Yesterday was the launch of the journal Caramel by Saffa and Deena Khan through the Tender Hands Press distro.
Caramel is, at times, a devastating read. It was a much-needed reminder for me of how honest perzines (zines documenting personal experiences, thoughts and feelings) can be. I’ll have teas with people, dance and drink and joke with them for many hours. Then I’ll read their perzine. The rawness will smack me right in the chest, more than anything I’ve read in fiction or non-fiction. I’ll wonder how they can bear to carry themselves with such dignity in this world. Sometimes you have to read the zine to really find out whose company you’re in.
I wish that the journal and accompanying artwork were on permanent display and that everyone could see it. Some will find comfort. Others will hopefully see the impossible tightrope walk of growing up ‘foreign’ in this country. The tightrope I walked some twenty years ago, and my father walked some fifty years before that. The facets of our complex identities ground away until reduced to something smooth and simple. What other people want to see in us.
Want to support us but don’t know how? Want to do more than following us on social media and liking our posts? Read this. Then, you know, follow it up.
Educate yourselves about race, racism, and how it affects us. To paraphrase Humaira Saeed, we don’t expect your knowledge and understanding of the issues to be 10 out of 10, but you can at least educate yourselves up to 5 out of 10 before you ask us for help. Do a simple online search. And no guilt. If it won’t help us thrive, we have no time for it.
Encourage us to do creative things. Be really, really encouraging, and keep on at it. Our confidence needs boosting. Remind us that our voices are vital. Keep reminding us. Encourage us to go for upcoming opportunities, like making a zine for Over Here Zine Fest for example 😉
Educate yourself about our art, culture, history and activism. We are infinitely more than saris, samosas and steel drums. Our heritage should not just be a bolt-on or an afterthought. We belong to culture and activism just as much as you do. We have a rich history that everyone should know about. And we’re not just USA-based either. Yes, James Baldwin and Toni Morrison are great and all, but there have been and continue to be plenty of badass Britain-based BAMEs chipping away at white supremacy through their art and activism. There were plenty folks resisting colonial occupation during the days of Colonialism. There are plenty of POCs in ex-European colonies doing incredibly progressive work from so-called ‘backwards’ ‘uncivilised’ countries. Read up and let them flood you with inspiration. Psst – If you’re into social / cultural history and based in the north-west of England, you might want to visit the Race Relations Archive in Manchester.
Challenge other people’s racism and prejudices because we are tired of having to defend ourselves and explain ourselves all the damn time. It seriously cuts into our being creative time. Share white ally resources.
Support our art, artists and movements. And not just during Black History Month either. Buy and consume our work. Go to our gigs with an open mind. Support our causes. Commission us. Come to Over Here Zine Fest. At her recent book launch, during a Q&A session, a UK-based (black) African woman writer got asked by a white person in this audience about her book. He said, “Is this for me?” Do you think JK Rowling has to deal with shit like this from potential BAME readers, even though her representation of Black and Asian folk within the Harry Potter series is seriously questionable? We would guess: probably not.
We’re gonna keep updating this list, so watch this space. In the meantime, share the s–t out of this it.
I don’t know why I decided to write this zine and I don’t really think it has any point/theme/reason behind it aside from the fact I quite fancied writing about being a brown girl”
I wrote that in January 2014 for the introduction to my new zine Brown Girl.
In late summer 2013 I decided I was going to make a zine called Brown Girl and it would be all about me.
Sort of like a perzine*.
Only I’ve always made fanzines that just happen to have a lot of me personally in them.
The first issue was a bit of a mish mash and was written entirely by me, with pieces about friends, family, music, hair, rants, my art and being a black weirdo.
I was a little nervous putting it out, even though it wasn’t a hugely deeply personal account of my life, but I guess one I have never fully documented in a zine, my blackness.
The zine was well received and even though I was unsure about it as a whole and its coherency I felt proud to be taking up space, a space so often taken up by white people. Perzines, zines, writing, self-publishing, think pieces all stuff that has a super white face.
It spurred me on to make two more issues.
