I Make Books…That’s My Shit: Notes on How I Came to Media Making
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.
"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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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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If everyone in our community gave $1, we would more than meet our fundraising goal for 2013. If you have it to spare, we appreciate your support. All funds go to our 2013 tour, the Legacy Series and the poverty zine series.
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Here are some moments from our first tabling and panel experience as invited guests at L.A. Zine Fest on February 17, 2013:
1. When we arrived at the Ukrainian Cultural Center and were impressed with the space
2. L.A. collaborator Chula Doula posing with flowers before assisting us with POCZP tabling needs (Thanks, Pati!)
Pati Garcia is a Certified Sexological bodyworker/Somatic Sex Educator, self-identifies as genderqueer/fluid two spirit of Peruvian-Mexican descent, loves to dig feet in the earth and throw love into the cosmos. Pati holds space for life unraveling and unwinding as a birth doula. Pati follows only the spirit led path and refuses to compromise pleasure for any reason at all. Radical feminist doula bodyworker, workshop facilitator. Wanna see your cervix?? Ask her how.
3. When Cristy C. Road, Suzy X, Chula Doula and Mariam Bastani all tabled together at the same time <3
Osa Atoe (Shotgun Seamstress) isn’t in this shot because she was reading during the Mend My Dress Press panel. Tomas Moniz (Rad Dad) was tabling elsewhere but joined us for the POCZP minutes after this photo was taken. POCZP founder Daniela was taking photos with her weird camera, which she will be replacing (sorry for the fuzz y’all).
Here is what Tomas had to say about his first experience collaborating with POCZP at an event:
Two and half hours is pushing it for a bad Hollywood movie; so when I realized the POC Zine Project workshop at this year’s L.A. Zine Fest lasted that long and the crowed remained attentive, invested, engaged throughout all six presentations, I was shocked. But this fact demonstrates exactly how vital and important the event was!
I’ve attend and participated in many readings, but this one was special; this one was with people who have inspired me for years, Cristy C. Road and Mariam from MRR, as well as people who’s work is some of the best stuff out there today, Suzy X’s Malcriada and Osa Atoe’s Shotgun Seamstress; I also got the chance to thank the founder of the POC Zine Project organizer, Daniela, for keeping alive some of the zines that inspired me as I entered my own critical consciousness and keeping these important resources available for those who come after us.
4. Getting to know our tabling neighbors, such as Thi Bui and her son (who is also an artist!)
Thi Bui was born in Saigon, raised in California and schooled in New York. She teaches high school and has a little boy and a husband. She have been hard at work, writing and drawing a graphic novel called THE BEST WE COULD DO. It is a 15-chapter immigration epic about her parents, their place in history, and her search for her place in her family.
5. When Mariam and other folks from Maximumrocknroll joined the POCZP table with more issues featuring punks and activists of color
POCZP founder Daniela Capistrano (L) and Mariam Bastani (R)
Maximumrocknroll is a widely distributed monthly fanzine dedicated to supporting the underground punk rock scene. MRR’s 25-year plus history and large, obsessed all-volunteer staff has made its punk rock coverage the most consistently up-to-date and reliable around. Subscribe here or purchase individual issues here.
Quese IMC had this to say immediately after the event:
I had a really good time. I enjoyed myself. Was good for me to see a different perspective and meet some cool people. Look forward to hearing from you and definitely keep me updated what you have in mind for the tour…
We are in the process of figuring out how Quese IMC can join us during the 2013 Race Riot! Tour to help share information about #IdleNoMore actions in the Canada, U.S., and around the world. Stay tuned for updates …
7. When our panel at the Moth Theatre quickly became over capacity, and we had to scramble to find additional seating/make space (all great problems to have!)
Osa Atoe reading at L.A. Zine Fest
Suzy X reading at L.A. Zine Fest (C) while Osa (L) and Mariam (R) observe
This was Suzy’s second time reading as part of a POCZP event. Osa’s commentary afterward? “Suzy is hilarious.” We agree! Check out her latest zine, Malcriada. Suzy will also be joining us next month for Chicago Zine Fest, woo! <3
Here is what Suzy had to say about her time with POCZP at L.A. Zine Fest:
I was so honored to join the POC Zine Project last week at LA Zinefest! Our panel on Sunday afternoon brought up a lot of feelings for me, as the new girl in a scene of bad-ass POC in zines. It’s really mind-blowing how long it took for someone to finally initiate a project like this, a project that centers the voices of people of color in DIY publishing. I discussed my experience— a baby feminist living in a conservative household in the South, without access to any zines, much less zines by POC, until I attended college. And after hearing all these wonderful folks speak, I felt terribly late to the party, because they had been going at it for years! And doing a damn good job of it, too.
