Calling all ungovernable writers! Let us write what we like

Dear m’Afrika,

Vanguard in many ways has been/is in a difficult transitionary period. Part of that has been issues of capacity, but the bigger part has been searching for direction and purpose to the content. After some months of back and forths and even considering shutting down Vanguard, we are now back with a new energy and vision for the platform.

The external manifestation of that is that the site is going to be revamped, a new site will be up from the 1st September and the internal manifestation is that we are issuing a call for new voices on the platform (everything from opinion to culture to reportage).

Some of you might remember that at the start of Vanguard we often described it as a digital “Marie Claire/ Elle for black girls” who are “code switchers” and the content reflected that: sugarcoating consciousness in order to reach a wider audience. We felt the landscape wasn’t ready and to some extent that was true.

Since we began, we have definitely seen a huge shift in the landscape. There is a renewed national consciousness that has been catalysed by the likes of #BlackLivesMatter, #NotAllMen, #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, #RhodesMustFall, #RhodesSoWhite etc. For example, the backlash towards the Channel O #YouthDay campaign and #MCInHerShoes and the brilliant critiques offered in 140 characters and numbered tweets are unlikely to have come as quickly and readily as they did even a year ago.

In line with the development of ours and the national consciousness, we want to move Vanguard towards being a radical black feminist platform speaking to the intersectionality of queer politics, Black Consciousness, pan-Africanism and womanism. To that extent we have begun reaching out to some new and radical voices and we hope to have more.

That’s not to say all articles, be they cultural reviews or opinion pieces, must begin with bell hooks and end with Fanon, and must only speak directly to ‘decolonisation’. Rather, it is that even when we write about Idols or a great fashion exhibition, that that lens be used. We will be pushing writers, especially of opinion pieces, to problematise themselves and their lenses as they write.

It will be a challenge, it will be uncomfortable but we think it’s exciting.

Vanguard is where we write what we like. This is a space where young black voices don’t have to explain, italicise or censor themselves, because, Blackness, Black Womanhood, Black Queerness, Black Radicalness.

In short we, a womanist platform, are looking at the following:

Writers must be:

  • Black: In a White Supremacist Capitalist world it is important Black perspectives are centred and as such we use the Black Consciousness definition of Blackness, namely that of those who have the experience of being historically oppressed socio-economically as non-whites. Genuine white allies will know to create their own platforms and speak to their own communities.
  • Committed to Intersectional/Black Feminist/ Womanist Politics: We are not looking for vice Gqolas, vice bell hooks or vice Audre Lordes, but what we mean is a commitment to understanding and pursuing perspectives within this framework. As with all the pillars, we welcome writers at whatever point they are on their journeys in consciousness, provided that they can be reflective and self-critical. This means that the call is open to both women and men (no Steve Harveys and Hoteps please). Women will of course be prioritised as a marginalised group and within that, black queer women.
  • Committed to Black Queer Politics:  Again, vice Audre Lorde or vice Laverne Cox you do not need to be. Black queer women will be prioritised.
  • Committed to Black Consciousness and pan-Africanist Principles: Again, we are not looking for vice Bikos, vice Fanons and vice Cabrals. All Africans on the continent and outside the continent.
  • Committed to being Self-Critical and Reflective: In short you need to be able to honest about your position in society, your experiences. Most importantly, you must be able to check your privilege: If you are black and middle class, you need to be able to problematise that. If you are black and male, you need to problematise that. If you are black and cisgender, you need to be able to problematise that. If you are black and light-skinned, you need to be able to problematise that. And so forth and so on and such. It’s not about self-flogging, it’s just about being able to be critical.
  • Committed to loving all Black people: Without sounding trite, it is often said “You cannot lead them if you do not love them”. We are looking for thought leadership that comes from a place of love.

Writing must be: 

  • In any of the 11 official languages: Feel free to write in any language and we will commit to trying to publish as much outside of English as possible
  • Considered: We are not interested in controversy for the sake of controversy, or radicalism for the sake of radicalism. We want you to think through what you are saying, why you are saying it and if there is anything new you are saying.
  • Contextualised: We are not interested in Capitalist Nigger-esque writing that victim blames oppressed people and ignores historic socio-economic conditions. For example, we will not publish any “weaves vs afroes” pieces that shame weave-wearers but do not speak of school codes of conduct that ban “exotic hair such as afroes” or workplace discrimination of natural hair. Likewise, we will not publish pieces on absent black fathers without any reference to the migrant labour system, etc.

Sections:

  • Creative Writing (poetry, short stories etc)
  • Interviews with interesting people
  • Opinion
  • Culture (Film, music, books, theatre etc)
  • Articles (more objective reportage)

If you are interested in this journey, please email our editorial team: Panashe Chigumadzi on editor@vanguardmagazine.co.za and Thato Magano thato@vanguardmagazine.co.za who can send further guidelines to you.

Before we sign off, we must address the issue of payment. The long and short is that we are not ina position to pay people, at this stage at least. We quite literally operate without a budget. We all work, edit and write for free, for the love of Blackness, Black Womanhood, Black Queerness. This is not to remain this way in the long term as enough of the world has been built on free black labour, but in the meantime, we will have to ask you to bear with us.

We do hope that the incentive of providing a platform where you can develop your voice, build an audience, build a writing CV to access platforms and opportunities for other paying writing jobs, will make you ameanable to us.

Yours in ungovernable Black love,

Panashe

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