Last fall, a new literary publication, Black Art; Real Stories, debuted at the University of Iowa to showcase the writing of black undergraduates
Shawn Boursiquot, a UI junior from Rockland, New York, majoring in English and minoring in African American studies, is the founder and editor-in-chief of Black Art; Real Stories, also known as BARS. Despite the presence of other student literary publications on campus, such as Earthwords and Ink Lit Mag, Boursiquot says that BARS offers something else to the UI community.
"One of the effects of the lack of diversity on campus is that we may hear a lot of stories from similar points of view," says Boursiquot. "So, creating a place where the focus is on giving a voice to students of color would provide a valuable alternative perspective."
Boursiquot realizes that because some readers may assume they won't relate to the subject matter, they might not pick up a copy. But that’s not the case, he says.
"People figure all the writing is going to be about race issues, police brutality, or the minority experience," says Boursiquot. "And yes, those are topics that may be covered, but BARS is about giving black authors a platform to write about their human experience. They're going to be writing about love, family, and plenty of universal topics."
Ashley Lee, a senior English major from Naperville, Illinois, is a member of the BARS website-management team and contributed a nonfiction piece to the inaugural issue.
"I wrote about respectable middle-class values and Chicago suburban life from my perspective," says Lee. "I discussed my discontent and my upbringing in a predominately white community."
In addition to providing an outlet for voices that aren't often heard, both Lee and Boursiquot say they think that BARS can help build a unified community at the UI.
"BARS can foster a sense of community based on a shared identity and lived experience," says Lee.
BARS publishes selected short stories, essays, and poems on its website, and the full catalog of works is available in the print publication, which is released at the end of every semester.
Boursiquot is pleased with the response to the first issue and wants to keep the momentum rolling.
"It took eight months from having the idea to publishing our first issue. So in that sense, it was a success," says Boursiquot. "But I want to see it continually being taken to new heights."
Boursiquot has long-term goals for the publication: to expand the community of contributors, to add visual arts, and to make the BARS website more interactive.
"For now, I just want to see it grow," he says.