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Panel Transcript – Black Lives Matter: Zines and Activism

May 5, 2015

The Black Lives Matter: Zines and Activism panel was held at BZF 2015 on Saturday, April 25th at 3pm.

Panel description: The Black Lives Matter panel provided a space in which panelists and attendees could begin to address the important ways that zines can and have sought to respond not only to recent activism around Black lives and public safety, but also to the more systemic issues that have limited the ways that Black people are perceived.

Moderated by Ajuan Mance of 8-Rock Press and the zine 1001 Black MenTranscript features panelists Nicole Taylor of The Modern Travelers’ Green Zine; and Eric Orr of Rappin’ Max Robot (“The Very First Hip Hop Comic Book”).  Please note, one of the panel participants asked to be omitted from the transcript, but requested that we provide this version online for all to view.

Many thanks to Stanley H. Sakai, CCP, CSR for generously providing CART accessibility services during the panel talks.

AJUAN:  Welcome to the panel.  Thank you all for being a part of this.  My name is Ajuan Mance and I’m a professor in Oakland, California by day and and I’m a zine maker by night and weekends.  I’m very pleased to be here today.  My zines are Blues for Black Santa that tells the story of Santa Claus by rhyme, one is the Little Book of Big Black Bears, nursery rhymes, tributes to gay Black bears, and Gender Studies, an autobiographical zine, and also 1001 Black Men.  And I would like our panel to please introduce yourselves, and what your zines are, and what they’re about.

NICOLE:  My name is Nicole Taylor and my zine is called The Modern Travelers’ Green Zine.  It is inspired by Mr. Victor Green, who created the Green Book and it was a travel guide for African-Americans or Black people all over the country and internationally.  It gave them places that were safe to travel, to eat, to lodge, to get gas.  So I’m totally inspired by him in doing the two zines.  My first edition, which I put out last year here at the Brooklyn Zine Fest, it was all about Philly, and the latest edition is all about New York City fried chicken.  I think we have one left.

AJUAN:  The first question I’d like to ask is how you got started with zines.

NICOLE:  So for me, some people in the room may or may not be in mainstream publishing.  I do a lot of work around food and travel and I write for mainstream publications and I have a book that’s coming out with a major publisher but I’m always up against not “completely” telling my story, or someone else telling me not to say this or not to put this in an article or in a piece, and so I decided that I was going to create something that was all me.  It wasn’t censored.  And so being at the Brooklyn Zine Fest is a way for me to do media my way.  To do print media my way.

AJUAN:  Thank you.  I got involved in zines about three years ago through an online sketchbook I was doing.  And I thought, there’s so many great zines, and I realized I had something to share there.  And I bound my art together, and printed my zines and shared it with a much wider audience certainly than if I were doing paintings, and doing gallery shows.  So making art more accessible for me, that was really what zine participation was about.  But I will not answer the next question.  I’m really curious to get your perspective.  As people of African descent involved in making zines you may have noticed, at this event or a variety of events, that people of African descent are under-represented.  In terms of national demographics, 13% of Black people should be at the zine fest.  But particularly in Brooklyn, or the New York area in general where there’s a significant proportion of people of African descent, and I can certainly speak for places like Oakland, the numbers of people of African descent at zine events can be two tablers, two or five, very small numbers.  By definition at least from its origins, one of the wonderful things about zines was that the barrier for entry was low.  If you could sneak into the Xerox area and borrow a stapler, you could publish and that’s what made it such a great tool for publishing if you were marginalized.  If you like particular types of art that other people don’t.  LGBTQ folks have been very involved in zine-making.  I mean, zines have really done a lot to give people voice and visibility who, for whatever reason, fall outside of the mainstream.  And yet, though it might seem that this would be a perfect genre for people of African descent, we don’t see that being the case.  So my question to you is:  Why is that?  Zines are cheap to make.  Zine fests generally have a fairly low entry cost for tabling.  Why don’t we see more people of African descent participating?

