In a typical “Vinegar Hill day,” there are many tasks needed to be completed, including: managing the news aggregator, restocking merchandise in the African American Heritage Center, updating the website, checking emails for pitches, attending partnership meetings, says Sarad Davenport.
Davenport is a Content Manager for Vinegar Hill magazine, which publishes a quarterly issue. Additionally, they sell merchandise – Vinegar Hill vintage – and partner with legacy media outlets.
What astounds me about Davenport is the fact that he does this all in his spare time. Davenport is an alum of the New York Times and notes that he brought that design expertise to his current position with Vinegar Hill Magazine.
Take your time; do it right; quality, over quantity. Be in it for the long haul. Avoid burning yourself out, you know, I’m saying so do things that make sure that you’re going to last. Because if you last, and you know, you’re going to get better over time, but if you burn out, you will fade away, and you won’t, you won’t have a legacy…We’re doing the work that is going to tell the story, and then a narrative, a more accurate narrative for generations to come. We’re holding that space right now. Just like we look back at old articles and narratives that tell us who we are now, we’re doing that now. We’re documenting right now, to tell the story of two generations from now who they are, they will get their reference point from us.Sarad Davenport, advice for Black writers
To Davenport, having an eyecatching aesthetic is what draws people to a magazine, so he helped Vinegar Hill achieve this as they pivoted from a newsletter to a magazine. When launching their magazine, they based the launch on an interview with Big Lean, an upcoming rapper from Toronto.
If they got the interview, Davenport said, they would launch the magazine. They did interview him, which became their magazine’s founding story. However, this is not the only big-ticket interview they’ve done. When pivoting to a magazine, they realized that they needed a website too, so they launched with a story about Nikuyah Walker, Charlottesville’s first Black woman mayor.
After the far-right protests in Charlottesville, the city was on international radars, and Vinegar Hill was able to break a story about Charlottesville’s first Black woman mayor, who had refused to interview with national outlets like NYT and Washington Post.
Because they broke this story, Davenport noted, Vinegar Hill reached a national stage as national news outlets covered them. Really, Vinegar Hill’s mission emphasizes the important role that Black media plays in shaping mass consciousness.
“I know how the media can depict black people, you know, in the negative way, and to sometimes act as if we don’t exist in this in [Charlottesville]…unless it’s negative,” he tells Rwebel. Nonetheless, Davenport is not the only content leader whose outlet strove to make a change.
Continue to be authentic; that’s when you’re going to excel. Don’t get in the habit of changing yourself to fit [any] platform. Find the perfect platform for you, and grow there.Erikka Yvonne, advice for Black writers
In her own words, Erikka Yvonne “derive[s] proudly from the East Side of Detroit, Michigan. Raised by a dynamic single mom who instilled the unwavering resilience,confidence and authenticity. Took time, because well, growing pains and life, but here we are. Always growing and learning, proudly wear many hats. I’m your Creative Bestie™️, who balances a life of imaginative freedom, entrepreneurship, digital content production, strategic leadership, designing, brand development, execution, mentorship, philanthropy, friendship, sisterhood, and my personal most significant role as Journee’s Auntie.”
Yvonne is the founder of Strut in her shoes (Strut) and Editor-in-Chief of BLAC, which stands for Black Life, Arts, and Culture. Yvonne said that she founded Strut to help others struggling to find jobs like herself, but then it became about helping women. “I wanted to create a platform that I could share my journey that has kind of served as mentorship to other people along their journey.”
Yet, this journey did not come without its challenges. One of Yvonne’s challenges was solidifying her team. She said, “I went through a few different teams before I found the team that I have now. And the team that we’re still building. So the greatest challenge was developing that team.” Currently, Yvonne works with about 20-25 writers who publish stories in both magazine and podcast formats.
When asked about her favorite stories, Yvonne got candid. She reflected on a time when she covered Marv Neal, a Detroit stylist who creates looks for celebrities. Yvonne noted, “That’s one of my favorite stories, because one it speaks to Detroit culture, but it’s also empowering to know that, yes, I can be from one of the worst neighborhoods. Yes, I can be unexpected to be in these places, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible for me to be in these places.”
By covering these stories, Yvonne’s team is able to give a nuanced look at Black culture through an all-Black staff, which Yvonne cites as a triumph. “Though it is a black publication, it is very uncommon for a publication that is geared toward [Black people] to also have a black team. Black ownership, like Editor in Chief, I know that that is uncanny nowadays that I’m hearing in particularly in Detroit…I would say my greatest triumph is getting this role and being able to share Black stories of people in the inner city.”
Oftentimes, coverage of Black life focuses on intra-communcal violence, but there is more to us than that, which is why it is important to have outlets like Vinegar Hill magazine, Strut, and BLAC. Really, Black media plays a crucial role in telling wholistic, character-driven stories of Black people. In these times, we need these culturally competent narratives crafted for and by us if we are to get any relief from the onset of a pandemic, a World War, and a collapsing economy. ~ℝ