters were “tyrannical” and wanted a “superficial diversity”, one based on the numbers game; he provided me with encouraging words for a possible alternative moment at Emory. He believes that protesters are more concerned about securing “more” of their demographic on campus and receiving entitlements than creating an inclusive environment on campus.
He is obviously very conservative about this issue and does not see why it may be necessary for universities and colleges to specifically aid students of color, but Dr. Dershowitz and I did agree on something. I posed to Dr. Dershowitz: If these movements are superficial, how would movements targeting Eurocentricism in the curriculum sound to you as a scholar? “I want to lead a substantive movement against Eurocentricism here at Emory,” I told him.
“If the contributions of other cultures to science, literature and other academic subjects warrant inclusion they should certainly be studied,” he replied. This is a breath of fresh air coming from a world-renowned legal scholar given that he is a liberal professor, but totally against the current movements. This is evidence that even left-wing thinkers can be absolutely conservative about certain demands of the protesters, but a lot more accepting of other demands even though they get at the same point— inclusivity. I personally don’t think that movements calling for more ambitious measures should cease their activities by any means, but this does not mean that more moderate movements should not also get to action. That way, we can battle the same enemy on more than one front. In Alabama, we say it’s easier to kill a bee with honey than vinegar, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try both and avoid respectability politics at the same time.
Malcolm X often proclaimed, “As a man thinketh, so shall he do.” Education bares a significant weight on a person’s thought process and a vast majority of people do and say atrocious things because they[ are quite simply— ignorant. Students of color expect their peers to see every human being’s self-worth and value to society. It is obvious that they’re not learning that in our classrooms and neither are most students of color, especially in high school. History textbooks generally reduce Africans’ significance and role in the world to slavery, and our only contributions to modern science, as told by the modern academy, came in the form of Henrietta Lacks’ stolen cancer cells. Yet, college students of every ethnicity around the nation were shouting, “All I want for my birthday is a big booty hoe,” in fall 2012. This is an American tragedy.
In a 1968, Emory’s Fraternity Study Committee cited a Yale professor and educational philosopher named Robert Hutchinson. According to Hutchinson, the liberal arts education “frees a man from the prisonhouse of his class, race, time, place, background, family, and even his nation, for the purpose of understanding and taking part in the great task of becoming human and forming a world community.” As of now at Emory, these are just empty words. But with discipline and consistency, we can give them meaning.
Where does inspiration come from? How does inspiration provide the seeds to create something with the potential of greatness? Creative minds exist in almost every industry, otherwise there would be nothing to show for human ingenuity. It is an interesting experience to see how various worlds can come together and merge into one inspiring abyss of imagination. So when the fashion and art worlds combine, inspiration for daily style is a masterpiece in the making. That’s why I looked to the works of some of the most innovative Black artists to create some artistic looks.
Lynette Yiadom-Boakye is a British artist whose work combines the Western expressive techniques of classical portraiture and the idea of the multifaceted nature of blackness. The subdued minimalism of Yiadom-Boakye’s painting inspired this classic ensemble of stripes, loafers and cigarette pants. The main figure’s prominent human qualities make it seem as if they can walk off the canvas and into the real world.
In the language of lines, creatures, characters and messages, British artist Shantell Martin’s stream-of-conscious drawings make for a light-hearted visual experience. In the simplicity of her use of black ink and white surfaces, it is easy to find street style influences. The relaxed cool of her art easily translates into a pair of distressed denim, graphic tee and high tops.
One of the most innovative American artists of the 20th century, Basquiat merged the styles of street graffiti with the classic techniques of cubism and surrealism. His work was not only eye-catching, but also contained provocative social commentary that forced the mind to see the messages beyond the image. The rugged maximalism and layered technique of his crown piece inspired an outfit that takes the same effect. The sweater vest layered on top of a flowy blouse, ankle boots and skort reminiscent of the shape of the crown are all inspired by the Basquiat artistry.
Up-and-coming mixed media artist from Trinidad and Tobago, Brianna McCarthy’s, work vividly addresses issues of beauty, stereotypes, and representation. She creatively uses mask imagery to evoke the ethereal beauty of her subjects. The layered technique of her artistry inspired this look that reflects mixed textures and shapes. The outfit follows the three-tiered dimension of the drawing. The ruffled gray top plays into the multidimensional gray of the figure’s face. The bright yellow cut-out pants reflect the pattern of the floral-esque shapes that decorate the figure’s neck. Following the line of the drawing, the platform brogues are reminiscent of the black and white pattern forming the shoulders of the subject.
As the mastermind behind The Great Migration Series, Jacob Lawrence Inspired by the daily experiences of African Americans in the early-mid 20th century, Lawrence had a special talent of depicting the shapes and textures of the city spaces that Blacks occupied. His “dynamic cubism” style expresses so many emotions that capture the sentiment of such a critical time in American history. The hues of his color-blocked city scape in this piece inspired an urban chic look. The structure of the vest complements the abstract print of the pants and references the geometric structure of the city block. This cropped sweater is a great layering piece to the vest which also plays a tongue-in-cheek reference to the city in the statement of “You Are Here”. The urban chic look would be incomplete without a pair of healed ankle boots.
Charity Gates, Digital Content Director