For black women interested in art, the opportunity to speak with like-minded peers can be few and far between. The lack of space for black women in the art world compelled Jovonna Jones and Samantha Scott to create BlacQurl, an online magazine and platform for black women and femme writers, creatives, and critics.
Jones and Scott created BlacQurl in August 2015, not long after Jones had a conversation with a friend concerning think pieces and editorials and whose voice is getting published.
“I didn’t want to always feel like my voice [as a black woman] is valuable only when someone says it is,” Jones said. “I wanted to have a space where I can talk about art and visual culture with other people who see it in the same way. I couldn’t think of anyone else to work with on this project but Sammie.”
Jones is an incoming graduate student in African American studies at Harvard University with a passion for photography and bylines in Burnaway Magazine. To get BlacQurl started, she turned to her friend, Samantha Scott, an Associate Producer at the Shorty Awards.
“I’m very connected to pop culture and wanted to be able to write about that—about art that isn’t always considered art,” said Scott. “I wanted to be in conversation about things I see and care about, and now we have this space to talk about them.”
Jones and Scott enlisted fellow black women creatives and critics to contribute poems, videos, think pieces and even a podcast called MFABLKGRLS. The mag features work by poets, Aziza Barnes and Nabila Lovelace, actress Jarielle Uter, and Sevonna Brown, a doula and writer focusing on black feminist literature.
However, Jones and Scott emphasize that the online space created by BlacQurl has also translated into real life meet-ups and networking between black femme creatives.
“We attract artists in their own right, people who want to build a sense of community while exploring the work they do. We want to attract writers who know it is not just about the article, it is about fostering a sense of connectedness,” said Jones.
“I see me and Sammie’s budding roles at the intersections of different arts and media worlds, cultivating an energy that’s always been brewing, but on the other end of that…I am thinking about when I’m reading about dope black writers, Toni Morrison, James Baldwin, Zora Neale Hurston, and realizing how much overlap there is in arts and literature worlds.
I learned that James Baldwin and [fashion photographer] Richard Avedon edited the school paper together, and it reminds me of when Aziza is talking about the same thing as Jessica Lynne, an editor of ArtsBlack, and when me, Sammie and our friends are also talking about the same things: art, life, death, and black femininity. We want to both be a part of that energy and cultivate one of its spaces, like a utopia. We are writers who are invested in that.”
As for the future of BlacQurl, Jones and Scott see the mag’s openness as key features of both the continuation and resistance of the space.
“We want to be able to not repeat the same mistakes,” said Scott. “We decided to create work and conversation in a different way. If we were to be come a publication we would have the structure and the ethos to not create a community of media makers who are just there to keep their job and appease white people. I want to keep BlacQurl open to a larger black women public.”
“I was at my dad’s church one day and there was a woman, who shared BlacQurl with her daughter and another dark skinned black girl,” said Jones. “It is easy to get caught up in what it means to be a media outlet, but I forget sometimes that it’s about the liveness of art and media for black women, girls, and femmes on an everyday basis, in the real world. As long as our space is doing that, that is the point. Black women and femmes need to be featuring each other, that is how we need to foster this space.”
Click the link to check out BlacQurl on Tumblr.