Preserving Armenia Within America

What does it mean to be a byproduct of your culture? Or better yet, what does it mean to be a blend of more than one? It’s a big question, one that many families and individuals ask themselves as our world becomes more open and diverse. But, how better to approach this topic than through art?

It’s exactly how Rafaella Safarian has taken on the exploration of her cultures. On top of running her own literary magazine, Hyebred Magazine, she’s also a writer who looks at the world she grew up in and the world around her to drive her fiction forward.

“I grew up in an Armenian household and I grew up going to the Armenian church, so it was really based on all of my observations about myself, my family, my culture and kind of creating these stories to make it relatable,” said Rafaella. “Cause in a sense they’re like immigrant stories, some of them, and you appreciate how far your culture has brought you.”

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(Check out/listen to the full podcast here! Or just keep reading as well, reading is cool.)


She recently graduated from her undergrad in Creative Writing, but during her time in school, she was able to find what she wanted to write towards. Many young writers struggle in finding their ‘voice’ or know what they are writing about. Rafaella not only knows what she is writing about, but she explores it further as she grows as an artist.

In fact, Rafaella wrote four short stories for her thesis, titled “The Half-Open Pomegranate” which is heavily based on the Armenian culture.

“The image of the half-open pomegranate is a symbol of what Armenia has become,” said Rafaella. “The pomegranate, which is the motherland, was ripped open during the Genocide of 1915. Her seeds have scattered all over the globe, sprouting new communities which are still thriving to this day. Each of the stories embodies the strength of the Armenian people, who are more than just victims of Genocide. They are fruitful, resilient, and indestructible.”

Her stories don’t stop there, though. She might have finished her thesis defense (phew) but, to her, that doesn’t mean her stories are done.

“How can I learn from this piece?” she asks herself. “How can I incorporate what I have learned during my four years doing a bachelor’s in creative writing? How can I use all that knowledge to make this the best story I can? I’m just kind of building the short story collection, actually. I’m revising here and there because, as a perfectionist, and I think any artist or writer will say that their work is not finished yet.”


As hard of a worker as she is, Rafaella is very humble about the work she does. She knows what it means to be a young artist and wears the badge proudly.

“I’m an Emerging writer, and I’m totally fine with that,” she said. “I think there’s a fear of being an emerging writer because a lot of the time, you’re still trying to find your voice and I think a lot of publishers think you’re trying to find your voice too. So, if you send them your best, then they’ll know, who this person is and I think that’s really important to establish yourself as a writer, in terms of your voice.”

Just like any other writer, established  or otherwise, Rafaella has received her fair share of rejection letters. But as the editor-in-chief of Hyebred Magazine, a magazine dedicated to artists of Armenian descent, she doesn’t like to hand them out.

“For me, it’s like harder for me to write a rejection than to receive one,” she said. “I wanted it to be a space where emerging and established writers will definately be published. I think it is important for a CV booster, to have a publication under your belt in order to write a cover letter.”




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Her magazine has just published its fourth issue and is continuing to grow and thrive since she started it back in her undergrad.

“I was really shocked about how positive the response was and people who had originally submitted in the first issue, submitted in the third one as well and it was just kind of really wonderful because it kind of means that they trust the journal,” she said. “They trust its mission and that just makes me really happy.”

She is now continuing her studies, but not with writing. No, no. Rafaella is currently in law school learning about justice, but she wants to apply what she learns to her writing.

“Hopefully I will try to balance it. Hopefully it’s not 90% of studying, 10% writing,” she said. “Stepping away from writing is gonna be a challenge because I know that when I am not allowed to write, for example because I have to study, it’s gonna make me want to write more. I also think that’s gonna be a good thing cause I want this break to learn more about justice, and apply that to my writing.”

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You can follow Hyebred Magazine and all of the amazing stuff Rafaella does on Twitter and Instagram.

You can also access Issue 4 and all the previous issues of Hyebred here!

Still want to know more about Rafaella and her amazing work, both in writing and in the community? Click here to listen to the full episode!

