B.A.S.S.Talks to LUMXN: Community within the Pages
connect with LUMXN and other organizations close to our heart in the B.A.S.S. Book
Earlier this year I spoke with Mars and Reina, the co-founders of LUMXN magazine, about the print publication they put together, representation, and finding your community when it is not represented in your environment. In our conversation, I learned how these creators inspired a community within the pages. Hunter: Today I'm with Mars and Reina from LUMXN magazine. Thank you guys so much – the B.A.S.S. community is very interested in getting to know you guys and your mission a little better. So my first question for you guys is: what is LUMXN and how did the magazine come about?
Mars: Rei, I'll let you answer this one Reina: Sure! LUMXN is a print publication that aims to spread the light of womxn and nonbinary people of color. And so we like to say we are rooted in three things: light, healing, and being. Light primarily because of the fact that we spotlight people you don't often hear from, we tell the stories you don't often hear, and we really try to lean into the fact that we believe that everyone has light within them no matter what they are going through, where they are, and really pushing the boundaries of what it means to be successful,what it means to be whole, and what it means to be a light for your community and people around you. Then healing - we have that piece because we believe that healing is ongoing and powerful so you know we like to say you're never really fully healed, healing is an ongoing process. We feature everyone and every aspect of healing, and we do that through our journal entries from anonymous people - really spotlighting the thoughts that they have in their current moment, just being really raw in our interview style and also just asking questions about how people see themselves and how they are healing and what's their approach to that. And then last but not least, being. Which is just allowing people to exist in their full selves. As womxn and nonbinary people of color, there’s always expectations that we’re held to. We can’t be our full selves at work, we can’t be our full selves in public spaces, we are always kinda putting on a mask or a facade on where we are. And stepping into that authenticity is really revolutionary I think. So our magazine aims to allow people to be as they are, where they are. Our style of the magazine really showcases that by being, again, so raw and so unedited and having those journal entries and the art pieces and photography - really leaning into creativity to show how womxn and nonbinary people of color are existing, and our existence is important. How we came to be is because of the fact that … oh do you want to take this Mars?
Mars: We came to be because me and Reina were roommates, and she had this cute magazine. An independent, women-owned magazine called Got a Girl Crush that highlighted women doing unconventional things and just really talking about the intimate stories about who they are and it really inspired us. We love this magazine and we’re like, “Yo we need to create a magazine like this on our campus, because our campus needs some light OK, it’s a bit dull,it’s a bit white and we need something”. And we drafted a letter to our school’s women’s club and we’re like, “we have this idea can you guys fund this'' and they’re like, “yeah this sounds amazing, yeah lets do it ”. So that’s how we published the first one on our college campus through a grant from the women’s organization on our campus.
We know cool people that aren't winning traditionally. Where are their stories? Where are our stories?
Hunter: That’s really relatable! How would you all say your backgrounds influence the space created by LUMXN? Mars: That's a good question. I guess our background as friends helps. Our background as friends who had similar interests and yeah that just aligned at the time that we were living together and kind of had inspiration together and I guess personal background. Just being on a campus that felt very isolating really forced us to get creative about how we feel represented here and how we can make our time here worth it.
Reina: Yeah and our campus, on top of being majority white, is very much “go, go, go”, very success oriented and staying in D.C, you have your policy wonks and everyone has an internship by like their second week of college somehow. And you feel isolated if you’re not making it and I feel like there is a very stereotypical representation of what it looks like to be making it and it can be very ostracizing if you don't feel like you fit into that mold. I feel like Mars and I were consistently in spaces where we felt like we didn't fit into a mold and when we looked for examples of people, especially Black women for example, we felt like they were only being spotlighted when they were winning; when they were doing great things. And like Tracee Ellis Ross -who we love- on a stage, that is something you often see. But what about when you’re going through something? We know cool people that aren't winning traditionally. Where are their stories? Where are our stories? And I think that our background, just in terms of the things that we were struggling with, the things that we wanted to see, the stories that we wanted to be told, weren't really being told, especially by college students and for college-age students. Really for everybody, but starting out as that. So [LUMXN] started as, “hey, we think these stories are cool and we think we can do more with art and how we express ourselves”. That's what really influenced the magazine. Hunter: Wow, I feel like you guys are speaking to me. I mean that's exactly the position I'm in. I think a lot of young Black girls are going to be influenced by this so thank you guys so much. So we have the first print, the Memory print, and then you guys published the Fire print, and there’s the upcoming Work print. Where does the inspiration come from when naming the editions?
Mars: So usually, an idea comes to one of us and we’re like, “what you think about this for a theme?“ but I actually don't know where the idea for The Memory Print came from. It kind of just flew into your head, Reina? Do you remember?
