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BiblioBitch: PoC Zine Project

a table with a smattering of zines made by people of color, including shotgun seamstress by osa atoeI'll admit, I kind of fudged when I said this would be a three-part series about zine artists I love. Honestly, I could probably do a fifty part series on zine artists I love, then publish it as a memoir called Can I Be You? But I'm not doing that, and instead, I'm going to take a few minutes to tell you about something really important. A couple of weeks ago, you might have stopped by the Portland Zine Symposium (or any zine fest anywhere) and thought to yourself "Wow, there are a lot of white people here, where are all the zinesters of color?" Or at least, that's what I was thinking. I scoured the entire space looking for people of color only to find one table all alone, in the back of the warehouse. One amazing table, to be sure, but I still left wishing for something more. I'd imagine Daniela Capistrano had some similar thoughts when she founded the People of Color Zine Project in 2010 in order to make zines by folks of color accessible, available, and distributable for all, because really, these things can be incredibly hard to find in such white dominated DIY, activist, and artist communities.

Folks of color doing important, critically engaged, and beautiful things often get overlooked or underappreciated, and we're left with a room full of white people selling zines about their cats. Now, I have nothing against that, but when you have new compelling material that is just being shoved under the table, someone has to do something about it. We need visibility, representation, and the ability to reach out to others. This is where things get exciting. The PoC zine project has already done so much vital work for zine communities all over the place, including panels, Internet archiving, and events, and if you read my interview with Cristy C. Road two weeks ago, you might remember her mentioning that she'll be touring with the PoC Zine Project in the fall.

Yes, that's right, they're curating a travelling zine exhibition, and if you're as ready for this as I am (and if you happen to be somewhere around the East Coast), find them. Speakers and tour members include, of course, Daniela Capistrano, the founder of PoC Zine Project, Current TV producer, and media literacy activist, Cristy C. Road, artist, writer, badass, and dreamboat; Mimi Thi Nguyen, a professor, author, activist, and creator of the Race Riot zine series; and Osa Atoe, author, musician and creator of Shotgun Seamstress zine series. Other rad people of color are still to be announced.

9.24 New York, NY
9.25 Philadelphia, PA
9.26 Pittsburgh, PA
9.27 Athens, OH
9.28 Detroit, MI
9.29 Ann Arbor, MI
9.30 Chicago, IL
10.01 Champaign, IL
10.02 Bloomington, IN
10.03 Columbus, OH
10.04 Pittsburgh, PA
10.05 Washington, DC
10.06 Baltimore, MD
10.07 New York, NY

Before you get too upset at the next zine fest you go to, just know that this exists, and that there is hope for zinesters of color and their important work. Keep up to date with their whereabouts, and how you can get involved on their Facebook, Tumblr, and Twitter!

Previously: Diggin' Deep With Cristy C. Road

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Comments

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BiblioBitch: PoC Zine Project

Really?
I (Marya Errin Jones) a black woman, tabled at Portland Zine Fest both days, and my zine about Bessie Coleman, sold out. I sold several of all of my 9 zines that weekend, including a bunch to librarians managing zine collections in the Multnomah County Library system. Not denying that people of color are rarely sited at zine fests across the land but we ARE there-- at least I was. I was present, I was visible (sitting back-to-back with Alex Wrekk, a founder of the PDX Zine Symposium) and I was definitely reaching out-- but hey, sometimes you can't see the forest of the zines.

(I also produce ABQ Zine Fest, now in its second year-- October 6, in Albuquerque. Come check it out!)

Take care!

Marya Errin Jones

Hmmmm

Well, it's possible that I was just not looking hard enough. I was certainly overwhelmed and couldn't wait to just get out of there. But I'm glad you were tabling, and I'm bummed that I missed you!

--

Devyn Manibo, New Media Intern

Hello...so as a zinester for

Hello...so as a zinester for many many years I understand the critique of the diversity of the zine community, but I think the problem is the way in which it's simplified in this article to such a degree that looking around the room was the indicator of diversity. As a person of color, I too find it troublesome to be unseen particularly by my own community. I think a more effective and helpful critique is to ask what zine organizers (all zine fests not just this one) are doing to address this issue (as well as other issues of diversity in the our communities); where were the workshops by and about poc zines, where were the poc speakers, (and I do remember that pdx had one workshop about poc zinesters). Anyways thanks for calling attention to this and thanks for making your zines! Perhaps we should organize a nation wide poc conference of zinesters!!!

Tomas

Frustrations, (dis)comfort, and (in)visibility

Portland Zine Symposium was only my most recent experience with a lack of diversity among zinesters and organized zine events–and I could have gone into more detail, but that would have detracted from the point of the post, which was to say that PoC Zine Project is going on tour. Regardless, after speaking to other folks of color who attended, I definitely wasn't the only one who was frustrated. Yes, I could have benefited from taking a second look around to catch folks who I may have missed (and who I certainly DID miss), but it also became an issue of comfort for me; I wanted to get out of there as quickly as possible. I mean, we all know that Portland's demographic (especially within its DIY and activist communtities) is mostly white, so it was to be expected, but it's still reason to be disappointed, especially because PZS had zinesters from all over the country, and not just Portland. I was aware that there was one panel about zinesters of color, but unfortunately, I couldn't be there for that.

I agree, we should be asking these questions. From personal experience with community and conference organizing, the voices of folks of color get lost so quickly, and we're left with very little representation or visibility, which hurts. We speak up, and we speak up loudly, but sometimes we drown in the sea of white people. To overlook and to be overlooked are huge issues, and the only way we can create visibility for poc zinesters is to do more work in the same vein as PoC Zine Project. A nationwide conference would be amazing, but it would be a huge undertaking. Some day.

--

Devyn Manibo, New Media Intern

Irresponsible journalism

This post really angers me because I feel like it completely mischaracterizes the Portland Zine Symposium. As one of the organizers of the event, I can assure you that we strive to include and support zinesters of color in all aspects of the event. I take offense to the notion that we supposedly shoved the only person of color into the corner... This is absolutely not true, as you can see from the other folks and people of color who have commented here. In fact, there were several zinesters of color sitting quite close to the Bitch media table at this year's event!

In addition, we strive to include at least one workshop specifically focusing on people of color each year. It is a fact that Portland is the whitest city in the nation, and of course that is going to be reflected in the demographics of those who attend the fest. But making blanket statements about the Portland Zine Symposium as an organization and how we treat people of color based on one person's experiences as you were trying to "get out of there as soon as possible" is unfair and irresponsible. I understand that you want to promote the PoC Zine project (which is awesome!) but there's no reason to tear down Portland Zine Symposium to do so. Let's stand in solidarity together, not pit like-minded projects against each other.

-Katie