NICOLE:  So my perspective is that I’ve always been a part of the zine community but I’ve never been a part of the “zine community.”  I grew up in Athens, Georgia.  I mean, Athens is a small college music-centric alt town.  And I saw zines but I wasn’t a part of that community at all.  But I also was a part of a very rich African-American community that did zines but they didn’t call them zines.  You know, our church booklet that has 20 pages about the history of the church that’s printed, you know, three times a year for church anniversary or for pastor’s anniversary and it has ads in it or drawings for different people — is that not a zine that’s done on a Xerox machine?  So I think of all the social clubs that would do the same thing.  They created zines.  And they passed them out to the community.  So, I was a part of the zine community.  And then, in, you know, moving to Atlanta at 18 years old and attending an HBCU, historically black college or university.  Again, they weren’t calling them “zines” or having zine fests but there were plenty of examples of zines or publication that had been done on campus or by other organizations, you know, political organizations throughout the Atlanta community.  Particularly African-Americans that are not a part of the traditional zine fests but they are defining what zines are very differently.  And I think that most people feel like they don’t fit into the traditional zine community because of some of the things that you mentioned.  They’re just creating content and doing it and not calling it a zine.  There’s so many people I know, I mean, when you look at community cookbooks, they’re really not “books” and if it’s spiral bound or made with a stapler, that’s a zine.

ERIC:  My name is Eric Orr.  I guess you could say that I’m the first person to create a hip hop zine but it was a comic book back in ’86 and recently the Cornell University Hip Hop Collection picked it up, they acquired it and it’s now in their archives and also at Columbia.  So that’s a little bit of my history real quickly but, I remember, you guys know PHASE 2? Any graphic artists in here?  PHASE 2 put out a zine, I don’t know what it was, but it was this large pamphlet, folded, and it had to do with graffiti and stuff like that, but that was my introduction to zines.

AJUAN:  And so, why don’t we see more people of African descent at zine events?

ERIC:  Because they don’t know what it is.  In my community when I was growing up, the comic books did not speak to my culture.  So I created my own.  And that’s where Rappin’ Max Robot came from.  And then, after the first issue was released, everything was done by myself.  I saw the International Graffiti Times and I thought it was really cool because it folded out.  It was easy, and you could put it in your pocket and so the next one, my next release was a fold-out zine.  It was just a comic book, or comics.  But I knew cats back in the early ’70s that were doing what you were saying, you know, putting things together and then stapling and then handing them out to each other but we just didn’t call them “zines.”

AJUAN:  And certainly, I’ve read essays about people back in the ’60s, one in particular about Watts in the ’60s where you would walk down the street and they would hand you a copy of a collection of poems they wrote, and they would just copy them and hand them out and so I wanted to ask two follow-up questions here.  The notion for you, you know, participating in the zine community and becoming a little bit tired of being one of the few and the implications of that — the way that people engaged you because of that.  And then, the idea that, you know, in some ways the things that we define as zines, that zine culture has come to see as part of that particular subgenre, Black people have been doing it for a long time, which makes a lot of sense, really, but just don’t define it as such.  And so I think both of these things raise a question for me:  Is it important, if Black people are already doing zines in some way, shape, or form, to be part of more mainstream zine events — even though zine culture is by definition, non-mainstream?  And for folks who want to participate in the zine community as it is defined, what needs to happen so that people of African-American descent who may want to jump into the community, and participate in the zine culture, what needs to happen so that we can see more diversity among the folks of the diaspora?

ERIC:  I was recently at Printed Matter.  And the gentleman there, I was asking, do you have anything that has to do with graffiti?  And in there, it’s sort of a hodgepodge of everything, and he mentioned that they do have some things with Crash, and they do have some things with Daze.  But he didn’t know exactly what they were.  So I just started talking to him about my comic book and what I had, and he said, it would be great if you could bring some of your friends in.  And it was like, well, shit, of course, well I would do that.  So I have been talking to my folks about bringing more graffiti art, or street art, bringing those things into a specific Printed Matter section.  So I guess what I’m saying is, we need to get the word out, that just because it’s called “zine” it’s still the things that you’ve been doing, you know, for centuries.  Just put a label on it like, “graffiti.”  Do I sound angry?

AJUAN:  But it’s allowed, though, if you do.

ERIC:  I hope that answers your question.

NICOLE:  So I would say first, your question:  How to get more Black people at zine fests, that’s what you’re saying?

