It was a rare thing to see someone who looked like me on a magazine cover in the last 20 years here in the UK. Or even on television and if there was that off chance that it happened, it was never in a positive way. And if that was a rarity, imagine knowing a black owned magazine. Thankfully times are changing slowly but they are changing as we are now witnessing magazines and publications that are owned by black people and for black people.

Black publishers get frustrated because they want to fit a certain mould which they can’t because their stories are different…

One such magazine is Sticks and Stones Magazine – a new Middlesbrough based independent publication that is paving the way for black stories and narratives. The magazine was brought to my attention by my friend Claire a year and a bit ago and from a far, I have watched it grow from strength to strength. This is why I thought it would be a great thing to turn the tables for once and interview the interviewers. A couple of messages later, the Director Kudakwashe Gumboreshumba Derera agreed to answer my questions for Meet-At-Tribe series!

Please introduce yourself to our readers?

Kudakwashe: My name is Kudakwashe Gumboreshumba Derera, I’m the Director of Sticks and Stones Studios, our biggest product right now is Sticks and Stones Magazine. I was born and bred in Zimbabwe, moved, and settled in Northern Ireland, Belfast in 2002.I then settled in England, Middlesbrough in 2005. My Opinions, theology and world view is grounded in the Afrocentric perspective. From a young age I was exposed to a diversified world view. Zimbabwe had just got its independence from the British Colonial rule, so there was an intentional drive to build an Afrocentric consciousness, to reverse the effects of a colonised mindset, to restore identity and pride in the next generation which I belonged to. This was achieved through the education system, music, media, and a community which was culturally literate and conscious from Mufakose, in Harare.

What was the reason behind you launching Sticks and Stones Magazine?

Kudakwashe: Sticks and Stones was born out of necessity, out of frustration of waiting on the mainstream platforms to tell our own stories, to pick and choose what is newsworthy and what narrative to use. So five drivers.  A) a safe space for black people to tell their own stories and share lived experiences. B) Initiate discussions on important topics that the black community seem to shy away from, organ donation, identity crisis issues, financial literacy to mention a few. C) Identify, acknowledge, and celebrate our community heroes while they are alive. D) a platform to advertise and market businesses in the black community to encourage b2b within the community. Empower entrepreneurs through strategic workshops and seminars. E) Advocate and lobby for meaningful representation especially in the corridors of power, from the board rooms to the shopfloors.

I believe our children need to see someone who look like them to be able to visualise themselves in those positions of influence and power.

What has the response to the magazine been like?

Kudakwashe: Without any doubt I knew the magazine will get attention, but I didn’t think in the first year we will be at the Airport (Tees Valley Airport, Newcastle Airport soon), in Prisons, Council libraries, Churches and Mosques and be points of conversations in Saloons and Barbershops across the North East. We are having Universities, Colleges, Police, Public Health Departments and others coming onboard to partner with the vision.

There are not many black publishers – at least not here in the North East of England – is it a welcoming space to be in or do you feel marginalised?

Kudakwashe: Its unfamiliar territory indeed. Our target is niche, our product is a true image of the community we serve, that’s why we talk differently, use different expressions, focus on and address issues differently to the mainstream. We don’t feel marginalised, maybe misunderstood, but that’s to be expected if you are different. Black publishers get frustrated because they want to fit a certain mould which they can’t because their stories are different, their hearts beat differently, their eyes see differently, ears hear differently, and their pens write differently. Let’s own and occupy our own space. We have enough writers in the region to do publications that cover exclusively different aspects of our lives, like sports, fashion, food, entertainment without apology or compromise.

What do you consider to be your first “big break” in your publishing days?

Kudakwashe: Good question, I have never looked for a big break I suppose, I look for the small breaks because I know it’s the small axe that cut down the big tree. It’s a break for me when a little girl beams with pride when she sees her beautiful face in the pages, or when a business down the road starts to get more customers because they saw an advert in our pages, or when the NHS reach out to partner with us on health inequalities affecting our community.

What is your greatest challenge in your role as Director?

Kudakwashe: Our biggest challenge is to produce a high-quality product. From the research, style of writing and presentation. We don’t compromise on quality because there is almost an expectation to produce an inferior quality just because we are a black production, sadly we have people within our community guilty of that expectation. The other challenge is to maintain and promote community cohesion, in midst of growing tension between communities and within the black community itself. We are also trying to bring the other side of the story from stakeholders’ perspective back to the community, for example on issues of social injustice or service delivery or lack of, it’s a challenge to maintain that cohesion between communities without compromising or suppressing the voice of the community, sometimes it feels like we a referee in a heavy-weight boxing match.

I believe the patriarchal societies found in Africa and within African cultures hinders the development of African women.  As an African man, what are you and your fellow African men doing to empower African women and girls?

Kudakwashe: I believe the problem was and still is not in how the patriarchal system manifested but rather how the structure was forced to fit into a western system, the compatibility of the two cultural systems, which is like fitting an octagon shape to a square shape. In Zimbabwe there is a saying which summarises the African understanding on dynamics in a home setup, ‘musha mukadzi’, which means there is no home without a woman. With this understanding, even as it was then, men put women at the centre of progress and creativity starting from the home setting into the community. My effort right now is breaking the cycle that has seen the girl child being treated differently, my focus is more on raising the boy child to recognise that the girl child is built differently but of the same substance as himself. The boy child will be the man and father of tomorrow and he can break the vicious cycle. You can’t break the cycle by empowering the girl child and not do the same to the boy child.

If you could have dinner with five famous people from history, who would they be?

Kudakwashe: The first one is Nimrod son of Cush, described as a mighty hunter and the first man to build cities according to the bible. 2) Ambuya Nehanda, a Zimbabwean spiritual warrior leader, she led the revolution against imperialism and colonisation, killed in 1897 and her skull is kept as a trophy at the Natural History Museum in London to this day 3) Mansa Musa from Mali 4) Mae Carol Jemison, she is the first black woman astronaut 5) Bob Marley 

What do you get most distracted by at work?

Kudakwashe: I’m quite good at holding my concentration to be honest but my second born daughter Imani finds a way to distract me, and once she starts I know its time to go on a forced break.

If money was not a factor, where would you travel to and what would you do there?

Kudakwashe: I would travel to USA and have dinner with my twin sister and fly back.

Where do you see yourself and the magazine in five years?

Kudakwashe: It’s going to be a busy few years coming, in 5 years the concept and the vision of Sticks and Stones will be exported beyond the physical boarders and will be a platform that will drive the black consciousness movement (leading in economic emancipation, spiritual literacy and intelligence and kingdom building for the generations to come).

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