Magazines Bring New Voices To Multicultural Experience The growing racial and ethnic diversity of America has encouraged publishers to start magazines that address a new, multicultural generation of readers. In this month's Magazine Mavens, the creative forces behind three such publications discuss their vision — Lori Robinson, of Vida AfroLatina; Christopher Windham, of Human Nature and Navdeep Kathuria, of ABCD Lady.
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Magazines Bring New Voices To Multicultural Experience

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Magazines Bring New Voices To Multicultural Experience

Magazines Bring New Voices To Multicultural Experience

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I'm Lynn Neary and this is Tell Me More from NPR News. A little later in the program, we'll hear from Phylicia Rashad, who won fame as television super-mom Clair Huxtable in the classic sitcom, "The Cosby Show." Now, she's up for an Emmy for her role in the small-screen version of Lorraine Hansberry's iconic American drama, "A Raisin in the Sun." She shares the lessons from her years on screen and stage in our Wisdom Watch.

But first, it's time for Magazine Mavens, our segment that offers listeners a peak into some of our favorite magazines. And this month we're featuring publications that speak to a new multicultural generation of readers. We're joined by Lori Robinson, the founding editor of Vida Afro-Latina, and Navdeep Kathuria, editor-in-chief of ABCD Lady, an online magazine for South Asian American women. Chistopher Windham, the publisher and executive editor of the news magazine, Human Nature, is running late but will join us shortly. For now, welcome, ladies.

Ms NAVDEEP KATHURIA (Editor-in-chief, ABCD Lady): Thank you.

Ms. LORI ROBINSON (Founding Editor, Vida Afro-Latina): Thank you.

NEARY: So let me start with you, Navdeep. Could you explain the title of your magazine, ABCD Lady? What does that mean exactly?

Ms. KATHURIA: Yeah. Actually, that's the first question we typically do get.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. KATHURIA: So to break that down, ABCD is an acronym. It's used among South Asians. In our magazine, it stands for American Born Confident Desi. And if you haven't heard the term "desi," it means South Asian. Basically, I've just always been struck by the fact that South Asians weren't represented in mainstream media so I wanted to put something out there to accomplish that.

NEARY: Now, I read in your magazine that you actually got the idea for it in a beauty parlor, I think. Is that right?

Ms. KATHURIA: No. Actually, I was working out - close, I was working out.

NEARY: Working out. OK.

Ms. KATHURIA: Yes. And I saw an Essence magazine. And they're just my role models because I was reading them, and I never picked one up before, I actually never thought to. But I was reading page after page and there were articles on, you know, dating a black man or health facts related to African-American women, and I thought, hey, why do we not have anything out there for South Asian women like that? So that's where ABCD Lady was actually first born.

NEARY: Now Lori, there are several magazines like Essence that are aimed at African-American women, and there's also Latina and other magazines for Hispanic women. What does your magazine offer to readers that they can't find in those publications?

Ms. ROBINSON: I would say that Afro-Latinos, Latinos of African descent, are woefully underrepresented, whether it's in African-American media, Latino media or in general market media. I've heard time and again - as a reporter, I've reported and written about Latinos of African descent for about 15 years, and I hear all the time that we don't see ourselves reflected in media in this country or in Latin America, as well. So I wanted to be able to be able to fill that void.

NEARY: Now both of you, at this point, your magazines are available exclusively online. Why is that, Navdeep?

Ms. KATHURIA: It was actually for a few reasons. One, it was just definitely a cheaper way to start, you know. I was starting this on my own. I didn't have, really, the funds behind me to just start out with a print magazine. But also, if you take a look at other publications, they are also just going towards online now. So it just seemed like it made sense to go online and be successful there and then make the step if I wanted to later in the future to print.

NEARY: So you may go to print eventually?

Ms. KATHURIA: It is a definite possibility.

NEARY: And Lori, what about you?

Ms. ROBINSON: I do think it's so exciting. We're living in such a great time that technology has become so simplified and inexpensive that anyone can create media now, basically. Just, you know, delighted that I am able to do it without a multi-million dollar budget and overhead that it would take to launch a print publication at this point.

NEARY: I imagine you think of your audience as your readership as pretty young, as well, and they would be more inclined to go online, is that part of your decision?

Ms. ROBINSON: Well, that's interesting that you would say that. I do have some demographic information about my readers and I'm finding that the majority of them are between the ages of 40 and 60.

NEARY: How about that!

Ms. ROBINSON: It's very interesting. I mean, I do have readers in their teens, 20s and 30s, as well, but it's just over 50 percent that are between 40 and 60.

NEARY: And do you know why that is?

