A New Award-Winning BSU Magazine

Adeoluwa Fatukasi ’21 was originally only interested in hanging some bulletin boards to brighten up the Upper School hallways. As the 2019/20 community coordinator for the Black Student Union (BSU), she took a trip to the Sidwell Friends archives.

“I really wanted to know more about what the BSU did in its founding days in the 1990s,” Fatukasi says. “I met with School Archivist Lori Hardenbergh, and originally she was going to help me draft some sort of time line that I would put up on a bulletin board—just because our bulletin boards at the Upper School can be really dry.” But when Fatukasi went down to the Archives, she was blown away. “I saw so many cool initiatives that the BSU had started,” she says. “One thing that stood out to me particularly was there used to be a Black student magazine called The Earthquaker published in 1982. It only had one issue, but its whole premise was to give Black students a space to write whatever they want.”

Fatukasi, who is already one of the editors-in-chief at InLight Diversity, a student journal devoted to a spectrum of voices, was inspired. She turned to Upper School English teacher and BSU advisors Hayes Davis and Brittany Chase for advice (Davis is also the advisor for InLight Diversity), and 1969, the magazine named for the BSU’s founding year, was born. Other members of the Sidwell Friends faculty and staff also offered their support. "Mr. Davis and Ms. Chase have always encouraged us to pursue new initiatives as leadership, and I am super grateful for that," she said. "In addition to the wonderful BSU advisors, Anna Wyeth in the Advancement Department, EJC Director Natalie Randolph, and Communications Director Hellen Hom-Diamond helped me out a lot! From finding alumni to participate to fine tuning the overall magazine, teachers and faculty were incredibly supportive."

Fatukasi submitted the first issue to the American Scholastic Association’s annual awards: 1969 took prizes for First Place Magazine, Most Outstanding Digital Magazine, and Most Outstanding First Issue. (InLight Diversity also took a first-place award.)

1969 recently published its second issue, and Fatukasi says the new magazine is still evolving. “I really want 1969 to have a significant space in the School’s publication sphere, because oftentimes Black students may be turned off by writing for InLight because they feel that their voice might be drowned out, or the theme of the issue isn’t necessarily aligned with exactly what they want to talk about,” she says. “We’ve brainstormed ways to make sure that we’re allowing Black students to express themselves holistically and without a filter. I really appreciate those raw and unfiltered spaces where people don’t feel like they have to essentially cater to a white audience. I think often when we approach EJC work, it’s always through a lens that’s catering to the white gaze and wanting to make sure people aren’t uncomfortable—when you need that discomfort to push forward. A big part of why I think that this magazine is monumental is because we’re not doing that. We’re trying to give students a space to say whatever they need to say, and hopefully people can grasp onto those lessons—because these are people’s lives.”

Davis agrees, and sees 1969 as a vital part of the School’s commitment to creating an anti-racist environment. “In my role as an EJC coordinator, I noticed more and more students wanting to express voices that they were not experiencing in the classroom—which is to say, their own voices,” he says. “The most important role that I see the magazine playing is amplifying voices that were not always amplified. It’s providing a necessary outlet for those voices to have a level of conversation until EJC work is more folded into the fabric of who we are in the hallways and in the classrooms every day.

Those voices, Fatukasi notes, will be wide-ranging. “This magazine is showing that there is no single story to the Black community,” she says. “Everyone has different experiences with their Blackness and how it fits into a worldly context and what it means to be a Black person in, essentially, an anti-Black world. It’s going to be a space for people to read and understand how racism isn’t just being called the n-word or being incarcerated; it can also be just as small as not seeing yourself reflected in the things that you read or not feeling you have a voice within the classroom. This magazine is essentially a compilation of stories, because storytelling is the best way to go about elevating those voices. Stories are really everything.”

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