“One of the things that has been so beautiful being able to work on this documentary is that when I was interviewing people, it really just felt like I was talking to my homies about the experiences we went through and it was cool to get their perspectives,” says Nile Lansana, director of The Black Voice’s first documentary titled “We The Vision.” “I think sometimes when you are so much in the thick of the work, you don’t really take a moment to recognize the gravity and the weight of what you were doing. So this was a chance to watch my friends and my peers and mentors and the people who inspired me really have their moment of reflection and recognizing the power of the work that they were doing.”
The Black Voice news publication was first created in 1971 with the mission to provide a safe space for Black and African diasporic students attending UW-Madison. “We The Vision,” which will be presented at Marquee Cinema in Union South on Tuesday, March 1, 6 p.m., is the tale of The Black Voice’s origins, influence and legacy told by many of the voices who have shaped its success. The documentary commemorates the 50th anniversary of the founding of The Black Voice, during the 2020-21 school year.
The screening, originally set for Feb. 22, has been postponed one week because of inclement weather and road conditions and will now take place at 6 pm on March 1.
Lansana and other The Black Voice members and alumni will host a brief discussion after tonight’s screening. Refreshments will also be provided.
“The documentary touches on the legacy that The Black Voice established in the 1970s as a byproduct of the 1969 Black student strike when Black students felt like their voices were not being heard so they wanted to create a space and a platform for them to freely express themselves in all of their dimensions … and that was The Black Voice,” Lansana tells Madison365.
The first issue was printed in 1971. “It went on for two years and the last issue of The Black Voice’s first installment was in 1973,” Lansana says. “It fell off and I definitely think that has to do with the culture of racism and erasure that Black students have to deal with at UW-Madison and how hard it can be to find support and sustainability when we’re trying to organize.”
Lansana and Lauryn Azu, the current editor-in-chief of The Black Voice, spent a day going to the UW archives to hold and read and enjoy those first issues of The Black Voice from the early ’70s.
“It was really special to be reading those stories and to see how much The Black Voice has grown since then, but to also realize how surreal it was that they were talking about a lot of the same issues that we are today,” Lansana says. “Being able to see that parallel was a really insightful experience.”
Jordan Gaines, who graduated from UW-Madison in 2016 with a B.A. in English Language and Literature and Black Women’s Studies, revived The Black Voice in 2015. Gaines, who would later become a cultural critic and contributor for Madison365, converted the once print publication into an online news website which is how The Black Voice operates today.
“That first year she was doing it all by herself. Then she passed it on to Alexandria Mack,” Lansana says. “I think one of the beautiful things that a lot of people touch on in the documentary is the informal mentorship that happens within the Black Voices.”
Lansana, who has been with The Black Voice since he was a freshman, credits UW Journalism Professor Sue Robinson, who advises The Black Voice and the National Association for Black Journalists .“She has been a great mentor for me and has been the advisor for the Black Voice since Jordan Gaines revived it,” he says.
Lansana is hoping for a nice turnout tonight for “We The Vision,” the screening of their first documentary that chronicles the legacy of the publication.
“You’re going to get to see the vibrant personalities and the illustrious voices that the members of The Black Voice has and have hade in the past,” he says. “I want people to pull up and have a great time and to enjoy and to be immersed in the history and the collective of Black storytellers that are absolutely incredible and crucial to this university, the campus at large and the community at large. They deserve their moment to be honored.”
“We The Vision” will be presented at Marquee Cinema in Union South on Tuesday, March 1, at 6 p.m. RSVP by clicking here. For more information on The Black Voice or tonight’s documentary screening, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.