As always, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR READING AND FOR SUPPORTING US! MUCH LOVE!!!

Creating Clothes for a Cause

Emma Bush was always running around in clothes her mom and grandma would make for her. So it wasn’t a big surprise to anyone when Emma learned how to make her own clothes and accessories from the early age of six.

“I’ve been doing that for a long time, sewing, making jewelry, and art and different things,” Emma said. “All of my interests kind of collide as far as handiwork.”

 Emma Bush, shopping for supplies.

Emma Bush, shopping for supplies.

(Keep reading! But also click here to listen to the full episode!)

It didn’t occur to her until she was around fifteen that she could do something with these amazing skills. After realizing she didn’t want to be a dentist due to her disdain for spit, she started looking for other avenues that would eventually lead her to where she is now. The owner, sole creator, and designer of the clothing brand ‘Soapbox Clothing for a Cause.’

“I was doing alterations for people in high school so I had the art and everything,” she said. “I was just like, ‘okay, let’s see about making clothes’. By the time I graduated, and I went to community college, I was like we’re gonna do fashion design. That’s gonna be my major.”

During a spring fashion show in college, Emma used the name ‘Soapbox Clothing’ for the first time when she signed up to show a collection of items. She was so proud of her collection and has people remember items from it to this day.

 From a shoot for Soapbox Clothing. Two looks Emma made. (Photo by: Raina Bowers)

From a shoot for Soapbox Clothing. Two looks Emma made. (Photo by: Raina Bowers)

“It was a really good collection, it was all like these satin slip dresses and they were really pretty,” she said. “People still, every once in awhile, will be like ‘oh you made that like silver dress’. Cause I had this like six-foot tiny like supermodel girl wear it, and that was cool.”

Her clothing is now in full swing and she can hardly find time to do much of anything else. Yet while she is making clothes and building her own company, she is also using the proceeds to donate to charities and initiatives that she believes it.

“I don’t have free time because I’m doing this all the time, and I love it, which is great,” Emma said. “It’s not something that I’m just pushing to the side. It’s something I genuinely want to build.”

She donates to causes such as the Honeybee Conservancy, Fund for the Children of Flint, Michigan, PLanned Parenthood and many others. As an outspoken feminist and activist, she knows that talking about problems and having open discussions is only half the battle. To help, she makes sure she is helping causes she knows helps others.

“If you like my stuff you’re gonna be benefiting these various things I believe in,” she said. “So like, women’s rights, Black Lives Matter, the environment, all these different things that I’m gonna try and fuel, that I believe in.”

Oftentimes, Emma collaborates with other local artists for photoshoots, pop-ups and other opportunities. Even though she has had a few people try and take advantage of her along the way, it hasn’t stopped her from working with others and joining in the creative Phoenix scene.

“It’s kind of a wild thing to sit down and go, ‘oh wow, I’m so much more capable of making things and ideas and everything,’” she said. “Now I’m bringing other artists into it and it’s great and it’s all so good. Very fulfilling.”

Starting her business has not been easy. In the past, she has had people use her to get free products in exchange for little-to-nothing in return. Like many people starting a business, though, she has learned the value of her time and her products and is now able to navigate through those who really want to help out and work together from those who just want a free shirt.

“I’m placing more value on myself, which is healthy and great,” Emma said. “I’m not sending out free things because you know, I worked really hard to make this. It’s not super difficult to be nice and open to other people. So, if people want to make an effort, they will, and if they don’t, forget em.”

 Photo of Emma.

Photo of Emma.

Emma works hard to follow what she believes in and is able to do it all by following her passion. As her company grows, we are sure many people will be wearing and supporting her!

“Stand, not by your own, but by yourself on what you want to do,” says Emma.

You can follow Emma and see all of her fabulous merchandise on Twitter and Instagram.

ALSO, you can check out her website here!

Still want to know more about Emma and starting a business? Click here to listen to the full episode!

Thank you so much, once again, to our follower and supporters! It means a lot to us!