I’m incredibly thankful for the initiative Daniela has taken in bringing us all together. But in going forward, I think a conversation should happen in which we discuss access to those who don’t belong to punk scenes or those who don’t live in urban or densely-populated areas. This project was started to shed light on the history of POC in zines; but I am interested in working on ways to make this history available and accessible to more people. This could mean partnering up with existing distros or starting one by and for POC! Whatever works you know? And I’m excited to continue these conversations during the zine tour in Fall 2013.
Suzy X was delighted to find out after sending this recap that POCZP has been engaging in this conversation with folks for years. POCZP’s first zine partner, SlushPilePress, is located in a remote area of Eugene, Oregon (no longer operating) and our present zine distro partner is Brown Recluse Zine Distro. We also support zine partners who aren’t a part of our touring.
Our poverty zine partner Carey Fuller is based in Kent, WA, which is also an undeserved area. Our Legacy Series initiative (ongoing) is all about making independent publications by POC from decades past accessible. We don’t organize to center punk experiences, although we do have some collaborators who ID as punk. We have a lot going on <3.
COMMUNITY: If you are located in the midwest and/or rural areas without much support for independent publishers, email email@example.com we can discuss ways to partner. <3
Just one section of our over capacity audience - it was so great to meet many of the attendees afterward!
Cristy C. Road reading at L.A. Zine Fest
8. Reconnecting with POCZP West Coast collaborators like Liz Mayorga
Chula Doula (L) and Liz Mayorga (R) at dinner after L.A. Zine Fest
Liz is a writer / illustrator from Southeast LA. She grew up watching old, Black and White, Mexican films and selling burritos with her family. The films were her inspiration. The tacos and burritos paid for college. She used to work with teenagers, and they taught her what it means to be brave. Their energy and fearlessness inspired her to write and draw for herself, but she ends up creating for them too.
Liz is now an MFA Writing Student at CCA, where she writes both fiction and nonfiction, milks the Illustration department for all they’re worth, and experiences an existential crisis every day. Despite the hard work and many sleepless nights, she is extremely grateful to read, write, and draw. She thanks you for your support.
Liz is helping us with tour fundraiser events on the West Coast between now and October. If you’re interested in supporting POCZP West Coast initiatives, send us a message: firstname.lastname@example.org.
9. Helping more folks discover zines by people of color
We met so many rad people at L.A. Zine Fest and will be reaching out to everyone who signed our mailing list in the coming weeks. <3
10. Meeting (in person!) & collaborating with more inspiring zinesters of color like Tomas Moniz
Tomas Moniz (L) and Suzy X (R) at the POC Zine Project table at L.A. Zine Fest on February 17, 2013
Tomas Moniz is the founder, editor, and a writer for the award winning zine Rad Dad. Looking for radical parenting community, he created Rad Dad to provide the space for parents (particularly fathers) to share, commiserate and plan with each other, and to support each other in challenging patriarchy one diaper at a time. As China Martens has said, “Tomas has been the most vocal voice within zines, trying to start and keep a discussion within this aspect of radical politics and parenthood.” His writing has been included in many zines about parenting as well as in the books My Mother Wears Combat Boots and Don’t Leave Your Friends Behind.
This event marks the first time Tomas participated in a POCZP panel. We’re looking forward to connecting with him at Chicago Zine Fest next month and discussing ongoing collaborations!
A HUGE thank you to L.A. Zine Fest organizers Meredith Wallace and Rhea Tepplim for all their help, as well as to everyone who volunteered at the fest. <3
Our panel was recorded and we are in the process of tracking down video so we can share it with you all.
COMMUNITY: Did we meet you in person at L.A. Zine Fest? Tell us about your experience exploring our tabling area or what you thought about our panel discussion. Submit your thoughts here or email email@example.com (all voices welcome, including white folks <3).
We’ll update this recap with more reactions and photos from POCZP members and L.A. Zine Fest attendees in the coming days.