Saying Goodbye When Our Imagining Has Just Begun
A Farewell From the Editor-In-Chief and Creator of Voices
To the Swarthmore Community:
It is with immense gratitude I write in my last article as Editor-In-Chief. It feels strange to bid farewell when it feels as though our imagining has just begun. When I began Voices, I never could have predicted the impact that it would make. At Swarthmore, I could have never thought my voice would even begin to scrape the surface of the dreams students have already realized since the institution’s founding. Yet I feel that is the very reason why, in only seven months, Voices made the impact it did. Because Voices was never meant to be my voice—it was meant to become a microscope on the profound work students, staff and faculty already are enacting all over campus. It was meant to uplift and amplify the actions, poetry, art, activism, events, experiences, of those marginalized on campus and their allies. It was meant to both represent and benefit more than just the majority on this campus: it was meant to inspire and challenge all of us to grow. And yet I feel moved to explain why starting a different daily newspaper on campus is still a shock seven months later.
October 6th, 2017, the night Voices began, was a night filled with the air of change. A night that very well altered the course of my last year at Swarthmore. I still remember that fateful night in the Women’s Resource Center, in conversation with our former Perspectives Editor, and SASS President, AynNichelle Slappy.
“What if…we started our own newspaper?”
My thought came to the surprise of us both. Yet, it was the first moment that provided even slight clarity.
Later, I wondered why I felt shocked when it came out of my mouth. I knew we were capable, yet creating something new hadn’t been an obvious answer. Looking back on this moment, I believe that we as women are taught that we must ask others for the things we want to change, must ask already-established institutions to lick the same wounds they themselves created and contributed to. Especially as a black woman, I have found that present institutions rarely are entirely willing to operate without the presence of systemic oppression. The Swarthmore administration and society at large has demonized impassioned protest in exchange for “spirited dialogue”, advocating for neutrality when there is then little, if any, room for genuine change. Sometimes, the answer really is to keep looking for compromise. This time, October 6th, the answer was to demand integrity. We had a chance to conceptualize something that lived outside the realms of typical expectation. And together, we did.
Voices, as a result, was not simply a reaction. Voices was a thoughtful action.
This action took sleepless nights, hours of research, and months of time and effort. Every day, this action means waking up early and staying up late every night to meticulously edit the stories of those who are demanding change. Every day it means working with my ambitious and persevering editorial board to put out timely and accurate newsletters, articles, and photo series. Every day it means exerting continued effort to promote a transformative vision—a vision of constructive discourse between marginalized students about their experiences.
As a black woman, I have been taught I need to ask for things I want rather than simply demand them. I have been taught to appeal to the institutions rather than exercise my own agency and my community’s rights to humanity. I’m tired of asking for things. The black community here has empowered and motivated me to remember that asking others for change is not enough.
SASS’ indefinite boycott, subsequently supported by thirteen other organizations, made the call that we can no longer tolerate anti-blackness just for the sake of “stirring up the conversation”. The then SASS Executive Board, comprised of President AynNichelle Slappy ‘20, Vice President Wrenn Odim ‘18, Secretary Taylor Tucker ‘20, Outreach Coordinator Alexis Riddick ‘20, and Civic and Political Action Coordinator Coleman Powell ‘20, demanded that we seek accountability. They demanded that we not ask for or expect change from sources that have continuously let marginalized students down. Their message was a powerful one: we will no longer tolerate the demonization and trivialization of black students’ truths, experiences, or existences. Ironically, an attempt to police the way in which black people protest led to a protest within and beyond the community itself. Asking passively for change rather than demanding it was not the answer.
And in all honesty, it never has been. Our America is predicated on the blood of enslaved blacks and massacred indigenous people, haunted by the crimes committed towards those who were not white men. Movements by marginalized people and their allies have always actively stood for something more. The present-day xenophobia, racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and other forms of discrimination that stain our society exist as markers of the persistence of colonialism and white supremacy. Our starting and continuing movements that have lived on for centuries signifies that real change has never happened without real sacrifice: rejecting respectability and aggressively challenging the systems at work that disenfranchise us.
I am reminded of these continued efforts in the outside world, but also on Swarthmore’s own campus. I am reminded as O4S demands a just Title IX System and Sunrise Movement Swarthmore rallies for fossil fuel divestment. I am reminded in SISA’s demands for the agency of indigenous students and in SJP’s rallies for Palestinian freedom and justice. I am reminded in SQU’s and Colors’ consistent efforts to protect the livelihoods of queer and trans students. I am reminded in STAR’s dedication to mass incarceration reform and transformative justice. I am reminded in SAO’s fight for Asian-American curriculum and other affinity groups such as SASS, ENLACE, SISA, and others’ push for stronger ethnic studies. I am reminded in Multi’s illumination of the multiracial and transracial experience at Compass: Navigating Multiness this past April. I am reminded in the other events of affinity groups, including but not limited to ENLACE, SOLIS, SAO, HAN, SASS, SISA, ABLLE, WOCKA, Multi, MSA, Deshi, SQU, Colors, HAPA, who celebrate the beauty and intricacy of their identities with activism and community care. The outpouring of support for SASS (letters from ENLACE, SISA, SAO, WOCKA, SOLIS, ABLLE, MSA, Multi, SQU, Colors, SJP, and Sunrise Movement Swarthmore) was an outpouring of solidarity I had not seen previously during my time at Swarthmore. It is many of you, those who have joined forces, that make this work necessary and compulsory. I would be remiss not to thank you. You are our vision.
