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Journalist Britt Julious Believes In “The Underground, The Underdog And The Avant Garde”

Written by on March 2, 2023

In celebration of Vocalo’s 15th anniversary we’re looking back on some of our favorite archived segments of “This Is What Chicago Sounds Like.” Britt Julious is a freelance journalist and music critic who uses her expertise to tell the stories less often in the spotlight.

Freelance journalist Britt Julious uses her skills as a writer to tell all types of stories, covering music and art, as well as more nuanced subjects like the intersectionality of feminism, gender and sexuality. She received her BA at DePaul University in English Studies, Professional Writing, Philosophy, and has written pieces for Vice, The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune and more. In 2022, she started the newsletter Unbodied, which explores, as she stated on Instagram, “the body, its purpose, its fury, its difficulties, its deterioration, its beauty” through an artistic lens, and shares how lessons learned can promote healing.

As a BIPOC journalist, her lived experiences in Chicago have played a major role in informing her work. She is a champion for the underrepresented voices in the Chicago community, and feels sharing those smaller stories is just as crucial as the big headlines.

“I’ve always said my model is… I believe in the underground, the underdog and the avant garde, and being in Chicago really allows me to sort of push and promote those kinds of stories,” Julious said.

In 2019, Julious was awarded the Stud Terkel Award for journalism, and she is currently a Music Critic for the Chicago Tribune, an Editor for Gumbo Media and The Content Director at Thoughtful while still engaged in writing freelance work.

In this segment of “This Is What Chicago Sounds Like,” produced by Fyodor Sahknovski in 2018, Britt Juilous talked about her thoughts of Chicago as someone who’s lived all throughout the city, and the impact the city has on her identity as a journalist.

Introduce yourself, and describe your work in a few words.

I’m Britt Julious, I am a writer and essayist, journalist. I write for publications about music, art, race, feminism, gender, sexuality, and the intersection of all those things. And this is what Chicago sounds like. 

Where in the city did you grow up? How has the city shaped you?

My experience in the city of Chicago, as a Black woman, has been really interesting. I’ve lived in a variety of different parts of the city. So, childhood was Austin, but it was also Oak Park, where my family eventually moved. And… in college, I went to Lincoln Park and Lakeview, I went to school at DePaul, and now I live on the northwest side, where there’s Wicker Park and Bucktown. And I think, what I’ve learned or experienced as a Black woman is that this city… we know that it’s very segregated. We know that there are a lot of issues, but it always sort of amazes me how easy it is for people to sort of ignore those issues, especially as it relates to the Black community. And, a lot of times, I’m sort of entering in spaces that don’t have other people who look like me, and I kind of have to represent all that there is, or all that there can be, in terms of how we see Black people in the world. And so, that’s sort of been my experience, is that I’m oftentimes serving as a gatekeeper or a mouthpiece or just a representative of Black Chicago.

Photo courtesy of Britt Julious.

What do you love about Chicago?

I say this a lot, but I think one thing that I love about Chicago in particular is that it is so American. It is so just gritty and hardworking, and has this sort of spirit of the people who live here where they are just trying to get things done, right? And it’s not necessarily about being the best or about… getting a claim or anything like that. They just really sort of believe in the work that they’re doing, whatever that work may be, and they they get it done. I… grew up with a mother who was a CPS teacher, and I saw firsthand… the struggles that she went through, really just to do her work — but she did it for 35 years. And that’s what I really love about Chicago. And then also, from a personal standpoint, I know a lot of people maybe criticize the fact that Chicago is so sprawling and kind of spread out, but I really love that. I just love having space. I love having room to breathe. I love that I can… just go a few blocks and basically hear total silence and be sort of removed from everyone and I can take big… wide walks on the sidewalks and I can escape and… go to all of these different places and yet still be really connected to the city.

How does Chicago impact your work as a journalist?

The city absolutely informs my work, in that it really sort of has taught me, one, that, in terms of the actual work itself, that I kind of have to always… be grinding and be working and just sort of getting it done. Like, it’s not about me sort of, as a writer, having one really big viral piece and then suddenly I’m a star. It’s about… doing the smaller pieces and really sort of helping promote and share these particular stories of the people of Chicago. But I think also, in terms of informing my work, it’s really taught me that there are so many small stories that are not being covered, so many characters and people and scenes that are not getting their shine that should get their shine. And so it really informs me in that I want to basically shed light on them. I’ve always said my model is… I believe in the underground, the underdog and the avant garde, and being in Chicago really allows me to sort of push and promote those kinds of stories.

What does Black History Month mean to you?

Black History Month, for me, means celebrating my ancestors and my… skin folk who do not get to see the world and the life that I currently live. And that they went through so much for so long with no real hope… or belief that things would get better, but also sort of hoping that… their children, or their children’s children, would see some sort of levity and brightness in the world. And so… I celebrate Black history and I celebrate my skin folk because they went through so much, and yet they still were able to thrive and make their mark and… be something that I know now, in the present.

Photo courtesy of Britt Julious.

Since 2016, we have been profiling people who give their all to Chicago and enrich us socially and culturally by virtue of their artistry, social justice work and community-building. Take a listen. Read their words. Become inspired.

Produced and edited by Fyodor Sahknovski

Transcription and editing for length and clarity by Morgan Ciocca

Written introduction by Omi Salisbury

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