WRITER. EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, NEW YORK
This fall, a handful of successful black women graced the covers of different publications and if you listened very carefully, you could hear the triumphant cries of black women around the world. As thrilling as it can be to see more black women receiving recognition for our achievements, there is one truth that cannot be denied. There are times when black women are still excluded and/or rejected, degraded and lumped together into one singular category as if we are incapable of being different from one another. But where there is a void in life, you can be sure that someone is actively seeking to fill it.
It has been said that it takes just one person to spark a change and in this case, Qimmah Saafir is making it her mission to do so. After switching gears from being an Event Coordinator at Columbia University to working at an independent magazine where she was able to learn the various staff positions of a magazine, Saafir went on to land her first full-time job at XXL Magazine. While employed there, she learned that she had an interest in freelance writing which led to her departure from XXL. The rest is history and, in Saafir's case, she is well on her way to changing history by introducing the world to Hannah Magazine. Hannah's mission is to create a space that caters to the diverse interests of black women while also celebrating our many achievements. Qimmah details why Hannah is much needed and why it is close to her heart.
Jasmine: Hannah involves creating a bi-annual print magazine that focuses on the diverse stories of women of color. At what point did you realize there was a gap missing in terms of publications giving black women a supportive and celebratory platform?
Qimmah: The gap has always been there. After Suede and Honey stopped publishing, there was a sense of disappointment from us. Ebony and Essence are wonderful publications but there can always be more. There are so many different types of black women so the two publications we do have aren't going to speak to all of us. My hope is that Hannah will open up the door for a new decade of publications that cater to the interests of black women.
Have you always known that you wanted to create something positive for black women and our diversity?
Absolutely! I grew up in a big family of 9 children and attended Spelman College which encourages sisterhood. I couldn't help but notice that there was a void in the field that I loved.
In your feature on The Fader, you stated that you believe in presenting the everyday woman more and that further peaked my interest in Hannah. In your opinion, who is the everyday woman and why do you believe the media has chosen to bypass her story + achievements?
You're the everyday woman and I'm the everyday woman. Media outlets are concerned about producing content that will encourage readers to pay attention to and/or purchase their products. It's a business and I understand that. The loss is that they don't care enough about connecting with their readers. I want to tell the story of the woman who is working 3 jobs or taking care of 3 children. I want her to know that she matters and so do her accomplishments because they do.
How important is it to you that black women are represented in a much broader spectrum compared to how we've previously been represented?
It's extremely important to me. While studying abroad in Japan, I befriended a group of dancers and they asked me questions like, 'did I know Lil' Kim' or 'was I friends with Missy Elliott'. The questions sound silly but they were very serious. They only knew what the media showed about black women and it was this very monolithic caricature. We [the media] don't do a good job of showing that black women are human first and diverse. A lot of weight is placed on the publications we do have for black women but these publications target a specific demographic. If we as black women do not fit into those demographics then we're left out.
I couldn't agree more! Speaking of having more representation for black women, what is some of the content readers can expect to find in the pages of Hannah?
Rich content that doesn't pigeon-hole black women. Yes we care about our hair and fashion but we are so much more than that. Hannah is a general interest magazine that encourages diverse readership so readers can expect to find things geared towards literature, technology, philanthropy, socioeconomic topics, etc.
Hannah has been receiving a tremendous amount of support through its Kickstarter page, across social media and from several sites such as Design Sponge and Huffington Post. Does this support surprise you? Or were you expecting it being that Hannah's creation is filling a space that has been lacking for a long time?
I never go into something I'm working on expecting anything so I truly was surprised. I wasn't expecting this much out pour of love and support. Actually, a good amount of our donations were from white women. A few reached out and said they had assumptions but after learning what Hannah was about, they wanted to know how they could support the magazine. Overall, it's exciting to have this much support.
What has been the most difficult aspect of creating Hannah?
The first thing is money, which is why I created a Kickstarter page for Hannah. I've been funding things out of pocket so the donations do help. The second thing is that Hannah is so personal and I held it close to my chest. Letting go a bit and sharing it with the world opens up vulnerability.
Although Hannah is fairly new, where do you see it being within the next few years?
I want Hannah to become a household name but I also want it to challenge the way things are. I want it to become a safe community that upholds accountability. Ever so often I see things I don't agree with and I want to create a space where others don't feel apt to hurt others. I'm hoping that people are able to find a place of love within the brand. To me, Hannah is like the dining room table in my house growing up. Although there were 9 of us and my father worked 3 jobs, my family, including my mother, ate dinner at the dining room table every night. We were able to have open and honest communication with one another. It just felt safe and that's how I want Hannah to feel to others.
I don't doubt the positive impact that Hannah will have on others! Lastly, what are some words of wisdom that you would offer someone who is interested in pursuing a journalism career, specifically in print?
I always say don't half-ass anything. Don't go in with doubt and don't go in expecting to fail. It will happen but you'll be able to learn and grow from it. Be the best at whatever you're doing and put your heart into it. People can always feel when something isn't genuine. This goes with any endeavor or career field. Also, be ready to work. People are always ready for the reward because the internet has created this illusion of instant gratification. You don't want to get someplace easily because you don't take the time to learn along the way and you don't take time to appreciate the journey.
I actually would love to include mentorships in Hannah to help others connect with those who have traveled down the career path they're trying to get on. Mentorships help people feel included instead of less than and I want others to have access to helpful knowledge. True enough, everyone has to travel along their own path but I always feel like there are some things that can be passed along.
PHOTOGRAPHY: Rashid Zakat