POC ZINE PROJECT — POC Zine Project 'Let's Talk About' column #1: 'I Make Books...That's My Shit'

POC Zine Project ‘Let’s Talk About’ column #1: ‘I Make Books…That’s My Shit’

Free Poet's Press website

I Make Books…That’s My Shit: Notes on How I Came to Media Making

By POCZP Midwest Coordinator Chaun Webster, founder of Free Poet’s Press

I make books…that’s my shit.  Love the smell of the pages.  I can recall more than a few embarrassing moments as a child with my head stuck in them as I sat in the library taking deep breaths in.  But more than just the book object, I love reading.  Sci-fi of the order of Octavia Butler, Wild Seed, YES PLEASE!  

Prison Letters from George Jackson, Autobiography by Assata Shakur, Biomythography of Audre Lorde or Maxine Hong Kingston.  I can’t get enough of the magic of language, the dance of the letters on the page as meanings collide in the sometimes challenging, sometimes breathtaking moments.  From Eduardo Galeano, to Ben Okri, to Gloria Anzuldia, I continue to be baptized.  

But more than just reading perhaps it is story that draws me, for I cannot remember my mother ever reading me something that she ever wrote down, but she could tell a story masterfully.  Whether the mysterious, the anecdotal or the epic, she knew how to draw from the powers of her experiences and bear witness.

This is some of the spirit with which I came to my own form of media making, the writing and publishing performing the same gesture that my mother’s storytelling did.  Though I don’t believe she was cognizant of it her stories were a gesture of power, of recognizing that we are here, and that though the legitimate records have criminally left us absent, we will continue to bear witness.  That witness can serve the purpose of balm or explosive strapped to the structures that assault us day to day.  

In my journey with books I would read the record of David Walker and his Appeal, make my own connections to that account and Nat Turner’s rebellion. There was a sense I came to about the interrelation of culture and resistance. Whether it was with this narrative or the work of Ida B. Wells, Lewis Michaux, Dudley Randall or Haki Madhubuti and their respective presses or bookstores, there was something to be said about culture and movement-making.

How do we imagine what has happened or what is possible? What force shapes the way we desire or negotiate and even dare to undermine the structures that govern, if not a cultural force?

Knowing of these stories and of their power was what made me so perplexed by “zinesters” who located that practice in something that was most often raced white and gendered male. The idea of DIY as chic, or a form of branding, misses the substance of the politically performed practice of enslaved Afrikans for whom writing was made illegal. Those same Afrikans who wrote anyway to bear witness that we were here, and will remain. It omits the work of the Black and Brown women who have held the traditions together and whose words work as mortar and sledgehammer.

I make books because there was something humanizing in seeing Jessica Care Moore’s Moore Black Press. It’s power signified something local in knowledge production, that that act was not always external.

I make books because there is a space between oppression and resistance that culture occupies, because cultural revolution is the weapon and because I intend to be fully armed.

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Free Poet’s Press is a small publishing company started in 2009 by Chaun Webster (POCZP Midwest Coordinator) with the intent of empowering Black and Brown artists to control their own images. 

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"Let’s Talk About…" is an experimental series by POCZP created to share communal knowledge, resources and reflections on a wide range of topics affecting communities of color.

If you are a person of color—or a white person with a history of supporting POC Zine Project— who wants to contribute to “Let’s Talk About…” submit to poczineproject@gmail.com with “Let’s Talk About” in the subject line. 

All submissions to "Let’s Talk About…" will be compiled into a zine (print & digital) that will be released by POCZP in December of 2013.

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  1. mendmydresspress reblogged this from poczineproject
  2. airhornoftruthandlove said: "That witness can serve the purpose of balm…" oh my, yes. "Balm" is the word I have used to describe so many things I’ve seen and read lately!
  3. poczineproject posted this