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Filling the gap of what young black women want

OUR RULES: The team behind Gal Dem magazine

WHAT MAGAZINES do young black women want to read? Nothing currently available on British newsstands, according to a passionate group of students who have launched their own website in order to see themselves properly reflected.

Cheekily named Gal Dem, an online platform for women of colour, the venture is still in its infancy but already making waves.

It’s the brainchild of Olivia ‘Liv’ Little, a politics and sociology student at the University of Bristol, who was inspired by filmmaker Cecile Emeke after attending a screening of her work at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).

Emeke is the creator of the popular web series Akee & Saltfish, which focuses on the hilarious yet heartening friendship between two young – and very cool – black women.

REFRESHING

“I saw it and I thought, wow, we need more of this,” said Little. “I could see people who looked like me and acted like me which was so refreshing. The day after I was like, I must create my own platform, something for me that will allow me to connect with like-minded people, so I guess Cecile Emeke was an inspiration.”

She added: “The characters were relatable and down-to-earth – not a mad ghettoised version of black women and that’s because it was created by a black female director who is portraying us as we are. That’s why she is so successful and I think that’s why people have been so responsive to us as well.”

Gal Dem comprises a core team of four – Little, Hannah Gooding, Zainab Kwaw-Swanzy and Antonia Odunlami – but has more than 50 contributors around the world.

It is a fusion of fashion, music with cultural commentary and politics.


GIRLS LIKE US: Ackee & Saltfish characters Rachel and Olivia

Little continued: “We created something we wanted to read. Young women like hair, beauty and fashion but we’re also interested in critiquing the world around us and making intellectual discourse a cool thing. Why shouldn’t a women’s mag talk about politics?”

The fledgling editor, who grew up in Camberwell, south London, pointed out that mainstream publications were missing out on an entire market simply because their staff was not diverse.

IDENTITY

“A lot of the girls who have written for bigger publications talk about going into newsrooms where there are hardly any people of colour,” explained Little. “They’re also concerned that they only get commissioned to speak about [being black women] when that is just one part of their identity. All of us have opinions on a range of things, so it’s great to have Gal Dem which is a platform that doesn’t box us in.”

The undergraduates currently juggle their journalism venture with working towards attaining their degrees, but hope that in the future they will be able to explore avenues of funding to expand.
Little, now in her final year, first conceived the idea in May 2014 but was too busy to commit to it.

The group then set up a Facebook page to share images and articles of interest. By the summer, they had more than 1,000 likes.

FANBASE

She said: “We’re all still learning, so at the moment we’re just working on building our fanbase but we’d love to turn it into a ‘proper’ publication. Based on the response, it could become a much wider project. Everyone is giving more of their time than they can afford while trying to get degrees and make our mark but we really believe in this.

“The internet is a great tool so we have people contributing from all over the globe who relate to what we’re doing. Right now, that’s all that we can ask for.”

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