This year, FLARE marked the beginning of Black History Month by changing up our homepage so that all the featured stories are by, or in celebration of, Black women. Some of these articles are previously published pieces that deserve fresh attention, like Bee Quammie’s compelling op-ed about the importance of listening to Black women, Kayla Greaves’s on point explanation of why WOC need their own beauty forums and Chika Stacy Oriuwa’s powerful personal essay about being the only Black med student in her class of 259. Others are from new writers who we’re excited to welcome to the #FLAREfam, including Hadiya Roderique, Kinsey Clarke, Sumiko Wilson and Kelsey Adams.
As in previous years, we wanted to use this homepage takeover for BHM to highlight some of the Black women we’ve had the privilege of working with and to give Black women the space they’ve historically been denied in women’s media—because if 2018 showed us anything, it was the power of seeing yourself reflected in mainstream media. But this was also a way to hold ourselves accountable. Last year, writer Huda Hassan asked why Black women’s voices are seldom celebrated outside the shortest month of the year, and we took it to heart. We’d already had internal conversations about continuing to build an inclusive network of writers, but when she wrote, “our words matter, and we shouldn’t have to spend every February reminding the world of that,” it inspired us to make that commitment public.
We’re grateful to have published more women of colour than ever before in 2018, many of them Black women. We also held several internal workshops about reporting on sexual violence, covering the LGBTQ+ community and covering the Black community. And we started having regular meetings discussing inclusion and representation on both FLARE and other media outlets.
But we know that we can always be better at amplifying Black voices and giving Black stories a larger platform—and furthermore, that we have a responsibility to do so, because the stakes are high. We’ve seen a steady rise in white supremacy both in the U.S. and right here at home. Police across the country are fielding reports of more, and more violent hate crimes. And in December 2018, in a terrible end to an already difficult year, the Ontario Human Rights Commission published a report that found Black Torontonians are more likely to be the targets of police force.
So this year, we’re going to continue seeking out opportunities to learn directly from the Black community and build more relationships with Black writers—and we commit to making sure they write about more than just race. We’re also committing to being inclusive in *all* of our content.
In the past, we’ve received criticism about only publishing negative articles when covering Black issues, and we realize that needs to change. We can’t just ask the Black community to tell stories about Black pain. That’s why we asked Roderique to help us shape this year’s Black History Month lineup—and to kick things off with an essay that makes a case for seeking out Black joy as an act of resistance. Later in the month, we’ll hear from writers like Clarke, Wilson, Adams and our social media editor, Ebony-Renee Baker, about topics as diverse as fashion, dating, entertainment and friendship. And many of these stories will feature art from Melissa Falconer, whose portraits of Michelle Obama, Oprah and the women of Wakanda are full of joy.
Last February, we said, “we know we’re not there yet, but we are working to be better.” This year, we think we’re a little closer—but we can, and will, continue working to improve. To that end, please do let us know how we’re doing during Black History Month (and beyond) by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We’re here for all comments, suggestions and, most importantly, pitches.