Ms. ROBINSON: I have no idea. But I would guess that I think that if you are younger, maybe you're interested in a magazine like Vibe, for example, which addresses the hip-hop generation, which is essentially a multi-cultural generation. I would think that if you're a little bit older, maybe you're not really into Vibe, maybe you're not really into the way younger people address multiculturalism but you're still really interested in reading information that addresses your specific ethnic, cultural and racial experience.

NEARY: These magazines we're talking about really do have a niche market. Do you both feel that there are enough people in your target audience to support the magazine long term?

Ms. KATHURIA: Absolutely. There is - I think it's 2.5 million South Asians in the North American region. We're reaching, I guess you could say, half of that because our target is 20s to 30s in South Asian women. So, yes, I definitely have, based on our feedback, I think we're definitely providing that niche that's out there.

NEARY: And you, too, Lori?

Ms. ROBINSON: Yeah, without question. The statistics are still a little fuzzy in terms of how many Latinos of African descent are living in the United States. The way people define race in Latin America is a little bit different than we've traditionally done here, so it gets a little complicated. But we know that there are at least several million Latinos who also identify, self-identify as black.

But I would also say, my goal is to eventually serve Latin America in general. And we already have readers who subscribe from Latin America, but I would say that it's estimated that about one-third of the population of all of Latin Americans Caribbean is of African descent, and that's 150 million people.

NEARY: If you're just joining us, you are listening to Tell Me More from NPR News. I am Lynn Neary, and we're talking to our magazine mavens, Lori Robinson of Vida Afro-Latina, and Navdeep Kathuria of ABCD Lady, and joining us now is Christopher Windham of Human Nature magazine. Hi, Christopher.

Mr. CHRISTOPHER WINDHAM (Creator, Human Nature Magazine): Hi, Lynn. How's it going?

NEARY: Good. Glad to have you with us. Let's just start by asking you, Christopher, about your magazine, Human Nature magazine. Why did you start it?

Mr. WINDHAM: Well, I started Human Nature in 2006 because I saw an unmet need in the marketplace. Human Nature covers ethnic communities across the world from a sophisticated level and also peers into different aspects of their daily lives. It can be from politics to business to health. And I saw that this content was really receptive by young - particularly, young ethnic minorities and also serves as an educational vehicle and also a way to inform this audience about their heritage.

NEARY: You are looking at both the sort of pan-ethnic kind of perspective, as well as international stories. It's a really broad mission that you've taken on. Do you feel it's important that you balance racial and geographic perspectives in Human Nature?

Mr. WINDHAM: It is important. I think most of our readers - we cater to second or third generation, you know, American-born citizens who may not have a direct connection with their heritage or the country of their families' heritage, so I think it's important, and a lot of that crosses along the racial lines and the social aspects that may be tied to some of the racial issues that are prevalent in our society today. So it's a lot of overlap, and I think ethnicity and race often touches upon these folks' lives in many different ways, and I think we aim to cover those bounds.

NEARY: You know, I'd like to ask each of you to tell me one must-read article in your current edition. Let's start with Lori. Go ahead.

Ms. ROBINSON: You all may remember the film, "American Gangster."

NEARY: You mean, "American Gangster," Frank Lucas?

Ms. ROBINSON: Yes. Which was about an African-American in New York, played by Denzel Washington, who was this drug kingpin. When he and his wife went to prison, his daughter was raised in Puerto Rico by her grandparents. Her mother is Puerto Rican. And so I interviewed her about her experience growing up in Puerto Rico, then moving back to the United States - she now lives in the Atlanta area - about her experiences as an Afro-Latina going from culture to culture, and also about an important organization that she has founded, which is an organization that supports children whose parents have been put in prison.

So I think it's quite a surprise for many people because this woman was not - as a child, her character was not included in the film. Some people don't even know that this man had a daughter, but that he has a daughter who's Puerto Rican and who goes between cultures is key to what we try to get at all the time in our articles.

NEARY: Navdeep?

Ms. KATHURIA: South Asian kids, basically, in this post-9/11 world, are getting harassed and even attacked in schools. There's been just these awful crimes committed against them. For instance, the Sikh religion prohibits you from cutting your hair, and in May of this year, in Queens, a classmate forcibly cut a Sikh girl's hair. The following month, in another New York City classroom, a boy's turban was untied. And while he is trying to collect himself and get his turban back on, a fellow student then punched him in the face with keys between his knuckles, causing serious injury. These acts, they go beyond bullying, they're hate crimes.

I mean, what's unimaginable is that they happened in the classroom. You just can't imagine how - what's going on in these bullies' minds to commit these acts where there is a teacher present. So this month, our resident psychiatrist delves into that issue and she discusses how to help your child resist bullies and develop a healthy identity.

NEARY: And what about in Human Nature, Christopher?

