Itoro recently read all six issues of Shotgun Seamstress in a row. Here is what she learned from them:
It’s hard to speak to everything the Shotgun Seamstress zine collection taught me. It really does give you everything: interviews, stories, being queer, black, punk, female, broke, weird, loving music, knowing your history, loving yourself…it draws from a lot of sources and that right there sums up this history of the punk scene and the Black experience: We pull from everywhere and we survive and thrive too.
That’s my biggest lesson, but here are five more just for good measure:
1. WE need our people
Reading Shotgun Seamstress opened my eyes to our need for each other’s affirmation, community and understanding while trying to do the impossible: live in the margins. It’s important that when we find each other, we do what we can to build community and lift each other up, usually we’re the only black face in the white crowd. Many of the punk rockers, artists, drag queens, musicians, made that clear in Shotgun Seamstress. From how white the punk scene is, specifically, and how black folks are constantly pushed to the margins, it’s important for us, as Audre Lorde so eloquently puts it, “to practice how to be tender with one another.” I was shocked and awed to see the type of love and gentleness Shotgun Seamstress had to the multiplicity of voices it brought in.
2. Our struggles affirm one another
THE WOMEN OF COLOR IN PUNK CONFERENCE organized by Osa Atoe was talked about in the zine series as an affirming experience for women of color and a place of knowledge on a personal, political and historical level. It gave a space to share and think about how women of color could carry the torch forward and make life easier for young punksters participating in zine culture.
3. Don’t you yuck my yum
Stop commodifying my shit and learn your gotdamn herstory mofo!—Who are you to tell me what punk is? What a black punk is? What I should look like or sound like? Who are you to buy my shit, sell my shit, exploit my shit, silence my shit and then tell ME what to do!
One of the points that Shotgun Seamstress addresses is the African roots of punk and the importance of knowing that we stand in a long line of black peoples who made most of the music that we hear what it is. Let’s remember where things come from:
“Yes, rock and roll and almost the entire American pop pantheon comes from the blood sweat, and tears of sharecroppers, slaves and disenfranchised people.” — Chris Sutton
4. DO NOT leave any of yourself out of the equation
It all counts and all parts of ourselves need to be in our analysis and knowledge of our conditions. The fearlessness that the many voices had in Shotgun Seamstress in reclaiming the weird, the awkward, the queer, the difference in ourselves has to be a part of our liberation processes. Especially when looking at how to address our experiences, the personal is political and we should always question a scene-movement that expects us to leave an aspect of ourselves (that they don’t want to swallow) at the door.
5. Be an Ally not a Disappointment
Not gonna spend too much energy on this point, but a recurring issue that was highlighted throughout Shotgun Seamstress was the need for more allies, specifically white allies to “not talk that talk, if you ain’t gonna walk that.” Disappointment when we fail each other in this way does not even begin to cover it.
Some more key truths that I took away can be found below.
Life calls for resourcefulness, especially when you are on the margins…
Black punksters might be “obscure” but they have always been here…
Be courageous enough to break the silence…
If you don’t love yourself, how the hell you gonna love someone else?…
Rock on, stay strong…
What were your take aways? What resonated most with you?
Join the conversation and if you haven’t read the Shotgun Seamstress zine collection, please do and add your thoughts.
ABOUT SHOTGUN SEAMSTRESS
The final issue of Shotgun Seamstress zine was completed in the fall of 2011. Now, all six issues are compiled in a book that was published by Mend My Dress Press.
The first issue of Shotgun Seamstress came out in August of 2006. Read issue #1 for free here:
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.
'What I learned from …' is a new feature that you will find on POCZP’s digital platforms. POCZP will share zine analysis by and for POC to affirm our experiences and interpretation of independently created POC publications. We are starting a dialog.
POCZP Interns can contribute (learn about our internship program here) to this ongoing feature, as well as ANYONE who is interested in reading POC zines and reflecting on them. The only requirement is that you must identify as a person of color.
Email firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to write the next 'What I learned from …' edition. Put “What I learned from …’ ” in the subject line and include the following in the email body:
1) The zine, or series of zines, you want to read and review
2) Indicate if you already have access to the zine/s or need assistance accessing them
3) Include links to three writing samples, or submit three new writing samples (zine reviews or book reviews)
That’s it! <3