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Student collective publishes on women of color

Mills has a rich legacy of literary contributions. Hidden among the many student-led publications on campus is a literary gem in the form of The Womanist, an annual journal whose mission is to provide a platform for self-identified women of color to express themselves via art, poetry, and prose.

Since 1992, The Womanist has compiled an anthology of art and prose that highlights the strengths and struggles of powerful women of color. Contributors include Mills women as well as women in the broader community. This blend of individualistic voices mirrors Mills’ diverse community and its power to cultivate and transform its many unique voices.

The Womanist is here to provide a space for women of color to speak,” said Stephanie Der, a senior at Mills and editor of The Womanist, Der exudes energy and is passionate about the publication.

In her view, The Womanist allows diverse students to utilize the lessons they learn at Mills by giving back to the community through the sharing of their unique experiences. “We’re a publication and by and for the Mills community,” Der said.

This year’s first Womanist meeting was held in the Women of Color Resource Center, tucked away in one of those endless hallways on the third floor of Mills Hall. Members of The Womanist gathered in a semicircle to discuss their goals for the semester.

The publication’s faculty adviser, Julia C. Oparah, professor and Department Head of Ethnic Studies, presided over the meeting. She began by emphasizing the fact that The Womanist is a student-led publication, and stated that her presence at their first meeting was only to make sure that the publication began strongly. “I’m here simply to ensure that all the roles are filled and that you’re off to a good start,” she said, speaking in cool, quiet tones.

Staff members at the The Womanist formally identify themselves as an “Editorial Collective” who work together to achieve the publication’s goals. The Collective is comprised of just over a handful of women.

This small group, according to Der, takes on almost every aspect of the publication. “From laying out the journal, selecting works, creating guidelines, planning the launch along with the refreshments… we do almost everything ourselves,” she said.

As a part of the collective three times running, Der credits The Womanist with strengthening her roots to the Ethnic Studies department, piquing her interest in the publishing industry, and giving her the opportunity to work and network with “wonderful undergrads, grads, staff, and alums.” Der said she is grateful for all the hard work and effort she puts in each year to get The Womanist published because, as she says, it provides her with the opportunity to “give back to the community that’s given [her] so much.”

According to Jean Wong, Faculty Administrative Assistant at the Ethnic Studies Department, The Womanist is “totally funded by the ASMC” and copies are distributed mainly on campus. Each year, “1,000 copies of The Womanist are printed and distributed,” she said.

The Womanist also has a presence outside of campus. “We have had readings off campus at Moe’s Bookstore, Barnes and Noble, and at [the nearby] Laurel Book Store, where we distribute the journal,” Wong said.

The Womanist’s presence outside of campus highlights its importance as a representative of Mills. “We’re involved in every aspect of getting The Womanist published,” said Der, “that way we are certain that yes, this is the vision and message we want to send about ourselves as people of color and as a larger Mills community to the world.”

Submissions for the 2013 issue of The Womanist will be accepted through December 19. Submission guidelines can be viewed online under The Womanist tab on the Ethnic Studies Department page.