AJUAN:  Right.

NICOLE:  I think first of all, people, the three of us up here —

ERIC:  Make it cooler.

NICOLE:  — and the audience, we need to create our own zine fests.  That’s number one. Or white folks in the room who create zine fests need to build stronger alliances with community organizations, with other zinesters, and do a zine fest.  I know a lot of times in the food world when a Black person is not mentioned in a food article, or they keep using the same two token people which happens at zine fests, they say, well, we don’t know anyone.  We don’t know anyone to help us.  No, you do the work.  You do the work.  And if you’re truly serious about it, you cultivate relationships and you find out who other zinesters are.  So I think it’s a two-fold thing.  Our allies building coalitions and us thinking about how to create a zine fest on our own.

ERIC:  We just have to be active, that’s all.  We just have to be active.

AJUAN:  So in some ways you’re saying the content is already there.  You just say, “Hey, folks, there’s a place where you can sell this stuff to an even bigger audience.”  So those cookbooks could be getting some traction.

ERIC:  Not to jump — sorry.  I was just at a party last night for TATS CRU, and they knew about this thing.  And they told me that, you know, next time that something comes up, let me know.  So it’s just getting the information out there to be active.

AJUAN:  There are marginalized groups that are maybe not even necessarily reflective of national demographics but are more frequently participating in zine fests than people of African descent.  In the Bay Area, Central American folks are not nearly as visible as LGBT folks who are white, for example.  White LGBTQ folks are quite prevalent in the zine community.  So why is it that some groups are very active and shaping where the zine community is forming and some groups aren’t?

NICOLE:  I always feel like there is something that we’re supposed to be doing for our community and if that is creating something or at least being a part of pushing something forward, we should.  But that’s just me.  Everyone doesn’t have that and it’s not everyone’s responsibility.  There’ll always be a few people who push that thing along, or push whatever along.  It’s complicated.

AJUAN:  Um, we also want to take questions from the audience but I just want to make sure that everyone up here, is there anything else that you want to say on this larger issue before we open it up to the audience?

NICOLE:  I do.  I want to speak to the title of the panel,  Black Lives Matter, and how it’s totally reflected in my publication.  If you look at what’s happening now with people dying at the hand of police, from 1930-1964 the same exact thing was happening.  So I think there are plenty of zines out there, here at the Zine Fest today and other Black zines that are speaking to, you know, social issues that have been going on for the last 30-40 years.  So the social issues are not going away and I think having a panel like this, having a panel every year at any zine fest based on what’s politically happening, I thought that’s what all zine fests should be.  I thought it was a cultural — it’s a norm to be political at a zine fest.  So I would like to say that I think it’s important that if a zine fest wants to be cutting edge or — not even “cutting edge,” that’s the wrong word, wants to bring in more, I think there has to be continued discussions and panels just like this.

ERIC:  I would just need more advocates, I guess.  People who, like yourself, myself, you know, just let our community know that this is happening.  Because I believe we have a rich history — oral, not so much text and pictures but oral stories, you know?  And that’s a tough one.  Well, for me, when I created that Rappin’ Max Robot book, like I said before, the hip hop community and graphic community were pulling from — not zines, but comic books, stories, names — and there wasn’t a reciprocation.  There was no reciprocity, so you get cats like Grandmaster Flash.  They get those powerful names from comic books.  So when I started reading the comic books and seeing the comic books, I didn’t see the reflection there.  So you have to, if you do it yourself, let your community know, yeah, get the word out.  You just gotta get the word out to the community.  This is my first zine fest by the way.  I’ve done talks.  I’ve been to the comic panels and stuff.  But I’ve never done this.  It’s really crazy.  I’ve had this really crazy ride with this comic book thing.  And I want to tell it properly, you know, there’s a lot of stuff going on in my head right now.  And I just think that those who are –- who have been here and done it a lot and you don’t see brown folks in there, those folks should reach out to the community and say, “Listen, here’s an avenue, here’s another avenue that you can possibly tell your story,” because most people, they don’t know.  A lot of brown folks don’t know about this.  They know that like, you said, in church, you see thousands of those things.

