By Liz Mayorga, POCZP West Coast Coordinator
Photos by Itoro Udofia, POCZP Intern
The Oasis for Girls Program, located on Mission St in San Francisco, serves under-resourced girls and young women ages 11-24. They focus on empowering women by helping them reach their full potential through lifeskills, art, and career planning. They are part of Writer’s Corps, which brings professional writers to teach youth.
These writers are placed in a community setting to encourage youth to explore their talents and dreams. Oasis for girls creates a safe space within that spectrum for African American, Arab, Latina, Native, Ascian-Pacific Islander, low-income, immigrant women, transgender and queer women. And I felt honored to work with them as part of the POC Zine Project on March 27, 2013.
Itoro and I had the pleasure of leading a POCZP Youth Zine Workshop for Oasis for Girls. We met Roseli Ilano, the Writer’s Corps teacher, at the San Francisco Arts Commission. She greeted us with a warm smile, and introduced us to eight students, all young women of color from different High Schools in San Francisco.
Roseli lead us into a conference room, asked the girls to take a seat, and everyone introduced themselves, awkwardly, like the way we do when we’re in conference rooms, but it didn’t take long for this group to open up. Roseli created a level of comfort that not only encouraged the girls to speak, but helped me and Itoro feel at home.
We started by talking about The POC Zine Project, it’s mission, and our involvement in it. We covered how zines allow people to write between different worlds and form communities, and why they’re so important to communities of color. We highlighted these points with examples of work by Tomás Moniz, Mimi Thi Nguyen, and Osa Atoe.
The girls were impressed to hear about a father who writes about his daughters and his own struggle to help them stay strong and true to themselves, were surprised to hear about a Professor who started off as a zinester, and a musician who broke all norms and expectations by following her passion and creating the fanzine she wanted see. Most of all, they were happy to see people writing about people and topics we’re told to ignore.
After a brief history of zines as a radical self-expression and DIY publishing, we showed examples of Youth Zines and moved on to create one-page minis. This part of the workshop started with a circle and ended with a circle. Itoro asked, “If you could write about anything, what would you write?” We went around sharing the topics that were on our minds.
The topics varied from sexuality to social-economic issues, how women were too often blamed for being assaulted, and how their experience of San Francisco was nothing like the San Francisco people expected to see.
Roseli asked the girls to arrange the art supplies. As they did and prepared to create their minis, I asked them to make two or three zines, and proposed for them to write about the most important women in their lives, unless they wanted to write about something else. Most of the girls wrote about the women they admired, their mothers and grandmothers, their friends and role models.
We ended the workshop by going around the circle again, sharing our minis, our stories with each another.
I can safely say that Itoro and I gained a lot from working with this group of women. Making zines is gratifying, but it doesn’t come close to the satisfaction I feel when working with other people, especially youth, on art projects. Roseli and the girls were a wonderful group: curious, intelligent, engaging, and they had a lot to say.
I felt privileged to be there, to be a part of their circle, and to see their zines.
"The POC Zine Project creates a space for young women of color to explore their stories in a fun and fresh medium- a medium where the only rule is to take risks and let your creativity soar.
Our young women raised their voices, told their truths, and shared their dreams on paper, fully supported by the POC Zine Project workshop facilitators. In the process they not only learned about the radical history of zinemaking, but became a part of it.” - Roseli Ilano, WritersCorps Teaching Artist, Oasis For Girls
For more information on the Oasis for Girls program:
Phone: (415) 701-7991
FAX: (415) 701-0131
MAIL: Oasis For Girls, 1008 Mission St, San Francisco, CA 94103
OR WALK-IN: Office Hours are Mondays – Fridays from 11:00 am – 7:00 pm
On the Web: www.sfoasis.org
ABOUT LIZ MAYORGA
Liz Mayorga is an MFA Writing candidate at California College of the Arts. She writes and illustrates comics and storybooks, often featuring monsters. Her inspiration comes from her crazy family and Chican@ Pop Culture.
She is the Co-Director of San Francisco Zine Fest, and is now happy to be part of the POC Zine Project.
Learn more about her here: lizmayorga.com
COMMUNITY: Learn more about POCZP internship & volunteer opportunities here. We are still accepting applications.
If you are interested in POCZP leading a workshop or other event in collaboration with your organization - worldwide - email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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