Issue 2 came out in May 2015 and featured contributions from a bunch of friends. Which I thought was a great idea to break up my voice and also by this point I think I’d decided I wanted to make Brown Girl more like a Black magazine zine than a perzine, its featured Art by others, pieces on food and calling out, band profiles, great organisations and reviews of books, music, films and exhibitions.
I was aiming to make an issue a year and be a round up of thoughts, opinions and a celebration of brown girls, queer punks and black weirdos.
Sadly 2016 came and went but I managed to get Brown Girls 3 out in July 2017.
The biggest and I think best issue to date.
It had a bunch of contributions again, alongside reviews of shows, books, plays and TV, pieces I’d written on tap dance, language and sexuality, some of my art, a conversation between me and two friends about being mixed race and even a couple of interviews (with musician, dancer and writer Brontez Purnell and artist and zine maker Saffa Khan)
Despite being the most ‘magazine’ like on paper, it is my most personal to date, with me speaking honestly about being mixed race and also speaking openly for the first time about my sexuality.
It’s the issue I am most proud of.
I am currently working on issue 4, slowly but surely.
The existence of Over Here Zine Fest is spurring me on. I want to be in a room full of zines like Brown Girl and zines not at all like Brown Girl, but zines all made by POC.
I just want to see Brown Girls Taking up Space.
*A perzine stands for personal zine and is usually mostly about the person writing it as opposed to a zine about another subject matter. More like a diary zine.
Shotgun Seamstress was started in 2009 by then member of the band New Bloods and now amazing potter, Osa Atoe.
It is a fanzine by, for and about black punks. Issue 1-6 were compiled into a book in 2012 and since then Osa has made 2 and half more Shotgun Seamstresses.
It’s much more than a zine about black punks (although that in itself is pretty amazing) it’s a zine all about how being black is punk and how black people need DIY culture, it’s a call to arms and a reminder of how great every black, queer, feminist, misfit, artist, weirdo really is.
It’s about taking up space within subcultures that are infiltrated by white people (punk and the world of zines) but also taking up space in doing things that aren’t ‘meant’ for black people like playing punk and creating art.
Each issue is packed full of interviews, reviews, personal stories and hidden gems of black punks, queers and artists such as Brontez Purnell, The Gories, Poly Styrene, Ru Paul, Trash Kit, Vaginal Crème Davis, ESG, Marsha P Johnson, Former band mate Adee Roberson and many more.
This was the zine that inspired me to make my zine series Brown Girl. I wanted to write about being a punk of colour, I wanted to take up space and I wanted to talk about the things I love.
I urge anyone to read Shotgun Seamstress, buy the book, find a zine, read back issues online just immerse yourself in black DIY culture.
you won’t regret it.
Shout out to all the excellent people I met from Khidr Collective just over a week ago. The collective want to help young people from Muslim backgrounds develop their creative and artistic skills. What they were saying sounded all too familiar to me. Younger people with BAME backgrounds often getting over-encouraged to become doctors, lawyers and accountants and go into similar ‘safe’ jobs. Hitting walls when trying to get elders at our community centres and places of worship to recognise that younger generations want to go into the arts and and could do with support. And the arts wants us too. They need us.
I love meeting people who not only have things in common with you, but want the same things as you, and take it upon themselves to try to make those changes. Like putting together a zine. The tradition of doing things yourself is one that I like very much.
I loved that the collective were on tour, even though there wasn’t a musical instrument between them and they weren’t performing anywhere. That’s the kind of tour I can get on board with. The group are based in the London area, but were travelling around the country to make connections and squeeze in a trip to the theatre before heading back down. They packed a a lot meetups in on their day in Manchester, appearing on the radio, interviewing local visual artist, @aymussa and then coming to meet me. We met in Rusholme in Jaffa, one of my favourite places to eat falafel and Arabic salad, then they asked me if I wanted to join them as they met up with Saffa in the city centre. We all had a nice chat then joked about joining them on their next stop in Bradford, this group of brown creatives snaking through the north of England with the snake growing longer and longer at each stop.