NICOLE:  Or even, I’m just sitting here thinking about, you know, I have an aunt who just recently gave me a booklet that an old family member made.  It’s literally a zine about her life growing up in Athens.

ERIC:  When you get it labeled then it becomes something.

AJUAN:  Exactly.

ERIC:  Just like hip hop when they labeled it.  Or we were called “writers” then but they labeled it graffiti, and now it has legs, I guess?  I don’t know.  If it’s a setting like this, then it’s like, “Oh, shit!  That’s pretty cool!  Nice building, nice area.”

NICOLE:  Marketing behind it.

ERIC:  Yeah, there’s marketing behind it.  But if it’s in the Bronx, on 177th Street, then it’s different.  It’s like, “That dude’s handing out paper, some flyer with some information on it.”  Which is kind of cool, it has some information.

AJUAN:  I think this is — and to make a transition, I guess, I think it’s important to link us to the title.  One of the questions that I put out there to everyone was the notion of naming.  You know, these processes.  I do research in 19th century African-American literature, and pamphlets were everywhere.  Someone writes a speech, someone writes a poem that was terrible but she thought it was really important and so they said, make a pamphlet.  In the 19th century, a lot of Black people got voice and visibility through the use of what were essentially zines and they were really exciting to look at if you’re a person like me, because you see these wonderful photos of people and they’re famous or they believe that they should be in print because they have something to say.  But, you know, the notion of voice, all the Black participation we see in making zines in what really are effectively zines, becomes invisible because of — because it’s not named as such.  It’s not expressed or labeled in a way that is most visible to the majority audience, in some ways, one might say, it’s kind of a demographic bind that if you’re doing something, it doesn’t become visible to folks outside your community until it is articulated in terms of, or until a label’s applied to it that translates it to the larger community.  And we see this happening with people of African descent in all kinds of things.  There’s trans-asterisk for the kind of spectrum of transmasculine people who are assigned female at birth.  Black folks talk about studs and, you know, bulldaggers — but those are invisible until it’s articulable in a language that makes it visible to the larger audience and so that’s one of the questions.  How do we break through with this notion of language?  What is the responsibility of, say, the folks who are the majority in the zine community if your label and your adherence to that label makes it really possible to see so much other zine participation.  If zines aren’t zines unless they have the label, they’re out there, you can see them — but they’re not read as such unless that name is applied.  What does that mean?  Does that confer responsibility on the namers? And then the other question that I would open up is the question of conversation.  And I would open that up to everyone, including the panelists, the idea that, for many people, to read a text made by a Black person, if you’re not a Black person, that could be the most intimate conversation you ever have with a person of African descent.  You know, there were people who read Song of Solomon, and that was the longest conversation that they had with a Black person.  Rank-and-file people who work for the church, or someone’s grandma, those are the conversations that really matter.  Black lives matter, Black voices matter.  If anything, those publications could go into places where Black folks might not feel welcome and so getting those pieces of writing out there is really critical.  So what do we do?  There is an urgency here in many respects, what’s our responsibility as people of African descent?  What’s the responsibility of people who are not of African descent and, you know, when we throw all these things into the bowl together, what questions do you have and what are your comments and your thoughts?  Let’s open this up to the larger audience and also, panelists please respond accordingly.  Yes?

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  What is the definition of “zine” to people of color?  Or let’s say what is the definition of a booklet, or what she might have said, comic book, or pamphlet because I mean, I kind of get an idea of what a zine is, but is it the same definition to people of color as it is to white folks?

AJUAN:  Nicole, I think you have a response to that.

NICOLE:  It’s not the same definition.  I think the average — and I don’t want to speak for everyone but I just think about it, put it like this.  I think about a thousand people that I have on my personal Facebook page that are Black and I know them, and they’re like, what the hell is a zine?  They have no clue.

ERIC:  I get that, too.

NICOLE:  They have no clue and when I put up “zine fest” people are so confused.  So I just say, it’s just a self-published publication, kind of DIY, whatever you want about information that most people don’t know and that’s just in my little small world.  So, yes.  I personally think, and it seems like what we’re all saying up here, there are different definitions.  I mean, my general thought is for most movements, white movements get marketed and they get a name, and we may be doing the same thing, but we don’t put the marketing behind it.  We don’t give it a flame; we’re just doing it.  I think if you go back in different movements in history, you’ll see that kind of played out, that parallel in terms of zines or poetry, or feminism.  You see that same parallel with us by not giving it a name.

