Tech, Now + Beyond

Media outlets, put your money where your mouth is

Is there a place, I wondered, where we could read and write and listen and speak without being other?

The Tempest needed to happen five years ago. Because five years ago, I was a teenager spending countless hours Googling websites and publications where a young Pakistani girl could read and submit stories about her family, her faith, her politics, her poetics.

Spoiler alert: I didn’t find any.

Five years ago, we needed a place where young college students picking their major could read interviews with women changing the way we use the Internet and building brilliant small businesses and creating characters that look like us. We needed a place where young women raising children of color could talk about how to raise biracial children and the spice level of the food they would cook for their families – just as much as we needed a space for young women of color to confess that they didn’t want to get married or have children.

But it didn’t exist yet. I watched as media companies with similar mission statements – diversity! women! new perspectives! – emerged. But they were funded and launched by white men, or run by offices full of white women, or they refused to pay their writers, or they tokenized their writers of color. Or all of the above.

A little over a year ago, I found Coming of Faith on Twitter. It was a radical, colorful media site for millennial Muslim American women, who wrote pieces about being the hijabi dancing at a club or facing discrimination at the airport or trying to learn how to reproduce their mother’s chai recipe. I fell in love. There was no one else, in print or on TV or on the web, who was doing anything like this. After writing a poem or two casually for the site and going through a Skype interview to become a section editor, the site’s co-founder Najira held me back after one of my first editorial team meetings.

So, we’ve been thinking a lot about the site and what kind of submissions and comments we get, and a lot of people are basically saying that we’ve created a new kind of platform for Muslim American women,” I remember her telling me over video chat. “And we’re thinking about expanding this so we can offer the same thing to all women of color and underrepresented women. So if you’re multiracial or Latina or Muslim or gay or non-binary or all of the above, we want to include your voice. Because no one else is.”

“Sounds good,” I responded. “Do we know when we’re relaunching?”

“We’re planning for the next couple months,” Najira said. “But we haven’t come up with a new name yet.”

When we held a full staff meeting a few weeks later, we decided on a name: The Tempest, to represent our tendency to rock the boat, turn the tide and storm past tradition. And sure, a couple months turned into a full year, but that only gave us more time to build connections with other niche publications and writers of color looking for publishing platforms. But we’re finally here, and I think we’re on the cusp of something special.

There’s no magic formula, though.

Like any media venture, for this to survive and succeed, it will take two things: we produce, you consume. We need your help for both. If you’re a writer, pitch us or join us as a regular contributor. (I like to think I’m a pretty good editor, and the worst that can happen is I’ll respond with some constructive criticism.) Apply for our fellowships (so that we sit on Skype for hours on end writing questions for your upcoming interview and send one another strings of emojis on Slack way past our bedtime). Or support us financially (so we can pay our contributors more and help underrepresented voices be heard).

And if you’d like to see us thrive, read our stories and share them with your network. Because our voices matter, and you deserve to see your experience represented in the media. So let’s start the storm.

  • Aysha Khan

    Aysha Khan is a journalist based in Baltimore, covering underrepresented communities and digital culture.