‘Become a doctor,’ is the African proverb that most first generation African kids have heard all their lives. It was no different for 27-year-old Rasheedat Olabisi, until her mother realized her advice was falling on deaf ears, so she switched it to, ‘marry a doctor’. OKAY?! Don’t get it twisted though, Rasheedat’s career path isn’t one to disappoint neither. Not only does she have a degree in Child and Family Development, she also has her Master’s in Social work and is currently working in her field as well as running Chicago’s popular African publication company called The Gist Magazine. Rasheedat is on a mission to not only produce the flyist magazine, but also to bridge the gap between African and American cultures and highlight the successful young Africans who didn’t become doctors.
Tell us about The Gist Magazine.
This is an African entertainment magazine based out of Chicago by ways of Nigeria and London. The goal of the magazine is to bridge the gap between our culture and the world we live in and to inform the people on what’s happening in Africa. When I was little, Africa was like the worst place to be from and I think people have the wrong conception, you know with the feed the kids and stuff, but it’s a beautiful place. There’s so much culture and tradition and I use Gist Magazine to highlight that as well as young people our age that are doing something different and positive. Growing up the most common jobs [for Africans] were nurses or cab drivers and now look, our generation is going a different direction with unique career paths that I think are dope!
I think it was because I had a lot of the resources. I have a partner, his name is Temo, and he had an online college magazine. The way he drew attention to the topics made me come up to him and say, “hey let’s do a hard copy.” My 25th birthday was coming up so I used that day to celebrate the launch party of the first copy. We had WNBA champion Yinka Sanni on the cover, we have a great relationship so it all came together. It kinda came easy since I knew so many people involved in so many great things that it just happened [laughs], it really just happened. I feel very blessed.
A couple of us from our Gist team got together and just brainstormed. “Gist mi” is a very popular phrase in the Nigerian community. “Gist mi” translates almost like getting the gist in American culture, but for us it’s more so like, gimme the tea, what’s up, let me know what’s happening, and so on. So when we heard it we were like, yeaaah [laughs], and it stuck from there.
What goes into starting and maintaining a magazine company?
Mmmm mmm mm. A lot, it’s a lot. There’s a lot of teamwork, a lot of organization, a lot of energy, a lot of time, and a lot of money. It’s all of that times two.
What does a busy day for you look like?
So I do have another job. I’m a social worker from 9-5 and when I come home at 6 I put my magazine hat on and try to prepare articles for the upcoming days. We have weekly team meetings so we can plan what we’re gonna do next. We all have 9-5 jobs so we try to not make it overwhelming, which is why we plan the week prior. Usually on weekends we have events that we cover and try to post it right away and promote it. We do a lot of promoting and advertising for businesses and to really bring the culture together. I can’t really explain, it’s usually crazy.
No, I don’t. My best friend Erica does, she’s the copy editor on the team. She’s the real journalist. She went to school for it at Graceland University in Iowa and she’s dope. Writing comes to her effortlessly. She and another girl named Fatima are the journalists of the crew.
It can be a bit overwhelming at times but it’s also fun so that keeps me going. We covered a birthday party this past weekend and the people we covered it for were just so thankful. It’s things like that that makes it fun, seeing the outcome, pleasing people, seeing people use pictures taken from our events on their social media, it’s rewarding.
How does The Gist set itself apart from other publications?
I don’t think anyone is doing it like how we’re doing it. The digital world is winning now and we do a lot digitally. Yes we have every social media platform like most but our target audience is what makes us unique. I did a lot of market research before I dove fully into it and I know there are a lot of other magazines, but no one is really highlighting the young people in the African community in the city that are on their grind and doing great things for the community. For example, Tyrese’s stylist is a young Nigerian guy named Sam Desalu and he has a foundation called Africa Fifty6 where they go to Africa and do philanthropic work. So we highlight the people that others don’t know about. You know, everybody wants to know about the super popular artists and stars but there’s levels to get there so we want to help people out.
Like I said, we do local advertising and publishing for businesses. Everybody in the community wants to know what’s the what n’ what, what’s happening this weekend, and what community services are going on. We work with a company in Schaumburg called Cake Village and it’s a non-profit for children. They do creative, hands-on artistic things that are Africa related, like how to make pottery and many other things. So there’s a lot of community outreach involved.
What do you want readers to take away from your magazine?
So much! Knowledge, you know? It’s so easy to stereotype when you think of Africa. It has changed a little but the negative perception of Africa is still there and I want to change that and introduce people to something new. I want to bring African culture into the African American society we live in. We have this fabric called Ankara and lately I’ve been seeing it all over the fashion magazines and it makes me excited when I see African culture being embraced. So if someone can look at Gist and get something out of it like, wow I love that dress, or, oh my gosh, I did not know so and so got married, and that kind of effect, it makes me happy.
My mom use to throw around “doctor” when I was young but then that stopped when she realized I was a little weird and that I wasn’t gonna do that [laughs]. She then switched it up to, “marry a doctor.”
What advice do you have for young girls that want to start their own magazine publication?
Research and do it. Get a good team and do it. Having a good team is very important. Teamwork really makes the dream work, no lie. If you get a team that want’s everything that you want, then it’s only up from there. Keep on truckin’, everybody’s time comes. Some may take longer but you never know how it will end up.
I would like The Gist to be the household magazine for the African community everywhere internationally. We’ve featured heavyweight gold medalist Anthony Joshua, he’s based out of the U.K. and won in 2012. Our sales in the U.K. have been great so we want to make those connections all over the world.
I never really knew what exactly I wanted to do but I knew what had to happen. School was always important. My sister got her Master’s, my brother got his Master’s, so I knew that had to happen. The Gist was something that just fell in my lap.
What advice would give to your 20-year-old self?
Every little thing is going to be alright. Maybe I should tell my 27-year-old self that [laughs].
The food. I love to eat. I have a great appetite. I like RA Sushi, Potbelly’s, Chick-fil-A, Thai. I enjoy Thai food, and rice and carbs. I haven’t tried all the cool places yet like Ruth’s Chris but yeah, I love food.
Get your copy of The Gist now! For more information head to their website http://www.gistmi.com and follow their Instagram for the latest updates @thegistmagazine. If you want to know what’s going on in Rasheedat’s world, follow her personal Instagram @_olabisi.