BLACKBOARD COUNTERARCHIVAL SPRING 2021
Should We Reclaim “Mammy”?
The Overlooked History of Black Women Quilters
Documenting how BlackBoard Began ... and Began Again
BLACKBOARD | TABLE OF CONTENTS
Table of Contents 03 Letters from IMANI SUMBI + MARI GASHAW
BLACKBOARD EXELLENCE + BRIEFS
05 Reexamining Race, Caste and Colorism MELISSA PERRY 07 Mammy and the Politics of Reclamation ELISABETH BETTS 09
BLACKBOARD ASKS: What Will Be Your Northwestern Legacy? CHIDERA OLEWUENYI
COUNTERARCHIVAL: A PHOTO SPREAD
ONYEKAORISE CHIGBOGWU + NIA ROBLES + CALEB WHITTAKER
17 Always There: Overlooked History of Quilting ARI CROCKETT 21 Q&A: Afro-Latinx climate activists reclaiming ancestor’s work NIA ROBLES 25 19 KENNY DAVIS 27
ON THE COVER:
The Refounding: How BlackBoard Got its Restart CAMILLE WILLIAMS
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hair KACEE HASLETT Rosemary’s Metaphor SHEILA ONYANGO Heritage NIA ROBLES discovery in four stages: KARINA KARBO-WRIGHT
PRINT EDITOR IN CHIEF Imani Sumbi ONLINE EDITOR IN CHIEF Camille Williams CREATIVE DIRECTOR Kacee Haslett
SENIOR EDITORS Jacquelyne Germain Karina Karbo-Wright Adriana Martinez-Smiley Sheila Onyango Melissa Perry CONTRIBUTORS Elisabeth Betts Ari Crockett Kenny Davis Mari Garshaw Chidera Olewuenyi Nia Robles MODELS Joshua Bobbitt Liz Curtis Rwan Ibrahim Karina Karbo-Wright Rome McGee Myanno Miller Peace Mutwiri Christian Rodriguez Camryn Smith PHOTOGRAPHERS Onyekaorise Chigbogwu Nia Robles Caleb Whittaker
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STYLING + MAKEUP Nia Robles INSTA @BlackBoardMagNU TWT @BlackBoardMagNU SITE blackboardmag.com
PHOTO EDITOR Onyekaorise Chigbogwu
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from the Editor LETTER
Dear Family, I love going to libraries. My grandmother was a librarian and the first Black administrator in the LA County Library system. When I was little, she would walk me down aisle after aisle of plastic-wrapped books, letting me pick out as many as I wanted. She taught me to love reading because she believed books would empower me to know the world and myself. Today, thanks to Northwestern, I have access to a much bigger and more exclusive body of knowledge that I couldn’t possibly imagine as a kid. I especially enjoy visiting the University Archives in Deering Library, which contain everything from Bursar’s Office Takeover photos to student
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organization records going back decades. But as a Black woman, I know that institutional archives are not and have never been impartial sites of knowledge and recordkeeping. There can never be any such thing as a complete library of human history, and so choices are made as to what is and is
not included. And those choices are political. They are authoritative. They are hiding something. In her essay, “Venus in Two Acts,” Saidiya Hartman
These are the kinds of questions BlackBoard addresses in our Spring 2021 publication, the Counterarchival Issue. This magazine explores how
THERE CAN NEVER BE ANY SUCH THING AS A COMPLETE LIBRARY OF HUMAN HISTORY, AND SO CHOICES ARE MADE AS TO WHAT IS AND IS NOT INCLUDED. AND THOSE CHOICES ARE POLITICAL. THEY ARE AUTHORITATIVE. THEY ARE HIDING SOMETHING. examines what she calls “the violence of the archive,” concerning the history of the Atlantic slave trade. The picture of the enslaved woman that we might glean from history is, Hartman observes, vague, scant, and deals with her only as a survivor of unspeakable violence. She argues that the archive is “a death sentence, a tomb, a display of the violated body, an inventory of property, a medical treatise on gonorrhea, a few lines about a whore’s life, an asterisk in the grand narrative of history.” The very existence of African American identity is predicated on an incalculable, irrevocable loss of history. There are millions of names we will never know, stories we can never record, voices we will never hear. Nothing short of time travel could bring them back. But that does not mean the story we tell about ourselves and our ancestors must necessarily mimic the narrative of the oppressor. We make history as much as it makes us. So how do we fill the gaps? How do we challenge the official record? How do we tell impossible stories?
Black folks have recorded, preserved, and retold their histories outside of traditional academic institutions. The counter-archive is a figurative space in which we can challenge the politics, ideologies, and inaccessibility of such institutions. We can redesign the very concept of history-making. We can invent new methodologies, and if we can reconstruct a fractured past, perhaps we can imagine a liberated future. Thank you to all the incredible writers, editors, designers, models, photographers and visionaries who came together to make this issue possible. As always, I am inspired by your ideas, motivated by your work ethic, and delighted by your company. This is my final quarter serving as your editor in chief, and I could not be prouder to have worked with each and every one of you. Thank you for your brilliance, your joy, your patience, and your kindness. I will never forget it. All my love, Imani Pearl Sumbi Print Editor-in-Chief, BlackBoard Magazine
BLACKBOARD | TABLE OF CONTENTS
from the FMO Coordinator
To our Black Family, Next fall, our Black House, the center of the Black Northwestern community, will be reopened. The Black House was a demand made by the Bursar’s Office Takeover organizers more than 50 years ago. They understood that for us to thrive at Northwestern, we needed to create counter spaces that celebrated us. The name For Members Only was inspired by a country club sign that said “For Members Only.” The founders of FMO wanted to create a space that was for Black people, for members only.
This year, we have been able to solidify FMO’s position with the passing of the ASG enshrinement bill, which ensures Black students a permanent seat in the Senate. We hosted thought-provoking speakers like Dr. Ibram X. Kendi and Dr. Angela Davis. We collaborated with a variety of organizations to build community and reaffirmed our commitment to abolition. We created a new mentorship program, Affinity Leaders and Leaders (ALL), to continue to build a Black community that goes beyond our peers. We reestablished the Freshmen Executive Board and executed a wonderful Second Stage for Dillo. This year, FMO has done so much to shift spaces, and I hope that future classes continue that work. These counter spaces, like the Black House, FMO, Blackboard and so many more, exist to push us to be better people and form a stronger community. It has been an honor to serve as your coordinator. With love, Mari Gashaw
THESE COUNTER SPACES, LIKE THE BLACK HOUSE, FMO, BLACKBOARD AND SO MANY MORE, EXIST TO PUSH US TO BE BETTER PEOPLE AND FORM A STRONGER COMMUNITY.
