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BlackPrint, UT’s new Black interest publication, creates the space for honest media work

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Faith Castle and Tiana Woodward, Co-Founders of
Faith Castle and Tiana Woodward, Co-Founders of BlackPrint ATX.

Over the past few months, a lot of people have been looking for a way to support Black student voices. But it is often difficult for Black perspectives to find their way into publications that are truly willing to embrace them.

Last spring, University of Texas journalism seniors and Co-Editors-in-Chief Faith Castle and Tiana Woodard launched BlackPrint, UT’s one and only Black interest publication.

The publication’s mission statement says they aim to provide a platform for creatives to capture experiences impacting the Black community at UT Austin and in the greater Austin area in a variety of formats — whether through photos, videos or prose.

“Our focus is for Black creatives and people who want to participate, but have never found that space before,” Castle said.

The pair already has a good deal of journalism experience. Castle is president of the UT chapter of the National Association of Black Journalists, an intern at KUT/KUTX and a former contributor to Orange Magazine and Spark Magazine. She also served as the video editor for The Daily Texan. Woodard, who is also majoring in English, is a Pulliam Journalism Fellow at The Indianapolis Star, a former Texas Monthly intern and a Texas Orange Jacket. She recently received a $10,000 scholarship from the National Association of Black Journalists.

“Often in traditional journalism, when you talk about race, it has to be explained. Race isn’t seen as ‘objective,’” Woodard said.

She says that a lot of publications ask writers to explain the basics of how Black people move through the world for every story that may involve race. “We are asked to make stories that are about our everyday lives consumable to everyone,” she said. But at BlackPrint, contributors can skip that step if they so choose. “In other spaces, you have to fight to rationalize your race. With something like BlackPrint, race is a part of your identity that doesn’t have to be explained,” Woodard said.

The publication allows contributors to tell stories about a wide variety of topics, and it is currently seeking new staffers. It also accepts open submissions for individual articles. Current stories in BlackPrint vary from opinion pieces about Afrofuturism and tech to videos about hair care during quarantine.

The pair started forming the idea for the publication during their sophomore year. During their short time in journalism, they had already noticed the trend of publications asking for Black voices but not supporting them.

“In my experience, when publications ask for Black opinions, the topics you can talk about end up being very restricted,” Castle said. “And there’s so much going on now, and there were so many ways I reacted and I felt that other publications wouldn’t allow the right space for me. Because they wouldn’t understand why this reminded me of that, or how it relates to what’s going on right now.”

“Having BlackPrint is a way to have that space for our voices without them being over questioned.”

BlackPrint is actually a revitalized project. It was originally started by current journalism lecturer Erna Smith when she attended UT during the early 70s. As one of the first Black staffers at The Daily Texan, she founded BlackPrint because of her experiences with racism in the newsroom. The organization in its original form faded out after a few years. But last spring, Smith had the chance to attend the new BlackPrint’s launch party. “It was so great seeing how excited she was,” Woodard said. “That really touched me just because it kind of showed me that that was almost 50 years ago and we’re still dealing with that.”

During this summer with both the pandemic and continued social unrest, Woodard and Castle have de-emphasized strict deadlines.

“I think that Faith and I both agreed that our first priority was that people just take care of themselves,” Woodard said. “For a lot of Black students, we’ve been reached out to with messages asking us to fill someone’s diversity quota. So for us here, it’s been more ‘So how can we support you?’ instead of ‘Hey, can you do this for us?’”

Their latest project, a summer zine named SPACE, further emphasizes their commitment to providing a platform to anyone who needs it. “While we don’t have a thousand followers just yet or anything like that,” Castle said, “we understand the importance of having published work and sharing it.”

Castle and Woodard plan to launch SPACE by late August. You can find and support BlackPrint on their website and social channels.