Freedom Dreaming Zine (A Public Knowledge Project)

Like many others in our cohort, we wanted to provide space for student joy, reflection, and art. CUNY has over 240,000 students, each of them with their own history and story. Our project offered a chance for our students to publicly share their stories. 

Our group was inspired by Bettina Love, whose talk and book were part of our TLH semester.

In We Want to Do More Than Survive by Bettina Love, the chapter “Freedom Dreaming,” posits that artistic mediums can be utilized as a way to express individuals’ unique narratives while shaping their visions for the future. She writes:

“Writing, drawing, acting, painting, composing, spittin’ rhymes, and/ or dancing is love, joy, and resistance personified. Art provides more to communities than just visual and sonic motifs: it is one of the key ingredients to a better world. Art that inspires for a better world. is rooted in intense design, research, and musings for justice filled with new-world possibilities. Social justice movements move people because they ignite the spirit of freedom, justice, love, and joy in all who engage with the work. Art helps people remember their dreams, hopes, and desires for a new world.”

Beyond Love’s inspiration, we drew on ideas of making as a form of knowing and art as information. Of particular interest to us was the liberatory aspect of art making and the power of storytelling.

Our zine, titled Freedom Dreaming, asked students to contribute a page that reflected their own experiences as CUNY students, as community members, as family members.

We set out four broad themes that students could use to guide their contributions:

  • Educational justice
  • Education as liberation
  • Academic success
  • College post-pandemic

In Toni Morrison’s essay “The Site of Memory,” she describes exploring two worlds of the self, “the actual and the possible.” Student contributions span both the actual and the possible. One student centers her contribution on the possible—her expectation she will be the first in her family to graduate college. Another acknowledges the actual—the struggle and choices that led her to pursue her degree at CUNY. Still other contributions recognize the community and family that has supported and surrounded them during their time at CUNY.

Student contributors were able to tell their own story and leave us with a record of it by combining creative forms of expression with autobiographical knowledge production. The self-definition and deeply personal contributions create a two-way vulnerability between readers and contributors.

Ultimately, 18 students from four CUNY school contributed pages, providing visual art, poetry, data visualization, personal essays, and manifestos. Each faculty member of the group also contributed their own page. The result is a varied and dynamic collaboratively authored zine; a site of memory for our students and ourselves.

We are thrilled with the outcome, and hope you find inspiration and connection in these pages.


Sarah Cohn (City College)

Natalie Nuzzo (Brooklyn College)

Roberto Visani (John Jay College)

George Vachadze (College of Staten Island)

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