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Reexaming Race, Caste and Colorism BY MELISSA PERRY
sabel Wilkerson’s “Caste: The Origin of Our Discontents” was one of the most successful book releases of 2020. A New York Times review labeled it an “Instant American Classic,” and it was passionately praised by prominent celebrities like Amy Schumer and
U.S. can be viewed as a manifestation of caste, a set of predetermined, rigid hierarchies that one is born into.
of scholarship that goes beyond the act of comparison.
“There is sort of a lot of activity going on around creating awareness with Now, five Northwestern caste and caste oppression professors, led by Laura in the U.S. and Europe Brueck and Ivy Wilson, right now, but that kind of are taking advantage of energy hasn’t trickled over current conversations into the academy,” says surrounding race and caste Kalyan Nadiminti, Northwestern THE PROMINENCE OF SYSTEMIC RACISM English professor and one of the WITHIN THE U.S. CAN BE VIEWED AS A project’s group MANIFESTATION OF CASTE, A SET OF members.
PREDETERMINED, RIGID HIERARCHIES THAT ONE IS BORN INTO. Oprah. Released during a summer of Black Lives Matter protests, Wilkerson’s text made waves with its unique central thesis: that the prominence of systemic racism within the
through the launch of the Race, Caste and Colorism Project. With a generous two year grant from the Buffet Institute, they hope to create an interdisciplinary, transnational branch
Brueck says both “Caste” and last year’s Black Lives Matter protests helped inspire the project. But while she commends Wilkerson for getting American audiences to think about race and caste within a new transnational framework,
DALIT WOMEN’S SELF RESPECT MARCH (THENMOZHI SOUNDARARAJAN / WIKIMEDIA)
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she says the book lacked a recognition of the historical discourses between race and caste. Dalits, the name for those in India who hold the lowest caste rank, have faced systematic oppression, exclusion and violence that various scholars, artists and activists have compared to the experience of Black Americans. “It stops short at doing the work of actually thinking about the kind of intersections that have taken place among and between artists and intellectuals and politicians over the course of a much longer history than then she suggests,” says Brueck. Brueck is teaching a class this spring called Politics of Exclusion, in which students take a deep dive into these histories through close readings of memoirs
BLACK WOMEN MARCH FOR CIVIL RIGHTS IN 1963 (LIBRARY OF CONGRESS)
by both Black and Dalit authors as well as academic research related to shared struggles of liberation that occurred between Black and Indian political actors such as Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., B.R. Ambedkar, and W.E.B Du Bois. A key example of the connections made between their shared struggles is the formation of the Dalit Panthers, an anticaste activist group in India that was directly inspired by the Black Panthers. The formation of the Race, Caste and Colorism Project took hold after Brueck reached out to Ivy Wilson, a professor in Northwestern’s English Department, after hearing about a humanities grant from the Mellon Foundation called “Futures.” Although they didn’t receive the Mellon grant, it laid the groundwork for
their accepted proposal to the Buffet Institute. Northwestern professors Kalyan Nadiminti, Emily Maguire and Lakshmi Padmanabha joined the project in March. While the project is centered on research and scholarship, accessibility and representation are at its heart, Brueck says. To that end, they also hope to use the grant to feature the voices and work of prominent artists and activists. “Some of the most interesting and productive encounters have been those that weren’t just confined to the ivory tower,” Maguire says. “We’re really interested in thinking about how we can take these conversations beyond the space of the university.” While they are just at the
DALITS GATHER PEACEFULLY IN NEW DEHLI IN APRIL 2013 FOR LAND RIGHTS CAMPAIGN (ACTIONAID INDIA - CAMPAIGNS / FLICKR)
beginning stages of figuring out how to best use their grant, all of the leaders in the project are already looking ahead to what the long-term impact of this work could be — something that they all hope extends beyond the next two years. “I think our vision is to kind of incubate in the next two years, a way of almost stabilizing the discourse around race and caste so that it allows for other institutions to point to this particular moment,” Nadiminti says. Brueck hopes that in 100 years, people look back at their project and say: ‘Look at these extraordinary exchanges and intersections and the ways in which those conversations and those connections changed the course of social history in each of these places.’”
BLACK LIVES MATTER PROTEST IN PORTLAND OREGON JUNE 2020. (MATTHEW ROTH / FLIKCR)
BLACKBOARD | BB EXCELLENCE
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Mammy is one of the most recognized and enduring racial caricatures of Black women in America. Over the years, it has been featured in books, films, television shows and other forms of media. Through these varying depictions of Mammy, audiences are forced to reckon with the history behind the character. In 1991, the caricature was explored in the sitcom “A Different World,” a spinoff of “The Cosby Show” that features Denise Huxtable and her experiences at Hillman, a fictional historically Black college. After season one, the focus of the show turns to many characters, primarily Whitley Gilbert and Dwayne Wayne.
MAMMY DOLLS (JOEL KRAMER/FLICKR)
Mammy and the Politics of Reclamation
BY ELISABETH BETTS
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Season five, episode eleven of “A Different World” is titled “Mammy Dearest.” The episode explores the Mammy trope and whether it’s “reclaimable,” or something Black people should consider as a significant part of their history and folklore. In the episode, Whitley is in charge of a “dedication ceremony” for her residence hall, and she decides to create an exhibit of Black women in history. Whitley decides to feature “Mammy” in this exhibit, to the shock
and dismay of many of her friends, particularly Kim, a dark skinned woman. Nevertheless, Whitley maintains that “Mammy” is an important figure to include and asks Kim to portray “Mammy” in this exhibit. After this, the focus of the episode turns to Kim and her thoughts about the caricature and Whitley’s request. Kim goes on a seemingly endless journey of individuals telling her to either embrace the history, or saying that they don’t care. Those who brush off Kim’s concerns are primarily lighter skinned women. It isn’t until Whitley discovers that her family owned slaves that she reconsiders her position on Mammy. At the end of the episode, Kim ends up dressing as Aunt Jemima, while another character, Freddie, a light skinned woman, is “Mammy.” While there’s a lot to unpack in this episode, Whitley’s original opinion, and the opinions of other supporting characters, that Mammy is something Black people should embrace is telling. Mammy is a stereotype of Black women that has persisted throughout history, from the slavery
BLACKBOARD | BRIEFS
era to Jim Crow. The design of this caricature directly reinforced racist ideas that dark skinned Black women are unattractive, and that Black women as a whole are only fit for domestic jobs. The Mammy caricature was featured for the first time on the big screen for a relatively white audience in “Gone With the Wind.” In 1939, Hattie McDaniel became the first Black person to win an Oscar for her role as Mammy in the film, solidifying her place as an important Black woman in history. However, she was heavily criticized for her role as Mammy, most notably by Walter White, then the leader of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. In 1942, White called on Black actors to stop “mugging and playing the clown before the camera.” In determining whether Mammy can be redeemed, Communication senior Taylor Bolding confronted the question of what makes something reclaimable or not. She referenced a situation where Kanye West wore a jacket with a confederate flag, and Black people’s usage of the “n-word.” “I don’t think there’s a set, defined rule,” Bolding says. “There is an argument of
reclaiming that and taking it and subverting the power that it has. I personally would not want to reclaim a confederate flag. Maybe we just consider words to be different than actual symbols or objects.” Bolding also insists that McDaniel’s award-winning performance in “Gone With the Wind” as Mammy is worth acknowledging. “In some shape or form, there were Black people that felt seen in her performance, same way there were Black people that were angry with her performance,” Bolding says. “Representation politics is a whole mess in and of itself, but in that moment in time that probably was revolutionary, just the act of having a Black person on screen.” Candice Merritt, a thirdyear PhD student in African American Studies, echoed Bolding’s sentiment that the Mammy character should be recognized.