Mr. WINDHAM: We have a story that looks at the post-election campaign by the opposition movement in Zimbabwe to oppose the sixth term of Robert Mugabe. Right now, the country's president and the opposition forces are trying to work out a peace settlement. This particular story looks at the youth movement's involvement. I mean, this youth movement was successful in mounting one of the first real oppositions to Robert Mugabe's presidency, which has lasted since 1980. So this group, in particular, the Revolutionary Youth Movement of Zimbabwe, is a little distraught by the process and the one-man election.

And now that it's considering a change from its non-violent approach to opposing the election and are thinking of a new strategy, in this particular article, in which I have a reporter actually in Zimbabwe, Fidas Consin(ph), and just to get the story behind the next level of the opposition movement in the country.

NEARY: You know, I have to say, having looked through all of your magazines and hearing the articles that the three of you just pointed out, that it struck me that a lot of people would be interested in these kinds of articles - white people, people from other ethnic groups, but they might not see them because they might think these magazines aren't meant for them. So I wonder if any of you see that as a problem.

Mr. WINDHAM: Sure. I was initially surprised by the broad level. You start with a particular audience or a particular demographic that you want to target. However, judging by our - particularly our social network involvement in Facebook, our readership has expanded. You know, all ages, all races, and we have a high number of readers from places like Australia. So it's really interesting, the content is geared towards a particular audience but is appealing to a broad audience. So I think that's been particularly surprising on my end.

NEARY: Lori, you were mentioning earlier that you have older readers. But what about - do you have people interested in reading your magazine beyond the ethnic group that it is intended to address?

Ms. ROBINSON: My demographics - the demographic information that I'm collecting does not include racial categories. We do include national background information. So, so far, I can tell you that people are either from the United States or from the Caribbean. It might be English-speaking Caribbean or French-speaking Caribbean, or they are from a Spanish or Portuguese-speaking country in Latin America.

But I definitely think another interesting thing is that one Web site who has posted a link to our Web site and that is sending the most traffic out of any other Web site who has posted a link to us is an African Web site. He's an African gentleman who lives in Canada. And his Web site is focused on connecting the African Diaspora globally, so he's translating some of my articles into French and we're getting a lot of traffic. So there's a lot of interest, I would say, from Africans and African descendants globally in what we're doing.

NEARY: What about white Americans? Do you think there is something valuable in your magazine for readers who may be white?

Ms. ROBINSON: Of course. I definitely think our demographics are changing rapidly. Latin American people are the fastest-growing ethnic demographic in this country. And so it would behoove all of us, I would say, to learn more about this community that's the largest minority group in this country. And so I think it's really important for all of us to do what we can to understand each other.

NEARY: And Navdeep, your magazine, ABCD Lady, is clearly targeted at South Asian American women. But do you - would you like to reach an audience beyond that?

Ms. KATHURIA: Definitely. We've actually received feedback from elsewhere, as well, from Africa, we've had feedback from England and India. I think it's interesting for people to read about the South Asian perspective on, for instance, we have articles like growing up in the deep South as a South Asian. We - just the articles that I think other people, and especially other ethnic groups, also, that have emigrated to the U.S., they - my best friend is Czechoslovakian and she, you know, has very similar experiences that I did. So I think we definitely appeal to a wider range of people.

NEARY: And I noticed at least one or two articles that seem to touch on generational differences within the South Asian American community. Do you consider part of your mission to build an understanding between first generation South Asian Americans and their daughters?

Ms. KATHURIA: Yeah, definitely to build upon the communication between the generations, for sure. I think a lot of our articles are also for kind of this - the other generation, and a lot of our parenting articles, for instance, help the other generation in addition to the first generation South Asian. So for instance, we have articles on teaching your children to be bilingual, what's the best way to do that, or having them develop a healthy identity on both South Asian and American. So things like - of that nature.

NEARY: Christopher, a question I asked earlier is, do you think there are enough people out there in your target audience to support your magazine for - in the long term?

Mr. WINDHAM: I think so, in the long term. Given the new information I just revealed about the broadening of the audience beyond our 18 to 34-year-old demo, I think it is. I mean, there's new statistics that came out - how the minorities will be the majority in 2050. Partly, there's six million college-educated 18 to 34-year-olds around the country at any point in time. So I think this is a very attractive time to have a magazine catering to this audience. You know, we can definitely service a vehicle or a tool to, you know, educate this audience, and it can continue to grow as the years progress.

NEARY: Christopher Windham is the publisher and executive editor of Human Nature magazine. We were also joined by Lori Robinson, the founding editor of Vida Afro-Latina, and she joined us from WYCD in Detroit. And Navdeep Kathuria is the editor-in-chief of ABCD Lady, and she joined us here in our Washington studios. Good to talk to you all.

Ms. KATHURIA: Thank you.

Ms. ROBINSON: Thank you.

Mr. WINDHAM: Thank you.

NEARY: And for links to the publications featured in Magazine Mavens, please go to our Web site. Click on the Tell Me More program page at

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