Karen Hawkins
Mouthy. Credit: Courtesy Emily Lonigro

Mouthy Black lesbians aren’t supposed to own magazines. 

We certainly aren’t supposed to keep them going for 10 years. 

But here I am, and here all of you are. And y’all, it’s been a wild ride. 

Ten years ago, I was frustrated enough by the mainstream media’s nonsense — and inspired enough by all of you — to start a magazine to let those of us on the margins have our say, to write essays and articles from a lens that allows for all kinds of perspectives, not just the dominant one. I wanted everyone reading to feel less alone and more like shaking things up in their lives. I wanted to make the world more rebellious — one informed feminist at a time. 

Sometimes I look at Rebellious and can’t believe that I made a thing that’s still thriving editorially. I can’t believe I get to work with such kind, committed and talented people. It’s a dream come true. And it’s a story we still have the honor of writing.

That’s the good news. It’s the version of our history I’ve spent 10 years being very invested in telling. 

What I talk about less often is what it’s taken to get here and how much I’ve sacrificed. I’ve shared before that I’ve bootstrapped Rebellious for the vast majority of our history. What I haven’t said is that my credit will never be the same again. That when I’ve won awards that recognized my career achievements, the prize money went to back pay for our writers. I haven’t told you that I’ve paid our contributors when I haven’t paid myself. I’m not the first business owner to make that kind of sacrifice, but — as a mouthy Black lesbian — I can’t deny that my challenges are exacerbated by a system that’s built to ensure I make less money, have fewer opportunities, and don’t succeed. 

I haven’t talked about how lonely this all is. I’m surrounded by the most amazing team, it’s true. But I, alone, am responsible for making sure they’re paid. I, alone, bear the weight of representing one of the only feminist magazines in Chicago (certainly the only one in the amazing Chicago Independent Media Alliance). When things go sideways, when people are upset about what we’ve done or haven’t done, I’m the one they blame. 

I wouldn’t trade this experience for anything; my hardest day as the founder of Rebellious is still a day I’m incredibly grateful for. But it hasn’t been easy. You haven’t seen me struggling, but that doesn’t mean I’m not. 

Ten years in, I am rebellious because I haven’t given up. I won’t give up. There’s still too much work to do. There are still too many stories the world isn’t hearing. There is too much we’re being misinformed about. None of us are free until all of us are free. And too many of us don’t even see all of the barriers that are holding us back.

I am Rebellious because of all of you. And because we deserve better.

Rebellious Magazine for Women is funded almost entirely by individual contributions, and your gift to Rebellious goes directly to our diverse team of freelance writers, editors and creators. The more you give, the more we’re able to do. Please consider supporting our 10th Anniversary Indiegogo campaign or becoming a sustaining member on Patreon

Karen Hawkins is the Founder and Rebelle in Chief of Rebellious Magazine. She is a recovering mainstream media reporter and editor who wants to thank her former boss for naming the online magazine she's...