that there are other historical stereotypes of Black women that are important to remember and
Mammy, Jezebel, matriarch and Sapphire stereotypes, and the fact they fail to encompass the complexity
“BLACK WOMEN WERE EXPECTED TO BE FERTILE, EXPECTED TO BE CARETAKERS, PARTICUL ARLY FOR WHITE FAMILIES, AND THAT ARCHETYPE IS STILL ASSOCIATED WITH BLACK WOMEN TODAY.” CANDICE MERRITT acknowledge in order to understand the full picture of Black women’s position throughout history and today. Modern depictions of Mammy can be found in films like “The Help,” where actresses Viola Davis and Octavia Spencer play maids serving white families. Merritt added that there are a plethora of stereotypes that Black women face in the media. Merritt commented on the
of Black womanhood. It’s important to tell this part of Black history because the Mammy stereotype and conversations about how Black women are supposed to be and act are still being represented, Meritt says. “When it comes to the evergiving figure of the Black woman as a carer, I think that’s something Black people have to wrestle with,” she says. “Even amongst each other.”
“Black women were expected to be fertile, expected to be caretakers, particularly for white families, and that archetype is still associated with Black women today,” she says. “I don’t see how you would not tell part of that as Black women’s history.” Alongside the Mammy stereotype, Merritt added
AUNT JEMIMA TRADEMARKED FORMER SLAVE, NANNY AND COOK NANCY GREEN. (MIKE MOZART / FLICKR)
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What Will Be Your Northwestern Legacy? BY CHIDERA OLEWUENYI
ollege students everywhere have been affected by the sudden changes to the school year prompted by Covid-19. The
cancellation of traditional milestones has made this transformative period feel anticlimactic. Despite the abrupt transitions that this pandemic has elicited, students still hope to leave
their mark on campus. I asked students to consider their Northwestern experience and what they want their own personal legacy to be after graduation.
WHAT MEMORIES ARE YOU GOING TO TREASURE MOST FROM YOUR NORTHWESTERN EXPERIENCE? “I would say the late nights with my Bible study group, Impact. It wasn’t just the actual Bible study period, but after, when we would hang out and talk about our personal lives and the difficulties that we’re facing at NU,” says Femi Olaniyi, a fourth-year communication studies major. “It became a really great place to just have support.”
have grown up outside the US all of their lives and traveled here and you have them clashing or meeting with students who have maybe never left the Midwest,” he says. I think that intersection was really fun because
“I think organic hangouts with friends have always been fun and filled with laughter,’’ says Imani Minor, a fourth-year psychology major. “Times where there has just been Black joy and Black fun and things of that nature, especially amidst times of grief.”
me at this point,” Bell says. Just as the seniors have communities on campus that have shaped their Northwestern experience, freshmen Moore and Bell have begun to find their own. Moore, who has been playing drums for about 9 years, joined Jazz Club. “We’ve just been listening to jazz music on Zoom through Spotify and we’re hoping to have in-person playing and little gigs on the lake within the next two weeks, which is exciting,” she says.
“TIMES WHERE THERE HAS JUST BEEN BLACK JOY AND BLACK FUN AND THINGS OF THAT NATURE, ESPECIALLY AMIDST TIMES OF GRIEF.”
Oge Flagg-Igbo, who graduated in Winter quarter, credits Northwestern’s location for some of his fondest memories.“I think the Midwest is a really interesting place because you have the international students who 09 | SPRING 2021
through that diversity, we found commonality.” Freshmen roommates Joelle Moore and Kristina Bell, who have spent the least amount of time on campus, have enjoyed exploring Evanston and establishing routine. “Hanging out on the lakefill for the first time was really great,” Bell expressed. Not wanting to wake up early for breakfast at Allison Dining Hall, they’ve made the two minute walk to Einstein Bros. Bagels so often that they’re considered regulars. “People who work on Thursday morning genuinely know
Bell, who has been tap dancing for 17 years, joined Tonik, Northwestern’s tap dance group. In the next three years, Bell looks forward to “getting more involved in Tonik once it switches to in-person because it’s something I really enjoy.”
BLACKBOARD | BB ASKS
WHAT DO YOU WANT YOUR NORTHWESTERN LEGACY TO LOOK LIKE? Moore has a clear vision for her legacy. Primarily, she wants “to make the community better, more warm and empathetic.” As someone who lives in Willard on South Campus, she spoke of how disconnected both ends of the campus feel and wants to bridge that gap in hopes of bettering the campus climate. Bell has her own set of ambitions.“I’m really looking forward to taking advantage of different academic opportunities.” After not setting foot in a classroom in almost a year, Bell looks forward to when she can go to office hours physically, get to know some of her professors and explore research opportunities. Minor wants her legacy to be rooted in kindness. “Just the idea that I’m genuinely a kind person who cares about people and invested in relationships with people and also just invested in organizations and stuff that I was in, whether that be Impact or my research lab or BMP,” she says. “I think in every community group event that I’ve went into, my goal was
always to make the people present within those spaces very comfortable and very accepted,” Olaniyi says. “I want people to know that I was a black man that actually valued my impact in the community. ” Flagg-Igbo had a clear view of his own legacy: “I want people to know I went from academic probation to a job in New York City,” he says. “That’s my legacy. That there was a time when I was worried I wouldn’t be able to come back and now we graduated.” All of the students spoke of being intentional with their time at Northwestern, because just as we leave our mark on this campus, these four years will inevitably alter our experiences in the larger world. “NU was wild,” Flagg-Igbo says, “It allowed me and a lot of other people to figure out not only who they want to be but also how that matters, is perceived, and how that rubs off on other people — that’s probably the biggest thing I’ll take from Northwestern.”
