As a publication dedicated to liberatory media and a reparative and inclusive future for journalism writ large, Scalawag is ecstatic to welcome Sherronda J. Brown (they/she) to the team as our first-ever Editor-in-Chief.
Sherronda's résumé is stacked, and with it comes layers of skill and experience that make her perfect for this role. We first met in 2018 while they were in editorial and writing roles at Black Youth Project and Wear Your Voice Magazine. This was the beginning of our transformational friendship and working relationship, marked by a shared commitment to the myriad of black people not often held by Southern politics—queer, trans, neurodivergent, fat, non-Christian, and more.
Just last fall, Sherronda released their debut title, Refusing Compulsory Sexuality: A Black Asexual Lens on Our Sex-Obsessed Culture, which explores sexual politics and compulsory sexuality under white supremacy, fascism, and capitalism through a black asexual lens. They would go on to lend their writing and editorial eye to Prism, another BIPOC-led news outlet. Ahead of their book's release, they also offered to Scalawag their thoughts on the importance of platonic love and interdependent community in the face of the widespread ideologies of individualism and relationship hierarchy in their contribution to our grief & other loves series—an essay that became Scalawag's most widely-shared piece of 2022.
When society places undue importance on romantic relationships, unpartnered people—and other kinds of love—are shunned to the margins.
I am honored to welcome my friend and longtime colleague to the Scalawag team. Sherronda's clear vision, commitment to understanding blackness through Southern politics, and developed leadership are going to take our magazine to places we have only imagined. I have written for Sherronda at Black Youth Project and worked alongside her at Wear Your Voice—both as a freelancer and as an editor—so I have witnessed firsthand the power they bring to a team. We are lucky to have them.
It is our privilege to bring such a visionary leader to our shared work of exploring the ways that radical media can uproot and dismantle long-held myths of the South. Since joining the team in March, Sherronda has taken charge of guiding our editors and content producers to create stories on the intersections of culture, race and blackness, and systems of power and privilege. An inch-perfect hire, in this role, Sherronda will combine their distinct editing skills with their sharp leadership to help shape our focus and create new opportunities to expand our audience, partner with other like-minded media platforms, and invite precise and otherworldly storytelling.
Their background in creative fiction as a freelance sensitivity reader and the Editor-in-Chief of Kingwood Comics brings a fresh and imaginative cross-genre perspective to our editorial team's rich tapestry of analysis, making this role more wide-ranging than a typical EIC position.
The expansiveness of this role allows Sherronda to use their "truest and most abiding love"—that of the horror genre—as a critical articulation of the things that still haunt the Black South.
Sherronda and I have had an innumerable amount of conversations centered around horror: the state of the genre, its relationship to black people, and how it can be used to tell the (ghost) stories of the Black South. As they are inspired by black phantasmagoria—including the boo hags, haints, and other nightmares of the South—Sherronda has always found a bit of catharsis in their indulgence of the macabre.
"The South is full of ghosts, and I think of it as a haunted space," Sherronda says. "While I believe that we are all haunted by ghosts of historical traumas and violences transpired, I want Scalawag to explore black Southern perspectives on this haunting and how the horrors inherent to living under this nation-state uniquely impact us."
According to Sherronda, the horror genre—perhaps in its best form—engenders a deeper understanding of the world around us.
"It can shed light on things the dominant culture would rather go unsaid, things that come into focus through who or what gets constructed as monster, victim, savior, or survivor. Essentially, horror is a mirror."
Sherronda on the relevance of the horror genre in their own work and Scalawag's vision:
"I find the horror in everything. I know that seems odd to a lot of people, especially a lot of Southern black folks, because we have plenty to be afraid of already. But, to me and many others, horror is a liberating experience exactly for that reason—it's a world of endless creative possibilities and a smorgasbord of opportunities to redirect our fear towards other, lesser monsters. It's a way to experience fear under circumstances we can control.
Horror has distinctive eras that are demarcated by societal and historical events. New subgenres and narrative tropes took form following the First and Second World Wars, as well as the Cold War and the Korean War. There is post-9/11 horror, post-Katrina horror, post-Ferguson horror, and we are witnessing the emergence of post-COVID horror. This is largely how I organize history in my head, by how horror has responded to these world-altering events.
But there is also horror that looks to the future and shows us exactly where we are heading. Octavia Butler showed us the way, and so did George A. Romero. The original Dawn of the Dead was released in 1978, but it feels as if it was made for the 2020s. There are several points made about American consumerism, race, pandemic response, and more in that film. In Dawn of the Dead, we are shown that, in the midst of a deadly pandemic, American consumers return to a shopping mall because it's become their "instinct" to consume, and that is exactly what happened during COVID. Romero basically said American culture is just endless consumption—with or without zombies—while setting the precedent for an entire subgenre of horror. To me, that's amazing and incredibly important."
