Solveig Nelson at Artforum:
IN 1991, at “SPEW: The Homographic Convergence”— a showcase of queer zines, T-shirts, videotapes, and performance that took place at the Randolph Street Gallery in Chicago—Robert Ford described Thing as a “black gay and lesbian underground arts journal and magazine kind of thing.” The publication, which he founded in 1989 with Trent Adkins and Lawrence Warren, highlighted what Ford called a “black sensibility” in the underground. Published “capriciously”—typically every three or four months—it featured original interviews, writing, and photographs by artists, musicians, writers, activists, and performers from queer scenes across the US,including figures such as Vaginal Davis, RuPaul, Joan Jett Blakk, Lady Bunny, Willi Ninja, Dorian Corey, Essex Hemphill, Lyle Ashton Harris, and many others. “We knew for ourselves what a rich and important cultural thing gay black men have and share,” Ford later told the writer Owen Keehnen. “We wanted to make a magazine that would be a way of documenting our existence and contribution to society. Our idea was not so much [to] radicalize or subvert the idea of magazines as to make one from our own point of view.” This was a necessary intervention, Ford said at SPEW, because there was “so little of us in ‘mainstream media.’”
Thing’s title was in part a reference to self-organized, DIY culture, as in “do your own thing”; it sought in particular to build networks of “things” within and among underground cultures in Chicago and beyond. Ford described wanting to create alternative familial ties, inspired by the support he received from his parents and sister after he came out as gay.