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PHOTOS: Onyekaorise Chigbogwu, Nia Robles, Caleb Whittaker STYLING AND MAKEUP: Nia Robles MODELS: Joshua Bobbitt, Liz Curtis, Rwan Ibrahim, Karina Karbo-Wright, Rome McGee, Myanno Miller, Peace Mutwiri, Christian Rodriguez, Camryn Smith EDITING AND DEVELOPMENT: Onyekaorise Chigbogwu
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The overlooked history of quilting in African American Culture BY ARI CROCKETT
rof. Tracy VaughnManley is a professor of African American Studies at Northwestern and a renowned researcher in quilting, quilting history and quilt references in African American literature. But when she first began teaching at Smith college in 2002, she had no interest in quilting at all, despite many of her matriarchs being talented seamstresses. Sitting alone at a new professor orientation, a woman sat down beside her, one of the few other Black women in attendance. Upon striking up conversation, Vaughn-Manley discovered that her colleague quilted for fun. “I remember, silently to myself, going, ‘yawn’,” Vaughn-Manley laughed. Further into the conversation, VaughnManley found out her new colleague didn’t have a car. Promptly, she offered to give her a ride to the grocery store any time. The next
day, the two went to get groceries. Upon entering her colleague’s home, she was blown away by the “soft sculptures” adorning the walls. “I hadn’t thought about quilts and quilting as a form of visual art in that way,” said Vaughn-Manley. “I hadn’t thought of them as paintings with fabric.” Vaughn-Manley demanded for her neighbor to teach her how to construct such masterpieces. Her neighbor proposed they form a group with any interested colleagues, faculty or grad students. While first learning to quilt in this group, Vaugh-Manley felt a visceral resonation. “Just putting the needle through the fabric, I felt a connection to my greatgrandmother,” she said. “I felt that connection to my grandmother, my mother.” The tradition of quilting in the African American community is greatly
significant, especially to African American women. Black women writers like Alice Walker, Toni Morrison, and Lynn Nottage used quilting and the quilt itself as a marker of history, community, and legacy. In Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Baby Suggs leaves a patchwork quilt for Sethe as a family heirloom. In Alice Walker’s Everyday Use, the heirloom quilts whose cultural importance Dee (or Wangero) intends to preserve the cultural importance of her mother’s quilts by removing them
from everyday use. However, the significance of quilts and quilting in African American culture is an enduring story of its own. “In times past, even in current times, there’s a way in which [quilting] is just reduced to a hobby or reduced to ‘women’s work,’ Vaughn-Manley says. “But it became a necessity, I would say, for Black folk under the institution of enslavement.” Enslaved Black women were forced to spin, sew, weave and quilt fine clothing and bedding for their enslavers while they
HARRIET POWERS BIBLE QUILT, 1886 (SMITHSONIAN MUSEUM)
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BLACKBOARD | FEATURES
and their families lacked sufficient clothing. In his autobiography, Frederick Douglass describes the absolute lack that enslaved Black folk had to endure. He details that his yearly clothing allowance consisted of two shirts, one pair of trousers, one jacket, one pair of trousers for winter (made of coarse “negro cloth”), one pair of stockings, and one pair of boots. But most enslaved people hardly got these threadbare accommodations. Therefore, enslaved women learned to be highly resourceful. They used scraps leftover from making their enslavers’ clothes and bedding, along with any poor quality fabrics such as feed sacks, to make clothing and bedding for their families. Far from being thrown together, making quilts required attention to detail, knowledge of measurements and angles, and creativity. “It was a skill, a craft, an
art, if you will, of necessity first,” Vaughn-Manley says. Quilting also strengthened the sense of community between Black women. Quilting bees consisted of a group of Black women working together, usually on one major quilt project. The resulting quilt served as a gift at a momentous occasion such as a birth or a wedding. These quilting bees provided a space for women to come together and not be reduced to “slaves”, mothers, or caregivers.
NELLIE MAE ABRAMS’ HOUSETOP, 1970 (STEPHEN PITKIN/ SOULS GROWN DEEP)
QUILTING WOMEN Originally, the quilt had a purely utilitarian purpose. Harriet Powers was one of the first to recognize quilting as more. Powers was born into slavery in Athens, rural Georgia in 1837 and lived through the Civil War. Powers is world-renowned for her “story” quilts. The most well known of these story quilts is Powers’
WILLIE “MA WILLIE” ABRAMS ROB PETER TO PAY PAUL (QUILTER’S NAME), 1987 (STEPHEN PITKIN/SOULS GROWN DEEP) SPRING 2021 | 18
Bible Quilt, which depicts biblical stories from the Old Testament with each panel for those who could not read the Bible itself. QUILT BY CUESTA BENBERRY, A PIONEER OF QUILTING RESEARCH, CELEBRATES AFRICAN AMERICAN QUILTERS AT THE DUSABLE MUSEUM OF AFRICAN AMERICAN HISTORY.
“It’s another form of text to help people read and become literate in a way,” Vaughn-Manley says. “Instead of a page, you read a panel on a quilt and you get the message of the story.” After the abolition of the institution of enslavement, younger generations of African American women spent more time working on farms or in cities. Still, older generations maintained the tradition of quilt making with quilting groups like those in Gee’s Bend. The much celebrated Black quilting community emerged in Gee’s Bend in Boykin, Alabama in the early 20th century. This close knit community, populated mainly with descendants of enslaved Black people, established a distinct approach to making quilts. Their quilts were full of colorful and geometric patterns. The legacy of Harriet Powers and the women of Gee’s Bends inspired future generations of quilting
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artists including Faith Ringgold (b. 1930) Marla Jackson, Bisa Butler, and Beverly Y. Smith. Faith Ringgold, an internationally renowned artist, wove into her quilts stories of African American culture and Black feminist ideology. Who’s Afraid of Aunt Jemima? flips the much maligned “mammy” female stereotype on its head by portraying Aunt Jemima as a matriarch restaurateur. Similarly, Flag Story Quilt, uses text and tie-dyed textiles to express her opposition to U.S. laws restricting freedom of speech in regard to the use of the American flag symbol. She’s also well known for her Harlem-inspired quilts featured in her well-known 1991 children’s book, Tar Beach. This is especially important as the work of African American quilt makers has been historically undervalued. VaughnManley says that in her experience, historians habitually attribute the detailed work done by enslaved women to slave mistresses. Meanwhile, historians deem quilts that seem improvised as slavemade and interpret them as
BLACKBOARD | FEATURES
TRACY VAUGH-MANLEY, “AS LARGE AS LIFE.” (COURTESY TRACY VAUGHN-MANLEY)
contributions to American culture are slowly being appreciated. crude or primitive In reality, enslaved people knew how to make finely detailed quilts as well as improvisational ones.
Black cultural production, was one of the first to officially bring quilting into the art world. Quilting blurs the line between “high art” and “low art”, allowing “With all [Black] cultural historically marginalized production [in America], artists to participate in the it’s always undervalued contemporary Western but always appropriated,” art world. Vaughn-Manley Vaughn-Manley says. “Once asserts that the Black the appropriation takes Americans who are in place, the value comes.” positions that determine Ringgold, reclaiming this value, are the reason the art world/ mainstream AFRICAN AMERICAN society WOMEN CONTINUE TO have slowly come to ADOPT QUILTING TO appreciate CONNECT WITH THEIR African HERITAGE, CULTURE AND Americans’
CONVEY POLITICALLY URGENT MESSAGES.
