Three years ago, my partner Graham brought home a magazine he’d run across at work at the USC’s South Caroliniana Library. It was the first issue of Auntie Bellum: A New South Carolina Journal for Women, a collection of art, ideas, and politics from radical women pushing boundaries here in Columbia in 1977. I read the four issues that ran from 1977 to 1978 and then got started on bringing Auntie Bellum back. With wunderkind and sister activist Roxy Lenzo by my side, and a very close-knit group of editors/beautiful people, we’ve worked hard to be a good magazine and a great community partner.
Since the summer of 2015, we’ve been “an unapologetic voice for Southern women.” And there’s been a lot to say, even when tragedies, protests, and a few precious victories have left us speechless. We’ve published the thoughts, hopes, worries, fears, outrage, and very personal stories of hundreds (yes, hundreds!!!) of Southern women and trans and non-binary Southerners from all over the region. We hosted a karaoke night and so many happy hours, a teen poetry workshop and a big witch party. We made videos and podcasts. We showed up in solidarity. We’ve met a ton of folks who change the world in ways everyone should know about, and we’ve been grateful for the help of so many friends, co-workers, bosses, buddies, boyfriends, girlfriends, partners, lovers, haters, and family members. We have always needed all of you. And now we want to do more.
After last year’s election, we faced a reckoning in the shape of a bad, new president. Some of us on staff here at Auntie Bellum really didn’t see it coming. But as the days passed, we came to understand that what a lot of white women were feeling in the wake of Clinton’s loss was something people of color and trans, non-binary, and queer folks had been experiencing their entire lives. They didn’t feel safe. They were angry. They were disappointed. They were at a fucking loss. And it wasn’t good enough for us to just know better.
We’ve been talking about new ways to make Auntie Bellum better and more inclusive and just MORE and BETTER, since we had our first staff meeting, and we finally scored some professional help. Two of our editors, Jenni Brennison and Roxy Lenzo, applied for and received the invaluable (and charitable) help of the miracle-working (and very hip) Creatathon team at Riggs Partners. We told them we needed a new and bold direction for radical women pushing boundaries in 2017. We needed a name for the future (the antebellum era was more than white genteel belles, but why stay in the past?), a path toward fiscal stability (we’re poor), and a new website (it’s now shiny on the inside). They gave us advice, guidance, technical help, a few hard truths, and also courage. We’re very thankful for all of this, particularly our Creatathon team leader, Stephanie Owens. She was tireless in her efforts to bring our vision to life and assembled an expert team of writers, artists, and designers whose work made us ugly cry in the best way.
Leaving Auntie Bellum behind isn’t easy. We owe so much to the original editors of magazine. They were and are inspiring women. But, we feel an urgency to carve out a new future for our magazine and our organization – one that doesn’t confuse or romanticize the history of the South. There’s no room for moonlight and magnolias in the fight to come. The changes we’re revealing today reflect our hope and our promise to make all genders a part of our feminist agenda, to remove barriers to inclusiveness, and to DO better. We’ve worked hard, and we’ll continue to do so. We’re also pretty tough, but we’ll still need your help.
From the editorial board (Meeghan Kane, Roxy Lenzo, Melanie DuBard, Graham Duncan, Miles Joyner, Nathaniel Thorne-Simmons, and SaBrina Jeffcoat):
Welcome to Unsweetened: Voices from a Feminist South.