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Campus magazines discuss free speech, artistry

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Student-run magazines such as GAG! Magazine and Gia Magazine represent Berkeley's enduring legacy of free speech.


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Senior Staff

APRIL 12, 2023

Free speech is a cornerstone of UC Berkeley history and culture. For some student organizations, the concept of “free speech” manifests in transgression through student-led magazines.

GAG! Magazine and Gia Magazine both strive to redefine narratives of free speech by uplifting and celebrating the voices of marginalized communities within the Berkeley community and beyond.

GAG! Magazine, or GAG!, is an art publication recognized as a campus registered student organization, or RSO, which seeks to subvert traditional notions of art and free expression in Berkeley.

Co-founder and creative director Jovanny Martinez said GAG! was founded on the “fragmentation of identity,” seeking to highlight the different components of an individual’s identities.

“The biggest distinction is that a lot of clubs and magazines want to be diverse and inclusive, but it ends there,” said Martinez. “We want to celebrate diversity and inclusion with 100% creative freedom.”

What sets GAG! apart is its commitment to not only inclusivity and diversity, Martinez noted, but the celebration of individuals by allowing them the freedom to artistically express themselves.

According to Martinez, GAG! strives to lean into colloquialism and allow for freedom of speech and expression without filter, especially in comparison to the world of academia.

“In an institution like Berkeley, a prestigious and academic powerhouse, people tend to fall into a specific narrative,” Martinez said. “We founded GAG! to tap into the version of yourself that academia forces you to hide.”

Growing up as a queer person in a predominantly white area of California’s Central Valley made it difficult for Martinez to put his foot in the door in the world of art. Without the opportunity to tap into his creativity, Martinez said he felt forced to put away his passions — until he found GAG!

Martinez said he is a big believer in saying “yes.” GAG! is a place where people say “yes” — whatever narrative people want to tell deserves a “yes,” he added.

The notion of free speech, according to Martinez, holds many guidelines within itself. GAG! seeks to subvert any guidelines and one particular niche of art by “leaning into being a kaleidoscope version of themselves,” Martinez said.

Martinez added that GAG! does not define itself as being “apolitical.” Part of celebrating diversity and inclusion is acknowledging that the world itself is political, he said.

“If we do not recognize that politics affect the day-to-day lives of marginalized communities,” said Martinez, “then we cannot claim to be what we are.”

At Gia Magazine, or Gia, co-president Nhi Huynh said their mission is to center the voices of queer and transgender people of color, or QTPOC.

Huynh explained that Gia is named after the queer/trans advocate Juniperangelica “Gia” Cordova, a former ASUC senator whose activism helped create policies and support the wellness and security of marginalized communities on campus.

According to Huynh, Gia was founded to honor and support Cordova’s legacy by creating a safe space and centering QTPOC voices.

Currently, Gia is working on publishing a physical and online magazine with ongoing projects that people can submit their work to. Last semester, Gia held a Halloween theme titled “Horror is Queer,” focused on how queerness has been historically perceived as “terrifying” but people are reclaiming it in their own ways.

Gia’s mission to center and push QTPOC voices through various mediums of art serves to create a safe space for marginalized voices on campus, according to Huynh.

“A lot of QTPOC voices really do get shuttered to the side,” said Huynh. “It’s always been a marginalized community, so we want to create this space to put their voices at the epicenter.”

Contact Maya Banuelos at  or on Twitter


APRIL 12, 2023