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Fruits of Change

Cover art by Ramona Ward

Bob Dylan wrote "The Times They Are A'Changin'" 40 years ago and far from Mississippi. But the sentiment applies here and now; young creatives who couldn't be any more different are sharing a common goal — change — and working to make it happen.

C. Liegh McInnis and Nicole Stowe are two of those innovators: Both publish their own small magazines. McInnis' Black Magnolias, which he started with his wife, Monica Taylor-McInnis, is a collaborative effort to publish and promote work by writers in the African-American community. Stowe's Monkey, mostly a one-woman show, promotes design in the graphic-design community.

In its third issue, Black Magnolias is a thick, bound publication containing pieces ranging from a 12-page diatribe discussing "Faulkner's (De)Construction of Race in Flags in the Dust" to poems about young love, unrequited love and sexual love. There are cries to return to a simpler time and poems for Odetta, John Lee Hooker and Koko Taylor.

Monkey started as a way for Stowe and her graphic-design friends, who were scattered around the country, to keep in touch. Over the years it evolved from a personal 'zine into a small magazine available by subscription, which she started publishing this year. She envisions having contributors from all areas of design — architecture, glass-making and graphics included. "Pearl Glass Studios make beautiful-stained glass windows. Architects should know about them," she declares, pushing her bold sunglasses up on her ivory-colored nose.
Black Magnolias began as an unintimidating way for young African-American writers to get published. McInnis wants to illustrate Alice Walker's belief that "the richness of the black writer's experience in the South can be remarkable, though some people may not think so." McInnis shakes his corn-rowed head, his one diamond earring catching the light. "No one ever taught me how to get published," he says. " I thought if I started this, it could help the writers starting out."

At 26 pages, the first issue of Monkey contains several delightful articles, Web addresses for fonts and funky items, and cool graphic images. The current issue is printed on thick beige paper and bound with red thread on a sewing machine. Stowe says the format will be different every issue.

McInnis, 32, a softball-playing, Aristotle-quoting black nationalist, has self-published seven books, including a 580-page analysis of Prince lyrics. He began teaching at Jackson State University because all of the writers he knew also taught. He tells his students that if they are studying creative writing because they "want a Lexus," they can leave right now. He says you write because you have to, not because you want to.

Stowe, 27, is Soho hip, wearing a simple outfit of a black scoop-neck T-shirt, khaki capris and black sandals. She talks about attending Tony Difatta's opening at Nunnery's Gallery later that night. She majored in graphic design and photography at Delta State and started out as a professional photographer. Later, she switched to design and is now happily employed by the Ramey Agency. "At some point people (in Jackson) stopped paying enough attention to art, or the arts," she says. "People who are in design and creative fields got isolated from each other." Stowe says she hopes Monkey can be a catalyst for something else, something bigger, something different.

McInnis says growing up in the Delta taught him that art should be useful. "I believe artists have to be trained about the power that they have to change lives."

Annual subscriptions are $15 for Black Magnolias (352-3192) and $10 for Monkey (e-mail: iloaf@mac.com).

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