Born of ’60s protests, Cleveland State’s Vindicator still a beacon for diverse voices – cleveland.com

CLEVELAND, Ohio — It was 1969. The world was still reeling from the assassinations of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy the year before. Cleveland was picking up the pieces from the riot-torn Hough and Glenville neighborhoods. African American college students had a lot on their minds, but nowhere to express it.

Cleveland State University student Ron Kisner, a business administration major (CSU did not have a journalism school then), heard the call, and, along with other students, he made his way to CSU’s boardroom — and it was not long before the Vindicator was born. The paper, now a multicultural magazine, is celebrating 50 years. The first paper hit the stands on Jan. 31, 1970. The name Vindicator was chosen to reflect a students right to express themselves freely.

“So a group of students from the Society for African American Unity made some demands,” said Kisner, founder of the publication. “We led a protest that took us to the university president’s office. Here we were, students sitting in his conference room like we were negotiating a labor contract,” he said with a chuckle.

“We had 10 demands, for then CSU president Dr. Harold Enarson—and they included a black homecoming queen, establishing a Black Studies program (that celebrated 50 years last year) , a black student on the Board of Trustees, sanction African American Greek fraternities and sororities, and pushed for stronger efforts to recruit more black students. Back then, CSU’s student body was about 13,000, only 300 were black. The last demand was for a newspaper. We needed a place for minority students to speak openly about issues that affect them and their communities. The Cauldron was publishing, but it was not dealing with black student issues. We wanted our voices heard all over CSU. We didn’t get the student on the board though.”

The task of running a paper proved to be more than what Kisner had envisioned. But soon the paper had a columnist, reporters, photographers, ad people and designers. Their first office was in a corner on the top floor of Mather Hall. Funding was not easy to get from the student affairs committee, but it eventually happened.

On the cover of the first edition was a story about the Martin Luther King Community House in Cleveland being in disrepair.

On the inside of the eight-page paper was a story titled “The Black Church in Changing Times,” written by Kisner.

That edition was the prototype of what was to come in future editions. The masthead included a clenched fist with the motto, “We wish to plead our own cause.”

Though the free publication still exists, it’s no longer an African American newspaper. Since the late 1990s, it has been a multicultural magazine.

Today, while strolling the halls of CSU, you can’t miss the glossy, colorful 43-page publication it’s become. Editor Tyisha Blade, a senior, has led the magazine since 2017. But she gleefully lets you know that she’ll be graduating in May — and will be training her successor soon.

The transition from being a newspaper for 25 years into a magazine was a challenge, according to Blade. The whole transition was done slowly over time.

It no longer has a staff of reporters as in the old days. Writers come from students who bring story ideas to “pitch meetings.” There are editors who get scholarships for their work on the magazine.

“In the mid-1990s, it started to slowly transition into a magazine,” Blade said. “But by the end of the decade, it became a multicultural publication. It’s now all-inclusive. It represents the CSU student body. All are welcome to write for us.”

Some of the issues that were prevalent then are still important today with students. But there are also other pressing issues college students deal with. Among them are transgender issues, gay rights, bullying and sexual assault, Blade said.

“Those are the concerns that make it important to be multicultural. It allows my friends of different ethnic groups to lend a voice, too,” she said.

Kisner said he’s not knocking the magazine’s new path — and understands we are living in a much different world from 1970.

“I still believe, though, we need a place for the African American voice at these universities,” Kisner said, who retired from the Cleveland School District last Feb. “The black voice is especially important now. That voice can easily get overshadowed by the other voices you hear.”

The magazine’s next-door neighbor is CSU’s newspaper the Cauldron, inside the college’s Student Center.

Though it’s more inclusive than it was 50 years ago, the Cauldron has more structured writing. The Vindicator is more free-form and subjective, Blade said.

The future of college newspapers causes Blade to pause.

“I love print. I love holding a magazine in my hand,” she said. “I just love the process. If you give someone a magazine or newspaper, it’s something they can display. We now publish three per semester. It’s up to the students to keep it relevant— and in turn people will want to see it continuing.”

The Vindicator:

Cleveland State University’s Multi-Cultural magazine

Publishes:

February, March, April, October, November and December.

Website: thevindi.com Free.

Staff:

Editor-in-Chief Tyisha Blade

Managing Editor Imani Stephens

Art Director Alexia Carcelli

Assistant Art Director Kyra Wells

Multimedia Manager Max Torres

Online Content Editor Vince McIntosh

Arts Editor Joscelyn Ervin

Culture Editor Briana Oldham

Features Editor Brenda Castañeda Yupanqui

Copy Editor Kevin Coleman

Social Editor Dorothy Zhao

Beauty and Wellness Editor Megan Baranuk

Distribution Coordinator Katheryn Lewis

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