Speak to my Heart
Communities of Faith and Contemporary African American Life.

Anacostia Museum and Center for African American History and Culture

Interview with Yavocka Wilson
Publisher/Editor of Fortress Magazine
March 11, 1997
"...it's very important for women to begin to see themselves as part of  the image of God because historically we have not..."
MS. MORRIS: Yavocka Wilson, Publisher and Editor of Fortress Magazine. Are you a native Washingtonian? 
MS. MORRIS: How long have you been a member of Mt. Sinai Baptist Church? 
MS. WILSON: For [inaudible]. 
MS. MORRIS: Could you share with me some of your most memorable moments at Mt. Sinai Baptist Church? 
MS. WILSON: Well, I think when I sung my first solo in the choir because I -- from the time that I really received Christ and started on a regular basis to the church, we developed a very committed relationship with the Lord. And the singing was one way for me to take part in the congregation and worship. So, being able to believe what I was singing about was just memorable and to be able to through song communicate that was very important. 
MS. MORRIS: Okay. What motivated you to start Fortress Magazine? 
MS. WILSON: Well, for one thing there had not been or if there was I didn't know about it and a lot of other people didn't know about it, but there had not been a magazine that primarily targeted African/American women in the [inaudible] and the Church. Fortress is a Christian lifestyles magazine [inaudible] African/American women. And what we'd like to do is provide an alternative to some of the secular magazines that exist, some of the secular concepts that are growing and spreading throughout our community and it seemed to me just so illogical considering African American women's history of support for the Black church and history of African American women being committed to God, you know, living equally spiritual lives that there wasn't a magazine that showcased that. 
MS. MORRIS: Okay. Why did you title it Fortress Magazine? 

"...Fortress is a Christian lifestyles magazine for Aftican American women.  And what we'd like to do is provide an alternative to some of the secular magazines that exist..."

Well, for one thing, you know, the Lord is my strength and fortress and the Lord has been the African American woman's source in times where, you know, men could not be depended upon or where they were not in positions to strengthen or to lead or, you know, then God became the one that gave us strength and Biblical fortress was a -- it was like a place of strength, it represented strength. It was the most secure place in the city and in times of war, you know, that's what people would want. It would be the refuge. And that was the place where they would take all of the townspeople for safety. And so that Black woman has been that for the Black community. She may not have been the actual one on the battlefield, but she was a source of nourishment. Food was kept in the fortress, you know, so that when there was a time of crisis that the basic necessity available. And the African/American woman has been that to the African/American community. 
MS. MORRIS: Okay. So what has been the biggest challenge in publishing and getting Fortress Magazine? 
MS. WILSON: In the beginning, financial resources, my own lack of business skills in the beginning. A lot of it I had to learn as I [inaudible] and experience and I had the journalism skills, but I had not been a businesswoman before. So learning business concept and applying and knowing, you know, what ways to spend money, what ways not, those were the biggest challenges. Also, I think, because in the beginning lack of money. I was not able to the magazine as big, you know, as I had wanted which is [inaudible] certainly is growth from the first issue that we published. And when you look through, you'll see the changes. But I think, you know, when you're servicing African Americans, it has to be quality. We are very slow to pick up on things. It has to be as good [inaudible] America is often for African/Americans to subscribe to. 
MS. MORRIS: Okay. How has your degree in Communication assisted you? 
MS. WILSON: First of all, I think the experience I got, you know, writing for the University, [inaudible] Arts Department newspaper, the internships that I got, the connections I made. For instance, one of my old professors is [inaudible] advisors. So, I think just the connection, feel for what African/American issues were all across the country, you know, being at Hampton helped me to see -- be exposed to, you know, African/Americans from different parts of the country so that our perspective is not limited to what happens in D.C. Also, I think, I got a very quality journalism education because Hampton is known for its [inaudible]. 
MS. MORRIS: Okay. What is the woman's role in the church today? 
MS. WILSON: I don't like to get into roles. I think being a woman is living a committed life [inaudible] the sky's the limit. You know, Revelations 328 says, "there is no male or female in Christ Jesus." I think if you live a life that is committed to the Lord, you get to a point where, you know, God no longer sees a woman or man, he sees a servant and I think that's where the [inaudible]. The only thing that -- the only requirements for Church leadership are holiness and, you know, a sure call by God. There's no limits because you are a female and no automatic acceptance because you are a man. 
MS. MORRIS: How does Fortress act as a spiritual guide? 
MS. WILSON: We don't do a lot of devotional pieces and we don't get into denominational issues, but we do like to take a Christian approach to looking at Black women's issues. So, I mean, you wouldn't find something in Fortress, like, you know, whether or not it's okay to speak in tongues or is tithing a right thing to do. Because we sort of want to reach the masses of African/American women first of all, but, you know, [inaudible] theme is that Jesus Christ -- is the Lordship of Jesus Christ. That's our underlying theme and that's the [inaudible] to me. 
MS. MORRIS: Okay. What would you say has been the most challenging issue of Fortress Magazine. 