Reina: Yeah, I do. So I was in this class, a transcultural literature class. And we were talking a lot about how who we are is very influenced by the people that come before us. Who I am is very influenced by who my mom was. It's very influenced by who her mom was and understanding, especially for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) individuals, where we come from and how that translates into our experiences. And how that knowledge helps shape the futures we want to see. The Memory Print came from a super nerdy place; it probably came from reading a collection of essays called This Bridge Called my Back. Excellent. I highly recommend it, it is so good. All of the authors are BIPOC and it's just like the way they do their storytelling is very similar to LUMXN, where it's just like however you are. You know? They are writing in different languages or it's really messy, that's the entire book and that was really the inspiration for Memory. We were trying to figure out where we came from and how that influences us now. We did a lot of diving into that topic personally, and then LUMXN print two allowed us to dive into that topic with our community which was really interesting and exciting. And what about print three? You came up with the idea for three, Mars.
Mars: Oh yeah so me and Reina had been bouncing off essentially for the ideas for the print, but yeah three was Fire and it was about thinking about LUMXN as a collection. When we create ten LUMXNs and somebody owns all ten in their bookshelf, like what kind of stories are they telling holistically? We kind of thought about The Fire Print exploring really different themes and memories. Fire is hard, fire is takedown, fire is build up, fire is like this *does shooting stars with hands*, but Memory was soft and dreamy you know. So, it just felt like we needed to talk about it, we needed to tell a different narrative in the next print and it was also coincidentally before 2020. But then it was 2020 when we released that print, and you know 2020 wasn't fire in terms of literally changing lives… wait it was 2021. Print 3 launched in 2021, but the idea came in 2020. So it felt like the right time to talk about these things, like restructuring things. Work, our current upcoming print which is launching August 2022, was Reina’s idea that she told me about years ago, but it stood on my brain and when thinking about this print, I'm like, “remember you wanted to do Work”and she was like “I don't know”and I said, “I think that's a great idea!”
Reina: I really don't know. It just came up in conversation, but it is interesting to explore because we are always talking about work and I think there’s so much [to talk about now], to Mars’ point of how things have changed in the past two years. There's been a restructuring of how we think about work and how we understand work and worth and what that actually looks like. Is it your 9-5? I don't think so. It's super interesting to ask ourselves and our community these questions. Does work relate to worth? Why or why not? Work and rest. Oh man, we cannot wait to explore that. So just thinking through the lens of this idea that we all always talk about in one way, shape, or form. Mars and I also thought a lot about how working out is going to be something that we think about with this print. How it is so central to our everyday life, the difference between work and rest. We wanted to explore it a little bit more with our community, especially the community that's wrestling with the same questions that we have about it.
Mars: Somehow we’re working every day, and I don't mean working for money. When you shower, you're working on yourself. When you make food, you're working on yourself. Working out, you're working. Walking, you're working. Walking and being and working are concepts that connect to the question of: what does it mean for something to be working? It sounds very black and white but it's actually very philosophical. We could go on and on because it gets more and more abstract, but that is where [the print theme] comes from, from our hearts and ideas. And then we think about them holistically; think about what our community needs right now. What's happening in the world and how can we be relevant to that conversation.
Hunter: You guys do such a good job. I have the Fire print and all the articles are so *shooting stars with fingers* badass and fire so you guys really did a great job.
Mars: What's your favorite? Hunter: My favorite, which I’ve never really seen people talk about, was the one with the Dominatrix. I was like wow I’ve never heard about this before but it was fire and interesting. Also, the woman who was talking about cannabis, but she had the most beautiful dress and traditional clothing. You guys definitely do a good job of getting your themes and articles aligned. Onto my next question. LUMXN has a very distinct and original look. How are you guys able to create that aesthetic and then bring that aesthetic to life in the prints?
Reina: With this one it's all our graphic designer. Her name is Monica Pizzo, @pizzo_monica on Instagram. It's really all her. We are curators in terms of the stories, the theme, and what we want this to feel like. And she takes her beautiful designer brain and translates it into visuals. I don't know how, but somehow she does it. So we do a lot of talking about mood boards and colors for the print; what feels right. And it all starts with what we are trying to communicate with the print, which is why it meant so much when you said that Fire communicated fire because that's something that we have tried to be very intentional about from the beginning. Our theme is work for print four. For example, we are mood boarding what images come up for Mars and I around work, then Moni [Monica] will take that and translate that into the print and she's really intentional about symbolism throughout the magazine. In the Fire print she used a fire hearth in her design, so she's very very intentional about it.
