POC ZINE PROJECT

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POC Zine Project and Tonya L. Jones respond to Portland State Vanguard's article on zines

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

On November 12, 2012, Portland State University student Robin Crowell published an interview with Tonya L. Jones on PSU University’s Vanguard site. Tonya, the founder of the Women of Color Zine Workshops (and WOC Zine Symposium) based in Portland, OR, shared her thoughts with Robin on how “zines give voice to social justice” (what was used in the original headline).

POC Zine Project read the interview and — having a relationship with Tonya — suspected that some details didn’t make the edit. Also, Tonya and another person were misquoted.

WHY WE’RE PUBLISHING THIS RESPONSE

We definitely don’t want to discourage campus publications from covering poc zine-related topics. We are not about bashing student journalists. People make mistakes.

However, it is important to us that editors make it a priority to (when possible) include comments by interviewees addressing their experiences with racial inequality.

It’s also equally important for writers to have the ability to assess when edits to their work compromise the piece in ways that spread misinformation, or prevent important information from being shared.

We don’t know who made the final call on what did or didn’t get published, but we do want to raise awareness about two very important errors:

EXAMPLE #1: Tonya emailed this to Robin as part of her email interview, but it didn’t make it in the piece:

Some of us use our zines to write about our experiences as WOC and to deconstruct oppression in their lives. But, just like other zinesters, we like to talk about our different interests (e.g. music, knitting, cooking, traveling, pets etc.). We are no different (as artists) in many ways, yet we do offer unique history/stories to share as WOC.

Anyone involved in zine culture should have work by WOC zinesters in their collection.

Why were these two paragraphs cut? This information - in our opinion - seems like the heart and soul of Tonya’s motivations, and these facts should have been included in the article.

EXAMPLE #2: It’s important to be correct about things such as accurately publishing quotes. This is how history is unintentionally revised and people are misrepresented.

Sugene Yang-Kelly was misquoted. Here is the excerpt from the piece: 

Sugene Yang-Kelly views making a zine as a “self-indulgent” activity.

“It’s just a fun, personal outlet, and I’m not trying to reach a wide audience or impress anyone or change people’s minds,” Yang-Kelly said. “It’s a bonus if other people want to read my zines and have a conversation about it.”

Here is what she really meant, directly from Sugene:

I did not say that I thought zines were a self-indulgent activity, I said that it was self indulgent for ME. And I did not write an article that got censored, it was a different article that got censored. And we did NOT end up publishing and distributing the article ourselves. And that is not when I started a zine either. I’m glad that the group got some press, but I’m PISSED OFF that things that I said were either taken out of context or were factually untrue.

Considering this is a student publication (meaning more flexibility about things like word count and time to fact check), the article would have been more accurate and informative if some of Tonya’s comments had not been omitted. We also hope that incorrect quotes are addressed asap.

We thank Robin for interviewing Tonya for Vanguard and hope that Robin continues to follow the Women of Color Zine Workshops’ growth in Portland and beyond.

WHAT WAS LEFT OUT

Sometimes news articles and interviews don’t include everything you need to know. We followed up with Tonya Jones to get additional context to share with our community.

Tonya’s comment prefacing her statements that she emailed to POC Zine Project:

I am disappointed that the article didn’t mention the fact that POC/WOC HAD to start alternative forms of media because of white oppression/racism. It wasn’t just a fun hobby!

I did talk about Ida B. Wells and her work with a black newspaper that wrote articles about the lynching of black people. I also talked specifically about the work of the WOC group and our zine collective, which is all about our perspective as living as WOC in Portland which is almost 80% white, and how we have to navigate racisms in a state that has a history of oppression against POC.

These are the answers Tonya submitted to Robin via email, without any editing:

2) Define a zine.

There is a long history on what zines are about, where they started etc. In order to encourage WOC to get involved in making zines/DIY culture, I tend to use the words of a Portland activist I admire (PSU Black Studies professor Walidah Imarisha).

She was once a guest speaker at one of our workshops. She noted that as POC (people of color) we have always had to use alternative forms of media to get our voices heard. Creating our own newspapers, books, journals, etc., self-publishing is a part of our history as WOC. We look at women like Ida B. Wells, who was a journalist and wrote for a black newspaper to speak out about the racist injustices against Black people (lynching).

These were atrocities that were not acknowledged by the mainstream media. POC/WOC have had to write our own stories otherwise we were/are invisible in mainstream society. That is how I define zines, an opportunity for us to continue the legacy of telling truth of our experiences.

3) What made you decide to dedicate a workshop to women of color?

