On April 13, 2013, POCZP Midwest Coordinator Joyce Hatton attended MidWest Zine Fest for herself and on behalf of POCZP. She created this report back as part of POCZP’s advocacy to help address safer space issues and to encourage more communication/outreach between white zine fest organizers and POC in the community where the event is taking place.
As a result of Joyce’s recap, we have been directly in touch with MidWest Zine Fest organizers. Our advocacy is about building relationships and sharing resources—with the focus always being on the liberation of POC.
We understand the utility of call out culture but we prefer to directly address issues with people one on one. We have found this leads to more tangible positive change than simply reading someone/an entity online (although sometimes it is needed!).
Enjoy the recap and let us know what you think!
MidWest Zine Fest 2013: The Awesome and the Not-So-Awesome
By Joyce Hatton
Joyce Hatton and POCZP member Mimi Thi Nguyen at MidWest Zine Fest 2013 (photo by Joyce Hatton)
On April 13th, 2013, I attended MidWest Zine Fest in Urbana, IL.
There were two speakers: Joe Coyle, and Kevin Hamilton. There were 21 tablers listed on the schedule, but a few more attended than were listed- myself included. I met some really interesting people and left with a huge pile of zines. I was really glad I went. Other events that I didn’t attend included a photo scavenger hunt, a stencil workshop, a film screening, and a punk show.
- When I walked in I saw several people wearing “radical librarian” name tags. I <3 librarians, especially radical librarians.
- I was delighted to see Georgi Johnston there, because I had just ordered the zine “Erik Satie was a Punk” through the mail. I was excited to read one zinester’s analysis of “punk” in a decidedly non-punk context (Satie was born in 1866 and and punk broke in 1977, as Georgi points out in the zine). I talked briefly with Georgi and we ended up doing a zine trade.
- Joe Coyle gave an excellent talk titled “Young People, the Prison Industrial Complex, and Writing” about work at a writing program based out of the Champaign County Juvenile Detention Center.
“The voices of young people are often neglected in discussions about the justice system and other social issues. This talk showcases some creative work by detained young people that critically addresses these topics and imagines alternatives.”
A view of the crowd during Joe Coyle’s talk at MidWest Zine Fest 2013 (photo by Joyce Hatton)
Coyle commented that sometimes even auxiliary prison workers get flack for being a part of the broken system that is the PIC. As we talked we agreed there is value in the efforts of working through the system to improve the lives of incarcerated people, and value in working for radical change of the system.
Joe Coyle and Becca Sorgert tabling at MidWest Zine Fest 2013 with zines made by incarcerated youth and adults (photo by Joyce Hatton)
Joe and Becca Sorgert tabled zines written by incarcerated youth and adults as a fundraiser for the Beat Within thebeatwithin.org, an nonprofit magazine that publishes works by incarcerated youth.
- Kevin Hamilton spoke about the process of making the zine “A Place in Time: Two Paths to a Television Broadcast.”
Kevin Hamilton (on stage) speaking about the zine making process at MidWest Zine Fest 2013 (photo by Joyce Hatton)
Kevin’s talk was a bit hard to hear because there was no microphone and zine fest was very busy at that time. Fortunately I was able to borrow a copy of “A Place in Time,” and I really enjoyed reading it.
Kevin was motivated to make it after seeing a video of the 1967 TV show “Public Broadcasting Lab.” In the zine, images from one of the broadcasts were used to recap a discussion amongst students and faculty talk about racism on campus. Black students are very anxious to talk about it, and the white students and faculty much less so.
[POCZP Editor Annotation]
FROM LAST YEAR: Chicagoian Jonas of “Cheer the Eff Up” zine tabling at MidWest Zine Fest in 2012 (in the black hat and hoodie)
Photo Source: Nicole on WeMakeZines
Update via Jonas on FB:
The final 2 issues of Cheer the Eff Up will be available this year! #5 will be finished in time for The Portland Zine Symposium in August. Issue #6 will be done in early November!
In the meantime, you can get issues #1-3 at a few cool distros on the internets. The most recent issue #4 can be found through Mend My Dress Press or Portland Button Works.
Please support those distros, because they are run by some of my favorite zinesters on the planet. But, hell, I’m not going to lie to you: if you write me a letter asking for a zine or 2, I’ll probably just mail you stuff for free. Meh. I’m a sucker for mail. Message me privately for the P.O. Box addy.
[/POCZP Editor Annotation]
A view of the zine tablers at MidWest Zine Fest 2013 (photo by Joyce Hatton)
Participants during the stencil workshop at MidWest Zine Fest 2013 (photo by Joyce Hatton)
COMMUNITY & ALLIES: Here is where Joyce raises some very important concerns that we hope sparks an ongoing and collaborative conversation between white folks who organize events and POC in the communities where they hold these events. If we don’t address these issues, POC will continue to feel unwelcome, unsafe and shut out from community. We cannot abide this. <3 Let’s change the game.
- Both Joe Coyle and Kevin Hamilton, the only two speakers, were white men.
