Punk Fest & Zine Fair Recap

Holy shit!

My sister and I have been dreaming about the opportunity to host an event for a few years now. A community of Black womxn moshing for Black joy and Black lives. Beautiful brown bodies moving to crazy metal music under the bright heat of a summer day. Having fun without a care in the world, even if the sensation only lasted for a few brief moments.

#Blkgrlswurld’s first ever Punk Fest was an amazing event as I personally witnessed the coming together of all these womxn having different effects on people. I watched skeptical faces at the Punks of Color Panel suddenly realize that there was substance and cultural value to what panelists were sharing through personal stories. I watched young womxn curious about live metal shows seeking guidance on how to safely attend local shows. I witnessed femme musicians watching each other’s performances and museum visitors becoming inspired by the Free Black Women’s Library.

Nothing gets us more excited than creating C-O-M-M-U-N-I-T-Y.

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In the Scene: Chris L.Terry Writer of Black Card: A Novel

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“Us Black girls are here, where the **** are you?!” Was our first screaming cry into the universe, and then #BLKGRLSWURLD
ZINE was born. Six years later we are still making zines, but we have also had the opportunity to meet and partner with other small press magazines, news organizations, punk festival organizers and creators in the scene. One such creator we would like to spotlight is Chris L. Terry, author of the freshly minted, Black Card: A Novel. Just recently released on August 13th, 2019, I recommend anyone who is interested in what it means to be a punk of color read this book. The main character of this novel ensnared me in a love hate relationship that reminded me of my own experiences growing up in a mostly Caucasian American midwestern town, right before we made that rallying cry. But identity isn’t just race. It’s geographical. It’s cultural, it’s gender. The book smacks you with how all of these attributes can play a part in not only shaping our own experiences, but our reactions to the worst circumstances.

I had the opportunity to interview Chris L. Terry about his newest novel and I am excited to have him participate in #BLKGRLSWURLD first ever Punks of Color Panel Talk this Friday September 27th, 2019 in Philadelphia, PA at the Institute of Contemporary Art. Don’t miss out on the chance to meet Chris L. Terry in person! On Thursday September 26th, 2019 from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM Chris will be having a book talk and book signing at Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee and Books in Philadelphia too!

Chris graciously answered a TON of questions I had about the book. Below I have chosen my top 7 responses from our conversation.

How closely does the book follow your own personal experiences? Did you use any personal situations or memories in particular to guide your writing?

Black Card is fiction inspired by my experiences as a mixed-race black person in the early ‘00s Richmond, Virginia punk scene. The street names and emotions are real, but that’s about it. Before writing Black Card, I spent a few years writing essays about my black identity, and that gave me the perspective and tools to write this character in a way that felt honest. Also, I wanted to write about Richmond. It’s an unusual, inspiring and frustrating place and I spent my formative years there. Besides, there are enough books set in New York!

In the book we see that one of the main character’s goals is to attempt to regain his black card through a series of actions. How old were you when you first heard someone use the term, ‘black card?’ What was your relationship to the person who said it? Did your relationship with this person change at all after hearing them use this phrase?

I don’t remember when I first heard the term Black Card, but it’s always sounded like a tongue in cheek way of talking about something that’s dead serious: about if someone is being true to their community of oppressed people. It caught my attention because I didn’t feel secure enough in my black identity to joke about it, or to pull rank and talk about someone else’s Black Card.

My favorite Black Card memory happened maybe ten years ago when my boss/mentor joked that she was going to fire me and take away my Black Card if I didn’t get off my ass and watch Love Jones. In my head I was like, “Wait, I have a Black Card? Hell yeah!” 

I don’t love the idea of having to experience certain pop culture to be authentically black, but after devoting myself to punk as a teenager, I still feel like I’m playing catch-up on stuff I missed while bumping Fugazi. Now I know what someone means when they talk about that funk in their right thigh.

What made you decide to leave the main character unnamed? What an awesome writing style! What did you want to show the reader by doing this?