AJUAN:  Other questions?

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  So should “zine” be redefined, or should the people, sort of — or should the people of color come up with their own kind of name?

NICOLE:  I think it should be — I don’t know, it’s not redefined.  I think that there just needs to be more education for people in the zine community saying, “Oh, no.  That’s a zine that you have.”  Explaining to people what a zine is.

ERIC:  That’s basically what I said earlier about IG Times, International Graffiti Times when it was just a pamphlet, a sheet of paper, I didn’t know it was a zine back in those days.  I didn’t know what I was doing with Rappin’ Max Robot was a zine.  It was something I wanted to do.  And then almost 30 years later, I found out what a zine is.  So it’s like, it’s odd.  And the word “ephemeral” in my community — they don’t know what that is.  “It’s not supposed to be something that hangs around long.”  So there’s a bit of education that needs to be out there as well.  But it’s just cool stuff, you know.  Just put out some cool stuff on your own with your photocopiers.

AJUAN:  That’s a good definition.  I’m going to tweet that.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  When you’re talking about distribution, I mean… would the Internet be considered distribution?

ERIC:  You mean for a zine?


ERIC:  I think the zine has to be something that’s physical.  I’m not a big fan of online comic things.  I’m a vinyl guy.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Okay, me too.

ERIC:  So with that said when I put out the reprint of the Rappin’ Max Robot — I’m plugging my stuff — I created a 7-inch with that.  But if it doesn’t have a staple I don’t consider it a zine.  That’s just my small world.  I hope that answered your question.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  It’s a good answer.  Thank you.

AJUAN:  Certainly, that can be — there can be multiple media at this point.  Tumblr could be a great place for zines.

ERIC:  I guess if you show the staple, it’s a zine.

AJUAN:  You have a question or comment as well.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I have a comment.  It seems to me that the idea of self-expression and self-publication is tied somewhere in this definition of what a zine is.  Can you comment on that?  And also, on the idea of urgency, as far as documentation or stories, in particular stories of individuals that are getting pushed out of their own communities, and the importance of that.  And how zines can help in that.

NICOLE:  Well, I’ll speak about the very first Green Zine which I have here and I have several upstairs.  It’s focused on Philly.  And there’s gentrification happening in Philly, and so one of the profiles is on Geechee Girl cafe, it was a cafe, or a restaurant that was in Philly.  She closed, she was around for 20 years, and basically she emailed me, saying she closed.  But I have a full feature about her restaurant and her family and so it’s capturing her story.  And by me being at Zine Fest last year, I think Barnard and Queens College have that story in their permanent collection now.  So I think just capturing those stories and giving them to people is super important and that’s just one small story.  One small story, that I probably couldn’t even sell to, you know, Saveur Magazine.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  I was just going to say, I think it’s really interesting, the pragmatism. I myself am a filmmaker and you know, there may come a time when that’s squeezed right out of filmmakers.  We can’t even buy film or chemicals to do it in our bathtubs and so my question would be:  Are you prepared, as an artist, to embrace somehow, the realm of technology and digital because there may come a time when using paper will be criminalized and you will get in trouble for stapling that paper.

ERIC:  Cool.  Let me answer his question first — as far as the topics that need to come out in zines, I think it could be anything.  Anything that you think that’s not there that speaks to you.  That’s, you know, ammunition for a zine.  Digital… okay… like —


ERIC:  That’s cool.  Like I said, I’m a vinyl guy.  I work with Serato.  I work with Rain, are you familiar with Rain?  I work with all those cats.  I do digital stuff all the time.  But it doesn’t have the same feeling to it I believe.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  That’s Romanticism.

ERIC:  But it’s there.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  But I will say don’t rule it out because one’s voice is unique as long as your voice comes across, whether on a digital PDF or a piece of paper with staples but the point is your voice, your message is heard by any means necessary.  So don’t rule out using paper and staples.

ERIC:  I’m not ruling it out.  I’m saying I like paper.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  Well, I found out about this event on paper.

