Tens Across The Board: One on One with Tenth Zine’s Kyle Banks

The founders of The Tenth Zine at the NYC Launch Party-André Verdun Jones-Producer, Khary Septh-Creative Director, & Kyle Banks-Managing Editor.  Photo Credit: Quardean Lewis-Allen The Tenth Zine’s WINTER 2015  Issue featuring the “Boy Next Door” Emmanuel Udume Photo Credit by Matthew Holmes.  Volume One cover By Khary Septh.  American flag By Idris and Tony. Video stills from The Tenth Zine on Vimeo

THE TENTH ZINE is a Brooklyn based art and culture publication that documents the history, culture, ideas and aesthetics of the African American LGBT community.

The bi-annual publication that premiered in the spring of 2014 was founded by Kyle Banks, André Verdun Jones, and Khary Septh. THE TENTH is the project from Pink Rooster Studio, a creative studio whose works range from fashion photography, print, film, music and other mediums.

“The title of the publication is partly inspired by WEB Dubois, The Talented Tenth. “ said Kyle Banks, Managing Editor. “However, unlike Dubois, we here at The Tenth Zine do not ascribe to elitism but rather exceptionalism — an ideal displayed throughout the publication with stories shared by some of the most fascinating intellects, artists and social activists within the Black Gay community.”

We caught up with Banks just as The Tenth Zine was preparing its Winter 2015 issue which will be available on January 10, here’s what he shared.

PRIDEINDEX (PI): How did The Tenth Zine get started?

KYLE BANKS (KB):  The Tenth Zine was birthed from a photograph series entitled “Boys In The Studio,” a project we produced in-house at our creative space, Pink Rooster Studio in Brooklyn.  We were quite busy working with a slew of luxury and lifestyle brands and although we were successful and the studio was beginning to grow, we found ourselves feeling unfulfilled with the work.  “Boys in The Studio” was just a means for us to enjoy the work.  We threw an intimate party at our place to show the work and the response was so great that we just felt the need to continue it.

PI: Tell us a little bit more about each of the magazines’ principals. What does each gentleman bring to the table in terms of his educational background and life’s experiences?

KB: I studied music and received my master’s degree from the University of Oklahoma in vocal performance and work, part-time, in the theatre on Broadway.  Khary {Septh}  finished in economics from Cornell and went on to study fashion design at Central Saint Martins in London.  André {Verdun Jones} has  a degree in Secondary Education and is currently obtaining a degree in Psychology at Loyola University.  We’re all well-traveled, sophisticated gents, accomplished in our respective careers and have been actively involved in our black gay communities for over a decade — from cocktails with friends at the local bars to mentoring the younger ones through both life and career.  We share a creative vision and are able to express it through The Tenth.

PI: How often does The Tenth Zine publish?

KB: The Tenth Zine is a bi-annual publication.  But it took us a bit longer this go ‘round.  It’ll have been 8 months since the release of the last.  It’s not easy to do it on a dime, but we think we’ve learned al lot and can hit that mark next one.  It’s become all about a challenge.

PI:  Talk about your business model and some of the factors that were considered behind this being a paid publication rather than a free one?

KB: At the start, there was no business model.  As I mentioned before, we initially started this project as an escape from our commercial work.  It was after the launch party of our first issue last spring that we realized just how engaged our audience really is.  We’re a self-financed publication, so our goal is to continue producing the work as long as we’re able to do so. We’ll be doing a few really cool fund raising initiatives in the coming weeks, which include collaborations with apparel brands like BLKKANGAROO — a super hip sportswear collection, and some major art posters for auction thanks to the talented Timothy Eugene.  We are a paid publication and our intention was to recoup some of the funds used to produce the project as publishing a magazine of quality is quite costly.  The response to the price point has been positive and the community has definitely supported as we sold out of our first printing a few weeks after its release.

PI: I’ve read somewhere that the concept regarding the “Tenth Zine” comes from WEB Dubois; could you please elaborate on that?

KB: The title of the publication is partly inspired by WEB Dubois, The Talented Tenth.  However, unlike Dubois, we here at The Tenth Zine do not ascribe to elitism but rather exceptionalism — an ideal displayed throughout the publication with stories shared by some of the most fascinating intellects, artists and social activists within the Black Gay community.   The Tenth also draws inspiration from the Ballroom community, in which Ten is considered to be the number of perfection.  Also, the Kinsey scale which suggests that ten percent of the population is homosexual.  We’re a multi-layered, highly conceptualized publication that documents, most importantly, in our own words, the complex history and culture of the contemporary Black Gay man.

PI: Why was it so important to start a magazine of this caliber for African American gay males?

KB: Why not?  We’re African American gay males and we appreciate quality — you’ve been to our homes.  We’re already consumers of print media and when we get to the magazine stand, and all there is in front of us are white boys on covers, we feel a void.  Like:  “who’s representing for us?”  And we LOVE the kids at Swerv, DBQ and Bleu (hello!), so we just want to add to that mix.  It also gives us the opportunity to control our own image.  A lot of times that is being done by our white counterparts – check Michael Sam or Lee Daniels on the cover of OUT.   We’re more than capable of telling our own truths and it’s time we did.

PI: I saw your first issue at a friend’s house and was very impressed with it. Talk a little about your editorial process and how you choose what to cover?


KB: It’s extremely difficult editing the work as we have some really dynamic talent contributing to The Tenth.  I imagine that’s an amazing problem to have but it can be frustrating in that we only have a certain number of pages allotted for each story, which means a lot of amazing work ends up on the cutting room floor.

PI: As far as I know there are only three African American gay owned and operated publications (E.g. SwervDBQ magazine and Urban Socialites) with a national presence. What does The Tenth Zine have to bring to the table that’s different and refreshing from what’s already been covered?

KB: We at The Tenth believe there is room at the table for all of us to grow and it’s also important that we support one another.  Let’s be honest, we’re working with only a tenth of the resources that the white LGBT publications have at their disposal.  What we have proven with The Tenth is that in-spite of our lack of; we’re still able to produce.  It’s my hope that other black LGBT publications are born out of this movement.

PI: What is the one thing that you hope readers will take away from each issue?

KB: The important takeaway for me is that my interaction with my brothers has always been a reflection of what I see in myself.

PI: Does The Tenth Zine accept works from freelance writers and/or contributors? If so what is the submission process?

KB: What we’re most about is collaboration, so we encourage those interested to visit www.thetenthzine.com and hit us up!

PI: When will the next issue come out?

KB: Volume II, our Americana issue is due out January 10th 2015.  We spent the past few months traveling the east coast and southern states of the country chatting it up with black LGBT leaders, thinkers, artists and the next generation on the campuses of the nations leading ivy-league and HBCU institutions.

PI: Is there anything else you would like to share?

KB: As silly as it seems, Love – just Love.

For more information visit www.thetenthzine.com