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Nothing but positives

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Red Ink magazine celebrates latest edition

TUCSON, Ariz. - In the world of business, red ink has a negative connotation. But in the Indian world, Red Ink - the nation's only nonprofit, student-run American Indian grass-roots publication - offers nothing but positives. Printed twice a year, the glossy four-color magazine is the only publication of its kind in the country published exclusively by graduate and undergraduate students, Native and non-Native.

The latest celebration of diversity and strength of Native cultures took place on the University of Arizona's Tucson campus in late April, as the Spring 2008 issue (''Native Voices'') arrived from the printers. As a full moon peeked over the red brick Poetry Center building, drummers drummed, singers sang, and event master of ceremonies Leandra Bistie, a Navajo youth leadership motivator, introduced Managing Editor Eddie Welch as ''the master blaster of everything that exists in Red Ink.''

Welch welcomed the crowd and admitted: ''Somehow it all comes together and when it does, it makes all the long hours, late nights and working weekends worthwhile.''

''Our original idea was to provide an outlet for political discussion via the printed word. We had grand and lofty notions of social change and hatched up Red Ink as a way of providing that voice,'' said founding member Steven Danzer.

A small donation from a professor/poet helped augment a shoestring budget and most copies were delivered throughout the state from the back of a beat-up van.

''We funneled our initial success into a more institutionalized publication which gradually became more focused on literary culture rather than politics,'' he said.

His partner - who conceived the idea, sold it to university officials, obtained initial funding and recruited the original publishing crew - was a Navajo undergraduate student, George Joe, who has remained in the field of journalism and currently publishes his own magazine, Rez Biz.

Historical documents read: ''The first issue in 1989, understandably radical in tone, was a celebration of release from past suppression and planted a seed that would sprout again.'' Joe says simply: ''Word got out quickly of our initial 12-page tabloid and it began to grow into what it is today.''

Today, the publication's Web site describes its mission as ''intellectual and creative expression through the media of poetry, creative non-fiction, original artwork and photography, scholarly articles, and book/music/film reviews.''

''It's interdisciplinary in focus, visionary in content and intergenerational in participation,'' recited Cree/Ukranian editorial board member Melissa Blind.

''Our publication works with individuals from different fields, coming up with new ways of thinking about topics and adding to the discourse on subjects important to Native people,'' added former editor and current editorial board member Jessica Metcalfe, Turtle Mountain Chippewa from North Dakota. ''We aim for interconnectedness between aesthetics, poetics and academic scholarship; and, working with individuals from different fields, we come up with new ways of thinking about a variety of topics.''

Everyone who works on the editorial board is a volunteer, many with little or no experience in the world of journalism, communications or publishing.

''When I got here two years ago, I didn't know anything about editing a magazine,'' Welch said.

''It's strictly a labor of love, right from the heart, to get up at 4 o'clock in the morning to go into the office and decide which font to use or which color selection makes the most sense. I taught myself the computer software program, how to edit, proper story placement and page layout. All of it was my responsibility and it was a big one. We all work hard and when it comes to details and deadlines; we do the best we can,'' said the 28-year-old from Pierre, S.D., a doctoral student in American Indian studies.

The ''Native Voices'' issue (which, ironically enough, arrived ''hot off the press'' from the printer barely 24-hours before its public unveiling) features artists like Ryan Red Corn, Osage; Ryan Singer, Dine'; and Bunky Echo-Hawk, Pawnee/Yakama, as well as Dine' writers Bistie and Waylon Begay.

''Native media is just now starting to exert its voice on a mass scale,'' said current issue cover artist Red Corn. ''This is a huge shift in access. What was previously nearly impossible for indigenous people to do is now starting to be realized. In fact, the future of Native art can be found within the covers of this magazine.''

Examples of that may be found in the current 140-page publication, art and literature reminiscent of the thoughts of its founders 20 years ago.

Limited copies of Vol. 14, No. 1, are available for sale. ''All income from sales, subscriptions, fundraisers, grants and advertising goes directly towards printing our next volume,'' Metcalfe said.

For more information, visit www.redinkmagazine.com.