Creating a magazine is similar to having a child. An idea seduces you-impregnates you with a vision-and you spend nine months or so in creative labor, eventually giving birth to an independent, living entity. Also like a child, the first issue of a magazine arrives with a few surprises. Every mother knows the sensation of looking at her baby for the first time. She’s known the energy of the child within her body for nine months, and yet it is often a surprise when the flesh and blood reality arrives. Wait, is that blonde hair? You expected brown. Are those green eyes instead of blue? And where did that chin come from? Of course, she loves the baby in all its unexpectedness! In fact, the child is so dearly loved that the parent works to foster it’s individual and independent growth. It is encouraged to become what it is meant to be, to grow past initial ideas and conceptions, and to mature into it’s own unique selfhood. Perhaps this is the role of parent as artist, allowing your “creation” to grow beyond its origin and take its rightful place in the world. Ditto! It’s the same for a magazine editor!
I’ve always wanted to produce a broad-spectrum, international publication with a local connection. In 2020-as I was leaving a fifteen year career in the automotive industry, pursuing my freelance writing, doing photography for a neighborhood magazine, and opening a local art gallery-the magazine idea became haunting. A tantruming 3-year-old stomping through my mind!
Was this really the time to create a new magazine? Didn’t I have enough on my plate? The idea remained obscure but persistent with no certain theme for several months. Then, the Coronavirus Pandemic hit in early 2020 and the vision for Serenity Café started to take form.
There was extraordinarily little love in the air in August of 2020. The earth was riveted by panic amid a global pandemic that activated world-wide martial law and forced citizens into their homes. The new phrase “shelter in place” was born and took its place in language. All of Europe was behind locked doors as governments tried to stop the spreading virus.
In Paris, refugees begged for asylum as police in riot gear push them from one encampment to another. In America, cities were terrorized by race riots in the streets and polarized by a vicious election-year political system. Every nation on earth was tinged with terror and rage. Every one of us trying to find a new way of surviving the surreal shift in reality taking over the world.
That’s when I noticed what seemed like a quiet miracle taking place away from the mainstream press. The Artists of the World were standing up, stepping forward, hands and hearts held out, offering encouragement and hope to others.
Social media platforms, hitherto more about ad clicks and narcissistic self-focus, became a platform for optimism and shared community. Poets provided free readings, museums offered free virtual tours, musicians sang and sent out videos, artists discussed their art and shared “how to” videos on artmaking with the world.
The Artists, the Seers, and the Dreamers-the Voices of Creativity that are normally a quiet minority- were also a type of “first responders” offering hope and comfort to others however they could. The resounding message from all corners of the globe: “Hold on and be strong. We can survive this together.”
A simple question formed in my mind: What does it mean to be an active, engaged, conscious human being in this world? I knew that I was witnessing the answer to that question (and it’s opposite) being acted out across the globe in topical ways, but I wanted to go deeper. The question grew in poignancy becoming the ethos for the magazine you are holding in your hands.
Our goal is to deeply explore this question and to introduce you to other human beings and the answers they are finding—to share their stories of “living that answer” in the world. We seek to look at and know others from a perspective of shared humanity, and to participate in the journey called life with them. Our pages are a communal space meant to offer insight, hope, and encouragement that fosters shared experience and understanding.
With that said, we will also tackle provocative issues, question inequalities, and seek the boundaries of what it means to be human in this period of historical time. (This is where the baby grows into its own selfhood!) In a world where the denial of basic human rights and dignity has become the norm, where news outlets and social networks are saturated with intentionally false information, and at a time of social chaos and human turmoil on a worldwide scale, to ignore those aspects and simply produce a “feel good” publication would be socially remiss and ethically irresponsible. Hope that fosters change does not come from denial, but from an accurate acceptance of things as they are and the ability to envision options and to work toward them for the benefit of all.
We do need good news, motivation, and inspiration. But it needs to be balanced with multicultural voices and perspectives, and with an honest recognition and appraisal of the current life realities for everyone across the globe. We want to be a magazine that informs, challenges, and encourages you to explore different views and seek out your own answers to the question of engaged human consciousness.
Serenity Café is a quarterly publication, based in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, USA with some “local flavor” and an international scope. It carries profiles of the people and town of its birth, as well as national and international interviews, opinions, and culture in each issue. Our tagline says it best: The Local Magazine with a Universal Heart!
We are now entering year two of the Coronavirus Pandemic and it is still a learning process and a challenge for most of the world. The Artists, the Seers, and the Dreamers-the Voices of Creativity-are still urging us on. The resounding message is still being spoken: “Hold on and be strong. We can survive this together.”
Our debut issue of Serenity Café takes as its theme dreaming, as in envisioning, and shines a spotlight on Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, past and present, as a homage to our creative birthplace and our home base. You’ll find an extensive and compelling interview with photographer, historian and innovator Dr. Jack Thompson in The Man Behind the Camera. At age 84, he crushes the stereotypical impression of “the elderly” as he continues to work full time and stay active in his community. A special photographic essay section is also included, highlighting Jack’s life achievements, and showcasing some of his famous Myrtle Beach “Classics Collection” from the 1950’s.
Gloria Makori, a first generation Kenyan-American, speaks honestly about the realities of racial stereotyping in her life (and explores her experience in Minnesota following the death of George Floyd) in the essay On the Topic of the N-Word. Our Showcase Artist, Detroit-based Joshua Kochis, in Terra Incognita, presents a unique vision of the trees and earth around us, compelling us to view commonplace objects with a fresh perspective. He then shares his thoughts about the possibilities for local artists and community art scenes in the essay Making Art, Creating Culture.
Luke Owain Boult, a writer living in the UK, addresses the international political and social situation abroad in his article A Disunited Kingdom. In Travelogue we join adventurer, Donny Karr, his wife Madison, and their dog Biggie Smalls, on a weekend trek through Vogel State Park and Georgia’s Blood Mountain. Our Showcase Poet, Robert Tustin, discusses poetry as a means of connection and shares several poems with us. Writing from Pakistan, Jaffar Ali, takes us on a quick tour of Origins as we delve into the history of the Indus Valley. There are additional photo essays, art, and poems in this issue inviting us into a space of insight and shared experience. We hope you enjoy your time in the Café and are glad you stopped by. We invite you to join the table and share in the conversation. (We welcome Letters and Commentary from our readers. You may reach us at email@example.com). Thank you and Welcome to our first issue!