But African American quilting has always been integral to American culture in general. “Jazz, R&B, all of our cultural contributions get infused into this idea of America or Americana. That’s certainly the case with quilt design and patterns as well,” VaughnManley says. Today African American women continue to adopt quilting to connect with their heritage, culture and convey politically urgent messages regardless of experience level. There are hundreds of African American quilting groups in the U.S. and
abroad, including several in Chicago such as Needles and Threads Quilters’ Guild. It’s why Vaughn-Manley started her a quilting group called The Black Threads Collective in 2004, who met at the Carter G. Woodson Library every Tuesday. Vaughn-Manley purposefully chose to meet on the South Side and welcomed quilters of a variety of skill levels. She only asked that each member work on making a quilt by hand at least once, as a way of furthering the tradition. Prof. Vaughn-Manley asserts that the tradition of African American quilting is integral to the fabric of America — not a counter narrative. As far as the tradition of African American quilting, that ball is still rolling.
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Afro-Latinx climate activists on reclaiming their ancestor’s work BY NIA ROBLES
n the past few years, the climate movement made increasing appearances in mainstream media. Cultural hegemony imposes an archetype of a climate activist that is white, middle
or upper class, vegan, likes to recycle, and lives in the global north. But this narrative disregards the fact that our Black and Indigenous ancestors have been creating ways of
environmental resistance for hundreds of years, whose work many young Black activists continue today. So, BlackBoard talked with two student Afro-Latinx climate activists, Keala Uchôa and
Keyra Espinoza, about reclaiming ancestors’ work and the climate movement in Afro-Latino communities.
Keala Uchôa is a junior Weinberg student. She refounded Fossil Free NU in 2019, and has been an active climate organizer in and outside of Northwestern.
intersection of EJ, CJ, and prison abolition. The EJ movement still doesn’t vocalize the compounded environmental injustices that incarcerated folks experience, and it doesn’t theorize prisons, jails, detention centers and the police themselves as forms of toxins to our community. For example, Cook County Jail is in Little Village, a frontline EJ community in Chicago. All these heightened exposures to toxins that Little Village residents face, incarcerated folks in Cook County Jail also face, and sometimes compounded by the crumbling infrastructure, the lack of physical
and mental health resources, etc. Black and brown communities are disproportionately in proximity to all sorts of hazardous toxins as well as prisons and jails, and people who are incarcerated are disproportionately Black and brown. The more we can focus on those intersections and build coalitions around them, the more we can actualize visions of justice.
the climate movement. How does mainstream environmentalism contribute to exclusion of Black and brown realities in conversations around EJ?
Nia Robles: Could you tell us about your work on climate justice (CJ) and environmental justice (EJ)? Keala Uchôa: My organizing work at and outside Northwestern and in my research focuses on the
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NR: You mentioned the lack of emphasis on EJ in
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
KU: I think white people are particularly interested in mainstream environmentalism and the climate crisis because it is being framed as affecting everyone, being the “most catastrophic thing” facing humanity. The problem is that it ignores the fact that
ALL OF THE “SOLUTIONS” THAT COME OUT OF MAINSTREAM ENVIORNMENTALISM UPHOLD RACIAL CAPITALISM. KEALA UCHÔA
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figures like John Muir were in creating national parks, and is framed as thinking about nature and animals — not how people are being affected. If you look into EJ scholarship, a lot of it is US-centric and points to the roots of EJ as coming out of the civil rights BANNER FROM FOSSIL FREE NU’S EARTH DAY MARCH ON MONDAY, APRIL movement. 22, 2021 IN FRONT OF DEERING MEADOW. READS “THERE IS NO PLANET B.” What does PROTESTERS URGED AND PUSHED ADMINISTRATION TO DIVEST FROM FOSSIL it mean if FUELS AND THE NUPD. PHOTOGRAPHED BY NIA ROBLES FOR BLACKBOARD. we go back in history past the civil slavery and colonization voices should be the rights movement? We have been extremely ones who are leading the see that, actually, one of catastrophic to Black, organizing and strategizing our foremothers of EJ is Indigeneous and brown visions of the future. Harriet Tubman, who had people for hundreds of NR: Some of us, even a completely sophisticated years. though we share firstunderstanding of natural All the “solutions” that hand experiences of climates and used the moss come out of mainstream environmental injustice, on trees to know which environmentalism received a formal direction was North when uphold racial capitalism. introduction to the climate she was leading Black Capitalism is an inherently movement surrounded by slaves for freedom on the unsustainable system, but white figures and ideals Underground Railroad. in the near future, there that completely ignored our NR: As an Afro-Latinx will be ways to deal with ancestor’s work. Was that climate activist, how the shifts in the climate, your case? And if so, how have you been creating so the wealthy elite can did you start and continue resistance against the USbe shielded from extreme to resist that historical centrism of mainstream harms while deepening the whitewashing? environmentalism in your environmental racism and KU: Environmentalism is own activism? climate injustice that poor presented as conservation Black and brown people face and preservation. It idolizes KU: The education at around the world. Frontline NU around these sorts of how “benevolent” white
movements is super UScentric and not attentive to Afro-Latinx history. I got frustrated because Brazil, which is where my dad is from, has the second-largest Black population in the world, after Nigeria. I think it is extremely important to consider Brazil when talking about every issue concerning abolition and the police, but especially climate justice. For example, the cattle ranching industry in Brazil is fueling deforestation, and you have illegal loggers going to federally designated indigenous territory murdering Indigenous people. But, what a lot of people don’t know is that the cattle ranching industry is also a huge form of neoslavery of mostly Black and Afro-descendent people from different rural parts of Brazil. They look for work, so they migrate, go up North, and get trapped in death-bondage — which means that in exchange for a place to stay and food, they have to work that off. But because of all the interest rates, it’s impossible to. There is a lot going on in Latin America in relation to EJ and CJ that people are not aware of and are strategically ignoring, especially in how it affects Afro-Latinx and AfroIndigenous people.
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Nia Robles: I know the past few years you have been working on climate activism focusing on BIPOC/ Latinx liberation, could you tell us about your work?
Keyra Espinoza is an AfroIndigenous climate justice activist from Ecuador. She is currently a student in the University of Miami majoring in ecosystem science and policy.
