Ethnic Studies in Action’s new zine provides platform for student voices

Randi Mattox

Courtney Satchell, a senior English and ethnic studies major at Colorado State University, writes names of those killed by police in 2017 in Colorado at the Lory Student Center plaza on Oct. 22. The demonstration, organized by Ethnic Studies in Action, is aimed to raise awareness of police brutality. A total of 64 people have been killed by police officers in Colorado in 2017. (Seth Bodine |Collegian)

Correction: A former version of this article identified the name of the zine as “Speak Power to Truth.” The correct name is “Speak Truth to Power.” 

 

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In the first edition of their zine, “Speak Truth to Power,” Colorado State University’s Ethnic Studies in Action organization wants to know, “How does white supremacy affect you?”

“Speak Truth to Power,” spearheaded by senior Erica LaFehr, will be released Nov. 1. It consists of various forms of media created by CSU students including articles, poems, short stories and photos that answer the proposed question.

LaFehr, a sociology student minoring in ethnic studies, said her dissatisfaction with the representation of voices on campus inspired her to create “Speak Truth to Power.”

“When we read the Collegian, we didn’t necessarily see stories that reflected a lot of other identities on campus,” Lafehr said. 

“Speak Truth to Power” aims to be an outlet for diverse perspectives. LaFehr said the organization’s frustrations are not limited to the Collegian but mainstream media as a whole.

“I think it’s really important not to be like journalism and all of media as a whole because we know that there are disruptions of that,” LaFehr said. “We are talking about mainstream, hegemonic things that happen that we’re aware of because of critical studies. Usually, stories are constructed in this way that is within a binary, and what we’re doing with the zine is saying, ‘Actually, there are more than just two sides.’”

A zine is a type of publication, deriving from magazines, that typically covers a niche or non-mainstream subject area. They are commonly a small-circulation published work by a small group. Ethnic Studies in Action member and English and ethnic studies senior Courtney Satchell said this choice of medium works well for the group’s mission because it allows for editorial freedom.

“What’s great about a zine is it’s not meant to be glossy; it’s not meant to be pretty like a magazine,” said Satchell. “It’s meant to be raw in the sense that you’re giving people control over how they’re being presented. You’re giving them a choice of how their work, how their art, how their voices are being presented.”

LaFehr said the additional inspiration for “Speak Truth to Power” came from her desire to share perspectives of ethnic studies majors with the rest of campus.

“We wanted to speak to the ways in which critical issues affect us, emotionally and physically, as students and also with the critical lens we get as being ethnic studies students,” LaFehr said. “If you’re not in ethnic studies, you’re not hearing what we’re talking about. And we’re usually talking about what everybody else is on campus but in a more critical, nuanced way just because that’s what’s required of us within the discipline.”

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D’andre Pope, a freshman majoring in ethnic studies who previously lived in San Francisco and Brooklyn, said he initially felt underrepresented at CSU and didn’t know how to get his voice heard until he joined Ethnic Studies in Action and started working on the zine.

“For a lot of freshmen who are also coming from different parts of the country, they probably feel the same,” Pope said. “For me, this zine really gives out this idea that you’re not alone.”

The content for “Speak Truth to Power” was submitted to Ethnic Studies in Action after the organization pushed out the question to campus, predominately on social media.

Lauren Thomason, a CSU junior who is majoring in biological sciences and minoring in ethnic studies, said the question about white supremacy forced her to reflect on her position in society.

“I’m part of the group that identifies as white, so for me that was kind of tricky to think about the effect it has on me because there are definitely aspects of it institutionally that really do benefit my life,” Thomason, who recently became a member of Ethnic Studies in Action, said. “I do not support it, but it made me think more. … It was definitely a lot of inner-reflection on ‘Where do I stand?’ ‘Where do I need to go from here now that I’ve started to give it more thought?’”

For each edition, the group will pose a new question. In this first go around, the organization received more than 20 submissions. 

“It’s kind of a lot of different things,” Lafehr said. “Some of them (the submissions) have names on them. Some of them are submitted anonymously. Some of them very indirect. Some are very direct. We just put the call out there and were like, ‘This is what we want to explore. Whatever comes to mind when you’re asked this question, send us.’”

While providing a platform for voices underrepresented in mainstream journalism,“Speak Truth to Power” does not adhere to all traditional journalistic practices. Satchell said this opens the door to more perspectives that may be ignored or not included in traditional news reporting.

“I know a lot of the time with journalism, it’s like, you can’t talk about emotion, or you can’t talk about how things make you feel because that’s not objective,” Satchell said. “So, you kind of have to attempt to detach yourself from the things you are covering. Some of the best articles that were produced by journalists are talking about really destructive things that have physical and emotional effects on people years after the event.”

Satchell uses the examples of the investigative coverage of molestation in the Catholic Church by The Boston Globe that was popularized by the 2015 film “Spotlight.”

“You can’t be biased about that because in that story there is a very specifically clear wrong side and a very specifically clear constructed right side,” Satchell said. “I feel like by forcing yourself to try to be objective, you’re trying to force yourself to see things from perspectives that aren’t true to how you’re experiencing the story. As a result, this can cause more issues in terms of how the story is perceived.”

With “Speak Truth to Power,” Ethnic Studies in Action aims to open the floor for people to tell their own stories, eliminating the journalistic aspect that is frequently perceived as invasive or destructive.

Corinne Petro, an Ethnic Studies in Action member and CSU junior double majoring in women’s studies and philosophy, said it’s important to establish these narratives as true.

“Not simply as, ‘Oh, these are people’s poems. These are people’s stories;’ but as a narrative, this poem is a truth,” Petro said. “This is a lived experience in Fort Collins, in CSU. And the importance of having other people read that and having to witness that as truth, I think is really key.”

On a campus where some students feel misrepresented, underrepresented or both, “Speak Truth to Power” provides a space where voices will be heard and valued.

“To do this work, to uplift voices, it just feels really healing in that sense of acknowledging that trauma of having your voice silenced, doing the work to heal it and then uplifting others so they can do the same for themselves,” Satchell said.

“Speak Truth to Power” will be available Wednesday, Nov. 1 at CSU. Ethnic Studies in Action plans to organize a release event, but the details are not yet available. Visit the group’s Facebook page for updates closer to the release date.

Collegian arts and culture director can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @randi_mattox.