Fear of a Black Queer Planet

We are living now inside the imagination of people who thought economic disparity and environmental destruction were acceptable costs for their power. It is our right and responsibility to write ourselves into the future. All organizing is science fiction. If you are shaping the future, you are a futurist. A visionary fiction is a way to practice the future in our minds, alone and together. -Adrienne Maree Brown.

 

Dallas Diaz read Jaye and Raina that quote when they met up with them back in July. They were reading from a book titled, Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds which can sum up the amazing work Dallas has done thus far in their young life.

 

“I’m just a little 22 year old out of college with my first career trying to figure things out and how to flip the politics of this state that is very corrupt,” they said. “I’m looking for a place where I can be black and queer and be trusted and not tokenized for that, but empowered by that.”

 

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(Click here to listen to the amazing episode! But also keep reading, please! They say a lot of cool things that didn’t make it into the final cut of the episode!)

 

Dallas grew up going to public school and learning to play many instruments including guitar, keyboard, bass, and drums (among others). When it came to joining bands, though, they were always asked to play bass and keyboard instead of lead guitar. As if that could stop them from getting out into the spotlight.

 

When a friend asked them to join a band as the drummer, they knew it was their time to get out from the background and into the spotlight.

 

“I’ve been playing music since I was 5 years old, but this is my first time actually being in a group with anybody playing music and playing shows and things like that, which is something I’ve wanted to do my whole life, but had my friend not asked me and trusted me and someone else showed that type of confidence in me, I wouldn’t have done it,” they said.

 

Of course, being behind the drumset had its challenges both on and off the stage. People weren’t expecting to see a young black person in that role. Dallas was in charge of the rhythm on stage, and off stage they were trying to make their way in the world untokenized.

 

“I think there’s a vacuum and I think a lot of marginalized artists, and artists who have been healing their trauma through art, are gonna find a lot more validation,” they said. “There are spaces to start having these critical conversations that we’ve been missing out on.”

 

On top of finding their own voice in music, Dallas is a passionate activist. In a world that doesn’t want to change, Dallas has decided to speak louder and give a voice that wasn’t always there for them.

 

“I was having a lot of trouble negotiating [anti-blackness within communities of color in Arizona organizations] as well as being queer, being a nonbinary person,” they said. “I was in a lot of spaces, the first non binary person to be around, so it was really tasked onto me to teach people how to treat me right.”

 

 Remember, YOUR VOICE MATTERS! Stand up and be heard.

Remember, YOUR VOICE MATTERS! Stand up and be heard.

Finding the space to be yourself and to advocate for those you don’t see or hear is exactly what makes Dallas a trailblazer in our community.

 

Like Toni Morrison said, “If there is a book that you want to read, but it hasn't been written yet, you must be the one to write it.” Dallas writes their own story. When they didn’t see themselves being represented in the community or in music, they stepped in.

 

“Validating myself through watching what other artists are doing and watching other people through their processes, that’s what art is,” they said. “I think I had such a self-consciousness that comes with perfectionism. I didn’t want to put anything out if it didn’t have like good melodic sense or anything.”

 

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Making their music heard in the community they live in is just one way we can see the importance of self-publishing. Maybe not everyone will understand your voice or your story at first, but getting it out there is the first step.

 

“I’ve been spending some time trying to really be grateful for right now, and what I was so grateful for yesterday, it kind of overwhelmed me: I was realizing how many young emerging artists and changemakers I’ve met in the middle of the desert already in my young 20s and what that’s going to look like as I cultivate it as I get older,” Dallas said.

 

You can follow Dallas and all of the amazing stuff they are doing on Instagram.

 

Still want to hear more about Dallas and their work? Click here to listen to the full episode!

 

Thank you so much for reading and for supporting us!

 

When Your Art is Your Work

As artists, or even just creative people, we all dream of the day where we can make a living off of our passions. But what happens when your creative energy and passion are the only thing you do to make a living? Does your ability to produce your art take a hit? Well, we sat down with someone who knows a lot about just that.

