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The Robeson: SOAS’ first student-led magazine for PoC

By Louisa Johnson, MA Global Creative and Cultural Industries

The first student magazine by and for people of colour has come to SOAS. The Robeson was originally founded by Hisham Pryce-Parchment and Apoorva Sriram in 2019, but will be officially relaunching this spring. 

Pryce-Parchment, final year World Philosophies student and two-year Antiracism Officer, explains his reasons for co-founding the magazine: ‘I wanted to focus on creative responses to tackling racism, both on campus and beyond.’ Ultimately, The Robeson acts as an ‘antiracism initiative’ — something Pryce-Parchment brainstormed during his first year as Antiracism Officer for the SOAS Students’ Union. He was inspired by the student magazines he saw at other campuses, and wanted to replicate something similar for students of colour at SOAS.

‘There are many barriers to being published as a PoC in the industry,’ remarks Pryce-Parchment. Indeed, the 2016 City of London survey found that British journalism is 94% white and 55% male. Four years on, and the findings from Women in Journalism suggest little improvement. A one-week evaluation of the prime-time news outlets in mid-July 2020 discovered that: ‘Not a single story by a Black reporter appeared on the front page of a UK newspaper,’ and ‘only six front page stories were written by BAME reporters.’

Pryce-Parchment hence recognises the importance of positive action schemes in media industries. ‘We have had a few emails asking why The Robeson is only for PoC,’ he explains, ‘The tone of almost all of these emails was one of entitlement. One such email went as far as to ask: “Is this not a reverse form of racism?”’ Despite objections, Pryce-Parchment reinforces the magazine’s ‘For Us, By Us’ policy, declaring: ‘We are unapologetic in our vision, and about the space we want to hold.’

‘The magazine is less about the achievements or stature of “Paul Robeson” the man, and more about honouring a spiritual legacy and vision that found its roots in this institution we all share.’

The Robeson magazine takes its name from Paul Robeson, the American artist, activist, and SOAS alumnus known for his antiracist and socialist beliefs. Pryce-Parchment explains: ‘The magazine is less about the achievements or stature of “Paul Robeson” the man, and more about honouring a spiritual legacy and vision that found its roots in this institution we all share.’ 

With the recent focus on mourning and grief for PoC this past year, Pryce-Parchment insists he wants The Robeson to be a ‘thing of joy.’ Rather than solely facilitating discussions about ‘suffering, pain, and death,’ he believes publishing joy is also an important part of the ‘healing and restorative practices in writing.’ Therefore, while The Robeson will publish serious essays and articles, it also welcomes creative submissions, such as poetry, fiction, memes, photography, illustrations, playlists, jokes, and more.

This initiative builds on Pryce-Parchment’s earlier work. Last year, Pryce-Parchment told the Spirit he wanted to publish more BAME voices in the SOAS Undergraduate Research Journal. However, content for this publication is restricted to academic essays. One year later, Pryce-Parchment now says that The Robeson will ensure PoC at SOAS also have a platform which allows for more variety in form; ‘It’s so important for us as students of colour to just publish — even if it’s just a dump. Whatever you want to share with the community!’

When asked about his aims for The Robeson, Pryce-Parchment stated that he hopes it brings any prospecting contributor ‘a sense of pride — in being a person of colour, in being a student at SOAS, and in their own talent.’

You can keep up to date with The Robeson launch this term by following their Instagram account, @therobesonmag.

Photo caption: The Robeson magazine logo (Credit: The Robeson).

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