Qimmah Saafir founded her magazine HANNAH (now funding on Kickstarter) not purely from passion, but also necessity. Saafir believes that, while a narrative around black women exists, it’s not diverse, wholly inclusive or voiced by the women themselves. Pragmatically and thoughtfully, she has taken the issue into her own hands and created a beautifully designed publication that celebrates black women through essays, interviews, op-eds, fashion photography and more—there’s even an informative column by a resident sexologist. Saafir spoke with us about the representation (and lack there of) of women of color currently, why HANNAH is essential and what she hopes to achieve with it.
Was there a catalyst or a specific moment that you realized HANNAH wasn’t just something you wanted, but something that was needed?
I’ve known it was needed since I was a teen. I witnessed the decrease in media that was geared toward me. There were only a few growing up and that number decreased even more as I got older. After working within that world as an adult, I grew tired of hearing reasons why black women weren’t covered. The reasoning was always shallow and untenable.
The name HANNAH came from something your father used to say to you; can you elaborate on the name and the meaning?
My father was my best friend. We were very similar and we both loved the sun. He used to call the sun HANNAH. I’ve always loved the name because of that. So it’s a tribute to him in that way. I also love that it means “grace” in Hebrew. It feels timeless and boundless to me and fitting for a book that celebrates how black women shine.
When is it ever okay for a group to be discussed, labeled, judged, picked over and apart, yet never offered a seat at the table of that discussion?
There’s a narrative surrounding women of color, but, as you say, very little is by black women themselves. Do you feel like there is one focus, misunderstanding or oversight that keeps occurring that keeps things, problematically, status quo?
The problem is just that. When is it ever okay for a group to be discussed, labeled, judged, picked over and apart, yet never offered a seat at the table of that discussion? We get talked about and over as if everyone else’s opinions—about who we are or what we are like or what we think or feel—somehow outweigh our truths. No. If you want to know, understand, relate to black women, listen more and assume less. Inquire more, impose less. Accept our whole and stop grabbing at and claiming bits of us.
In your Kickstarter video, you say that a main motivation for HANNAH is to give a voice to black women in categories from beauty to tech. Can you tell us a little about who’s going to be writing and photographing for the publication?
I actually say that the purpose is to add to the voices that already exist. HANNAH isn’t meant to speak for all black women. It is meant to give us another option and, hopefully, inspire the creation of many more. I look forward to bringing some fresh artists, voices to HANNAH’s pages.
Can you tell us a little about the aesthetic of the magazine—what was the aim in terms of design?
My focus in designing HANNAH is to bring a combination of minimalism and color to the book. I enjoy clean layouts and photos/stories that bring life to the pages without a lot of fuss. I create HANNAH’s design and style. I also work with a well-seasoned art director (Pope Phoenix) who helps execute my vision if it surpasses my design knowledge.
Ultimately, what’s your goal for HANNAH—what do you want readers to take away or feel after finishing reading it?
I want Black women to feel celebrated and uplifted. I want readers to walk away with a wider scope when it comes to Black women, our diversity and humanity.
Images courtesy of HANNAH