Melissa Brown Montgomery Advertiser
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Meet Tionna Taite, the University of Alabama undergrad who is taking the media world head-on with the launch of "Nineteen Fifty-Six", a student magazine created by and for Black students.
For Montgomery native Tionna Taite, it took less than 24 hours to dream up a concept and pitch for a groundbreaking student magazine at the University of Alabama.
Within weeks, she received the green light for Nineteen Fifty-Six, the university's first publication by and for Black students.
"I like to get things done," Taite said. "I'm a go-getter."
Taite began sketching out the digital magazine this summer, when she realized there were few creative or media spaces led by Black students at the university. The name came first, as a tribute to the year Autherine Lucy Foster, a Black graduate student, became the first person to integrate an Alabama university.
Taite envisioned a magazine that "celebrated and focused on Black culture, Black excellence, and Black student experiences" and brought more than 50 student creatives on board to make it a reality.
The result is a crisp digital publication, with student writers, designers and artists weaving together compelling visuals and inventive features with history and campus culture. The editions are complex and nuanced in scope, from an editor's letter celebrating the achievements of Black women in fashion to a reported piece on the disproportionate COVID-19 impact on Black communities. An ongoing series profiles student entrepreneurs, which Taite plans to carry into the spring semester.
"It's filling the void that was there on campus in the first place, but also educating the student body outside of the Black community about what students of color experience, not only on campus but outside of campus," Taite said. "We have students who are not Black students but who are dedicated and passionate about working for us."
Taite got an early taste for media growing up in Montgomery Public Schools, where she started as a student at the Bear Exploration Magnet School. She worked as an anchor on the student-run television broadcast, WBEC-TV, where she got to deliver morning announcements. In high school, she branched out into track & field, but also found time to write for the LAMP student newspaper.
Taite is on a pre-law track at UA — she was attending an intensive summer course when she dreamed up Nineteen Fifty-Six — but she chose to major in news media as a freshman.
"I thought it was a good major for writing and communicating," Taite said.
True to her word, Taite was a go-getter as soon as she landed on campus in 2019, involved in social media strategy for the Honors College magazine, Mosaic, and the student newspaper, The Crimson White. By the summer, she'd been offered the head job at Mosaic, which she's handled simultaneously to launching Nineteen Fifty-Six.
With Nineteen Fifty-Six taking off, Taite is already looking at her next venture. She'll return to her broadcasting routes next semester with a weekly radio segment centered around women who are blazing their own trails, whether it be students running their own small businesses or pioneering faculty members.
"I can definitely still see myself being involved in media in the future," Taite said of life after UA, though she's still dedicated to her pre-law track and plans to take the LSAT regardless. "I want to take the opportunities I have and reevaluate them down the road."
Whatever happens in the future, Taite is confident and proud in the work the inaugural Nineteen Fifty-Six team did in its first semester.
"The feedback has been phenomenal. We've had feedback from people who have no prior connections to the UA who have reached out that they read the magazine," Taite said. "Hearing how excited and happy the students are to have an outlet to express their creativity has been really nice."
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