Joe spoke for incarcerated youth, which due to the institutional racism of the justice system, many were people of color. Kevin’s zine spoke to racism on University of Illinois campus during the 1960’s and in my opinion, serves as a reminder that at any moment any one of us could be an individual that shapes history.
I appreciated Joe’s talk, and Kevin’s zine very much, but I always feel uncomfortable when white people speak about racism to a white audience (there did not appear to be people of color sitting in the audience of either talk.)
I appeared to be one of two people of color tabling zines there. There were some people of color who attended the event, which I was very glad to see. But I think it’s very important for POCs to have an active role in events, to have an active voice in presenting information. It seems like a distraction to talk about issues of race out there when your own space isn’t integrated.
I spoke with event organizer Jeanie about the lack of POCs at the event. Jeanie said that some zinesters of color were planning on coming from Chicago, but were unable to at the last minute. We talked for a bit about the need for more representation of POCs at zine events, and discussed barriers and solutions to making that happen.
POCZP stopped by Urbana-Champaign last year and put on an event at the Independent Media Center where Midwest Zine Fest was held. A few people commented to me that they had attended. While it was exciting to hear that, it was a little discouraging hear at an event with so few POCs tabling zines at MidWest Zine Fest.
- There was a zine there about “ghost hunting” and it included an image of a “proud Native American.”
The zine said that ghosts followed Natives around, and encouraged ghost hunters to follow Natives around in order to hunt ghosts. I asked the tablers of the zine about it in and they said “it’s just a joke” and offered to give me my money back.
I told them I hadn’t bought the zine, I had just noticed it while flipping through it. They repeated “it’s just a joke,” a few times, and eventually one person said “oh, you know, our friend made that joke. She’s a member of United Tribes.”
This is even more troubling when put in the context of the still-active controversy surrounding University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign’s recently retired mascot Chief Illiniwek.
- Dan from leaveyourbookmarks.com was wearing a tshirt that said “Chicago ain’t no sissy town.”
I approached him and had a brief conversation with him about the fact that “sissy” is a very loaded word that might make some people feel unwanted at the event, particularly given that he was tabling, which gives him the appearance of a person with power over the event. Dan was extremely polite, and offered to put on his sweatshirt to cover the shirt up.
We traded a couple of emails about our discussion a week or so later, and I think our interactions were very positive and educational for both of us.
I was very impressed with Dan’s immediate willingness to accept a new perspective, and complete lack of defensiveness.
I appreciate all the hard work the organizers did to host MidWest Zine Fest. I do not want to detract from the awesomeness of the event. What I wanted to do is give my honest perspective so that MidWest Zine Fest can grow to the be inclusive event that we all want it to be.
THOUGHTS FROM POCZP
POCZP founder Daniela Capistrano reached out to MidWest Zine Fest organizer Jeanie Austin this week after Joyce requested support.
Jeanie has been one of the organizers for the three MidWest Zine Fests, is a zine librarian with the UC-IMC Radical Librarians, goes to school for library science, and works with youth through Mix IT UP!
Here is the thread from our convo with Jeanie:
Hi Jeanie and Daniela,Jeanie, Thanks for your email. I apologize for my lack of response. I appreciate that you shared your concerns and experiences with me, but I was really unsure how to respond to information that I was supposed to keep secret- not just off the POCZP tumblr, but from Daniela and others. I think that growth and accountability can only happen in an open, transparent environment.
If you do have any comments or notes that you want to go with the blog post, please let us know.
To her credit, Jeanie responded in a very honest way that frankly we rarely see from white zine fest organizers after this kind of interaction:
joyce -i totally understand. i felt yucky as soon as i sent that e-mail. sorry to put you in that position.
i think that i would add this as an addendum to the notes “if i were to offer a word of advice to organizers who want to maintain safer spaces (which we do), there needs to be a lot of talk about what that looks like in action, including a patrol team that looks around and is ready to ENFORCE safer spaces (even if it means kicking folks out).”
PART OF POCZP’S RESPONSE
Hi Jeanie,Thanks so much for weighing in. POCZP does not use call out culture tactics because (although we understand when it is needed), we find it more productive to focus on solutions directly with folks we’re addressing. So we really appreciate your response and will include your note in the write up later today.I would also like to suggest the possibility of us all brainstorming by google hangout later this week or next week ways to collaborate in the midwest moving forward, with Joyce being a part of that in ways that make sense for her/work with her schedule. <3 Let me know what you think.Warmly,Daniela
POCZP founder Daniela and Jeanie are in touch about ongoing collaborations. Daniela, Jeanie and Joyce will be speaking about issues that came up at MidWest Zine Fest in more detail in the coming weeks so that resulting solutions can be shared publicly.
Jeanie is like many zine fest organizers—a person with a lot of other stuff going on who is passionate about building community. She reached out to us earlier in 2013, in fact, to present at MidWest Zine Fest. She also approached POCZP about a possible collaboration with a juvenile detention center in Urbana, IL and made an introduction on our behalf with Joe Coyle, who oversees the writing project.
This post isn’t about “calling out” Jeanie or anyone else at MidWest Zine Fest. We are about building community and making safer spaces for POC.
