Ahead of tonight’s Stack Awards, we meet with the editors of Plantain Papers, one of the magazines shortlisted for launch of the year. Tahirah Edwards-Byfield, Tamika Abaka-Wood and Lemara Lindsay-Prince published the first issue of their ‘ode to plantain fryers, eaters and appreciators all over the world’ earlier this year.
Tell us about your typical Monday journey to work
TAHIRAH: Los Angeles’s notorious traffic and a podcast, or the old school hip-hop radio station.
TAMIKA: Portland is a 7.30am bus ride using that slither of precious time when a handful of cities are all awake at the same time. My journey is all about catching jokes in real time in my WhatsApp groups. London is a 9am underground and overground journey, head down in whichever book I’m reading at the time – right now it’s Marina Abramovich ‘Walking Through Walls.’
LEMARA: A typical Monday morning for me always starts with a cup of tea, and a 100m dash to the bus stop. Depending on how I’m feeling – whether I want to hear my own voice, or someone else’s – I’ll press play on Soulection Radio show, and read my book, currently that’s Heavy by Kiese Laymon. Or, I’ll cue up a podcast: Stance, Still Processing, The Nod, are always on heavy rotation.
Describe the state of your desk and what you can see in your office
TAHIRAH: I’m never at my desk, choosing couches, or outside instead in my assigned spot. I do have a stuffed unicorn on my desk though so it’s nice to pet it on the rare occasions I do visit it.
TAMIKA: Somewhat similar to Tahirah, I’m out and about mostly. The agency I work at has many mantras, one being the Dizzee Rascal’s lyric: “there’s a world outside your manor”. I try and work from spots with decent playlists and laissez-faire baristas when I need wifi. When I can work offline, I try switch it up – museums, galleries, outdoors…
LEMARA: I’m the only one who needs a fixed spot, and a desk when writing – otherwise I can’t function. Writing can be very solitary, and classist, so I tend to write at home for pure ease and to save money. My “desk” is a little section of my dining room table, where I’m surrounded by at least two books, some visual material, and a cup of tea.
I can see the road I grew up on from the main window – people walking by is a welcome distraction, plus I’m nosy.
Which magazine do you first remember?
TAHIRAH: Word Up!
Tamika: Honestly? Mizz, if I’ve interpreted this question correctly!
LEMARA: Vibe Magazine, for their iconic covers (the Aaliyah illustration cover and the one with Tupac in a straight-jacket instantly spring to mind), and phenomenal writing on Hip Hop, and black culture. My older brother had a massive stack in his bedroom, and I used to “borrow” them. He introduced me to American Hip Hop, R&B, and Soul and I remember connecting the voices of artists with the interviews.
Which magazine matters to you the most right now?
TAHIRAH: There’s a whole generation of important magazines by people of colour (and in particular, women of colour) being published right now, including Burnt Roti, Gal-Dem, OOMK, Typical Girls, Yellow Zine.
TAMIKA: Co-signing all the excellence listed above. I worked with 10 brilliant young minds under the age of 16 this summer. We pitched to win some funding and worked together to create a 16-page zine highlighting the good going on in their borough. It’s just been printed and distributed – I couldn’t be prouder of them.
LEMARA: Caricom Magazine – hands down! It details a gravely overlooked image, and viewpoint of fan culture in this country, and discusses the intersection of football and the black experience in a myriad of ways. I’ve just got my copy of their first issue back from a friend, before that I lent it to my dad, and before that my partner. I love sharing it, and coming back to it – stellar work, big issues, executed perfectly, you can tell it’s made with hard work and love just like ours.
Why make a magazine about plantains?
TAHIRAH: Plantains are our delicious device to talk about much more – we showcase the stories, culture and people who eat the fruit. Food is always a great conduit for conversation, culture, and connection.
TAMIKA: When people ask what the journal is all about, I’ll always say “people, with a side of plantain” – we’re about humanity first and foremost. Plantain is the most peng, accessible and dynamic fruit the diaspora both share and hold dear to our hearts, so we try and bring these values to everything we do.
What was the response to the first issue?
TAHIRAH: Overwhelmingly, we’ve heard that it’s something people feel connected to, which is exactly what we were aiming to create. We want Plantain Papers to feel like a sense of community, in print form.
TAMIKA: Exactly. We always said if issue one didn’t get much love, we’d stop right then and there. Fast forward a year and the three of us are cooking up issue two, so we’re over the moon.
LEMARA: “Rahhh – you made a magazine about plantain?! Swear down?” Thinking of that still makes me smile.
What’s going to be the highlight of the week for you?
TAHIRAH: For me, it’ll be a chance to sleep and get over jetlag.
TAMIKA: I’ve been living out of suitcases since September but this week moving somewhere semi-permanent (for a month!), so I can’t wait to unpack, nest and cook.
Lemara: I’m the total opposite. I’m off to the Stack Awards this evening, we’ve been shortlisted in the ‘Launch of the Year’ category, and I’m hosting a Plantain Papers takeover on Balaami radio on Thursday. After that, I’ll sleep!
What will you be doing after this chat?|
TAHIRAH: We’re in three different corners of the world, so myself and Tamika will probably be getting our day started on the West Coast, while Lemara will be probably be waking up to write.
LEMARA: Time to head back to the shop floor, lunch time done!