‘Hannah’ Magazine, Focused On The Narrative Of Women Of Color, Is A Timely Publication

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We already know Ebony magazine, and Essence magazine exist, but Hannah Magazine is the publication dedicated to, by, and about women of color that is much needed right now. Hannah Magazine is not just a celebration of black women, but it will specifically focus on highlighting the diversity of women of color in a space that is exclusively theirs, in a way that allows their narrative to be the dominant.

The magazine was started by editor-in-chief Qimmah Saafir, it initially came about thanks to a successfully funded Kickstarter campaign. The magazine will feature fashion and beauty, but will also cover socio-political issues and some tech. While there is certainly a lot of coverage of famous black women in the mainstream media such as Beyonce, Rihanna and Serena Williams, what about the everyday woman who isn’t defined by constructed images of what a woman should be through the lens of an industry like TV or film?

In an interview with millennial news site .Mic, Qimmah talks about the reasoning behind starting this important magazine.

“It really jump-started after a conversation I had with someone I respected who said, ‘No one really cares about black women’. I had the idea swimming around in my head, and I knew the need for it but there wasn’t a fire under me for it. As people continued to insult us and agree that there was a void in the industry, that’s when I started telling my close friends about the idea,” she said.

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She acknowledges the presence of Ebony and Essence, but emphasizes with the changing world, black women’s voices shouldn’t only be confined to just one or two publications. After all, we’ve lost count of the predominantly white-washed magazines and publications that exist in the world. A third magazine exclusively focused on black women doesn’t exactly put a dent in the dominant mainstream narrative.

“We need to have Essence and Ebony, [but] we need to have other things too. We’re not this monolithic group of people that just think the same, dress the same, eat the same, shit the same, wanna be the same,” said actress Joy Bryant in the Kickstarter campaign video featured on the website.

The first issue includes an interview with actress Rosario Dawson, an editorial fashion spread modeled by the staff of the magazine, beauty tips, sex advice, and inspiring quotes from women like Eartha Kitt, Nina Simone and Frida Kahlo.

“I feel like I’m a well-rounded person, and I think lots of black women are. This magazine would be for those women who just want to read stories that interest them, that excite them, beyond what they’re used to seeing. I really feel like the misrepresentation of black women in media has run rampant. We’re always depicted as the same type of person. We’re seen as these sassy, one-dimensional caricatures, and we’re so much more,” said Qimmah.

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She has already received feedback from a female reader who, as a woman of color, expressed how alone she feels at college, but found comfort in Hannah Magazine knowing her interests are represented in an authentic way.

Now that you know a little bit about the magazine, let us share with you why we find it so refreshing and timely. Over the past few years race, in particular the African-American race, has become a topic of much discussion in the wake of a spate of the deaths of black men by the hands of police. The Black Lives Matter has brought race issues and attitudes to the forefront of American life in a way like never before.

But it hasn’t just been black men, but a string of black women, most notably Sandra Bland who suspiciously died while in the custody of police after being pulled over for failing to signal a turn in Texas. Black women being terrorized, abused and killed by authorities, yet not being as dominant in the media compared to the likes of Freddie Grey, Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin ignited the Say Her Name movement to force society to recognize their reluctance in giving black women an equal space in their own communities as well as in the media.

When it comes to the media, we see women like Lupita Nyong’o and Viola Davis using award ceremony platforms to speak about the importance of being a dark skinned woman in mainstream entertainment, being recognized by industry peers and audiences alike as something to be celebrated, but also normal.

In music issues of race are perceived somewhat differently, given that spokeswomen like Nicki Minaj are driving a knife right to the heart of the blatant hypocrisy. In an interview about the symbolism around her ‘Anaconda’ video she talks about how men objectifying women in rap videos is OK, but when women choose to control and portray their sexuality how they choose, suddenly everyone has a problem with it. She also pointed out how women in skimpy bikinis on the cover of men’s sports magazines is seen as acceptable, but her as a black woman in thong on the cover of her own Anaconda album is seen as “too much” by the masses.

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Her beef with Miley Cyrus at the recent VMAs dominated headlines, but in a follow-up article with the New York Times not too long ago, Nicki explains that her frustration comes not from a place of wanting to create drama, but to challenge the appropriation of black culture by white women.

“The fact that you feel upset about me speaking on something that affects black women makes me feel like you have some big balls. You’re in videos with black men, and you’re bringing out black women on your stages, but you don’t want to know how black women feel about something that’s so important? Come on, you can’t want the good without the bad,” she said.

“If you want to enjoy our culture and our lifestyle, bond with us, dance with us, have fun with us, twerk with us, rap with us, then you should also want to know what affects us, what is bothering us, what we feel is unfair to us. You shouldn’t not want to know that.”

Maybe Beyonce isn’t talking about race the way Nicki is, but shouldn’t someone? As the biggest selling female rap artist of all time, she is perfectly positioned to challenge the norms surrounding the narratives of black women. She certainly wasn’t the only one, as we are all familiar with hip hop artist Azalea Banks challenging white Australian artist Iggy Azalea on her use of black culture but only when it suits her.

In a completely different approach, Rihanna spoke about her own issues with race. She is easily one of the most popular artists in the world and became the first black woman to be the face of Chanel earlier this year. While she is not one to shy away from controversy when it comes to sexuality, how she dresses and even her penchant for smoking weed, her startling admission about how she is treated as a black woman in the music industry in a recent New York Times interview definitely made us do a double take.

“You know, when I started to experience the difference — or even have my race be highlighted — it was mostly when I would do business deals,” she said after being asked what it is like to be a black woman with power in America.

“And, you know, that never ends, by the way. It’s still a thing. And it’s the thing that makes me want to prove people wrong. It almost excites me; I know what they’re expecting and I can’t wait to show them that I’m here to exceed those expectations. But I have to bear in mind that those people are judging you because you’re packaged a certain way — they’ve been programmed to think a black man in a hoodie means grab your purse a little tighter. For me, it comes down to smaller issues, scenarios in which people can assume something of me without knowing me, just by my packaging,” she said.

It was not something we were expecting to hear from someone like Rihanna, but in her own words she has just proved that this is clearly not just a socio-economic issue, it firmly has to do with race.

So why does all if this matter with respect to Hannah Magazine? Because the more we see spaces where black women are controlling and sharing, on a wider scale, their own narratives without appropriations, interpretations and any other lens that seeks to somehow dull it down, that is a huge win.

Qimmah says the magazine is a space for black women to come and just “be”, and for the rest of us, perhaps it is a magazine where we can come to listen and learn.

“I enjoy the way that there’s this culture. I want it to be used as a tool for connectivity and understanding. I really did not expect so many people to connect with it, so I think it says a lot about what we’re missing,” she told .Mic.

The magazine is bi-annual and you can see what is on offer in the current issue by clicking here. We are certainly excited to see more of how they are going to contribute to women’s media.

2 Comments

  1. Hi, congratulations and thank you for your fantastic achievement by creating this magazine. I would love to subscribe to this magazine and will inform my friends about this. Where can I subscribe or buy it? Greetings from a women of color from the Netherlands.

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