When the Trayvon Martin shooting occurred in Florida in 2012, killing the 17-year-old boy, it shook Cambria Heights resident Nijaah Howard to the core. Not only did this affect her as a woman of color, but also because her son at the time was 11.
“I was tired of hearing the same stories more than I should be hearing about little brown boys that are senselessly executed,” Howard, 35, said. “Our men of color in this country are socially and economically declining.”
So with the desire to bring change to the community, Howard decided to create a magazine dedicated to minority men. While she had no publishing or journalism background, she kept her eyes and ears open and along the way was helped by many people.
The process began with a simple twist of fate. At her uncle’s funeral, she met her father’s nephew, Kevin Coleman, for the first time. They talked, and he told her he had experience in marketing and advertising. Howard mentioned her idea for the magazine, and he said to get back to him in a month. When she called him, he jumped on board and produced the first cover within two weeks.
“I wasn’t just asking him to help me develop a publication, I was asking to help me start a company,” she said. “It was a lot to ask from someone that met me only once.”
In November 2012, Howard interviewed several men in the community and her friend, Ronny White, a professional photographer, took the photos.
The last piece of the puzzle was finding a publisher. While looking through pictures on Flickr, she came across two by photographer Oscar Rivera that stood out to her. She decided to call him and see if he was interested in helping.
“How do you introduce yourself to someone you’ve never met?” she said.
After overcoming her nerves, she reached out and asked if he could assist her with the magazine. Surprisingly, he said yes, and when they met she found out he is the head manager for a large printing shop in Manhattan.
The first issue of Young Men Strong came out in December 2013. It provides a platform for men of color to positively express themselves in hopes of breaking through walls and decreasing stereotypes. Howard said so far the reaction and feedback has been amazing.
“I’m just a mom with a passion and a vision, but I can’t do it alone,” she said. “I can only do it if people come together.”
There will be a kickoff event for the magazine on Saturday, March 8, at the African American Museum of Nassau County, 110 N. Franklin St., in Hempstead from 7 to 10 p.m.