Building Community Through Design: The Story of BLK Magazine

This Black History Month we’ll be hearing from the publisher and editor of BLK magazine: graphic designer, Alan Bell. BLK was the first nationally distributed newsmagazine that featured writing about Black LGBTQ communities. Published from 1988-1994, the magazine got its start circulating among the members of the Black Jack, an all-black safer sex club also founded by Bell. After making the move from New York to his birth city of Los Angeles, he was encouraged to start a news periodical for Black lesbians and gay men by AIDS activists such as Phill Wilson. At the peak of the AIDS epidemic, national LGBTQ media was mainly focused on white LGBTQ people, so BLK served as an important source of information about HIV for the Black community, as well as a call to political action. At BLK, professional design was as important as professional journalism, as the team transitioned the publication from a 16 page newsprint to a 68 page color glossy newsmagazine in the time before desktop publishing.

A copy of the 9th issue of BLK, from August 1989, featuring James Baldwin on the cover, is displayed in the National Museum of African American History and Culture here in DC.

About the Speaker

Alan Bell is president of BLK Publishing Company, Inc., founded in 1988 to publish magazines targeted to the Black lesbian and gay community. At present, the firm concentrates on graphic design and custom publishing with a special focus on developing materials for non-profit organizations that target underserved communities. In 1977 he founded Gaysweek, New York City’s first mainstream weekly lesbian and gay newspaper and the first owned by an African American. For 11 years, Bell was the film critic at the Los Angeles Sentinel. He has edited three books and appeared in the Los Angeles Times. Among his many honors, he is recipient of a Premier Print Award -- known colloquially as a Benny -- the most prestigious award in the printing trade, equivalent to the Oscar and Grammy. In March 2015, the Los Angeles City Council passed a resolution commending him for Exceptional Achievement and Dedication. Bell holds BA and MA degrees in sociology, and a BS degree in business.

About the Moderator

Lea Trusty is a program associate at Democracy Fund, where she leads their grants portfolio centered on diversity, equity, and inclusion in journalism. This work focuses on investing in news outlets led by and serving communities of color and the recruitment, training, and promotion of student and professional journalists from historically marginalized communities.

Prior to joining Democracy Fund, Lea was a Newman's Own Foundation Fellow, a program for recent graduates interested in philanthropy and social impact. She was placed at WSHU Public Radio, an NPR affiliate in Connecticut. She reported on a wide breadth of issues, from minority teacher recruitment to the first family suing ICE for detention center abuses.

Lea is currently based in New Orleans.


Closed captioning will be provided

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Code of Conduct

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Design Continuum Fund

10% of the proceeds from this and every event goes to the AIGA DC Design Continuum Fund (DCF) scholarship, fostering the next generation of designers through helping local design-minded and underrepresented students as they pursue their education.

When & Where
Wed, Feb 10, 2021 7:00 PM - 8:00 PM EST