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It Takes A Village
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It Takes A Village
Did We Lose AfroXcentric Magazine?
AfroXCentric Magazine

by Angela D. Odom

It takes a village to raise a child.  That child could be born of the flesh from the womb of a woman, or the child could be an idea, conceived and nurtured for months or years within the soul of a woman.  Like the child, the woman soon gives birth to the idea and everyone smiles, applauds, and shares her enthusiasm – finally, it is here – it’s real.  It takes a village to assist and help the woman raise the idea as well.

AfroXcentric Magazine was such an idea; born in the womb of a lesbian of color, Star Smith, who wanted something more for her community – a magazine we could call our own.  I do not know what happened to AfroXcentric or exactly why it no longer exists, but I can speculate. 

I first heard about AfroXcentric from a friend who sent the URL address for the future site and an excited comment “finally.”  I had plans myself of creating a magazine for lesbians of color and had done quite a bit of research on the subject.  I talked with many people, including Alan Bell of BLK, who gave me a wealth of information on the subject.  Through my visits and talks with printers and Alan, I realized the approximate cost for such an endeavor – to print a single issue –would be $1.00 per copy depending on ink, paper stock, and number of copies printed.  I priced a single print run of 50,000 copies, on coated paper, to cost anywhere from $45,000 to $60,000. 

The strongest advice I received pertained to content.  I was informed I should have at least one to two issues (that is articles written) in the bag before the first issue hits the press.  One person actually said I should consider a bi-monthly or quarterly publication before committing myself to a monthly publication.  Her thoughts were, “you’re not going to get a lot of advertising in your first few issues if you get any at all.” 

Any of the above would contribute to the failure of a publication.  But!  From the last email I received from the staff of AfroXcentric, I got a good glimpse of what might have happened to the Magazine – one I had not figured into my own research – the lack of support from the village:

We want to let you know that you can now preview some of the editorials in the June/July issue of AfroXcentric Magazine.   Thanks to all the women who have subscribed and supported us.   But we need more support ladies, with out your subscription AfroXcentric will have to shut down.  We finally get a magazine that is just for us and only us, don't let it get shut down.
Subscribe today and win 2 tickets to the concert of your choice in your city.  Just look on the inside front cover for the words win and you will have scored 2 tickets to any concert in your area. You know who is on tour right?  Sade, R Kelly, Etc. Get your subscription today to show support and help keep AfroXcentric going plus win tickets. 
To all the women who have shown support to Illuzions and AfroXcentric it is greatly appreciated.  We are doing this for you so that you may have a place to come out and enjoy other women who are in the same lifestyle as yourself.  We offer these events as a place to meet one another and we offer AfroXcentric as a way to highlight our successes and failures and hopes and dreams.  From famous to infamous women of color, this is for you. 

The word "support" appears four times in this post as do variations of the word "subscribe."  I erroneously thought or assumed such a magazine would be a niche market.  I felt it would fill a void – no, a gaping hole which needed filling in our community.  I assumed and expected this magazine to succeed.  When I can go into Borders and Barnes and Noble to find Girlfriends, She, Curve and other gay and lesbian magazines on the racks, why not a glossy magazine for lesbians of color? 

Now, allow me to fall upon my own sword of complacency.  In my assumption that such a magazine would no doubt succeed, I allowed myself to become complacent.  First, I felt there was nothing I, a villager, needed to do to assist in the success of such a publication.  I felt I could just sit back and wait for it to happen.  Second, after filling out a questionnaire, which promised a FREE issue of the magazine, I again sat and waited for my FREE issue.  When the FREE issue did not appear, I assumed maybe the magazine was in trouble and maybe I should not subscribe just yet, lest I lose my money.  My fiction, made up of pompous assumptions contributed to the failure of this publication. 

Why did I not say something?  As a villager, I should have said something.  Just as easily as it was for me to make assumptions, I could easily have dropped a line, maybe I would have received my FREE issue; considered it an oversight on their part; and subsequently subscribed.  Better yet, I could have just subscribed.  Instead of assuming the success of the magazine, I should have been more proactive and taken steps to assist in its success.  Just as I have fallen upon my sword, I am sure I can multiply my actions by a thousand or more women who did likewise. 

We failed to act; we failed to assist our sister who had given birth to her new child – her idea.  Our responsibility as midwives is to ensure a proper birth, not a proper burial.  When she was tired and needed a babysitter, we should have been there to watch the child.  When postpartum blues hit her, we should have been there to offer encouragement.  Oh, I can easily say “well it was just a magazine, another will come along” or “a lot of magazines fail, it just happened to be one of many,” but I cannot.  I can no longer afford to make those types of assumptions.  I am suffering a loss.  The excitement I experienced back in January and February is gone.  I have nothing to look forward to now.  It is gone. 

Our communities, African, African-American, Chicana, Haitian, Jamaican, Afro-Brazilian – all need educating.  We need our literature, our magazines, our music, our poetry, our films to be used as tools to educate just as Pernessa Seele of the Balm In Gilead, and others, gays and lesbians, straight or queer, have been educating the Black Church regarding AIDS.  Education – what more a powerful medium than a magazine.  Do not forget, those of you who are out, what you needed to learn about yourselves – Girlfriend, Lesbianation, Curve, On Our Backs, She.  We could have added AfroXCentric.  It Takes A Village.

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Star Smith

Excerpt From Interview With Star Smith
of AfroXcentric Magazine

I was supposed to meet someone at a club in NY but when I got to the club it was such a young crowd, I couldn't even wait to see if she was coming or not. First off I was late so I did look around to see if she was there and she wasn't, so I left and went back to another club where my friends were hanging out. I was a little bored so I started to read this lesbian magazine that I had come across while I was sipping my Grande Marnier. The magazine seemed to only highlight Caucasian lesbians. I felt no connection to the stories or pictures or anything about the magazine in a whole for that matter, not to mention the stories had no meat to them. To me it was very boring, so I started to ask myself why we as ethnic lesbians do not have a magazine that highlights our issues and focuses on our beauty. I decided it was time that we had a magazine just as powerful and as smooth as Ebony, Essence, Out, Advocate, Vogue, Maxim and Curve. So I threw the idea out to people and investors and so far have gotten a great response.

FemmeNoir (c) 2003