To those who have read Voices consistently, I thank you. I am in disbelief of the outpouring of support we have received for our daily material. To those who continuously accompany us on our journey in envisioning the future of campus journalism, thank you. I must thank my editorial board for their unwavering support of both my budding thoughts and my fully fleshed out visions, and for editing with sensitivity. Min Cheng ‘18 with their enormous amounts of dedication to photography, Lesia Liao ‘18 with her focus on Voices’ interface and accessibility, and Priya Dieterich ‘18 with her diligent news work are three other graduating seniors for whom I have immense gratitude. Others who have both previously and currently served on the editorial board—Jay Smack ‘19, Lelosa Aimufua ‘20, Jessica Lewis ‘19, Ethan Yoo ‘19, Tessa Hannigan ‘20, Brandon Ekweonu ‘20, Taylor Morgan ‘19, Kenny Bransdorf ‘19, Josie Hung ‘19, Jessica Hernandez ‘20, Shayla Smith ‘20, Aru Shiney-Ajay ‘20, September Porras ‘20, Julia Wakeford ‘19, Tiffany Wang ‘21, and our next Editor-In-Chief, Lali Pizarro ‘20— you were the dreamers who made this work possible.
Thank you also to those who have given me their constructive criticism and advice; you have held Voices to higher standards as we challenge ourselves to constantly question what ethical journalism is, what journalistic integrity looks like, and most particularly, whose stories get told and why? We can never forget to ask this question. When we ask that question, we start to hear more of ourselves, we start to hear more of each other. We can never assume we are perfect. By continuing to challenge our own biases, we ourselves can grow; thank you for facilitating in those efforts.
I am constantly struck by the talent and dedication of journalists and editors all over campus. I would be remiss not to thank those at other campus publications who have offered so much support and guidance—I must thank Keton Kakkar ‘19, Co-Editor In Chief at The Daily Gazette and Ganesh Setty ‘19, Managing Editor at The Phoenix for their invaluable perspectives on campus journalism. To editors and writers at both The Phoenix and The Review—your tireless work does not go unnoticed. I thank my fellow editors at Small Craft Warnings like Emma Haviland-Blunk ‘18 who dedicate themselves every semester to releasing a beautiful book of prose and poetry. With the utmost gratitude, I must thank those on the Visibility team who have worked exceptionally for the past three years to illuminate the brilliant artwork and narratives of students. To this end, I must thank Jasmine Rashid ’18, Founder of Visibility and Editor of the Phoenix’s Campus Journal who possesses the passion, dedication, and artistry for radical change and who has been a dear friend, collaborator, and role model.
To those who have come forward to share your stories in Voices, thank you. Your voices have sparked movements, have engaged conversations, and have enacted change where this institution has fallen short. I will never forget the importance of telling and hearing each other’s stories. I don’t think it’s possible to put into words the value of your vulnerability, insight, and reflections. Maybe it isn’t a reality we can expect to be enacted everywhere, but one day, it will be larger than any of us could ever imagine. Journalists, survivors, poets, activists, artists, visionaries, inquirers—I cannot thank you enough.
The day has come to say goodbye, but I know that, in reality, I’m not saying goodbye. Even as I move on to journalism school this Fall, I will continue to witness the multiple truths of our community. Witnessing you all supporting each other on your ongoing paths makes Voices’ passion eternal.
In other words, if Voices ends, days or months or years from now, its motive has and always will be here—black and brown people, and people of color on all levels, have never simply allowed the world to walk on their bodies. The queer and trans community has never simply allowed intolerant views to go unquestioned. Women have never held fast to obstacles—they have held fast to dreams. DACA recipients and other undocumented immigrants continue to give power to their perseverance and truths. We have been fighting for so long and together, we’ll never stop. Voices is not a publication. Voices is not an organization. Voices is the fire in which propelled it forward. That fire was here before October 6th, and it will be here long after we all aren’t here to tell its original story. It is the fire that has led us forward and carried through our ancestry. That fire will continue to propel all of us a part of the Collective—editors, contributors, student, staff, and faculty readers—forward on both our personal and collective journeys. We will always deserve a platform that allows our truths to be heard. The space for it, despite the colonizing and oppressing forces with which the world casts shadows, is infinite.
Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Voices