BY MAUREEN COWHEY
The Scripps Voice receives a lot of emails everyday from random people asking us to promote their business or book or print their press release. Every once in a while a woman named Joan sends us emails through our website to inquire about when new issues will be posted. Otherwise, we just get a lot of spam.
But last week, I woke up to an email in my inbox with the subject line: The True History of the Voice. This email was sent by the founder and first Editor-in-Chief of The Scripps Voice, Dara Pressley ‘93. In her email, Dara explained how the history of the paper had been lost and as a result the Voice had lost its way.
The Scripps Voice had actually been founded in 1991, not 1996 as we had been lead to believe. Pressley, as a woman of color, and a group of students from all different marginalized identities, founded the paper because they did not feel as if they were being heard by their peers, the faculty, and the administration. They needed a place to voice their opinions and evoke change. They also found it ridiculous that a college founded by a prominent feminist journalist didn’t have its own newspaper. (Ironically, these were many of the same issues that I cited when I went before the Scripps Association of Students to argue to keep the paper funded.)
Pressley was correct, the Voice had lost its history and strayed very far off path. In recent years, The Scripps Voice had become a place for neutrality in the face of racism and prejudice, and a place that did not give a voice to marginalized communities.
Without even knowing this history, my goal as Editor-in-Chief has been to get the paper back to this original mission. Steps we have taken include:
- working closely with SCORE to give them space in the paper to cover their events and issues
- opening up space in every issue for guest contributors to voice their opinions or share their creative works
- introducing a new motto: “Uncompromising commitment to inclusivity and justice”
- Launching a new website, scrippsvoice.com, that is more accessible and can reach a wider community
- working to secure a permanent work space for the paper so that we do not lose our history again
I hope to do both the community and the founders justice in continuing to make The Scripps Voice more than a paper promoting neutrality and objectivity, but rather a platform for radical voices, creative perspectives, marginalized identities, and uncompromising activism.
I also want to thank Pressley and all the other brave and inspiring people that helped found the Voice for speaking up and refusing to be silenced.
Pressley’s email to me and her original letter to the Scripps in the first issue of the paper are printed here as well.
Maureen Cowhey ‘19
I have been away from Scripps for a long time, having been off and consumed in my life as alums tend to do. On the occasion of registering for my 25th-year reunion, I decided to tour the website to see what has been going on in my absence. Initially, I was so excited to see The Voice online. But my excitement quickly cooled as I saw the established date was incorrect. And that error, in itself, shows that The Voice and Scripps have lost the history of how the paper came to be. And, therefore, lost the importance of why it exist and why it is The Voice.
During the years that I was a student, it was a very difficult place to be a minority. My sisters and I found ourselves in a constant battle for equal rights to the education that we had paid for and to be treated as equals amongst our peers. We battled both our sorors, the faculty, and the administration.
Then, one day I noticed that Scripps was the only Claremont college without a newspaper. This meant that any news or information about Scripps women was told by others. As a feminist, I couldn’t stand the thought of how we could be so silenced. That we had to rely on others to tell our stories rather than speak for ourselves. And I thought about how we, the bearers of the legacy left behind by Ellen Browning Scripps, a journalist in her own right, could allow ourselves to be in this state. And finally, I realized that I, a black Latina, could never expect to find a voice for myself in an institution that was so silenced.
So in the Spring of 1991, I gathered together a group of young women to create The Voice. We were made up of a diverse group of individuals… and mostly of minorities— women of color, woman of differing sexual orientation, diverse religions, and non-traditional age students. When I graduated in 1993, I gave the paper to the Dean of Students (then Barbara Bush) with the hope that the paper would continue on. I am proud to see that my legacy has continued to thrive and grow. Still, it is important to remember that it was the most voiceless in the Claremont community that gave Scripps its voice.
So I write this letter to remember and thank those women that helped make it happen.
Shalom Montgomery, Melissa Casanta, Graciela Vega, George Andrade, Kama Simonds, Lita Sandoval, Devanie Candelaria, Ayisha Owens, Happy Kush, Amy Christensen… And our amazing mentor Professor Sue Houchins
I’m also attaching a copy of the letter to Scripps written in the first issue.
Founder and 1st editor-in-chief of The Voice
Class of 1993
The Voice, The Pen
Nickki Giovanni, African-American poet and writer, once stated in her book Sacred Cows… And Other Edibles:
To secure all rights granted to us by either our religions or our laws, it is necessary to raise our voices. An idea inside our own head is, to our fellow humans, the same as no idea. It must be expressed if it is to have any power. And the voice, the pen, is far mightier than any sword, any jail, any attempt to silence.
It is this voice that woman of color and of diverse cultural backgrounds must express. Our voices have been silenced for far too long. It is time we are heard. It is the duty of every writer, every thinker, to share their opinions. This is why I call on you, my sisters, to bring your opinions forward in open dialogue that will work for the advancement of ourselves and our cultures.
There is so much that you can do, can accomplish, with a good education. However, without learning about each other and the different peoples of the world, we might as well know nothing. With these tools, “the voice, the pen,” we possess the power to express and to learn. We possess the ability to take up the challenge that this college has given us. The challenge is, as The Guide to Student Life tells us, to “… speak up and organize, run events or make changes and accomplish [our] goals.”
The goals of this newspaper are to create a forum, a tool, for us to speak up for ourselves. It allows us to let our needs be heard, rather than have them assumed by those who say they are concerned with filling our needs. As Nikki Giovanni said, “We write, because we believe that the human spirit cannot be tamed or trained.”
I challenge you all of you to speak up. I challenge you to use The Voice and accomplish your goals.