Odes to great black-centric TV shows. Essays on being an insecure, socially awkward twentysomething. Photo shoots showcasing local models of color. When writer Maya Clark and photographer Pierre Ware launched Culture Piece Magazine in 2016, they weren’t sure how successful this formula would be.
“We didn’t have any money to start it,” Clark says. “We were broke as hell and just trying to afford the website.”
Almost two years later, the project is a full-time gig for editor-in-chief Clark. She and Ware fill the site with striking fashion photography, concert reviews, and thoughtful essays on life as a black millennial in the Twin Cities.
“It’s really about keeping in mind the voices of people of color—especially young people of color,” says the 21-year-old Clark. “There’s not really much out there that is for us that is written by us.”
Clark’s column, Letters from a Carefree Black Girl, is deeply personal and honest, navigating the uncertainties, insecurities, and ambition that come with being a twentysomething trying to figure it all out.
“It’s weird, because I don’t like opening up to people,” she confesses. “But everybody reads it; my mom reads it. I don’t want people to know that stuff, but that’s the one way I can get my thoughts out there in a healthy way.”
Last year was Culture Piece’s breakthrough season, in part because of its presence at spring Fashion Week MN. Their event, titled Melanin, showcased black designers, DJs, and models. It was such a success that, when the fall Fashion Week rolled around, Clark and her team decided to put together a party celebrating one of the most glam eras in African-American fashion: the Harlem Renaissance.
“At first I was going to say no,” she admits. “I had never put on a show or event—not a birthday party, nothing. It was scary because I was only 20 at the time, and I don’t really do social events. I don’t even like to go out. But we pulled it off.”
If the popularity of these happenings indicates anything, it’s that the spotlight needs to grow to include more black Twin Cities talent. Clark wants to help make that happen.
“I’m really trying to encourage people and give people what little resources I have to do their own events,” she says. “I really don’t want to be the token black person at Fashion Week. I want there to be a ton of events.”
Culture Piece also took part in I Am MPLS!, an annual party showcasing local designers, artists, musicians, and filmmakers. In the coming months, Clark would like to see the site expand to include YouTube videos featuring hair tutorials and interviews with black creatives. She already has a theme for her next Fashion Week party, which returns in April: New Age Noire.
“We’ll be focusing on new-age black culture,” she says. “Focusing on why it’s a staple, and why people think it’s so rebellious. Like, how is just being us an act of rebellion?”