New Syracuse African American publication will arrive this spring

The Renegade Magazine will have stories affecting SU's African American community, including objectification of women, fashion and lifestyle trends.

With a story in mind, Ibet Inyang approached the editor-in-chief of a Syracuse University magazine who turned her away, saying the topic was too controversial.

Inyang wanted to write about natural hair, a growing trend in the African American community.

“I still don’t really get what she meant by ‘controversial,’ but at that moment I thought that there should be a campus magazine where a story like that can be published,” Inyang said.

Syracuse University has not seen an African American magazine since spring of 2009, when the last issue of The Black Voice was published. Responding to the lack of African American representation in campus publications, Inyang and her roommates, Jasmine Holloway and Brittany Plummer, created The Renegade Magazine, which will debut this spring.

“I want there to be a place where minority and black students can have a voice,” Inyang said. “The definition of a renegade is someone who breaks out of convention and is not afraid to do something different and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

The Renegade Magazine will include stories about the objectification of women, the relationship between race and identity and fashion, music and lifestyle topics.

Although other student publications already feature similar topics, no campus magazine discusses immediate issues affecting the African American community. There are currently 12 student-run magazines at SU; there are magazines for Latinos, Asians, women and the LGBT community, but until this semester, a magazine for African Americans has been absent.

While The Renegade Magazine will discuss issues aimed specifically at African American students, Holloway, the managing editor, and Plummer, a contributing photographer, think the magazine will appeal to the entire student population. “There’s so much overlap in culture that it can be for anyone. There are just certain nuances that are specific to the black community that we want to address, but overall it will be for all students,” Holloway said.

Plummer wants to feature street style and fashion trends that appeal to all students, not just minorities. “I want The Renegade to be a big hit,” Plummer said. “If it has general interest stories, it will appeal to more students and we’ll have a better chance at being successful.”

Inyang said video components will be a large part of the magazine too. “Videos can package together the stories we’re writing about,” she said. “As a new campus organization, it would get the buzz going and also bring the stories to life. The magazine should be a whole experience.”

Holloway drew inspiration for the videos from hip-hop artist Pharrell Williams. His YouTube miniseries, StereoTypes, debunks stereotypes about race, gender, hometown and religion. Using the magazine, Holloway wants to bring this concept to the university.

“It’s about making the students of Syracuse care,” Holloway said. “If we are out asking questions and filming scenes, people will notice and want to see the resulting magazine at the end of the semester.”

Holloway will also reach out to local business owners, who are potential advertisers, to further promote The Renegade Magazine and obtain funds. Holloway said the team’s biggest challenge will be funding and marketing the publication.

In recent years, magazine businesses have struggled to secure stable readerships. According to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, magazine newsstand sales dropped 9 percent between 2010 and 2011. And Jet, a historic African American magazine, experienced a 9.1 percent decrease in circulation in 2012.

Harriet Brown, a magazine professor at the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications, attributes this loss in circulation to younger audiences’ proclivity toward digital, rather than print, outlets.

“Young African American women today aren’t interested in the magazines their mothers and grandmothers read. They’d rather go to the Internet for the content they want,” she said.

While Jet and similar publications like Essence and Ebony struggle to maintain the readership they once had, one magazine featuring an African American icon continues to grow. O, The Oprah Magazine debuted in 2000 and its launch remains the most successful in magazine publishing history. But its use of a black woman, Oprah, on its cover does not qualify O Magazine as an African American publication. In fact, 86.6 percent of the magazine’s readers are white.

“Oprah already had a screen presence and an iconic status,” said Melissa Chessher, magazine department chair and The Renegade Magazine’s faculty advisor. “Her existing brand made her magazine successful, but it is in no way a magazine about African American women.” Chessher said O Magazine’s vibrant attitude does not have room for serious African American issues.

On the contrary, Jet and Ebony were created to inform the public and support the African American community. In 1955, Jet published graphic photographs of Emmett Till, an African American boy who was lynched during the Civil Rights Movement. Ebony had a similar role; one of its photographers captured Martin Luther King in midst of a Montgomery, Ala. bus boycott.

The Renegade Magazine models itself after these historical black magazines. Inyang wants the magazine to highlight successes in the Syracuse University African American community.

“My experience taking Newhouse classes makes the lack of diversity on this campus more apparent,” Inyang said. “I feel like people here aren’t exposed enough to other cultures and I’m interested in changing that.”

Inyang said the past few weeks have been full of brainstorming story ideas, completing paperwork, attending fiscal training and meeting with Newhouse faculty like Dean Lorraine Branham and Professor Chessher.

“It takes a great deal of drive to launch a new magazine,” Chessher said. “Ibet’s initiative and her willingness to give up sleep and a social life for this publication make her an excellent leader.”

Inyang wants students with the same desire to contribute to the magazine. She hopes to involve underclassmen who can take over the publication when she graduates in December.

When The Renegade Magazine’s first issue hits stands, Inyang says she’ll do a happy dance. “But only after I'm done furiously looking through it, making sure it’s perfect,” she said.

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