Meeting at the Verbal Mayhem Grand Slam and becoming friends preparing for CUPSI (College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational), Dena Igusti and Marwa Adina had an idea and made it happen. Founding ReLITerate Word, a literary magazine of local poets, Dena and Marwa didn’t want to just give artists exposure, they wanted to give back. Dena explained that they “were not only struggling with exposure but also whether we were actually putting an impact in our communities. We decided to create a literary magazine that does both.”
“Can we actually make this happen?” Marwa reflected back the developing stages of the magazine the summer before their sophomore year. Uncertainty and insecurity stops most of the ideas before they have a chance but Marwa and Dena did not let that hinder their dream. They started a Facebook page immediately and with their friends and connections at Verbal Mayhem and CUPSI, the support spread wide. From the page, they have been able to obtain submissions of poetry from all over the area, get people to judge the poems in order to be accepted, and attract people to buy the publications.
Dena emphasized that there will always be someone out there to support an idea and contribute advice or monetary needs and the technology and information at our disposal is something of privilege that shouldn’t be ignored or underestimated. In an age where we can connect with an unthinkable variety of organizations and research any topic imaginable, there should not be any reason to say anything is impossible.
With an idea conjured up in a night, Dena and Marwa were able to create their own publication, print and sell copies for three dollars each, and within three weeks, raise two hundred dollars. The proceeds from ReLITerate Word were donated to Baton Rouge for post-flood rebuilding. Marwa explains:
“We felt that is the reason why we are doing this. For narratives that aren’t getting exposure, we want to give it back to them. For our second submission, which is what we are still working on, for Women’s History Month, we are giving care packages for homeless women in our community. A lot of people forget that they are people and have histories and narratives so we don’t want them to be erased.”
Their own narratives are important for them to present and showcase to society. Although they grew up with different backgrounds, Dena surrounded by powerful women like her mother being one of the top engineers in her field and Marwa in a male-dominated environment, they share Islam, which initially connected them. Both non-hijabi and non-Middle Eastern muslims, they check the stereotypes that have ill-represented one of the largest religions in the world. Dena’s Indonesian culture and Marwa’s Morrocan culture adds to their unique voices that has been raised by their own platform of ReLITerate Magazine and by writing for MuslimGirl.
This is only the beginning of the magazine. They anticipate continuing the magazine post-college and increase growth every issue. Dena’s goal is for the magazine to be recognized as a government charity and that they will sell enough issues to be able to support long term causes with larger donations.
The impending future is female and for that to happen we need more access to understanding one another. Platforming a creative thought while giving back to the communities in need is spark of ingenuity that propels us forward. An idea is the first step and as these two women have shown, once you start moving to take the next step, you don’t stop.
Marwa’s advice for anyone struggling in molding an idea into a reality:
“Just go ahead and do whatever you want to do. For us, we just made the Facebook page. We had an idea and we just started it. We did not even know who was going to support us. Just start something and watch it grow. If it’s not growing, reach out to people that can to give you another angle or make it bigger or get funding for something. Don’t hinder your own self. Empower and support yourself first.”
Visit Marwa and Dena’s publication website to learn more about ReLITerate Word, how to submit poetry and donate at https://reliterateword.wordpress.com.