 

Natalie Allen is a full-time freelance travel and editorial photographer and writer. She has been full-time for a while now but has continued to love what she does and produce incredible work time and time again.

 

 Photo by: Natalie Allen

Photo by: Natalie Allen

(Click here to listen to the full episode! To learn even MORE about our guest, just keep reading!)

 

“Over time when you’re more experienced, your work starts to dramatically develop,” said Natalie. “You start to find your voice. And again, when you start sharing your personal-loved photos on the internet, people also take notice.”

 

Her personal love for photography and documentation stems all the way back to high school, and back then phone cameras weren’t what they are now. If you wanted good photos, you had to get a good camera.

 

“I just saved up for you know, a canon t3i, and it just forever changed my life,” said Natalie. “I really wanted a little extra something to just have those good memories, because I loved journaling - I loved photo albums and scrapbooks and all that other crap. I’m a sucker for that shit, so like I really just wanted to ultimately document my friends and my time in high quality.”

 

She posted her photos of her friends on social media, and people started to see how talented she was. When it came time for her senior year, she was on the council for her school’s theatre department as the historian, i.e. the photographer.

 

“People just started to take notice, and then I thought, well shoot, this is a pretty good business to run,” she said. “It just turned into something so much bigger, and I am just totally running with the wind with it now.”

 

 Photo by: Natalie Allen

Photo by: Natalie Allen

She works in more than just photography now. In fact, Natalie is a licensed yoga instructor, a contributor for Fieldmag, an ambassador for United by Blue, a field scout for Hipcamp, and a freelance writer for many different blogs for companies. When she’s working on so many projects at once, one might ask how she balances her work and personal life.

 

“What really helps me is the film vs digital work,” she said. “So like film is my personal sort of hobby with photography that I’m kind of toying with and playing with and having some good old times with. And then the digital aspect of photography is still definitely there, and I can use that as sort of my career point. I don’t know. Finding that balance is definitely hard.”

 

A couple of years ago, Natalie was feeling bogged down and uninspired by her work. So she asked herself what she wanted to try. What was drawing her away? That’s when she found her love for film photography.

 

“It’s just something that speaks to me more,” she said. “It’s more raw, more honest. And there’s just something about getting film back.”

 

I think that losing your voice in your art is something that we all can relate to at one point or another (or maybe multiple points) but, like Natalie, it’s all about balance and finding what you love and chasing it.

 

“You know I would say last year was a really good year for me,” she said. “I had a lot of travel opportunities, whether they were entirely personal or for jobs, and I just feel like I really found my voice finally after years of doing this.”

 

 Photo by: Natalie Allen

Photo by: Natalie Allen

When your art becomes your job, there are steps you can take to keep yourself sane. Just remember, people take notice when you love what you do. Or, remind yourself of what you are doing, just like Natalie does.

 

“Even on my travels when I shoot I try to just take as many photos as I possibly can while simultaneously living in the moment and just taking in all of the environments and sights and smells and sounds and the other senses that do come with photography that help create that image,” Natalie said.

 

You can follow Natalie and all of the amazing stuff she is doing on Twitter and Instagram. Or check out her website! (and if you need any photos done, you know, hit her up!)

 

Still want to hear more about Natalie and freelancing? Click here to listen to the full episode!

 

Thank you so much, once again, to our followers and supporters! It means a lot to us!

 

Publishing Without Anyone's Permission

Raise your hand if you have ever felt silenced before. If you’re anything like us, you probably have. Maybe it was in a classroom, in a relationship, in your family, or even just in general when you are trying to join a conversation. Well, you’re not alone.

 

“I first started making zines in my last semester of college, because I was studying journalism and I felt like I had no place to publish what I was really passionate about,” said Charissa Lucille, a self-published zinster, owner of the Wasted Ink Zine Distro and organizer for the Phoenix Zine Fest.

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(Check out/listen to the full podcast here! Or just keep reading as well, reading is cool.)

