The Rock Paper Scissors Collective (RPS) is located in the heart of downtown Oakland’s cultural district. RPS holds one of the largest zine libraries on the West Coast and, as its mission statement says, it “fosters creativity and collaboration in order to strengthen local communities and encourage sustainable practices and alternative models.” RPS uses its space to hold many different aspects of creativity - from zines; to visual art; to performances; to art making workshops and (most importantly) forming collaborative relationships with the community.
During my visit I immediately noticed the friendly and open atmosphere. I was able to connect with Kristi, a collective member at RPS.
Kristi does a lot of community work and coordinates the youth intern program. I observed several young women of color at RPC making zines as part of their internship.
Kristi informed me that RPS is in the middle of cataloging all their zines. This made finding zines by POC during my visit challenging - but not impossible, and we understand their constraints as a grassroots, volunteer entity. Kristi was able to help me locate some zines by POC, which are listed at the bottom of this post.
RPS is an example of what a thriving, deeply grassroots alternative space can look like. This alone made the visit worth it, and I will be back again.
Here are five more things that you should know about Rock Paper Scissors Collective’s community space:
It’s a YOUTH SPACE
Part of what makes RPS so vital to the community is that it creates a safe and inclusive space for youth - specifically, I saw youth of color making zines and coming in for the youth intern programing. RPS is known for its youth programming, and thankfully it’s free or low cost. To see youth coming in on a Thursday afternoon and having a free space to hang out was a sight to behold.
POCZP: How does RPS serve the community?
Kristi: Everyone’s welcome here. It doesn’t matter who you are. We’re not a museum/hands off gallery…We only showcase emerging artists, we do open calls, group shows…everything is free and affordable…Anyone can teach classes. Community collaborations are a major component here. We also run programs at high schools and have a zine fest (East Bay Alternative Express and Zine Expo).
RPS focuses on the need for art within the community. Zines are a facet of that as, it is super alternative and accessible.
BAY AREA COMMUNITY: RPS is looking for volunteers to help catalog the zine library on Sunday. Contact them if you’re interested in helping out! <3
It’s an ACCESSIBLE SPACE
The classes offered at RPS’s are free or low cost. Anyone can teach a class, volunteer, and access the zine library. Its store sells clothing, artwork and zines from local artists. It also gives an open call to artists for exhibits. When inquiring further about zines, the staff member on site spoke of zines being “alternative” and “a way for anyone to get their voice out.” I was struck most by its accessibility in making art that responds to the community’s need and fostering dialogue. That was my biggest take away while being there.
It’s a COLLABORATIVE SPACE
RPS thrives most when it can collaborate and form relationships within the community. They do work with schools, offer free workshops to the public, and work with local artists (just to name a few of their collaborations). Also, they can be seen at the East Bay Alternative Book and Zine Fest where they are showcased every year!
It’s a COMMUNITY SPACE
A community space in the sense that it seeks to be a non-hierarchal, inclusive organization, that turns no one who wants to volunteer or become a member away. From speaking with some of the staff, the energy of wanting to build and form a sustaining community was present. A volunteer came in to paint the steps and there was an overall sense of camaraderie and joy for the work.
It’s a STRUGGLING AND OPEN SPACE
I am always aware of the need for a space where there can be love and struggle. And I would be remiss if I acted like everything is always “a walk in the park” within the movement. Or more importantly, that our spaces of struggle and those deep places where we need to decolonize cannot be openly talked about.
So here it is: RPS is a grassroots collective trying to do a lot with a little. Its zine library needs a lot of love and cataloguing. It also needs to have a space where zines by POC can be easily accessed, located and shared. Within our movement, this is a struggle, and I was happy at the level of openness and receptiveness to having support in that.
If you’re on the West Coast and in the Bay area, walking around in Oakland, check out the Rock Paper Scissors Collective. They are open on Wednesday-Sunday, from 12-7 and located at 2278 Telegraph Avenue. See for yourself and make your own assessment. Also, they are looking for Sunday volunteers to help catalogue with the zine library. If you’re looking for a place to support that is doing much needed community work, consider going to RPS.
In the meantime, here are five zines by or about POC that I would recommend. If you are ever at RPS please check them out.
1. The Combination by Ashley Nelson in collaboration with the Neighborhood Story Project
A moving personal-political soul trip of one of the oldest housing complexes in New Orleans.
2. Polarity by Ras Terms
A metaphysical mind trip that explores the duality of spirituality and its metaphysical roots.
Ras Terms was born and raised in Miami. As part of the BSK and FS crews, he was a pivotal figure in the Miami graffiti scene. Terms is a gifted illustrator and painter who has provided many images for the Rastafarian community. Since his arrival in the Bay Area he has established himself as a character graffiti artist and has lent his talents to serve the community.
A zine about the Zapatista movement in Chiapas Mexico. Zapatista thought and knowledge on the struggle against neoliberalism and predatory financial institutions. Published by Agit Press (formerly known as Porcupine Press)
A zine featuring the distinctive artwork and design from West Coast based visual artist Marcus La Farga.
5. Murder Dollhouse by Teppei Ando
Based in the 1920s, a beautifully illustrated comic book thriller about a man who lives in an attic. Published by Volcano Productions.
“rock paper scissors collective is a volunteer-run organization that fosters creativity and collaboration in order to strengthen local communities and encourage sustainable practices and alternative models. We promote the sharing of ideas, skills, and resources through the celebration of art, craft, education, and performance.”
questions -[at]- rpscollective -[dot]- org
2278 Telegraph ave., Oakland, CA 94612
Hours: 12 - 7pm, Wednesday - Sunday.
Closed Monday and Tuesday.
ABOUT ITORO UDOFIA
Itoro is the first dedicated intern for the POC Zine Project’s Legacy Series. Itoro’s excited to support POCZP because ”it is a collective that uplifts and cares about what people of color have to say and acknowledges what they have always said.” Learn more about her here.
ABOUT ‘SCENE REPORTS’
Would you like to help us create Scene Reports for every state? Contact us: email@example.com.
If you would like to invite POC Zine Project to your upcoming event, or collaborate on a joint event, let us know!
Editor’s Note: Itoro will be creating weekly Scene Report round ups. Make sure to send us your zine event details so we can share! If it’s not zine-related but possibly of interest to zinesters of color, we will share that as well.