Their passion for centering black Southern experiences and expressions in horror works in tandem with Scalawag's goal to amplify the voices and words of people who have been intentionally pushed out of or marginalized by mainstream media. Their vision is for Scalawag to "diversify our content and expand our audience by amplifying even more perspectives on a wider range of topics that are relevant and important to the Black South."
As part of her plan to execute this vision, Sherronda will spearhead Scalawag's formation of a team of contributing writers and content creators to bring Scalawag's unique voice and perspective to more current news and events, responding to current events with the urgency that the South requires.
"Scalawag's mission to focus on social justice and move towards a more just South is very important to me as a Black person born and raised in the South," Sherronda says. "It's so often that we see a widespread disregard and sometimes outright disdain towards the South and the black people who live here, even as our culture is constantly siphoned from. In the midst of that disregard and disdain, it's incredibly important to have a black-led and black-centered publication like Scalawag doing the work it does."
Join us in welcoming Sherronda J. Brown as Scalawag's new and first Editor-in-Chief, celebrating their guidance and this milestone for Scalawag. We look forward to the stories we will share and the relationships we will deepen and build under their vision.
Sherronda J. Brown (they/she) is a Southern-grown gothic nerd and queermongering gender anarchist. As a versatile creator, they lend their talents to multiple spheres as an essayist, editor, storyteller, creative consultant, and artist. They are also the author of Refusing Compulsory Sexuality: A Black Asexual Lens on Our Sex-Obsessed Culture. Alongside queer theory and (a)sexual politics, their writing often focuses on cultural critique and media analysis, especially the horror genre. Sherronda strives to lead our editorial team with empathy and passion to inspire imaginative resistance, radical creativity, and cathartic experience.
Get to know Scalawag's first-ever Editor-in-Chief: Sherronda J. Brown
Where are you from?
A small, Eastern North Carolina town called Tarboro, originally Tuscarora land. It borders Princeville, which sits just on the other side of the Tar River and was established by formerly enslaved people in 1865. They were able to make a home on the land because it was unwanted by white folks since it's a floodplain, and white landowners were more than happy to have a topographic separation between themselves on higher, safer ground and the black folks in the swamplands. Back then, they called it Freedom Hill. Twenty years later, the name changed and it became the first independently governed black community in the country. Since I had people in and around Princeville, I spent a lot of time there in my formative years.
Growing up, I always had a sense of wonder and pride about this history and the fact that I have roots in the area. Black folks creating autonomous space and interdependent communities has always been inspiring to me, even before I had the language to talk about it.
If you could have dinner with anyone, living or dead, who would they be and why?
Nina Simone, who I refer to as the High Priestess of Soul and Real Nigga Shit. She was also from North Carolina, so I feel a connection to her because of that, but I also think that she was one of the most fascinating and provocative figures of the 20th century. And also one of the saddest. I wish I could hug her. We would have dinner, talk revolution and anarchy, and reflect on the Black South experience. She would probably burst into song at some point, and I would hug her and tell her how loved she is.
What are your hopes and goals for the future of Scalawag?
I and the rest of the leadership team are in agreement that Scalawag should exist as a space that centers, elevates, and pays black Southern media makers for their labor. I am also in support of us deepening our presence in movement and community spaces to further establish Scalawag as a pillar of community engagement. We are developing initiatives to work more closely with currently and formerly incarcerated writers, radical librarians, childcare workers, organizers, and more. For me, this work is not only about moving towards a more just South, but also about the responsibility to contend with the reality of life and death, surviving and thriving in the South as it is now, and the history that has led us here.
Our mission with Week of Writing: Stop Cop City (which was pitched and led by Da'Shaun) was to take back the narrative around Cop City, a state-sponsored project that has already directly impacted black communities and other marginalized folks in Atlanta. The intention was to shed light on the corporate and carceral interests behind this urban warfare training facility as well as how the mass displacement and incarceration of mostly black Atlantans was an integral part of the road to Cop City. This series opened eyes, provided context and historical relevance, uplifted movement workers, passed the mic to Atlanta organizers, and directed our readers towards giving opportunities to support those charged with domestic terrorism for defending the forest. And we have every intention of producing more series like this. We are just getting started. Wrestling the narrative about the Black South and the things that affect us from the hands of those who would rather see us left behind will be at the core of my editorial vision.
Scalawag is a Southern, Black-led and centering, digital-first journalism and storytelling organization that works in solidarity with oppressed communities in the South to disrupt and shift the narratives that keep power and wealth in the hands of the few. Collectively, we pursue a more liberated South. Online, in person, and through meaningful engagement with our readers and supporters, Scalawag reimagines the roots and futures of the place we call home.
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