Berlin - Berlin is a city hooked on presenting itself as a haven of inclusivity. With people of every colour, ethnicity, sexuality and background, the German capital embraces its image as the home to the country’s - and maybe even the continent’s - most diverse and tolerant communities. But as journalist and writer Kemi Fatoba quickly found out upon landing in the city five years ago, after a journey that took her from Vienna via London, this image is sometimes merely an over-stated brand.
“I was a bit frustrated seeing how progressive the city likes to portray itself, but then how regressive a lot of people are in reality, particularly young people,” explains Kemi Fatoba.
“I worked at this agency where there was a lot of casual homophobia, racism, sexism – mostly from younger people,” Fatoba recounts. “I was really annoyed and disturbed by it, and two of my colleagues [soon to be DADDY’s cofounders] were frustrated by the same things. Instead of complaining, we said why don’t do something?”
That’s when DADDY came into existence in 2016 as a digital magazine dedicated to spotlighting voices and stories that speak for Berlin’s marginalised communities. Their contributors are “Black, of colour, queer, trans, female, Muslim, Jewish, fat, disabled - you name it. For us, diversity, inclusion and intersectionality aren’t trends; they’re at the core of everything.”
“We thought there are many platforms or publications out there that write about these super serious issues, but mostly in a serious academic tone, making them inaccessible to everyone,” explains Fatoba. “We thought to launch an online magazine where we publish serious topics but add some humour and sarcasm whenever we can.”
We know what it’s like when underrepresented voices are ignored or not invited to a seat at the table. We’re trying to flip that script.
True to her predictions, DADDY amassed a growing online following and was so overwhelmed with positive feedback that they decided to do something rather unusual amidst the hype of the “death of print” – sell a print edition, the first issue of which was released in late 2020.
“The theme of our first print magazine is ‘Together’, and we’re exploring what this means on a personal and global level in 2020,” reads DADDY’s recent press release. “To help cover the printing costs, we asked our readers and followers to back us by pre-ordering a copy or buying one of the listed rewards in our online shop. This magazine is for and by our diverse communities, and with the help of our supporters, we’ll make it an annual, sustainable publication free of corporate influence.”
Time to pay up
Up until that point, DADDY relied on the work of volunteer writers, editors, illustrators, and, of course, Fatoba and Joe von Hutch, a New York native and Berlin-based lawyer, journalist and DADDY co-publisher since 2018.
“As soon as we agreed to create and sell a print magazine, we agreed to start paying people – before we even knew that DADDY would be profitable,” explains von Hutch. “We discussed different financing models and decided to found a company to make everything legit. We’ve [since] committed to paying everyone that works for us, and fortunately people are buying the magazine, enabling us to pay people.”
What sets DADDY apart is not only the topics it explores but also how it approaches them. First-person narratives dominate DADDY’s content – handing the stage to a wide spectrum of marginalised voices.
“We know what it’s like when underrepresented voices are ignored or not invited to a seat at the table,” says Fatoba. “We’re trying to flip that script. After all, we’re Black founders of a media company – basically meaning this is a Black-owned business, and that already sets a statement. It already means we have other things in mind than white publishers would have.”
Their philosophy is simple: if you haven’t lived through something, then you can’t write about it. Is that too strong of a statement?
“For decades, at least in terms of television, you only got one kind of representation broadcast to you. What we’re trying to do is allow people the space to talk from their experience, and we try to match the authors with designers and editors who share a similar background to allow that perspective to come through,” explains von Hutch.
“We never say someone can’t discuss something. Like we have a piece written by a historian on a history topic but for it to be right for DADDY, we want to understand why you’re writing this. DADDY is about people writing from their experiences to share their stories.”
“Not just the writers, but [DADDY] designers and illustrators also come from various backgrounds, so this inclusivity is also mirrored on a visual level,” elaborates Fatoba.
Print is not all
Aside from their editorial products, DADDY also started offering consultancy services to Berlin companies “who aim at addressing their customers or staff in a more inclusive way,” von Dutch explains.
“It’s about their external communication but also inside the company: who’s getting promoted and who’s getting hired,” he adds.
“We’re not check-the-box where we go in for a one-off consultancy issue to fix one problem. We aim to create a long-term relationship with companies to really address issues they may not have been aware of from the roots up.”
Order DADDY’s first issue here.