COMMUNITY: Think about Jeanie’s comment:
to maintain safer spaces (which we do), there needs to be a lot of talk about what that looks like in action
This hits close to home for POCZP. We made our own mistakes during our first tour last year that we will not make again this year. We discussed these mistakes at Chicago Zine Fest and you can find all details within our prezi.
Despite POCZP being founded by a person of color, and being made up of POC and allies, we still made mistakes during last year’s tour that negatively affected some attendees. Some of our partner venues wouldn’t let people under 18 in, some of the venues were not wheelchair accessible and and we never created a Safer Space Policy for our volunteer event coordinators.
Even as POC, we need to examine our various privileges and how that informs the way we produce events.
So even as we ask the MidWest Zine Fest organizers to examine what went wrong and how to produce more inclusive events in the future, we continue to identify our own mistakes so that we can learn from them and then share that knowledge.
MidWest Zine Fest DID create a safer space policy. The challenge is (one that many event organizers face) how to make sure that everyone is adhering to that policy and whether or not everyone is one the same page about what the policy means.
These conversations about accessibility, inclusivity and white privilege can be awkward, yes. But we need to keep having them. All the time. That is the only way positive change can occur. We need to all be a part of the solution.
Another factor to consider when assessing how the same mistakes keep happening over and over is volunteer organizer turnover rates. If there isn’t a handoff of information and a training component to onboarding new volunteers, critical information doesn’t get transferred.
In the case of MidWest Zine Fest, there is talk that the festival may not event continue after this year (not confirmed). Jeanie herself will no longer be involved with planning the fest after this year, due to moving out of state.
Check out Joyce’s roundup of zine fest posters that includes a note about MidWest Zine Fest’s problematic poster choice.
Again, we aren’t interested in simply calling out issues and walking away. We appreciate the time and energy it takes to organize zine fests and would like to partner with MidWest Zine Fest (if it’s still around) in the future.
For additional context, here is a very positive review of MidWest Zine Fest written by a white male attendee. Here is another very positive review published by The Daily Illini.
Zine fest attendees can have very different experiences, even while being at the same event together. This is something to keep in mind when discussing what true inclusivity looks like.
COMMUNITY: How can we create a praxis - a constantly evolving framework - for zine fest organizers to reference as they build toward a goal of producing an event that is truly inclusive? We should all be sharing resources. Send us your ideas: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Also, feel free to reblog this recap and include your own thoughts and links to resources. We’ll be sure to find them and share <3
- POC Zine Project
Submitting your call for submissions for your primarily or exclusively white-run zine to reach people of color through this platform, without an intro or any context, is inappropriate and the opposite of being a white ally.
Calling yourself a white ally doesn’t make you a white ally. Expecting POC Zine Project to signal boost a call for contributions to a zine that historically features white-only contributors is a gross display of white privilege.
Not reading our FAQ for white allies before submitting your call, that details the steps for white folks to submit their calls to POC Zine Project, before submitting, is equally gross.
It is not our job, or any person of color’s job, to help you find brown people to feature in your historically “by white people/for white people” zine because you lack enough friends of color in your own social circles to approach for collaboration.
We are tired of being nice about this.
Most of the time we are approached by white folks who understand the concept of being an ally and these have been positive exchanges, frequently resulting in collaborations.
But over the past few months - directly connected with the rising visibility of POC Zine Project in zine communities due to the Race Riot! tour - we’ve received more “help me do x” emails and requests for signal boosts from white folks. There is nothing wrong with that.
What is most definitely wrong and derails the possibility of a positive exchange is not checking your privilege before approaching us for assistance.
What is definitely not appreciated is expecting us to assume that just because you call yourself a “white ally,” that must be true. We owe it to our community to present them with facts, not assumptions.
We will not signal boost ANYTHING by any white person simply because they call themselves an ally. We take the role of white allies in the struggle for liberation and equality very seriously. It’s insulting to us and to true white allies when white people use that term but continue to behave in a manner that is silencing and oppressive to people of color.
We expect, and have a right to demand, that if you’re a white person who wants us to signal boost your call for submissions to your zine, that you provide us with at least some related links and other documentation that demonstrates your history of being a white ally. This is clearly spelled out in the FAQ.
Expecting us to take hours of additional time researching whether you’re an ally or not by reading all your zines and fact-checking - because you didn’t bother to share any kind of context - is just another example of white privilege within zine communities.
Scanning one of your zines and finding it filled with photos of white folks, and none of people of color, forces us to assume that you are in denial about your privilege. Featuring ONE person of color in your zine series, which otherwise largely features white contributors only, IS TOKENIZING. YOU ARE NOT BEING AN ALLY.
If you don’t provide context or background when you approach us for support (which should be common courtesy), our only recourse is to take time to research who you are and what you’re about. And we would rather use that time to empower and support POC who are tired of being silenced by people like you. So we won’t do that anymore. Ever again.
Come correct, please. You don’t like your time wasted and neither do we. Check your privilege.
We are, and will always be, primarily a resource for people of color. We appreciate our white allies who understand this and support our goals, knowing that our liberation is their liberation and the path to freedom.
*drops mic, walks off*
- POC ZINE PROJECT