Karen Miano often wakes in the middle of the night with a story idea.
“I’ll be like, ‘I need to write this’, or I’d make a voice note and then wake up and just start writing,” says Miano, sporting red lipstick and a colourful bandana.
Miano is the co-founder of Origins Eile, a non-profit dedicated to celebrating Black, people of colour (POC) and queer people in Ireland.
Their latest project is Tongues, a magazine of essays, poems, and illustrations by Black people for the Black community.
The project involves 29 Black and queer artists with different academic backgrounds from psychology to photography, writing and illustration, sharing their everyday experiences through personal essays, poems and drawings.
“It’s a wide of range of things that people have submitted to the publication. It’s not like covering news, it’s not time-sensitive,” says Maïa Nunes, a queer Black writer.
The name Tongues represents totems of passion and rebellion. “It has several meanings or several associations, like mother tongue, sticking out your tongue and obviously intimacy and kissing,” Nunes says.
More Than Trauma
Iago Lima, is a Brazilian-born, queer writer for Tongues who is fascinated by what he says is the simplicity of the English language compared to his mother tongue.
Lima is a former Psychology student. He says he never viewed himself as a writer, but has been involved in all of the projects organised by the community at Origins Eile, including a book club.
For the magazine, Lima has written an essay entitled Queer is joy, Black is Joy. Recently he has been commissioned to write for the UK-based LGBTQI magazine, AZ.
“They wanted me to expand on the same topic,” Lima says.
How black and brown people are depicted in the media in Ireland is disappointing for the most part, he says.
Coverage often magnifies their perceived misdeeds and misfortunes, says Lima.
He cites coverage in the media of the death of Thiago Cortes, a student and Deliveroo driver killed in a hit-and-run, in September.
“It said his visa didn’t allow him to work for Deliveroo,” Lima says.
That framing of the story shifted blame onto Cortes. “I was like, ‘why is someone’s visa status a topic of conversation? Especially if the person’s dead,’” Lima says.
Lima says that some reporters who don’t have an immigrant background can’t empathise with those who do, creating one-sided coverage.
“Perhaps they never went through a situation where they had to get visas to be able to work and have better opportunities,” he says.
Lima says Tongues is hoping to prove that there is more to POC people than trauma and negative experiences.
“Every time we’re asked to do [interviews] we end up talking about trauma, and there is nothing wrong about talking about trauma, but I don’t think those mediums provide a way to process those feelings that we talk about,” Lima says.
Tongues, on the other hand, would portray experiences of POC, queer and Black people beyond worries and traumas.
Media in Ireland lacks diversity among reporters and newsroom staff, but also on the business side, too.
Hiring a few black and brown people doesn’t mean much if those calling the shots on the corporate side are primarily white, says Nunes.
“Putting a black reporter on RTÉ is not going to change anything if RTÉ doesn’t have black people on its board of directors,” Nunes says.
The plan is for the magazine to be distributed in coffee shops and similar places in the city, Nunes says. The team is determined to ship it to other POC, and queer people for free.
Says Miano, laughing: “We don’t mind stealing the mainstream media’s audiences.”
Tongues will be out by late autumn, Miano says. It is supported by LGBTQI groups like queer rights magazine Gay Community News (GCN).
The team at Tongues are still uncertain about the frequency of publication, but every few months seems most feasible, they say.
[Correction: This article was updated 22 October at 11.02 to reflect that Tongues is made by Black people not POC as previously stated, and there were 29 contributors not 19. We apologise for the error.]