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New publications feature diverse voices

OBSIDIAN and Vagabond Magazine provide outlets for multimedia expression

Two new student-run publications, OBSIDIAN and Vagabond Magazine, have established presences on campus this semester. These online outlets each fill a niche, providing multimedia platforms for students to present work that might not have a place elsewhere.


Raising awareness, raising voices

“When people ask me what OBSIDIAN is, my short answer is that it’s a black literary space for students on campus,” said Jasmin Jones ’17, one of the magazine’s co-founders. “It’s for anyone who’s a child of the African diaspora. It’s for marginalized voices.”

OBSIDIAN was born out of the collaboration between three students — Maya Finoh ’17, Paige Morris ’16 and Jones. “We noticed that there wasn’t really a space specifically for black voices and black expression,” Morris said.

Finoh, whose family hails from Sierra Leone, said she wanted to explore and express her own identity as a first generation American, as well as her experience at Brown. “Statistically, we’re all seen as black, but that’s not the case,” she added.

Gregory Stewart ’17, who has submitted photographs to the magazine, said he was mostly attracted to OBSIDIAN because it provides a unique venue for expression of black literary arts on campus.

The blog’s current online platform, Tumblr, allows for greater interactivity and intimacy, said Finoh. “We have a big focus on black image, on black visibility,” Jones said. “With the Tumblr, we were able to incorporate that more by showing people’s faces and showing people’s art,” she added.

The three co-editors of the magazine review and revise submissions on a rolling basis before posting them to the website, Morris said. “I’m really not about editing too deeply,” she added. “This is what your art is, and that’s how it stands.”

Each of the three has a different sub-section of the magazine, Jones said. She focuses on black female identity, Finoh concentrates on transnationalism and Morris specializes in queer identity. OBSIDIAN aims to highlight intersectionality, including between issues not normally attributed specifically to people of color like feminism, sexism and queerness, Finoh said.

The magazine solicits submissions and readership from all students, not only students of color.

“OBSIDIAN will be seen by students who aren’t necessarily black, and hopefully they’ll learn from it and gain a better understanding of what blackness means,” Finoh said. “We’re asking that question of ourselves every day.”

Black students’ voices tend to be marginalized, said Armani Madison ’16, a contributor who has also submitted works for other publications — but said he was attracted to OBSIDIAN because it focuses specifically on the African diaspora. “I think it’s especially poignant and very important for this literary publication to exist, because it allows us to share our ideas and our creativity.”

“A lot of voices can become kind of invisible on campus with so many people,” said Taylor Michael ’17, who submitted an autobiographical piece to OBSIDIAN.

“This is specifically a magazine for black experiences and black voices and that makes it easier to put those personal narratives out there,” Morris said.

As for the future, Morris said she hopes to establish a print edition of the magazine, host release parties and invite people to share their work in person. Finoh added that she has started conversations with friends beyond the Brown community and hopes to eventually receive work from other universities.

“I hope that OBSIDIAN in the future gives us all something to bond over as a black community and that we all really feel comfortable and open with it,” Jones said.


Planes, trains and automobiles

Vagabond Magazine, which focuses on travel writing and narratives, launched Feb. 20. Vagabond is “a resource for Brown students who want to travel but don’t really know where to start,” said Eugenia Lulo ’16, managing editor and co-founder of the publication. The magazine also serves as an outlet for students who want to share their personal stories from their travels and time abroad, she added.

Vagabond was founded by a group of four friends inspired by the idea of a magazine dedicated to travel. “We got the idea end of freshman year,” said Katharina Goetzeler ’16, one of the co-founders and current business manager of Vagabond. “There were so many international student groups, all these clubs, but no publication where people can talk about culture and travel.”

The group saw an opening for this type of publication and planned the magazine through the spring and summer. They were officially categorized as a student group last semester, but its structure remains relatively informal — there are three managing editors, a business manager and a team of section editors, Lulo said. After submitting three stories, writers become members of staff.

“We got (an) overwhelming response, way more than we thought we would,” Lulo said.

Vagabond comprises five sections: travel, features, arts and culture, cuisine and events. Goetzeler said they accept a diverse array of writing, including event reviews, blog posts and photo essays. “We want it to be a fun read,” she added.

Kutay Onayli ’17, an international student from Turkey, contributed two articles to the magazine — one about his hometown of Istanbul and another about a celebrated Turkish poet, Nazim Hikmet. “I think even though in terms of size it’s pretty small, the international student community here has a lot to contribute in terms of campus culture, in terms of literary culture,” he said, adding that he felt his Turkish identity inspired his work.

But Lulo emphasized that the magazine is not solely for international students and their experiences, though her Dominican identity informed her perspective on the value of an outlet for travel writing.

Vagabond’s category one status means it can place announcements in Morning Mail, book rooms and hold events, but receives no funding. Goetzeler said she envisions a monthly print issue in the future.

Though it is difficult to find a place amid the multiplicity of publications on campus, she added she is not concerned about Vagabond establishing a strong foothold because it caters to a strong interest in the student body.

“I think it’s refreshing that there’s this constant drive to encourage the publication of art on various campuses,” said Christopher Anderson ’14, managing editor of the Clerestory Journal of the Arts, the oldest literary magazine on campus.“A lot of the journals here (at Brown) have a sort of niche, and ours is that we do everything,” he said. Clerestory publishes poetry, artwork, prose and music.

“I think there are a lot (of publications on campus) but I think there can always be more avenues for students … to share what they’re doing,” said Todd Stong ’14, leader of Issues Magazine, another literary publication that accepts poetry, fiction and nonfiction writing.

“I think it’s important that we have an outlet … something specifically designed to celebrate (another) side of Brown, to spread a message of global citizenship,” Onayli said. “It’s almost overdue, in a way, having this magazine,” he added.

“It’s not necessarily about the international aspect of it,” Goetzeler said. “It’s about culture and experiencing culture.”



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