More than 40 years after African-Americans at UW-Madison started printing their own campus newspaper to cover politics and activism on campus, a current student has started a blog she hopes will be a place where black students can find community and share their stories.
While searching UW archives for photos for a Black History Month display, UW Senior Jordan Gaines stumbled upon a copy of The Black Voice, the black student newspaper from the 1970s.“It was for black students, by black students, on issues that affected black students and black people in general,” Gaines said of the paper, which launched in 1971 and is no longer published.
So Gaines decided to bring the paper back. She did one print edition, but ultimately decided to take the publication online to make it more sustainable and accessible. The site has articles, art, poetry and a section for students to share personal stories.Gaines tapped journalism professor Sue Robinson as her adviser for the project. (watch the WKOW video).
“This is sort of an aggregation of all these different voices and different perspectives and different kinds of expressions that you don’t see in sort of a traditional college newspaper,” Robinson said.
Gaines has worked in UW-Madison’s Pathways to Educational Achievement office, and will receive independent study credit from the university’s School of Journalism and Mass Communication for running The Black Voice. But she said the site doesn’t get money from UW-Madison, and won’t hesitate to criticize administration if necessary.
“It’s not reactionary to the national attention that racial tensions have been getting on campus climates,” Gaines said. “This has one, been in the works, and two, I think needs to happen long after the buzz dies down about the way that campus climate functions racially.”
“The goal is to create a space for black students by black students. My friends and I, we sit around and talk about race and it’s not always like, ‘oh wow it’s so hard to be here,’ but I mean a lot of times, it’s funny, it’s sarcastic, it’s witty,” Gaines said. “It’s just our experience, pure and raw.”
That awkward moment when the professor who calls you every other Black person’s name but the one God and yo mama gave you, yet can still name everyday you were absent and late for class. — #BeingBlack@UW,
And though Gaines kept the name, The Black Voice, to pay homage to the original, she says this digital re-launch is about voices.
“I could connect to it,” Gaines said. “There were obviously different nuances to their experiences, but the same systems were still in play and the same feelings of not being safe or feeling isolated or feeling discriminated against, were still very present.”
And while the campus’ black press in the 1970s focused more narrowly on news and activism, Gaines says her venture is “not going to be solely about the politics of being black.” Instead, Gaines says, it will aim to cover the wider range of experiences black students have on UW’s campus, from the tragic to the humorous. And while the site could offer white students or others a window into those experiences, she says it’s predominantly meant as a space where black students can feel free to express themselves. Some of the site’s first posts include coverage of criminal justice reform advocate Bryan Stevenson’s October visit to UW-Madison and poetry about officer-involved shootings of black men and boys, along with an a profile of a local band and a student’s essay about her adventures in dating on and off campus.
“I want us as black students to have a space to share all of those,” Gaines said.The Black Voice — blackvoicesuw.wordpress.com and @BlackVoicesUW on Twitter — earlier this month as an online media outlet to collect students’ news coverage, opinion writing, art and poetry. The site debuts as black students on campuses across the country, including many at UW-Madison, have protested the racial climate of predominantly white colleges and universities, though Gaines said her blog is not meant as a response to those movements.
“It’s a myriad of different experiences of blackness, because there’s no one way to be black,” Gaines said.Gaines says this first semester was about launching the site, which went live last week. Next semester, she and Robinson will be working to get more students involved, so the paper lasts long after Gaines graduates in May.
– Compiled from stories originally written by Nico Savidge, Wisconsin State Journal, and
On Friday, February 5, 1971 volume 1, number 1 of THE BLACK VOICE was released to the University of Wisconsin Madison campus. The paper was a “new vehicle on which Black people can transmit their thoughts.” During a time of turmoil and overt rejection from the greater campus community Black students created a place where their needs, conversations, interests, and community could be centralized beyond the realms of physical space.Fast forward 44 years later and Welcome B(l)ack *in my Mase voice*. The Black student body as it currently stands is still in need of such a space. While we recognize that there is no such thing as a singular proverbial Black voice even within the Black student body on campus, THE BLACK VOICE functions as a space in which you (and yo mama) can be soooo unapologetically Black that _______. All manifestations and definitions of Black identity (not including “New Black” and “transracial”) are welcome, acknowledged, and praised here.“With THE BLACK VOICE, this new endeavor, let us all become determined to progress, let us all refuse to stagnate, and let us all refuse to retrogress. This is a long awaited beginning.”Or in the words of pre-Kim Kanye “from the moments of pain, look how far we done came. Haters saying you changed, now you doing your thang.” *Follow us on Twitter @BlackVoicesUW Hashtag #BeingBlackatUW