Hunter: Yeah it definitely shows!
it was a place of our representation; what we don't see and wanting to curate a community and safe space for the people who are most marginalized.
Mars: I would also add that the aesthetic of the mag comes from our community in terms of what was submitted for the print. A lot of the times people submit art then Monica works with the vibe of the art. It's a big part of our community helping us curate the aesthetic by the things that they give us. Or even if they don't give us visual components, they’ll give us a poem, then we have to think of what visuals this poem inspires, and then Monica creates a visual or finds visuals that are inspired by [those conversations]. Our community curates the unique look that you mentioned, Hunter.
Hunter: Having a magazine that highlights the being of womxn and nonbinary people of color is major and important. Could you guys talk about the importance of representation in LUMXN?
Mars: We are very intentional with the decision to focus on womxn and non-binary people of color. LUMXN was born from an academic setting in a way, but academic and political things are personal everyday things. We want LUMXN to have conversations about gender and race, that is what LUMXN is. Then it's talking about gender and race through the lens of light, healing, and being. Honestly, like we said, it was a place of our representation; what we don't see and wanting to curate a community and safe space for the people who are most marginalized. The people who really need to see other people like them. Like Reina said about Tracee Ellis Ross, I love Tracee Ellis Ross… but not only seeing people who are on TV. No, we want you to see your grandma in the print. We want you to see the cashier at your local supermarket. Why? Because she’s a single mom and is a badass bitch. It's focused on race and gender through these three lenses because these are the people we are and these are the people we want to support, highlight and uplift. These are the people we want to create warm feelings within. We want to make people like us feel warm on the inside because where else are we, really? I feel like representation is changing so much nowadays with Instagram, but like that's happening now. LUMXN is very much part of that trend of finally seeing people like us. We definitely were a part of [the trend] right in the beginning, before the corporates were catching up to it. We got here in 2018, when we started thinking about these things. It's for us and by us. it's coming from a place of love. It's not coming from a place to make money.
Reina: For us, a lot of [representation] is about gender and race and starting those conversations. But representation in terms of the voices you hear from LUMXN wouldn’t be the same if we didn’t have something like a Latina Nun in the Memory print. And she’s like very “loving grandma vibes” and that’s what we want. We just want people that we run into, that we see, that we think are interesting. For us, that also translates into representation like, what does it mean to be diverse in terms of our race or gender? But also the stories that we have, the backgrounds that we have, and the realities that we bring into the print. So we’re always working to make sure that diversity is represented in the stories that we tell and all of the Lumxns that we have.
Hunter: You both spent time in Washington D.C. as college students. What advice would you give to people of color in the same position, in terms of finding themselves? How did LUMXN help you guys with this process?
Mars: First thing that comes to mind is letting go of FOMO (fear of missing out). Freshman year it's very easy to have a lot of FOMO and thinking you have to go here and there.Your school got a pool? Guess what, on Friday night, go to the pool. There's a party tonight? Have a picnic. You don't have to go to all these parties- but like maybe some. Really do what makes you happy which sounds cliché but really. I think you forget that in college.
Reina: Be honest with yourself about what you like. College is an interesting time because for the first time, you get to sit back and be like, “what do I actually like?“ Don’t apologize for the things you like, be honest with yourself about what you like, what you want to do on a Friday night, and where you want to do it. What do you want to explore? If you like art and poetry, go to Busboys and Poets ]. A lot of times it’s like, “I’m supposed to like clubbing“ and “I’m supposed to like this?'' But what I wish I would’ve done differently and what I’m just starting to do in this life is being honest about what I actually like to do and not apologizing for it. What music I want to listen to, what I want to eat, where I want to go, when I want to go there, when I want to be at home in my pajamas and not really caring what that feels like or looks like on the outside to other people.
Mars: We are all learning about ourselves. So learning what you truly want is a growing process, especially in college when you’re in this bubble. The same thing goes for your career and education. I changed my major four times and I graduated on time because I wasn’t satisfied. Granted, majors aren't really that big of a deal because you can do whatever with whatever major but these are the things we usually stress about in college.
Hunter: That's great - thank you guys so much. I’m so grateful to sit with you guys and ask you these questions. I feel inspired from this experience and I know this will touch a lot of other young people’s hearts.
Mars & Reina: Thank you Hunter and thank you B.A.S.S. We are so grateful and if anyone has any questions for us whether it’s personal or LUMXN related feel free to reach out to us through our email. Also, if Print Four’s theme of Work speaks to you, please check us out at LUMXN.com. Submissions are open till April and we would love to see what you guys have!
connect with LUMXN and other organizations close to our heart in the B.A.S.S. Book