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Keyra Espinoza: I’ve been doing active work with other groups and projects since the climate march in New York (2019). I just incorporated myself in different organizations and projects, one being Polluters Out, an international climate coalition. Then, after what happened to
George Floyd in the United States, Afro-Ecuadorians started to speak up against racism in Latin America, so I joined El Cambio EC, a young community of AfroEcuadorians. I also started to participate in Tremendas EC. I’ve been amplifying continuously the existence of these minority groups in Ecuador and Latin America. NR: How has the historical whitewashing of the climate movement affected your community both in the U.S. and in Ecuador? KE: The climate movement gained popularity because of white activists spreading “veganism,” “zero waste,” “save the turtles” and stuff like that. But our ancestors have been in this fight protecting different ecosystems around the world for hundreds of years, but no one looks at that, mainly because they
are often silenced and persecuted for standing up for their own rights. We are also seen as minorities, as inferior. This is where this concept of the climate movement being whitewashed comes in. It’s really mind-blowing to see how white people try to correct the ways of living of our ancestors. We incorporated nature in our tradition and cultures, we learned how to depend on nature for food, medicine, water, rituals, which people from the global north won’t understand unless they listen to us. NR: What does climate justice mean to you and how does it play out in Black communities in Latin America? KE: To me, [climate justice] is reparations to those communities that are being
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affected and also giving Afro and Indigenous communities authority over their own land. In Esmeraldas, which is in the north of Ecuador, there is the Choco rainforest, where Indigenous people and Afro-Latinx communities have been living for years. [Since] the late 1900s, corporations and governments have been invading their territories to produce palm oil, and this caused the deforestation of ancestral lands and the contamination of their waters.
A popular case is “El caso Wimbí”, a community by la Chiquita River, where waters are completely contaminated, and the people developed health problems. But due to colonialism and environmental racism, the government hasn’t allowed them to claim their lands, because they don’t have their names in a record, as their ancestors were enslaved people. They have no written claim of their territory even though they have been there for the majority of their ancestral lineage.
OUR ANCESTORS HAVE BEEN IN THIS FIGHT PROTECTING DIFFERENT ECOSYSTEMS AROUND THE WORLD FOR HUNDREDS OF YEARS. KEYRA ESPINOZA
NR: Are there any activists that inspire you? KE: The historical women Afro-Ecuadorians were mainly vocalizing for freedom from slavery. For example, Martina Carillo made an effort to speak for the rights of her community. She faced a big penalty — a brutal death — but the way she spoke up for the Afro-community was very motivational. I think their activism was also a form of environmental activism because our existence is our resistance. NR: What do you think about the erasure of the Afro-Latinx, Afro-Indigenous identity in Ecuador and in the U.S.? KE: Growing up I actually used to deny both of my roots. [In my] school experience in the U.S. other students that were Ecuadorian were mostly
white mestizos. I remember this time in ninth grade an Ecuadorian senior told me: “You are not Ecuadorian, you are too dark.” After that event, I started to acknowledge my features, where my grandparents came from, and who I truly am, my childhood in Ecuador. All of that was in me, but I repressed it in the United States. Now, I identify myself as Afro-Indigenous. I also met other Afro-Indigenous people from the U.S., and they mentioned an interesting point that I also struggle with: since you come from two different lineages, people always try to invalidate one. So, if you are Afro-Indigenous you are not Afro, or you are not Indigenous. It’s like you have to pick a side, and it shouldn’t be like that.
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othing in this world is given to you for free. Life is going to kick your ass, and you have to learn to get up each and every time.”
19 BY KENNY DAVIS
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I always resented the unforgiving coldness behind these words. The undertones of deep-seated pain hidden beneath the surface. It made me uncomfortable, this way of looking at life. I never wanted to imagine that for myself. In many ways, she ended up being right. Struggle is no stranger to me, and I’ve gracefully learned how to fail. Life has definitely kicked my ass, and I’ve gotten up each and every time. I tell myself that I can take the punches. Too often, I wish that I didn’t have to. I am proud to say that I come from a family dominated by incredibly stubborn, unapologetically fierce, beautiful badass black women. Borne from their mother’s sacrifices and forged by the challenges they faced, each and every one of them poured their blood, sweat, and tears into building a better life for themselves. The traditional narrative surrounding black women glorifies their proximity to struggleintimacy with struggle-painting itthem as crucial to the powerful identity of black resilience against all odds. Generations of black girls are taught to accept their strife as being essential to their lives, and to be endured without com-
plaint. Yet what many fail to realize, is that one size does not fit all. This mentality can sometimes bear wounds. They are still bleeding. At nineteen years old, my great-grandmother was well acquainted with the unforgiving responsibilities of adulthood. Confronted with the complexities of marriage and a fierce devotion towards caring for her one-year old daughter, she did not have the luxury of making mistakes during young adulthood. Having never finished high school, her main priority was to secure a job to ensure the survival of her family. It was a regret she carried for the rest of her life-- and she fought to make sure that her children received the academic opportunities unavailable to her. When her marriage turned emotionally and physically abusive, she faced the inconceivable reality of becoming a single mother with nine children. She never experienced young adulthood-- it was
EACH AND EVERY ONE OF THEM POURED THEIR BLOOD, SWEAT, AND TEARS INTO BUILDING A BETTER LIFE FOR THEMSELVES. quickly snuffed out by the unrelenting demands of motherhood. Although I’ll never know for sure, I don’t believe the narrative that
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she simply endured these struggles with unfaltering strength. With nine lives depending on her, I know she must have experienced moments of severe doubt and vulnerability. Yet despite all odds, she prevailed. At nineteen years old, my grandmother was also a young mother heavily dedicated towards granting her daughter the opportunities that were never afforded to her. The moment she graduated from high school, she instantly decided that college was not an option. Working from four to midnight every day, she endured separation anxiety from her daughter as she carved out a living for her family. According to her, her goals and priorities were extraordinarily simple. To give her daughter a childhood filled with the comfort and happiness that she felt was missing from her own. At nineteen years old, my mother was a sophomore in college furthering her education as a biology major. Working two jobs whilst maintaining her grades was a challenge-- one that she does not look back upon with fondness. Being a first-generation college student placed a weight upon her shoulders. Being the trailblazer of the family was not a choice, but a burden that she carried with her head high. With no one to guide her on the tougher aspects of college, she was frustrated. Confused. Hyper-aware of her extreme accomplishment of attending college and riddled with fear of not finishing her time there. For her, college was her dream. A generational barrier that she was lucky
enough to break, but had no idea how to endure. At nineteen years old, I have reached a place where I’ve finally accepted the harsh realities that have been thrown at me. Even if I did so kicking and screaming. When a pandemic took away the graduation I’d been dreaming about my entire life, I didn’t feel particularly resilient. When I suffered mental health challenges and things fell out of control, I did not grimace through my pain and keep on marching. Although I knew it came from a place of love, I resented the things people would tell me of how this once-in-a-lifetime catastrophic world event would somehow embolden me. Another scar that I, as a black woman, must wear with pride. Another struggle within my story that would be spun into a glorious tale of perseverance, hardship, and strength. Yes, my struggles have shaped me into the exceptionally tough person I am today. Just like the women before me, I am proud of what I’ve survived and acknowledge its significance in creating the version of myself I know today. However, I don’t view my struggles as being essential parts of my character development, or strife as something to be endured and taken on with grace. I wish for healing. A world that allows black women to show weakness, and to show the cracks within this hardened facade. Most of all, I wish for us to experience the warm embrace of peace and comfort that it is okay to falter.
