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From left to right: Sia-Linda Lebbie, Autumn Leak, Mckayla Warwick, Stephanie Hasford, Julia Jones, and Niko Simpkins. (Photo from Harold Milton-Gorvie)

From a fashion designer who creates her own clothing to an engineer who raps in his free time, black undergraduate students at Penn are showcased in Faces of Black Penn, a new magazine created by the Black Student League to celebrate diversity in the black community.

The magazine includes interviews with and photographs of black students who hail from all four undergraduate schools and are involved with several activities on campus. 

“We wanted to showcase the diversity of the black community and show that blackness is not a monolith,” BSL President and College senior Christine Olagun-Samuel said. “There’s so many different aspects of blackness and people who understand their blackness in different ways."

While Faces of Black Penn will be published on their website, the BSL will also print 110 copies and distribute the magazine at a launch party on Dec. 8 in the ARCH building. Taylor McLendon, a rapper singer-songwriter and 2015 Wharton alumna who is known as “Ivy Sole,” will perform.

Olagun-Samuel worked on Faces of Black Penn with BSL Marketing Chair and College and Wharton sophomore Hadja Diallo over the summer, accepting applications from students willing to share their stories. Olagun-Samuel first came up with the idea for the magazine in fall 2018, inspired by the popular photojournalism series, “Humans of New York,” which publishes photographs and short interviews with random people in New York City. 

The project was originally supposed to be an ad campaign, but Diallo said she wanted to expand the project after seeing the success of La Vida, Penn’s only Latinx-interest magazine. 

Photo from Harold Milton-Gorvie

“After the first day of shooting, I just felt like we could do more for the community,” Diallo said. “Just looking at what other people at Penn are able to do, I just felt like this was something extraordinary that we can take to the next level.”

College sophomore Stephanie Hasford, who is featured in the magazine, spoke about her work as co-chair of the Counseling and Psychological Services advisory board and her goal of creating more access to mental health resources for low-income, inner-city communities.

“We are a minority on campus and a lot of the time, we don’t have these platforms where we get to feel important,” Hasford said. “It was really interesting and important for us to see that we can do anything that we set our minds to in a place like this that was not created for us. We’re making space for ourselves here.”

College junior Sia-Linda Lebbie is also featured in the magazine for her work on her podcast, The Trillest, which is hosted by The Daily Pennsylvanian. She said she hopes the magazine can provide inspiration for current and future Penn students.

“The younger generation can come to school, look at this magazine, and say, 'This is what my predecessors did, and I can do much better,'" Lebbie said.

Olagun-Samuel said she hopes that Faces of Black Penn can become an annual magazine with profiles that include black graduate students, faculty, and alumni. Diallo said she also plans to collaborate with other black organizations on campus to spotlight a diversity of students.

“Sometimes the black experience here at Penn is overlooked in terms of what we can do as a community,” Diallo said. “I’m hoping that other clubs within the black community are inspired [by the magazine] to take on larger projects, if they want to.”

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