“The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”
- Malcolm X
Independent Black media institutions play a critical role within the Black liberation struggle. These institutions spread our stories, celebrate our culture, and raise awareness about issues critical to our survival under white colonial rule. For grassroots movements, media like newspapers, poetry collections, and pamphlets allow radical Black organizers to fuse critical consciousness with Black culture—an essential task for the transformation of our communities.
The first Black newspaper in this country was Freedom’s Journal, founded in New York City in 1827 on the same day that the state of New York abolished slavery. Samuel Cornish and John Russwurm served as the paper’s editors, and protested chattel slavery and lynchings within the journal’s pages.
“We wish to plead our own cause. Too long have others spoken for us. Too long have the public been deceived by misrepresentations, in things that concern us dearly,” wrote the two editors in their newspaper’s first editorial.
In the many years after the founding of Freedom’s Journal, other Black publications emerged throughout the country and helped spread our news and culture across the entire Diaspora. Two examples include the pamphlets of Ida B. Wells and The Black Panther newspaper distributed by the Black Panther Party in Oakland, CA.
During the Black Power era at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign (UIUC), Black student organizers recognized the need for a media platform and founded a newsletter named Drums in 1967. The students were part of an organization named Black Students Association, a group whose protests led to the creation of the Black cultural center and Black studies department at UIUC.
They created Drums to combine news with art and information about local Black cultural and intellectual programs. Articles about their political campaigns frequently appeared next to the writings of popular Black intellectuals and advertisements for open mic events and political education classes.
In 2016, Black Students for Revolution (BSFR) revived the newsletter in the form of a zine, which was released in the spring during our campaign to save the African American Studies Department from further budget cuts and mismanagement.
drums.black was created to carry on this tradition in digital form; a tradition left behind by Samuel Cornish and John Russwurm, the Black Students Association, and countless other Black editors, reporters, typesetters, artists, writers, and others who have contributed to the media institutions which celebrate our culture and push our communities closer to liberation.
We aim to curate a wide range of Black cultural, political, and social news to serve the local Black Champaign-Urbana community and the entire African Diaspora.