ERIC:  Well, there you go.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  But don’t rule out the answer, yet.  As a filmmaker, I got no choice.  And guess what, I gotta use this digital stuff.

AJUAN:  I think you guys are going to be —

ERIC:  We’ll sort it out later.

AJUAN:  You had your hand up.  I haven’t been asking people but what’s your name?  And can you ask your question?

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  My name is Ayola [phonetic] and I have to talk about the Internet.  I understand that, and it’s a real fear that we might not have access to paper one day, but there’s an issue of ownership when it comes to the Internet, and longevity as well.  So I mean, if you think about that, there’s a good reason why you would want physical archives as well.  Nothing on the Internet belongs to us.  And we can’t keep it if somebody wants to take it away.

AJUAN:  What’s your name?

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  My name is Adrian Frank.  And my question, could you talk about the subject and the community around zines and stuff.  Number two, if you’re talking about millennials who never really even picked up a magazine, ever, they’re like the future buying power of this country, right?  And even from a local level, you know, you kind of want to tap into those resources.  How do you get young people to start considering picking up something they never, ever got before since they’re the generation of swiping?

AJUAN:  Great questions, actually.

NICOLE:  Well, I’m a paper junkie.  I love printed matter.  I have a storage locker full of magazines and printed matter.  And I realize, millennials, they’re not into paper.  They’re not into magazines and so I’m starting to think, how could I do a campaign or something for the group of folks that don’t want zines, because it’s expensive for me.  I haven’t made money off the zine projects.  I haven’t made money off projects the last five or seven years doing this work.  But I can’t keep doing this without making some kind of money, at least breaking even in some way.  It’s expensive.  I mean it’s really expensive to do that and what I want to start thinking about is how can I make money?  How can I start paying folks who may have contributed something to my zine?  It’s really important.  Either I won’t be able to do this, or continue to do it like this.  And so, if I feel this way with all the resources that I’m blessed to have, imagine someone who’s on the subway platform — they’re like, I can’t print more than five of these, how can I print ten to do a zine fest for a day?  So I don’t know about how to solve the economic barrier piece.  Maybe, you know, having — I know, the Put A Egg On It folks.  They said hey, we have a meetup, food zine folks, you should come.  And we talk about things like this.  So maybe having coalitions like this where we’re coming together, with some kind of pool or fund where people of color are doing it, I don’t know.

AJUAN:  We had one hand over here and then I want to come over.  Someone over here?

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  My name is Marlin.

AJUAN:  Marlin, thanks.

AUDIENCE MEMBER (MARLIN):  I just wanted to talk about the Internet and preserving things on the Internet.  You see paper things from a long time ago, and they last, and they stay around.  But you know I had bookmarks when I was 9 years old on the Internet of pages that are gone now.  So I don’t think it’s completely true that it lasts.  Of course if you have it done professionally, you can have it last but for stuff like zines — this is actually my first zine fest — I don’t know how well they would be archived.  So I think it makes sense to keep making them with paper.  And also to address one of the comments about magazines, I do know that magazine subscriptions have actually been going up.  I don’t know much about that but I know people read magazines and I don’t think it’s completely true that they’re going away or that people aren’t seeing magazines.  And —

ERIC:  I like Marlin.

AUDIENCE MEMBER (MARLIN):  And also, to just talk about what you were talking about —

NICOLE:  Nicole.

AUDIENCE MEMBER (MARLIN):  Nicole.  So like I said, this is the first time that I’ve been to a zine fest but you’re talking about, you know, church bulletins and stuff, making me realize that I’ve encountered a lot of zines.  What are they called, the Chick Tracts that Bible folks hand out?

NICOLE:  Right.  Right.

AUDIENCE MEMBER (MARLIN):  I’ve seen a lot of that stuff.

NICOLE:  I mean, some of them may have more money but I’ve seen those religious zealot folks passing out their zines.

AJUAN:  We’ve got a couple more hands I’ve seen.  We’ve got ten minutes max.  So I wanted to get a couple of folks in.