Thanks! I did it in tribute to Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man, which also has an unnamed narrator. I’m simplifying here, but that book’s about how no one sees black people for who we are, they just project their own ideas about black people onto us, rendering us invisible as individuals. I was working in a similar space with Black Card, thinking about how being mixed-race can make you unusual-looking and how that gives people the need to categorize you. In Black Card, most of what happens to the narrator is because someone has made a decision about him based on their own prejudices. 

I loved the flashbacks to when the main character was growing up as a little boy. In the flashbacks we saw instances where the main character did not want to behave in a way that was predictable. Like when he cut class, or wanted to play his music louder than his father would have liked just because. I saw him going left instead of right just because he could, and making up his own mind. What is it about kids and not wanting to seem predictable? In some ways, almost striving to be different in the face of authority or even just their world. I could relate to that so much. Can you expand upon your own personal experiences with this growing up? 

Both as a kid and as a young adult, Black Card’s narrator is trying to carve out his own space in a hostile world. He’s trying to take control and, as he loses faith in the structures around him, he begins seeking alternatives. I think that part of maturing is finding a place where you can be yourself, so that you can spend time there getting to know yourself. That can be more complicated or layered for mixed-race people who might feel pulled in multiple directions.

In the book we saw that with everything happening, he never really sat down and took a moment to examine his feelings. He never took a moment to even just cry about what was happening to him, to release some of those emotions. That really moved me. Was this an important theme in the book?  

I wanted the narrator and his bandmates to all be closed-off, emotionally stunted men. And I wanted the narrator to start to understand that, as he starts checking his reactions to the serious things happening around him. It’s toxic masculinity that has guys telling jokes instead of sharing their feelings and it leaves them unable to deal with serious stuff. Chances are, a black person is going to be confronted with more serious shit sooner. White guys…they might be able to coast for longer.

I think that looking for emotional release is a big part of the book. The narrator’s trying to do it through music but it doesn’t quite work, then he winds up putting a burden on Mona by unloading during their first real conversation. 

When I think of punk, I think of a culture of rebellion, and often rejection of the mainstream. We see the main character taking solstice in this genre yet even still, somehow struggling to fully immerse himself in it as a minority. #blkgrlswurldzine has heard echoes of this experience in interviews with minorities running around NYC’s punk scene. I also saw in your bio, that just like the main character, you too have toured with different punk bands. In a genre that prides itself in accepting the underdog, how do you think they could improve their inclusivity?

I see punk as a subculture, not a counterculture, so I have the same suggestions for the punx that I have for society at large: listen more and believe others. For example, if someone who isn’t a straight/cis white man has a concern with the way things are going in the scene, hear them out, and remember that they’re bringing a new perspective to the conversation. You’ve probably got it easier than them, so take the time to empathize instead of minimizing their experiences. 

After reading your book, where does your audience go from here? What conversations are you hoping that they have or that this book will spark?

I hope that Black Card helps people to understand that racism is rarely as obvious as, like, someone wearing a KKK uniform and saying the n-word. It’s usually smaller stuff—microaggressions—that are harder to pinpoint, and that can feel minor and difficult to discuss on their own, but that create a toxic atmosphere that can feel like death by 1,000 cuts for people of color.    

Thank you Chris for the opportunity to interview you! Can’t wait to see you!

Upcoming Appearances:

Thursday September 26th, 2019Book Talk & Book Signing at Uncle Bobbies Coffee and Books from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM. Address: 5445 Germantown Ave, Philadelphia, PA 19144

Friday September 27th, 2019 #BLKGRLSWURLD Punks of Color Panel Talk from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM. Address: Tuttleman Auditorium, 118 S. 36th St, Philadelphia, PA 19104.

Black Card: A Novel

Want your own copy? Please find it here:

WP: ‘Publishing is still a business that is owned by white men’: Three women on race and genre

 

Really enjoyed this episode which interviews three WoC authors. Give a listen by Clicking Here

“Martine Powers talks with N.K. Jemisin, Jasmine Guillory and Lauren Wilkinson about challenging narrow perceptions of race in literary genres. And Marian Liu on the segregation of American music awards.”

