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Maroon World: Volume II
Smile now, cry later. That's the mantra at the heart of Maroon World: Volume II, a queer zine created by photographer Travis Gumbs and his partner, Cynthia Cervantes. When the pair set out to create a zine that celebrated the diverse world they occupy, they first found inspiration in the story of the Maroon People, a group of Africans who escaped slavery and joined Indigenous communities in America. "By calling it Maroon World, we draw on the strength of the Maroon People, pushing ourselves to challenge our beliefs in regards to our power as people of color," they explained in an email to coincide with the release of the new issue.
Launched less than a year ago last December, the zine's second issue is a visual love letter to forgotten communities--specifically, the rapidly gentrifying Bedford Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn they call home. "We are also deeply inspired by our neighborhood," they said, noting that when casting for the issue, they looked to their own friends, families, and neighbors they've met on the street or at their local yoga studio. "The goal of Maroon World is to reflect back the beauty we see in POC communities, and that includes everyone, period. Your cousins, your abuelita, your auntie, your trans sister, the dudes from your block--we try to represent our communities to the best of our ability."
This homegrown focus was essential to Gumbs and Cervantes when they set to work on Volume II, but, like life, their path wasn't without a few deviations. What had begun as an issue dedicated to love turned into a vehicle for their shared grief over both losing grandparents until, finally, it became an "exploration of the things we suffer in the name of love."
Though, of course, no art exists in a vacuum in such an uncontrollably turbulent time in America-especially when the art focuses on communities of color. For the pair, Maroon World as a whole was created, in part, as a "response to the lack of respect that our communities are shown." That's why the celebratory images of everyday people in their community are so powerful. Rather than being crafted to address their oppressors, Gumbs and Cervantes work on the magazine solely with their muses in mind. "It's made to empower and uplift us all," they explained. "To give us the opportunity to see ourselves reflected."