As May 2020 rolled around and Cal Poly students Eddie Railsback and Juan Vergara began playing around with senior project ideas, one discussion led them to the importance of sharing intersectional experiences and the “unwritten barriers” in publishing for people of color. Thein their idea was born: a creative writing journal created by and for Black and Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC).
Railsback said Underground Anthology will be an online, interactive anthology of fiction and poetry pieces that provides a space for BIPOC students to be heard and published. They are still collecting pieces to include.
“It’s difficult in general to get published, and there’s kind of an unwritten barrier when it comes to publishing work, that doesn’t really ‘fit in’ or take on subjects that are conventional or widely talked about,” Railsback said.
Authors can decide the subject of their work and do not necessarily need to center on their lives and experiences. Submissions are open to the BIPOC community nationwide who either are attending college or have graduated from a two or four-year university, according to Railsback.
What started out as a senior project has grown to include three poetry editors, three fiction editors and adviser Shanae Martinez. English senior Railsback and English and Spanish senior Vergara manage and oversee the process.
The idea stemmed from personal experiences that the pair generalized others would resonate with.
“I’m a Chinese woman, and I’m bisexual,” Railsback said. “I have this plethora of feelings and ideas and identities and thoughts on my identity that I want to share and that I want to work through.”
“I have this plethora of feelings and ideas and identities and thoughts on my identity that I want to share and that I want to work through.”
According to Railsback, this journal is made for students and by students that work to re-envision the experience of people of color in university.
“I’m always trying to prove that I am worth something,” Railsback said. “And that I am deserving of a spot in this university, especially considering it is a predominantly white institution. I always feel as though I have to fight for my own acknowledgment.”
The pair proceeded to share their idea with their peers and Cal Poly faculty. Initial unexpected reactions to the proposal weighed on them, they said.
“I felt the most hostility from the department that I’m from, which is fine,” said Railsback. “But it was hard because we were so passionate about this idea … the ball was rolling, and then to feel that ounce of hesitation from our own department was very disheartening.”
Despite this, the team felt an overall positive response from their peers, social media followers, the ethnic studies department as well previous professors, Vergara said.
People who reached out told them, “It is something the campus needs,” he said.
The topic of intersectionality came to the forefront in this project for the two.
To Vergara, intersectionality is how people’s different components of their identity interact with one another to create each unique individual.
“The importance is seeing how these identities work together and how they influence a person’s thinking and experiences they have and [how it] shapes the way they exist in society,” Vergara said.
The pair wanted to showcase a more intersectional lens and in doing so, make their audience more introspective about their own lives.
“Reading about these experiences will help us learn more about our own positionality in society and where we stand in comparison to others in terms of our experiences, our privileges,” Vergara said.
“Reading about these experiences will help us learn more about our own positionality in society and where we stand in comparison to others in terms of our experiences, our privileges.”
The anthology will take on a 21st-century approach, Vergara said. There will be an interactive website with information on the journal introducing the team, along with the 2021 journal, compiling all the pieces with short author bios. The team will also compile a PDF of the works.
The release date of the 2021 journal has yet to be determined, but Vergara said he hopes this project can continue.
“We’re hoping this will continue because it’s needed — this space is needed,” he said.
The soft deadline for submission is Feb. 5, but the pair is looking to extend the deadline to ensure that all voices can be heard. A link to the submission guidelines can be found at @undergroundanthology on Instagram, and pieces can be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Society isn’t just this one thing,” Vergara said. “Not everyone’s going to have the same experience.”
In having those voices heard, Vergara said they will be breaking stereotypes and narratives that categorize people into specific labels, unchanging and unmoving.