“Science fiction also faces the problem of inequality in the publishing industry. That’s why N.K. Jemisin chose to put black experiences of oppression in a distant, imagined future. She says, “In a lot of science-fiction stories, you know, the way that they choose to engage with [oppression] is by having aliens be oppressed.” Instead, Jemisin chooses to show how the black experience fares in the future with the “Broken Earth” series.”

 

Join us for workshops at the Center for Book Arts this July

Anyone can be an artist, a writer or make a book. We’re going to show you how!

Join us this July at the NYC Center for Book Arts. #Blkgrlswurld will be teaching two workshops:

  • How to start your own small press (Tuesdays from July 2-30. 6-9pm)
  • Exploring how prose and book form work together (Weekend Session July 20-21 from 11am-5pm)
  • For more information please check out the center website here>
  • https://www.instagram.com/p/BxnPBoaFcFm/?igshid=10vk8s6xxssqv

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    “Don’t bend; don’t water it down; don’t try to make it logical; don’t edit your own soul according to the fashion. Rather, follow your most intense obsessions mercilessly.” — Franz Kafka

    #Blkgrlswurld receives Visiting Artist Grant to Curate a Punk Fest/Zine Fair @ ICA

    From the Sachs Program for Arts Innovation website:

    “ICA will bring NY-based artist Christina Long to ICA to curate a punk music festival and zine exhibition/fair consisting of women of color that will coincide with the Fierce Pussy exhibition on view at ICA from September 13, 2019 – December 22, 2019. Christina Long’s oeuvre spans printmaking, graphic design and film/video. She is currently the Senior Instructional Designer for Digital Learning at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, however she is probably best known as the founder and creative director of #Blkgrlswurld ZINE which she established in 2013 with her sister Courtney Long. #Blkgrlswurld is a press in Harlem that celebrates and documents women of color who participate in heavy music genres like Metalcore, Hardcore, Punk, and Black Metal. Fierce Pussy is a New York based queer art collective that formed in 1991 through their immersion in AIDS activism during a decade of increasing political mobilization around gay rights. They brought lesbian identity and visibility directly into the streets through low-tech and low-budget methods. Like Fierce Pussy, the zine world has adopted unconventional, readily accessible modalities to produce materials by which they share knowledge about pertinent social issues with others, while empowering women from all backgrounds in the process. This is a fascinating overlap in light of the use of technology today as a tool to mobilize marginalized groups.”

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    Deafheaven Stole My Heart

    Like Roberta Flack’s song, ‘Killing Me Softly,’ music enthusiasts know that this feeling is a real thing that can happen around live music. Folks can suddenly break out dancing, laughing, cheering or crying.

    Somehow, someway I found myself at the Baroness Show blubbering like a little kid. (Stone cold sober too.)

    The line up was Zeal & Ardor, Deafheaven and Baroness. Baroness in particular has been a unicorn for me to catch live ever since their album ‘Purple’ was released in 2015. They’ve had shows in NYC plenty, but the timing never seemed right for me to witness their live show.

    I didn’t know who Deafheaven was going into this event. As they stepped out on stage before Baroness, I waited patiently at the stage barricade skeptically. Good metal is hard to find.

    I. Was. Not. Ready.

    Black metal vocals of a traditional Nordic variety hit me along with a very American mix of alternative rock undertones. Even the band members reflected this style range in their attire. One guitarist looked similar to the lead singer of Weezer, while another member looked as if he just strolled out of Dethklok. Contemporary sounds whispering to the positive chord of Coldplay became overrun with the aggressive metal vocals. It was a sweet and salty buffet of dimension.

    Average folks often assume that metal has no soul, no warmth- these guys were able to prove that sentiment wrong. As the slow moving crowd began to gently carry people above our heads, towards the stage- I had to wonder, who the hell were these guys?!

    Deafheaven succeeded in putting a spell on the whole crowd and left me completely tongue tied. By the time Baroness began their set, it was almost too perfect. I felt like all my traveling this past year to Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the Royal Open House could not touch what I had just witnessed.

    *Sniffles* Ah, metal. Metal. M E T A L.

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