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  My name is David and I’m a librarian.  I’ve been in the zine community since the ’80s with the punk rock thing.  I think a couple of the problems that we’re talking about with the distribution or the socioeconomics, I mean, I think some of this is a mind shift.  I don’t know what wave of zines you want to call this — from science fiction, to fan fiction, to the punks, to the Riot Grrrls — but recently, most of the stuff upstairs, I would call “art books” and I wouldn’t consider an art book a zine but now the zine umbrella has reached over and said, okay, independent comics and hand-made art books are zines now.  Okay, so now I just have to re-adjust my thinking there.  And I wanted to speak to that with one of the new things that I’m seeing is we’re coveting zines.  One of the great things about zines was that you could only afford to make 25 or 50 if you didn’t rob Kinko’s.  And the point was to leave them on a bus, or to leave them at a club.  The point was not to collect them as if each individual wanted to have it.  But it was to read it and pass it on, or this is great you should read what’s in here, or this is crazy you should read what’s in here.  So we weren’t trying to publish to spread our voice so that everyone had a copy like it was a Bible or something.  It was to be passed around.  So that was one way to make a few copies reach a lot of people.  And secondly, I think, as a librarian, I’m interested now, not in archiving but in making zines a more legitimate medium for public access like, I would like to see more circulating zine collections.  There are a few dozen zine collections in the country, but almost all are archives.  They’re archival.  They’re hard for the Average Joe to get to.  They’re meant to — I don’t know, I don’t think of them as these precious things that we’re supposed to try to save for future generations; I think we’re just supposed to get as many people to read it right now as possible, and pass them around but that’s a mind shift and that’s one way that I think if, while we’re trying to define zines, we also define what it means to have a zine and read a zine, I think we can get more people involved.  I just give them out, and hand them to the next person.

AJUAN:  Thanks, I think that’s a really important thing to think about, too.  Zines as art, and the art world has not been, necessarily, as accessible to marginalized people, traditionally.  And so, we’ve got — we’ll take one more question and then if you want to all just give us a quick summary of your wisdom.  Let me see, there’s a lot of people.  Both, super fast, what’s your super fast question and what’s your name?

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  My name is Maggie, and how do you relate your zines to the current political issues of today and the Black Lives Matter movement and all that?

AJUAN:  And can you ask me your question and tell me your name?

AUDIENCE MEMBER:  My name is Vanessa.  How are people of color going to get more information about zines and how, basically, are children going to get more information about zines?  I kind of prefer paper or whatever, but the Internet is a good way to get it out to people of color only because we have access to it a lot more than we do have access to the ad for a zine fest.  And as far as trying to get zines out to younger — to the youth, and the only reason I say this is because I’m getting into art education and it would be cool if we could reach out to, like, art educators and get them to know what zines actually are, and getting them into the art and actually making them.  And giving them access to that.

AJUAN:  Thank you, and your last comment.

ERIC:  What was your question again?  Maggie?

AUDIENCE MEMBER (MAGGIE):  How do you relate it to the larger Black Lives Matter movement?

ERIC:  That’s going on right now?  For me, I just do a little doodle and I put it up on my Instagram — with a staple!  I’ll draw a little doodle or something like that, and I’ll put it up for my audience to see.  I guess, electronically, that’s what I’m doing for the young folks, so yeah.

NICOLE:  I mean, for my personal zine, it’s basically to keep telling the story of Mr. Victor Green and how, what that meant for Black lives that wanted to travel.  You know, for almost 40 years.  Just keep telling that story over and over.  I know the person who copy edits my zines who is like, “Are you saying this again?”  Are you talking about Victor Green again?  And I say yes.  I have to.  That’s a small, minute thing.  I mean, there are other things that I do outside of the zine that probably I should connect them more to a future zine.  So, I mean, you’re giving me food for thought of how to better connect political issues to my food and travel zine.

AJUAN:  Unfortunately, we are out of time but I want to thank our panelists.  And I do — I thank you for all of your work.  It’s the work that you’re doing, Black Lives Matter really kind of coalesced around lives lost.  And you’re very much alive on the page.  So thank you very much.


This text is provided as the byproduct of CART services. Communication Access Realtime Translation (CART) is provided in order to facilitate communication accessibility and may not be a totally verbatim record of the proceedings.

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