Oh, and Khidr Collective Issue Two is not just beautiful, it’s also full of interesting work; poetry, illustration, interviews, articles and more.
Tell us a bit about yourself. I’m Saffa Khan, Pakistani illustrator and printmaker based in Manchester, UK. I make zines and rage against machines. I explore themes of identity, culture, race and mental health in my work and turn my daily feelings into self-published printed matter. I also run @tenderhandspress and @makestuffclub
How did you get into zines? I was introduced to zines when I became part of the ever-growing online DIY arts and feminist community around 2009. Ever since then I contributed to zines and made my own about home, belongingness and identity.
Tell us a bit about your favourite zine/s by people of colour. Diaspora Drama zine and OOMK are two of my favourite zines by people of colour.
Finally, what is your favourite snack? I LOVE coconut and dried mango chips!
1 .Tell us a bit about yourself.
My name is Sandy O! I’m an activist, zine maker, DIY lover/do-er, facilitator and student from Manchester. 2. How did you get into zines? I think I heard about riot grrl/feminist zines on Tumblr. I spent my last few years in school wishing I was part of an alternative DIY community. I got to curate/edit my first zine at uni, along with a zine launch and it was an amazing and stressful experience that got me hooked on collaborative arts and alternative printing. 3. Tell us a bit about your favourite zine/s by POC Some of my current are: Black Fly, an amazing zine about race, bodies, love and sexual health QTIPOC Assemble, a zine imagining qtipoc with superpowers !! Poor Lass, a zine about working class Northern lasses 4. Finally, what is your favourite snack? Crisps 5eva!
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m Seleena, zine maker, textile artist, tap dancer, soap seller and collector of tat.
How did you get into zines? I got into zines a few ways I think, reading about them in the back of my sister’s Select magazines in the late 90s, being an avid reader of Teletext and having loads of penpals. It’s what teens did for fun before the internet!
Tell us a bit about your favourite zine/s by people of colour. One of my favourite zines is Shotgun Seamstress by Osa Atoe (member of short-lived black punk band New Bloods and now ace ceramicist) and is a zine about black punks by black punks. It features interviews, reviews, and more on black punks of yesteryear and black punks of today. There’s a book anthology of the zine too.
Finally, what is your favourite snack?
Crisps forever, IDST.
Tell us a bit about yourself. I’m Melissa. I love reading and writing, and watching Shonda Rimes TV shows. I work with refugees and I sing pop songs in She Choir Manchester.
How did you get into zines?
I got into zines through my friend who is a long time zinester. We made a zine about procrastination and it was so fun. I tend to submit contributions to zines, rather than putting out my own because I never get round to it!
Tell us a bit about your favourite zine/s by people of colour. My favourite zines by poc are Brown Girl by Seleena Laverne Daye and Black Women and Self Care by Naomi Moyer. Both really important zines that made me feel my experiences on being a person of colour matter.
Finally, what is your favourite snack?
I love biscuits — especially ones that can be dunked in a cup of tea and not fall to pieces.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I’m Heena. I like cycling, cooking and talking to people. I can sometimes be tempted to write, perform and host quizzes.
How did you get into zines? It was basically through helping to organise a Ladyfest in Manchester back in 2003. Through that, I met people who made and sold their own zines, but did a bunch of other stuff by themselves as well such as putting on their own gigs, discos / club nights and queer cafes and alternative gatherings. There would be zines available at a lot of these events, and suddenly they were everywhere I went. Before then, I thought the only people who made zines were people who magically had access to bands I liked and could get interviews with them. I was so pleased when I found out how easy it was to make a zine.
Tell us a bit about your favourite zine/s by people of colour. Race Revolt, not just because I’ve contributed to it :). A good friend of mine started it in response to racism she’d witnessed in activist communities and put out four or five issues. I love how new people are still discovering it, even though the last one came out over ten years ago.
Finally, what is your favourite snack? Sev mamra, which is a savoury mix of puffed rice mixed with thread-like gram flour noodles. I’m a bit of a purist, so I prefer the one without peanuts in it.