Alchemy, A New Magazine for Black Art at The New School

When you open up the New School website, you might be met with a John Cage quote that reads "I can't understand why people are frightened of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones." New School students are coming up with ideas every single day, and freshman Aishamanne Williams is no exception. Williams spoke to Her Campus about Alchemy, a new magazine she's spearheading that is a space for Black students at the college to share their creative work. 

Her Campus: What's the story behind the name of the magazine?

Aishamanne Williams: Alchemy is a practice/concept that deals with transmuting base metals into gold, or taking negative things and making them beautiful. The word comes to mind when I think of black people because we transmute the negativity of the oppression we experience and create beautiful things from it every day. I want this magazine to be an act of alchemy itself - transmuting the "minority" experience we have at a PWI and making that a vibrant, powerful community. 

HC: How would you describe the magazine’s image or mission statement?

AW: The magazine is a space for Black students to share their creativity and voice their experiences, both as dynamic individuals and as members of a community that is often underrepresented here at The New School. This magazine will allow Black New School students to come together, build community, make use of a creative outlet that aims to tell their stories in powerful ways, and incite change in our university. 

HC: What inspired you to start this magazine project? (e.g. why now, why at The New School, why this specific project)

AW: I am a Peer Health Advocate with Student Health Services, which means that I've taken on the responsibility of doing something to promote health and wellness for all students at The New School. Each Peer Health Advocate gets to work on a project that allows them to fulfill this goal, and when thinking of what I could do I realized that creating a platform like this magazine is a direct and fulfilling way to empower a community that I am part of. Being born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, I grew up mostly around people who look like me. Being at The New School is a much different experience, but it makes me think about my blackness more. What does it mean to be black? What does it mean to be black here? In what ways am I supported by this institution, and in what ways am I not? These are questions that I started to ask myself as I spent time at The New School, questions other black students I spoke to were asking as well. The New School is such a creative place, but so often - both at this university and in society at large - creativity is whitewashed and some people's narratives get left behind. My aim is for this magazine to change that. Black students here have so many stories to tell, so much art to share, so many things in this institution to be critical of. Our voices need to be heard, preserved, and uplifted. 

HC: If you could talk a little bit about your own background as a creative and past experiences with writing and art, how did that inform starting this project?

I've been writing creatively for as long as I can remember. I loved reading growing up, and I started writing my own novels. In high school I became the editor-in-chief of my school's news magazine, and that's when I became passionate about journalism and magazines. I already had a creative background in writing and was passionate about it, but practicing journalism showed me the power of making your voice heard. My intended major is Journalism + Design and I want to use that to uplift marginalized communities in the world. In "The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action" Audre Lorde said, "I have come to believe over and over again that what is most important to me must be spoken, made verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it bruised or misunderstood." I've had the privilege of experiencing so much potency and beauty within the Black community at The New School, and creating space for the voices of that community is important to me. My desire to make our experience of Blackness verbal and shared, even at the risk of having it misunderstood, is what informed starting this project. 

Pictured: Aishamanne Williams

HC: What do you envision Alchemy becoming?

AW: I hope that the content that comes out of this magazine is a direct expression of the various forms of talent, intelligence and creativity that we have. As a student org, I envision the magazine branching out to other local colleges/universities and collaborating with Black students there on joint events and issues of the mag. I want the magazine to give Black students space to make our experiences public; it will be for us and by us, but other students and faculty are welcome and encouraged to read it so that our experiences at this university can incite change. There are things that Black students want to see change at The New School, and the magazine will become a space for those things to be shared and transformed into action. The magazine will also preserve our history; every year, more and more of us will be coming to this school, so hopefully having a platform like this one will make Black students feel empowered and show them that this community does exist and many of us experience the same feelings and problems. The Black Student Union already does a phenomenal job of creating sacred space for Black students to gather & support each other, and I envision the magazine capturing this space and empowering it with tools of art, narrative, and voice. 

Look for Alchemy around campus, and if it seems relevant to you, Her Campus encourages you to submit!