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Sesi Magazine: The Only U.S. Print Magazine For Black Teens Reaches A Milestone: 10th Anniversary.  The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Founder & Editor-in-Chief Andréa Butler.

January 17, 2023

“Sesi doesn’t merely put Black girls on our covers. We create content specifically for Black teen girls in every, single issue.” Andréa Butler

“Putting more than one or two Black people on covers each year and having maybe one or two more articles that may relate to Black people inside a magazine isn’t ‘doing a good job covering that market.’” Andréa Butler

Three years ago I wrote the following introduction to my interview with Andréa Butler, founder and publisher of Sesimagazine: “Enthralled with magazines since she was a teenager, but frustrated by the lack of diversity when it came to the mainstream magazines she saw on newsstands as a girl, Andréa Butler vowed one day to start her own title for young black girls. Girls who really couldn’t relate to the pages of Seventeen and Teen People that they were forced to read by default then. So, when she went to grad school for magazine journalism, her seriousness and long-time vow became more of a reality. But after graduation she strayed from her course for a few years, teaching and then editing for someone else, only to come back strong, creating her own title: Sesi Magazine.

On a mission to fill that void in the mainstream media, one in which Andréa felt Black girls were virtually invisible, Sesi(a quarterly, print magazine for Black teen girls) celebrates them.”

A lot of things have changed since that original interview in 2019 and against all odds, and a pandemic,  Sesi (and Andréa, I may add) toughed it out and is now celebrating the magazine’s 10th anniversary.  On that occasion I reached out to Andréa again and asked her few questions about the magazine, the status of Black magazines, and the changes taking place in the magazine industry. 

So, I hope that you enjoy this conversation with Andréa Butler, editor in chief and founder, Sesi Magazine.

Andréa Butler, founder and editor-in-chief, Sesi magazine.

Samir Husni:  Sesi is celebrating ten years of publishing, how do you describe the journey of the first decade?

Andréa Butler: First of all, I can’t even believe we can say “decade” — it’s been quite the journey, and I’d liken it to a roller-coaster. There’ve been many highs (landing cover interviews, getting on B&N and Books-A-Million newsstands, and meeting lots of amazing people) and many lows (funding/lack of advertising, mainly — we’ve almost shut down two or three times, and we actually couldn’t print our summer 2022 issue, the first time that’s ever happened). It’s also been a complete joy! Even through all the rough and stressful times, I’ve loved working with our team to put together what is still the only print magazine for Black teen girls that’s based in the U.S.

S. H. : What has been the biggest stumbling block in the last decade and how were you able to overcome it?

A. B.: Our biggest stumbling back has been (and continues to be) lack of funding/advertising. We haven’t exactly overcome it, but to keep the magazine going, we ask for donations (just $5 a month can help), and I work three freelance editing and writing jobs to help pay for magazine things. It’s definitely a lot to juggle, but I make it work the best I can.

S. H.:  What has been the most pleasant moment in the last decade?

A. B.: I’ve had many favorite moments over the past decade, but if I have to pick one, I’d probably say finally getting on newsstands — after six years of trying. Besides that, meeting readers at meet-and-greets and even locally sometimes when I’m running errands, as well as meeting librarians at conferences have been some of my favorite moments. Librarians have always understood the need for Sesi and have been soooo supportive.

S. H. :  The mainstream media have increased its coverage of African Americans in the last two years, has that helped or hindered Sesi and why?

A. B.: This has neither helped nor hindered Sesi. Mainstream media may have put more Black people on their covers in recent years (which wasn’t too hard, since before they were only doing one or two a year), but Sesi doesn’t merely put Black girls on our covers. We create content specifically for Black teen girls in every, single issue. We don’t do it for performative purposes or because Black people are trending. We cover the Black girl’s mainstream all year long. Mainstream magazines will never be able to do what Sesi does; they aren’t niche. 

S. H. : Some say there is no need anymore for a separate black magazine since the mainstream media is doing a good job covering that market.  What say you and is there room for a black magazine in the time that such biggies as Ebony and Jet are gone?

A. B.: I actually started laughing at “since the mainstream media is doing a good job covering that market.” Putting more than one or two Black people on covers each year and having maybe one or two more articles that may relate to Black people inside a magazine isn’t “doing a good job covering that market.” I stand by what I said earlier: Mainstream magazines will never be able to do what Black magazines do, as Black magazines are specifically geared toward Black people and cover nothing but Black people. There will always be room for Black magazines like Sesi — especially when racism, et al continue to run rampant in this country and the world.

S. H. :  What are the plans for the second decade of Sesi?

A. B.: Our plans for decade two are to keep growing and finding new ways to bring in money in order to do that; we’ll also be adding new columns and departments to the mag, as well as working more on our social media presence. Overall, though, we’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing: covering the Black girl’s mainstream.

S. H. :  Please ask yourself a question and answer it…

A. B.: Q: Besides subscribing, how can people ensure Sesi sticks around for another 10 years?

A: You can purchase copies at Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million, donate, or help spread the word by telling your friends and family about the mag! And, if you represent a brand that provides services or products relevant to Black teen girls, you can advertise with us. 🙂

S. H. :  Any additional information you would like to add…

A. B.: It’s been an honor and a blessing to be able to publish Sesi for the past 10 years, and I pray we can continue for many decades to come. The magazine means so much to our readers — they tell us mainstream media doesn’t do enough to cover them, they tell us how Sesi has helped them be more comfortable in their own skin and hair, they submit their poetry and short stories to us and are excited when they’re published, and they tell us, in general, how much it means to them to see girls who look like them on our covers and inside the magazine. Oh, and they make it known that they prefer print. Let me say that one more time: Our teen readers PREFER PRINT by 97%.

S. H. : My typical last question, what keeps you up at night these days?

A. B.: These days, I’d say the funding aspect is definitely what still keeps me up at night. Thinking about the hundreds of brands (non-Black-owned and Black-owned) that I’ve reached out to multiple times over the past decade that have told me they don’t pay for advertising but “could we just write about them” and other such responses has been disappointing and frustrating. So, I do lie awake sometimes thinking up other ideas to raise funding that’s ongoing from people and/or brands that truly value our readers and Sesi‘s mission to those readers. (You can find ads from the three brands that currently do those things in our current issue.)

S.H. : Thank you and all the best for the next decade of Sesi.

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