The thing was…
…when I sat down at the table that day I had no idea what in the hell Chris and Dave were talking about.
I had heard of Black Monday. I knew the steel industry was important for this community, and (more importantly?) I knew that when it collapsed the heart of the city stopped beating. I had heard the name “Jeannette” in passing, and could probably even guess that it had something to do with Youngstown Sheet and Tube if you pressed me on it. I knew my grandfather had worked in the mill after he came home from World War II and then once again after returning from Korea. I had heard it all before, and had grasped the concept that it was all very important in some way or another.
What I didn’t know was why.
I had never seen pictures of the blast furnace, and even if I had I couldn’t have identified what it was I was looking at. I didn’t know that around five thousand people were instantly put out of work on September 19, 1977. I also hadn’t been as big of a Bruce Springsteen fan as my brother was, and because of this I had never bought his 1995 album The Ghost of Tom Joad. I didn’t know that on that album there was a song that took its title from my hometown (“We have a song named after us?” – to Dave) and that it’s lyrics told the story I would come to know and respect in time.
I didn’t really have the first damn clue what Jenny was or what the SLAA was or who this Chris Lettera guy was and why my best friend was talking so excitedly with him about designing and building a somethingorotherandallthatnoise. I had just tagged along because the two happened to be meeting near the coffee shop that I was heading to and I liked the company. So I sat there and pounded down my coffee with then SLAA President Chris Lettera and Jenny web designer Dave Drogowski, interested but not enamored with the idea of a student produced online literary magazine centered on the spirit of Youngstown.
That was in September of 2010, just a few months before the first issue of Jenny magazine was launched to the public.
A few months before I really knew what it was like to give a damn about this city.
As of today Jenny has seen nearly 20,000 unique visitors and has been read in six (we have a sled team in Antarctica as I’m typing to make it all seven) continents. We’ve published writers from all over the country and different parts of the world. Our premiers always draw a strong crowd, and we’ve even been fortunate enough to have some long distance travelers come and read their work for us. All in all it’s been a pretty amazing journey for Jenny, and it’s just getting started.
And now, even though “that Chris Lettera guy” and many of the founding members of the Jenny team have gone, the project lives on. As we work to build the fifth issue we will all do our very best to try and give the world the best literary magazine we can. Most importantly we will show the world that Youngstown is not just “a dead steel town”. It’s a living, breathing community full of writers, artists, students, lovers, fighters, survivors, and damn hard workers.
And you can bet your ass that they’re not going out that easy.
-Chris Brady: Co-president, SLAA