After attending the Portland Zine Symposium (years ago), I noticed a lack of diversity. I really wanted to connect with other WOC zinesters. The following year, I lead a workshop at the PZS called “Women of Color: Writing and Activism.” I received such good feedback from the attendees. I decided to host workshops monthly. It’s how the workshops started and the rest is history!

4) What should people know about zines by and about women of color?

I would like people to know that WOC have always been part of the zine community. You have wonderful long time WOC zinesters like Osa (creator of Shotgun Seamstress a zine dedicated to AfroPunk/Black people in punk), Daniela Capistrano (the founder of the POC Zine Project in NYC and creator of the zine Bad Mexican), Sugene Yang-Kelly (creator of All This is Mine zine), and more that have been out there being creative, self-publishing, lecturing, attending symposiums, etc.

Some of us use our zines to write about our experiences as WOC and to deconstruct oppression in their lives. But, just like other zinesters, we like to talk about our different interests (e.g. music, knitting, cooking, traveling, pets etc.). We are no different (as artists) in many ways, yet we do offer unique history/stories to share as WOC.

Anyone involved in zine culture should have work by WOC zinesters in their collection.

5) What does creating a zine mean to you?

It’s an outlet to purge my feelings about the racism I deal with as a Black woman. I love the freedom of creating a zine. It’s my own project I can return to when I feel up to it or when there are racist issues affecting Black women and I feel I should speak out about it

6) What is the title of your zine and could you tell me a little more about it?

My personal zine is called “See Me: Issues that Affect Our Lives, Acts of Resistance against Oppression and Black Feminist Thought.” I focus on issues of Black women (e.g. racist images in Hollywood, Black motherhood, etc.) with a feminist twist.

The WOC Zine group makes a zine collective called “Women of Color: How to Live in the City of Roses and Avoid the Pricks.” We discuss navigating Portland as WOC (e.g. racism, gentrification, resisting mainstream beauty standards, the arts, etc.).

We are currently working on our 4th issue. It will focus on POC and Housing in Portland (e.g. the displacement of the Black community from Alberta & Mississippi neighborhoods, etc.)

Any further comments?

Last summer (2011), the WOC Zine group applied for a project grant from the Regional Arts & Culture Council. Our project proposal was to host a Women of Color Zine Symposium. We won the grant and hosted Portland’s first WOC Zine Symposium. It was in June of this year. The purpose of the event was to provide a space for WOC artists in Portland to come together while sharing their creative work with the larger community.

The day consisted of tabling of zines, raffle prizes, an open mic (with a reading from our WOC Zinester Scholarship winner writer/poet, Jamondria Harris), a workshop lead by long-time WOC zinester LaMesha Melton (She is the creator of Coco/Puss which a perzine about black women and sexuality discusses being a single mom, sex, racism, feminism, birth control, sex workers, and other topics). and the day ended with a performance with local all-female/multicultural hip-hop group, RoseBent.

We had a great time and looking at ways to host this event again next year. Keep a look out for it!

THOUGHTS ON HOW THINGS GET LEFT OUT

IMPORTANT: We are NOT directing these comments at Robin or implying we know anything about her motivations or freedoms re: her final piece.

Here are our top three points:

1. Sometimes white privilege plays a role in how journalists report on a story. Since racial inequality isn’t typically a white person’s experience, it may not feel necessary to include details directly speaking to racial inequality.

It’s important to be mindful of how your privilege affects what you write about and how you write about it.

2. Interviews via email usually eliminate the possibility of misquoting someone, but sometimes it doesn’t (although we prefer doing interviews in person, with a recorder!). It is up to the journalist to follow up with their subjects to clarify any questions or concerns.

Make sure that the quotes you plan to include are accurate. Take the time to check in advance.

3. It’s generally a good idea for a journalist to email the link for the article (once it’s live) to their interview subjects and inform them that if anything looks fishy, to let them know immediately so they can address it. This takes two seconds. Unfortunately, not everyone does this.

Some journalists excuse themselves by saying that they don’t want their work compromised, but to that we say “BUUUUUULL SHIT!” Making sure that your details are factually correct should not compromise your work.

Here are some additional thoughts, providing by the Women of Color Zine Workshop in their original event listing on Facebook for the 2012 Symposium, that we think are relevant to this dialogue: 

The image people have of Portland is mainly based on the white majority who live here - 76.1 % of the population, according to the 2011 U.S. Census. But the other 23.9%, the other Portland, they have a voice too. And the Women of Color Zine (WOC) group is one of the ways …that other voice can be heard.