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Online Journal Gets to the 'HEArt' of Social Reform

Poems, visual art, stories and music are much more than forms of entertainment to two Pittsburghers, they are ways to promote social reform.

Co-founders Leslie Anne Mcilroy and Daniel Morrow will launch Human Equity through Art (HEArt) Online on Aug. 15.

The online journal will publish various forms of art submitted to them that challenge the status quo and fight discrimination.

“Art can challenge people without being confrontational,” Mcilroy said. “I feel like if you read something that is outside of your normal experience and allows you in, especially if it’s well written, that you can start to see yourself in another place without having someone in your face saying, ‘You don’t know what it’s like to be this,’ so art is like an open door.”

HEArt Online is a re-launch of the journal that was printed from 1997 to 2002.

Mcilroy said she and Morrow ran out of time and resources to continue printing, but present social issues inspired them to try again.

“We’re feeling like that now more than ever, with the racial relationships in America and everything going on with rights for gay people, we were like, ‘This is still critical; this still has to happen,’” Mcilroy said.

HEArt Online will have a blog format with submissions published on a rolling basis, not a definite timetable.

The debut will feature works based on social justice, political poetry, domestic and sexual violence and the Freedom Riders.

Mcilroy said the social issues the journal is focusing on now are shifting.

“I’m surprised how many submissions we got that are actually dealing much more with domestic violence,” Mcilroy said. “Like when we were doing this eleven year ago, it was more racial violence and certainly always violence against homosexuals … now we’re getting some of that, but the domestic violence stuff is incredible, it’s like women are finally speaking up in a huge way about that.”

Mcilroy said she hopes to eventually have work submitted from people all over the world.

She said her end goal is to inspire people to turn to art as a voice for social reform.

“It’s not just the occasional poem or the occasional story, or the whatever, I mean I would love politicians to cite literature when they’re trying to stand up and change a law,” Mcilroy said. “You know, I feel like it’s really, really strong ammunition for making a difference and changing the world.”

Jess is from Elizabeth Borough, PA and is a junior at Duquesne University with a double major in journalism and public relations. She was named as a fellow in the WESA newsroom in May 2013.