I am proud to say that I come from a family dominated by incredibly stubborn, unapologetically fierce, beautiful badass black women.
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THE REFOUNDING: How BlackBoard Got its Restart
BY CAMILLE WILLIAMS
fter researching on-campus organizations, Sierra Boone was eager to join BlackBoard Magazine and the National Association of Black Journalists when she arrived at Northwestern University in fall 2013. But when she and a friend from her PA group, Jesse Sparks, spoke to Black upperclassmen, they were shocked to learn that there was no BlackBoard, and NABJ
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was functioning mainly as an exec board. How could it be that one of the country’s top journalism schools had no Blackinterest student publication or thriving pre-professional group dedicated to Black student journalists? Alumni pointed out that during this time predominantly white publications didn’t feel welcoming.
“A lot of people just wanted the opportunity to write and be Black and that was something that was not very easy to do,” Boone says. Unwilling to accept defeat, Boone approached Medill professor and former Blackboard editor-in-chief Charles Whitaker, an alum of both organizations, with a plan: revitalize NABJ and then BlackBoard.
The next year, NABJ made its comeback and was nominated for Chapter of the Year. At an NABJ dinner at Professor Ava Greenwell-Thompson’s house in fall 2014, Black faculty and students discussed the possibility of reviving BlackBoard. “We were just talking about why BlackBoard had gone and what it was, and I remember Charles saying ‘It’s
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always just been about 10 kids and adults each year, and it hasn’t gotten any better,’” says Princess-India Alexander, a Medill alumna who served as co-editor in chief of BlackBoard alongside Boone in the fall of 2016. Over the next year, a core group of NABJ members — Sierra Boone, Carson Brown, Jesse Sparks and Rachelle Hampton, and Princess-India Alexander, Tyra Triche and Kali Robinson — turned NABJ exec meetings into BlackBoard planning meetings. The complete story of how this handful of students resurrected Northwestern’s second-oldest publication has not been well-documented. But they were certainly not the first to do so. In fact, the history of BlackBoard is a story of reviving legacies and voices in the Black community. BLACKBOARD ORIGINS Dino Robinson, Evanston historian and founder of Shorefront Legacy Center, pulled down several cardboard boxes filled with BlackBoard magazines. Before renovations began in 2016, these copies lived in the Black House, where BlackBoard refounders first discovered and reviewed them to determine what BlackBoard magazine should look, feel and sound like. “We had this beautiful legacy of a publication,” Boone says. “I was going to the Black House finding old issues of it from the 70s, the 80s, reading editors notes, and I’m like, ‘this is literally some of the most beautiful history. We have to continue it. There was no other option.”
In winter 1971, a small group of Black students labored over typewriters in the Black House to rush to the press their new, FMO-sponsored weekly newsletter: “The Black Board.” They sought to renew Black communication across campus just as “Uhuru,” Northwestern’s first official Black student publication, had from 1968 -1969.
diverse perspectives and urgent tone, staff experimented with font and design — to varying degrees of success, according to Robinson. As BlackBoard’s advisor from 2001 to 2007, he set the layout, word counts, font, cover design and logo.
Historically, Black students have enjoyed several overlapping Black publications. From 19701973, FMO published a quarterly newspaper known as “Pajoma People.” Until 2009, the Black Student Handbook provided information on all people, places and things to thrive at Northwestern. “New Senses,” a Black student literary magazine, ran for 15 years and was briefly rekindled as “Visions and Voices” from 2006 to 2011.
“I tried to make it like, ‘Don’t be intimidated by this,’” he says. “It can either go very easy or go very complicated; you can choose.”
As for BlackBoard, we can thank its longevity to a series of reincarnations in style and format, which were usually spearheaded by Black women. Dean Whitaker ushered in one of its earliest formative changes in 1978, when he converted BlackBoard from a newspaper to a monthly news magazine. And, starting in 1983-1984, BlackBoard editors added a cover photo to each issue and a biweekly supplement called “BlackBeat” containing cartoons, editorials and poetry. The update that ensured BlackBoard’s survival into the new century began in December 1998, when it transformed into a glossy, 34-page magazine. And while BlackBoard’s aimed to keep its
BLACKBOARD HAS ALSO EVOLVED THROUGHOUT THE AGES TO GIVE BLACK STUDENTS A PLATFORM TO EXPRESS, DISCOVER, AND EXERCISE CREATIVE CONTROL.
But as Robinson let go of the reins, the publication slowly faltered, especially without stable fundraising. While BlackBoard began publishing issues online starting in 2009, Dino doubted whether they could print many copies. In winter 2011, BlackBoard published its last issue for five years. But besides a one-quarter gap, Black students didn’t stop making a magazine. They simply renamed and rebranded. In the fall of 2011, a group primarily consisting of Black women founded “Pulse,” a Black and multicultural publication. The constitution delineated expanded editing positions including for marketing, fashion, beauty and health, and writers. They published five issues between then and 2014, before going completely online and fizzling out as seniors graduated. Many of those who would go on to restore BlackBoard initially worked on Pulse Magazine, but felt it could not didn’t measure up to having a
publication specifically for and by Black students. “There had been, lot of great initiative and effort to create something really cool of ‘Pulse,’ but we wanted to kind of take it back to its roots back to its origins,” Sparks says. MAKING THE DREAM TEAM
It was decided: BlackBoard would keep the mission statement of earlier iterations, and embody the artistry of the Black community in each issue. Sparks and Boone poured over indie magazines for inspiration. Sparks says this organic process set the precedent for design and layout that matched the content, not the other way around. “BlackBoard had the opportunity and the ability to really evolve and change, and I think in some ways evolve and change at a much more rapid pace than some other publications,” he says. While envisioning the new magazine, Boone reached out to former BlackBoard editors hoping to gain wisdom and advice. Kyra Kyles, now CEO of YR Media and former editor-in-chief of Ebony, advised her to
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make BlackBoard “something that can cause us to have a dialogue with one another,” Boone recalls. “Because uniting us doesn’t mean that we all have to embody monolithic thoughts or beliefs.” Alexander remembers the moment when she came up with the magazine’s theme, “Elevate,” while scouring for inspiration pictures on social media. “It was like this group of these four Black people all dressed in white just jumping at once, and we had the same Medill, artistic, magazine geek moment,” Alexander says. “Elevate! It has to be our theme!” But the first revived edition of BlackBoard would not
arrive until December 2016. But until then, the BlackBoard planning team mustered support from current and incoming Black Medill students. This wasn’t difficult according to Alexander, who says, “there’s so much Black talent on campus that it’s like you could throw a stone and just hit someone.” Lauren Harris, thenfreshman and current artist and animator, created the website in March 2016. She also assisted fellow freshman and digital storyteller Courtney Morrison with the photoshoot for the first few editions. “It was potluck style,” Harris says. “Everyone has these various skills, and it’s like, we’re not picky.”
