Student publication New Dawn highlights Black voices, creatives on campus

Sam Zern, Editor in Chief

New Dawn, Vanderbilt’s newest student publication, launched last week showcasing poetry, articles welcoming first-years with advice from upperclassmen, music by students and pieces explaining the mission of the publication. Started by students Abbee Kelati, Erin Hardnett, Lucy Davies-Kumadiro and Dawson McThay, the publication’s focus is on providing a platform for students to explore the Black experience at Vanderbilt, and features everything from personal commentaries to pieces of art by Black students.

Erin Hardnett

Housed under the Bishop Joseph Johnson Black Cultural Center, New Dawn is a space where Black creatives can showcase their work and collaborate with one another. According to Hardnett, it’s a space that hasn’t existed recently on campus.

“Basically what our goal is, is that we saw a gap in publicity and voices that are heard on this campus,” Hardnett said. “Very specifically, Abbee and I, we noticed that arts created by Black people were, that there was not a platform where Black artists and Black creatives on this campus could easily share their work, and that was what we initially started. We also thought that articles specifically geared toward Black issues and things of that nature were also missing, so it’s just kind of expanded to be an online publication where Black artists and Black journalists can meet up and share their work and get their voices heard on this campus.”

Abbee Kelati

Beyond being a platform for the arts, the publication will also serve as a place for Black students to voice their opinions on issues that affect their lives and write about news that matters to them.

“I manage news, community and events, so it’s going to be covering Black events on campus, community will just be people writing about community, so longer nonfiction essays, and then news,” Kelati said. “Something that we were talking about is a lot of Black issues in the news and how they can connect to Vanderbilt students, but also issues that are going on in Africa or Palestine and how that relates to Black Lives Matter and things like that, so we really want it to be as broad and encompassing as possible.”

The founding members, Kelati, Hardnett, Davies-Kumadiro and McThay, each recognized the need for the publication on their own. They were able to connect through Dr. Rosevelt L. Noble, director of the BCC, who showed them past Black publications that have existed on campus. By housing the publication within the BCC, Davies-Kumadiro said she hoped it would not only build upon the legacy of the past publications, but ensure that New Dawn will continue to grow and succeed for future generations of students.

Lucy Davies-Kumadiro

“I think that often there feels like a pressure to, like if you are a Black student, to voice your opinions in a certain way, or care about certain things or only write about these certain issues, and I think what we really want to do is to make sure people can be themselves, and that is them being Black,” Davies-Kumadiro said.

McThay manages the creative direction of the publication. An artist himself, he saw the talents of his fellow creative students going largely unnoticed. In designing New Dawn’s website, he focused on emphasizing pride in being Black through artistic and high fashion visuals.

“I’m being honest, like in high school, I went through tumblr, I had like a really big tumblr phase, and everything was white person, white person, white person, white person–I never saw any Black person unless they were the really alternative. So I want to be like it doesn’t matter what you look like, this is the cool vibe you can go for, this is the aesthetic that I’m trying to follow.”

Dawson McThay

Students are able to submit their work to the publication through social media and by contacting members of the editorial board. All different types of work are welcome–from visual arts to journalistic pieces. The main goal according to New Dawn’s leaders is to make a space where all voices feel welcome and heard and where students feel comfortable expressing their vulnerability in art and writing.

“Someone said that the Black experience is just a human experience, and it’s very important for us to realize that like we are all just human, and to not think that the norm is whiteness, because the norm is everything, because everything is normal,” Hardnett said. “It’s very important to just see from other people’s perspectives and that’s one of the driving goals of New Dawn, to show the Black perspective on Vanderbilt’s campus. And there are multiple perspectives because Blackness is not a monolith.”