As with many organizations, The Intercultural Alliance of Artists & Scholars, Inc. (IAAS) was born out of necessity to fund the vision of its founder. In 1996, Gabrielle David decided to fill the gap she saw in the literary community, one that intentionally excluded or simply overlooked multicultural writers. She launched phati’tude Literary Magazine, a publication created to break tradition with literature journals of the day by giving voice to a wider range of diverse artists. The name, concocted from a slang dictionary, with “phat” meaning “emphatic” and “tude” short for “attitude,” fit the goal of generating an emphatic attitude on contemporary literature and continuing the literary arts programming Ms. David had developed at the Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center/Queens Library in Corona, New York during the early 1990s.
Under the publishing company, Chimeara Communications, Inc. (CCI), a New Jersey-based for-profit organization, innovative partnerships with a number of organizations, such as Asian American Writers’ Workshop, Barnes & Noble, and the Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center/Queens Library, produced literary programs in the New York/New Jersey area using many of the writers that contributed to phati’tude Literary Magazine. The magazine was quickly becoming a community of teachers, professors, poets, writers, activists, students and business people who wanted to create and communicate artistically and culturally for the greater good. Unfortunately, each issue was expensive to produce and since phati’tude Literary Magazine was published under a for-profit corporation, it did not qualify for funding. After several years of providing the financial support and carrying the debt personally, Ms. David decided that in order for the magazine to flourish, it would be best served under a nonprofit entity. In 2000, the Intercultural Alliance of Artists & Scholars, Inc. (IAAS) was born.
Under the direction of Ms. David, The IAAS was initiated by an ethnically and geographically diverse group of people who represent the business, artistic, teaching and literary communities. These Board members believed there was a need to provide literary artists and the public with dynamic programming outside the traditional constraints of mainstream media that would make multicultural literature and literacy more accessible. Their goal was to have The IAAS fill that need.
As one of its first initiatives, the newly formed IAAS produced the literary TV program, phatLiterature in 2002. During the early stages of phatLiterature, financial support was provided through grants and in-kind production services, which produced thirteen episodes before a live studio audience at the Langston Hughes Community Library and Cultural Center/Queens Library in 2002 through 2004. The program featured interviews of writers and poets and, as a way to support and promote local visual artists, used the staging of the sets to serve as a gallery for visual artists during the taping of its broadcasts. An integral part of the program was a 60-second spot entitled VISUAL SIGNATURES, which broadcast on each episode of phatLiterature. Despite careful planning and diligent fundraising efforts, the program budget far exceeded the grant awards and donations that had been received. Nevertheless, with the help of IAAS Board members, volunteers and donations, post-production was completed and phatLiterature was distributed to over 50 public access and college stations throughout the U.S. and Canada, reaching approximately 12,000,000 viewers.
Funding cuts caused The IAAS to cease production, but after a 2-year hiatus the Board has come together to relaunch the organization. Extensive researching and discussion of a wide range of topics — capacity building and change leadership, benchmarking and best practices, leadership development, financial management, websites and the impact of the Internet, reading and literature, the writer’s experience, branding, marketing, the changing media and more — has enabled the board to pool resources and come back with many exciting changes. In an effort to strengthen the brand, and under the leadership of board member Michelle S. Aragón, The IAAS developed “phati’tude Programs” to tie together programming related to the magazine under one umbrella. So phatLiterature, A Literary TV Program (renamed “phati’tude Literary TV Show“), phati’tude Literary Magazine and additional programs such as VISIONARY VOICES, VISUAL SIGNATURES, phati’tude Language & Literary Arts Curriculum (phatLLAC) and Real Poetry, Real Talk were under the “phati’tude” initiative, and are featured on our website, www.phatitude.org..
phati’tude Literary Magazine went on hiatus in 2012. Thanks to print-on-demand technology, which has eased the burden of print costs, literary periodicals are flourishing anew. While we no longer had to worry about up-front production costs, we were saddled with post-production costs (copies of magazines, postage, etc.), which prevented us from fully realizing a solid marketing and distribution strategy. We do hope to bring the magazine back with the proper funding. The IAAS launched 2Leaf Press in 2012 to publish books of passion and purpose that celebrate the authentic voices of multicultural writers.
Over the past fourteen years, the IAAS has built an enviable reputation for staging exciting and innovative literary programs that engage the public with issues and ideas from differing perspectives. The IAAS Board and Staff have remained committed – through thick and thin, through ups and downs – to the IAAS’s core mission and program initiatives. The IAAS Board is also focused on working smarter – more effective and efficient in its fundraising, operations, and outreach – than ever before. We welcome your participation and support!