That same spring, prospective student DebbieMarie Brown, connected with NABJ treasurer and then-junior Carson Brown, who persuaded her by text to attend Northwestern and join BlackBoard instead of New York University. “She’s like… explaining to me through texts this deep history of the Black community and Black journalism at Northwestern,” she says. Brown says she joined BlackBoard knowing that she would want to be editor-inchief, which she was from fall 2018 to fall 2019. “I feel like BlackBoard wasn’t huge on campus… but it was huge to me,” Brown says. “I felt cool because
these seniors wanted to take care of me.” However, there was still the everlasting hurdle: funding. In order to print at least 200 magazines, they needed to raise nearly $2,000 per issue. Some of that money came from FMO, motivating BlackBoard leaders to make letters from the FMO coordinator a staple in each magazine issue. But the most memorable and culturally significant source of money came from cooking and selling soul food. For the team’s first fundraiser, they spent hours in a cramped apartment kitchen chopping turkey legs and stewing 25 pounds of collard greens hauled straight from the Southside. Alexander says the
BLACKBOARD: A TIMELINE 1968
Uhuru, the first For Members Only publication and “Northwestern’s official Afro-American Newsletter”
Newsmagazine phase begins
The Black Student Handbook published annually
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First glossy and quarterly BlackBoard magazine
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whole experience incentivized them to stick to macaroni and cheese and cornbread down the line. “We made mac and cheese over the winter, and we were trying to study for finals at the same time, and we burned a whole pot of mac and cheese sauce and had to start over at midnight, and then we pulled an all-nighter,” Alexander says. “It was fun.” Midway through the fall quarter, BlackBoard reached out to Black students on campus to be models, searched Chicago Army Supply for cheap, size-inclusive clothing, and found student makeup artist Darcelle Pluviose, to pull the photoshoot together.
Sparks, who was also juggling a full-time journalism residency, could no longer design the magazine as planned. Alexander says she designed much of the magazine, despite having “never designed a damn thing before.” Nevertheless, at the end of fall 2016, BlackBoard distributed hundreds of polished magazines across campus. “When we got the copies back, that was kind of like the deep breath of happiness after all,” Boone says. “I still remember standing at the arch with Princess-India and passing them out, and just being elated just to have something.”
Still, challenges arose.
BB TODAY As leaders transitioned out of positions and graduated, however, remaining members had to work zealously to sustain the publication. Brown says Alexander was “so good at doing everything herself,” that it left shoes too big to fill for everyone else, especially the next sole editor-in-chief in winter 2018: Aaron Lewis. In fact, that issue didn’t get printed. “At that time, the editor in chief was typically doing most of the work on the actual magazine design as well in addition to writing the cover story,” Lewis says. The next season, Kali Robinson and Tyra Ritchie split the editor-in-chief role before passing on the weighty
Last BlackBoard issue for five years
Official BlackBoard relaunch
First issue of Pulse, the Black and Multicultural magazine
role to Brown. Similar to Alexander, Brown began designing nearly the entire magazine herself — a situation she now regrets. “When someone does all the work, it causes tension in the personal relationships,” Brown reflected. “India carried that magazine, and you can’t carry magazine and train staff at the same time,” Still, BlackBoard alumni say that they left their roles with the confidence that the magazine would continue to thrive. After all, no one thought there would be a shortage of Black creatives and writers on Northwestern’s campus. “If anything, the story of BlackBoard is so much more the story of Black women’s ingenuity and commitment to reinventing something for themselves and creating a service that other people in the Black community can benefit from and invest in,” Sparks says. From FMO coordinators that funded the magazine into existence to the recent editors who create stories centered on the intersection of queerness and multicultural identities — BlackBoard archives document a legacy of visionary Black women. Whether through editorials, poetry, or photography, BlackBoard has also evolved throughout the ages to give Black students a platform to express, discover, and exercise creative control. “The best part about the relaunch endeavors is just that it, If nothing else...it will always continue to be as a place for Black students to land, for them to learn, to grow,” Sparks says. SPRING 2021 | 30
BY KACEE HASLETT
daddy always thought i was frying my hair. it’s actually just a rite of passage to smell a little singed after the beauty shop. passages and traditions and moments not shared with peers edged slicked with oil and grease unlike anyone else. at least that’s how the pit of my stomach felt sinking. sinking so far down i didn’t even know i was able to reach that far. fifth grade sucks. fifth grade sucks just because it’s fifth grade. the curl pattern only made things worse. i’m still growing. daddy still thinks i’m frying my hair. there’s more people who share the same experiences around me because i’m not ten anymore. feels like it sometimes. a lot of unlearning still needs to be done.
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Rosemary’s Metaphor BY SHEILA ONYANGO
We were in crisis when we can we came here And one by one, they put out the flames Douse by douse, though we couldn’t be the same We were no longer on fire
BY NIA ROBLES
My ancestors are engraved In the creases of my mother’s skin.
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discovery in four stages: BY KARINA KARBO-WRIGHT lost whether i open or close my eyes my mind is lost it’s not dark but i cannot see i wonder why i worry of the cost where am i going? where will i be? then suddenly im gone i feel the push and pull the salty dewiness of confusion the dampness of death am i dying? or am i lying about living? i am lost i am from somewhere i belong somewhere i think
the wave im tumbling now i know that i am lost but lost to who? lost from where? i can’t get out it washes over me repeatedly thump and whoosh i see white and taste death i see black and taste salt i can’t get out i can’t get out it topples me and buries me in it’s wake it comes in waves and i succumb to her there’s no way out it’s getting louder and louder i can’t hear i can’t see where am i? im lost im trapped IM TRAPPED i can’t get out
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the wake silence what was that raging around me? there’s no more salt there’s no more death
the solid it’s clear now whatever was here before still thunders in the distance but for now, it’s at bay
it’s still black but i can see it’s … calm
i was up onshore my curls encircled my head like a crown the sun kisses my face it’s black but i can see
i feel the residual ripples on my skin i feel the tension of gravity tugs me gently and pushes me forward there’s confusion still but it’s … peaceful i survived; im getting out i realize then it was trying to kill me it tried to kill me and it continues, lingering behind me i knew it was trying it’s best to reach me and pull me back under but im anchored
and i realized im not alone others are tousled on the shore next to me we lay there the residual waves lap at our hair and it’s quiet and solid or at least stable for now i got out we got out
im still lost but that feels okay i don’t want to go back i don’t know where i’m from but it isn’t home im going somewhere i can feel it i can reach it
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