 

After pursuing a degree in journalism Charissa felt her writing was stifled, like she couldn’t take a chance writing anything that could be considered an opinion. You aren’t supposed to have an opinion when you are a journalist and and four years of being told to keep it to herself, she had had enough.

 

“I didn’t feel like there was any place in the local news outlets that would be a good fit for what I wanted to write about, you know that was very activism focused, that was very intersectional,” she said. “There was not a lot of opportunities to have that work published.”

 

So she decided to take her voice back into her own hands. She started working on her first zine her last semester of college.

 

For those who may not be familiar, a “zine” is a self-published magazine that can contain any topic, style, color or design it wants. It is usually created by an individual or a small team of people.

 

“It is introspective. It is diving deep and kind of uncovering all the parts of me that I might not think are all that important or story worthy, but there’s always another person that connects to those stories,” she said.

 

Most of Charissa’s zines follow the topic of feminism and, in recent years, have a focus with photography and prose in the publications. Her zines are personal and reflective of her own life.

 

“My next zine that I’m working on is actually a zine about endometriosis and the surgery that I had earlier this year about that,” she said. “So, again, they’re more educational, they’re more personal. They’re not fiction in any way.”

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Her zines have blossomed from something she was just doing in her freetime to a passion project she just couldn’t keep quiet about. She has now made about 15 zines (some collaborative projects, some individual) since beginning four years ago.

 

“I think it’s good to just try and make those connections by just telling your story,” Charissa said. “And I think so far just working on this project [the Distro], it’s really made a lot of people reach out to me and tell me their own story, which is really beautiful.”

 

Three years ago, Charissa opened up the Wasted Ink Zine Distro in Phoenix where she started building a library and collection of zines from around the world. Walking into the distro is like stepping into a time capsule (a capsule with an adorable octopus painted on the wall). It now houses over 250 artists with some zines going all the way back to the 80’s.

 

“I think holding that space a very interesting challenge and learning process, and I’m definitely not done learning,” she said.

 

On top of running the distro, Charissa also hosts various workshops for the community and helps to organize the Phoenix Zine Fest. Like any good leader, Charissa has made it a priority to make the space a welcoming one.

 

“We have so many people making their first zines ever, which is wildly exciting,” she said. “And I’m always inspired by the new stuff that comes in. It’s still such a newish community that we’re really shaping and kind of nudging what it looks like, and again, how we conduct ourselves and how we set our goals and invite more and more people.”

 

With so many young, vulnerable and interested individuals who attend these things, she knows just how important it is to make them feel they can speak up.

 

“Every person who walks through the door matters,” she said. “Every single person. Because it is, it’s an act of bravery to go into a space you’ve never been to before, and to participate, especially if it involves creativity… everyone that walks through the doors I applaud, because it’s so brave to enter a new space.”

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Charissa says she knows how important it is to carry a diverse voice within the distro, because it should be a space for everyone. She continues to grow and develop the zine community in Phoenix despite any challenges that are thrown her way.

 

“Sometimes I’ve encountered hate because of the content that is published in my feminist zines,” she said. “And that’s fine. Like, you can tweet at me all you want. I don’t care. I will be focusing on programming here and to try and continue to bring people together and inspire storytelling through zines. I think those are my goals.”

 

You can follow Charissa and all of the amazing stuff she is doing on Twitter and Instagram.

 

ALSO, you can attend the Phoenix Zine Fest and meet her and a bunch of other really cool people (like us here at the podcast, we’ll be there) on October 28th!

 

Still want to know more about Charissa and self-publishing? Click here to listen to the full episode!

 

Thank you so much, once again, to our follower and supporters! It means a lot to us!


 

The Shameless Women in Comedy

As a young female comedian, Trejon Dunkley has had to step out of her boundaries to pursue her passions. This fierce lady has overcome many pressures and excuses from others to seek opportunities in the Phoenix area. She is now a regular star, coordinator and host in the local comedy scene but it hasn’t been easy for her to break through and join the “boy’s club” we know as stand-up comedy.