"...we do like to take a Christian approach to looking at Black women's issues..."

I think [inaudible] thing that we had to do was take a stand on how we felt about women pastors, women ministers, women bishops, you know, to have to come out and say, you know, as the editor and publisher, that yes, I believe a woman can pastor. Because that is something that is, you know, a cause of separation. And even some women don't feel that that is -- you know, that a woman can pastor. So, you run the risk of, you know, some people's husbands saying, "Look, I don't want you reading that magazine anymore." And you get that sometimes in the church because the whole submissiveness thing in the Black church is played upon very heavily and I think it just comes from a history of, you know, the church being the only place where a Black man could be somebody. And most of our politicians and, you know, leaders who are men, historically and traditionally have come out of the Black church and I think a lot of them don't want to give up that power. And it's a shame because, you know, the society as far as being African/Americans are concerned anyway is then such -- is in such turmoil and I think that there's so much more that the church could do if we -- you know, if we could sort of use the gifts and powers of everybody involved in the church and stop trying to [inaudible] in charge on the corner. So, [inaudible] say that. [laughter] 
MS. MORRIS: Has there been an issue that you wanted to address but were afraid of how the readers might react? 
MS. WILSON: This was it and I did it. 
MS. MORRIS: That's good. What has this magazine contributed to your personal life? 
MS. WILSON: A lot of stress. [laughter] But also I think -- I think it has caused me to grow spiritually because I think for -- you know, for once, you know, while we all say, "I'm not trying to please or I'm not worried about pleasing others, you know, and this, that and the other, it's not until you have an actual situation where you know some others may not be pleased, to where you can really see whether or not you really do feel that way. And I think for the first time, I have had to walk alone in many cases, or seemingly, anyway, because I know there are other African/American women who feel the same [inaudible]. When you start a business, and, you know, instead of getting your hair done, you know, every week or going to the mall, you know, every week or you know, whatever it is, you start learning that some of your friendships were not necessarily based on friendship. They were based on activities. And so when you can no longer do those activities on a regular basis, you'll notice that, you know, friends become -- your circle of friends become smaller. Which is good, you know, but then when you're popular again you have money, they all come back. [laughter] 
MS. MORRIS: How has your magazine been received by some of the women at the congregation of Mt. Sinai Baptist Church? 
MS. WILSON: I have had a lot of them come up to me secretly and say, "Love the article." But I think because of the traditional [inaudible], for one thing, there's no public forum -- you know, nobody who leads the church say, "A member of our congregation had an article published in the Post, da, da, da, da." And I know if I had been a man, it would have -- I would have gotten that kind of [inaudible] it's just indicative of -- you know, exactly what the article expressed. But that's okay, you know, because I mean, [inaudible] calls here and I've gotten such a response and people [inaudible] speaking opportunities and that kind of thing that, you know, certainly, you know, would help [inaudible]. 
MS. MORRIS: [Where] do you see Fortress in five years? 
MS. WILSON: [I would] like to think in five years Fortress will be a major African/American publication number two. [laughter] 
MS. MORRIS: In closing, would there be anything you would like to add? 
MS. WILSON: [I would say it] is very important for women to begin to see themselves as part of the image of God because historically we have not. I think it has [inaudible] problems that African/American women, women in general experience. The root is low self-esteem and so when a women [inaudible] is created equal, that he loves her just as much as he loves his male creation and that actually the creation of her completed his full image, so that without [inaudible] -- so that man alone does not represent the complete image of God. So that's our main goal is to help [inaudible]. [laughter] 
MS. MORRIS: Thank you very much. 
MS. WILSON: Thank you. Thank you. 
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