 Meet Trejon Dunkley, a badass female comedian, actress, writer, editr, etc.

Meet Trejon Dunkley, a badass female comedian, actress, writer, editr, etc.

 

(Check out/listen to the full podcast here! Or just keep reading as well, I didn’t write this thing for nothing)

 

Looking at Trejon now, you wouldn’t imagine her journey to the stage to be met with so much doubt. She is a fearless, unapologetically funny and bright girl when she is in front of a crowd but she has had to overcome both racist and sexist interactions along the way.

 

Trejon came from a troubled home and had many instances growing up where she was bullied for the way she looked and acted. She speaks to how she didn’t fit in with the “cool black girl” mold and how her peers treated her.

 

“I got teased a lot because I wasn’t very good looking,” she says. “And I was very dark with kinky hair, so I got bullied a lot. I was just like a weird kid and I wasn’t cool, and you gotta be cool if you’re a black girl or you will be torn apart, and I just was not. I liked emo music and history.”

 

It wasn’t until she watched the 1997 movie of Cinderella with Brandy as the star, that she changed her outlook on what she could be. Trejon decided to pursue a degree in acting at Northern Arizona University after high school, but left quickly when she was met with the racist tones of her classmates.

 

“[They] were trying to tell me to ‘keep my expectations low’ because girls of your complexion don’t get leads. Another student just cornered me in the hallway and said ‘listen, you’re too black to get roles. I know. I’m dating a light-skinned black girl and she’ll probably get leads, but not if they find out she’s black.’”

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Even though she had some good professors and friends at NAU, she realized she didn’t want to stay there. Who would?

 

So she moved to Arizona State University and joined the screenwriting program.

 

“I thought, if they’re not gonna give me roles, I’ll just write my own. That’s the mindset that I kind of went in with.”

 

It was there at ASU she took her first comedy class which was taught by a black woman, the only woman in the film and media faculty, in fact. Trejon speaks to how having her as a mentor allowed her the courage and community she needed to feel she wasn’t going into everything blindly.

 

“I think it’s so important to be able to see people who look like you and have come from similar backgrounds as you in those positions of power, as directors and as actors or as professors. Seeing someone in your field makes you feel like you actually can do it because they did it before and they did it 30 years before me when things were tougher. I would really like to be that voice for someone one day.”

 

Despite all she has faced in school, theatre, comedy (among other areas of her life) Trejon is now thriving within the Phoenix comedy scene.

 

She is the host for Maiden Phx, a monthly all-female comedy show, a co host for the Great Exposure comedy show in Phoenix and she is the coordinator for a weekly open mic.

 

In her roles, she works to support diversity and opportunities for women of all shapes, sizes and color. She makes sure she is cultivating young women to pursue their dreams and chances of comedy.

 

“Hire women. Trust women. Just give them the same benefit of the doubt that you would give any other recommendation. And if she sucks, it’s probably not cause she’s a woman. It’s cause she sucks. Same with writers or creators of color. Don’t just hire them on to be the ‘urban flava’ or like the diversity casting.”

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She continues to push for women to join comedy and to give them the space they need to succeed.

 

Trejon said she knows the comedy scene is still very much a “boy’s club”, but the women in comedy aren’t to be fucked with. Rather, they should be treated with the same respect and patience as male comedians.

 

“There’s still not enough women getting booked. There’s still not enough women who have the confidence to take the chance and ask the booker because they’re afraid. I think we need to get past that and have that same kind of lack of shame that a lot of male comedians do.”

 

You can follow Trejon and all of the cool shit she does on her Instagram or her Twitter.

AND go check out Maiden Phx. It’s every 1st Thursday of the month at the Plazma Bar in Phoenix. You can also catch Trejon co hosting the Great Exposure comedy show at Plazma. And, every tuesday, she runs an open mic at Grand Avenue Pizza in Downtown Phoenix.

You can listen to the full episode here!

Thank to everyone for their support and ears so far! We here at We Must Ignite appreciate everything!