PUNK BLACK Brings the ATL Scene to NYC

We first discovered the PUNK BLACK collective on Instagram a couple years back. Instagram has become a great repository of 15-30 sec clips of underground music captured in real-time from all over the globe. When I saw these little snippets of this Atlanta, Georgia based community moshing and rocking out in Cosplay – I sensed they were on to something heavy, gritty, and real for young folks of color. Each year the collective explores new ways to engage local youth and share an underground truth most people don’t know. More Black and Brown youth in America than you realize love rock music. From punk to death metal, it’s actually a thing. And though thousands of us can’t meet up as often we’d like, when we do, its a beautiful moment of braids flying, hips swaying and faces glowing.

PUNK BLACK (PB) is expanding its reach this summer by presenting an NYC music fest in Brooklyn on August 22, 2018. As Von Phoenix, one of PB’s founders tells it, “We’d like to create a space in NY were PoC can feel at home while doing what they love, as well as plant the seeds for a PB Chapter in New York. Not to mention we want to have fun (maybe, *ahem* get a little sauced) and see some kick ass bands.”

We asked Von about the upcoming NYC event, and how the collective came to be. Check it out.


Who founded the PUNK BLACK collective?

The original founders of PUNK BLACK (PB) are Kharis Ellison – age 26, Arkkade Kult – age 38, Jamee Cornelia- age 25, and myself Von Phoenix – age 28. There are 6 of us in the primary collective not counting contributors.

What inspired you to create Punk Black and the need for more representation in the scene?

I discovered rock music around age 12, and I noticed right away that I didn’t see many People of Color (POC) in main stream bands. Around that time I was still trapped in the notion that Rock music was created by white people, and POC weren’t really fond of it. This of course made me feel even more like the odd man out, and unfortunately fueled my self-hate phase at the time. It wasn’t until I started a band at the end of high school did I realize how bad the lack of representation was on the scene. Being an all Black band we got all kinds of looks, condescending remarks, and general hate.PUNK bLACK QUOTE

Was Cosplay always a part of the Atlanta Punk Scene? The collective seems to fill a need for youth interested in all things alternative, was that a natural progression?

Not that I know of. I definitely know a lot of cosplayers who like punk, and a lot of punk fans who like cosplay/anime/comics. It was a natural progression for us, as most of the collective grew up being influence by anime, and our designs have always been anime influenced.

About Community organizing, was finding space for shows and funding new projects something you had previous experience doing?

Definitely not. We had played a lot of shows before the first PB, but we had never really put on our own show, let alone organize a monthly event.

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Photo courtesy of PUNK BLACK

Access to creative space is one of the key barriers for artists in NYC, how was it navigating venues in Atlanta?

When we started in 2015 it was a lot easier to find venues in ATL, but as time goes on it’s getting more and more difficult. We normally like to use a combination of house and DIY venues but as the siege of gentrification intensifies, we lose more venues. Over the last year we’ve luckily found a home base at Union EAV, which has been an awesome help to the movement.

When did you first get the idea to launch an event in NYC and what drew you to this city?

NY has always been one of the places we thought about setting up another chapter of PB, but it was when we were contacted by Mecca Shabazz earlier this year that we realized we could actually make it happen. She’s now our NY event director, and our eyes in New York. New York’s new scene is definitely what drew us to the city. It’s been the birthplace of things like Punx of Color, AfroPunk, and dope ass bands over the years. (Shout out to Shinobi Ninja).

Are there a couple organizations out there you admire? Why do you admire them?

Definitely Southern Fried Queer Pride (SFQP) in Atlanta and Punx of Color in New York. SFQP promotes and features the LGBT art community through events and festivals, and their style and the way they run things is really dope. I’ve been following Punx of Color for a few years now, and though I haven’t been able to make it to an event I can tell that do great work for punks of color. It shows not only in the numbers, but in the reactions of the community they serve. I’ve only seen and heard good things about them, and after speaking with Gayla Brooks I can tell they try to do what’s best for the community as a whole. I think both of these organizations think about the community first, which is one of the hardcore reasons I dig them both as well.

BlkGrl Book Tour Recap

I’ve been a zinester since 2014, toting my lil hand made books around to DIY events. We table and vend with fellow artists, often feeling like Lucy with her Psychiatric Help Stand, sharing with any who will listen the content of our books with passion and understanding. Some folks really don’t understand it, while some really do. It’s a great space to share what you truly love, because somebody out there, even if its only 2-3 people, cares just as much about talking avocados as you do.

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Events on the tour:
Paper Jazz Fest, Brooklyn NYC
Betty Zine Fest, Newark NJ
Boston Art Book Fair, Boston MA
Not Just A Boys Club Fest, Teaneck NJ
Punx of Color 4, Brooklyn NYC

The BlkGrl book tour was my first attempt at following a dedicated schedule of events in locations outside of Manhattan, to help spread the #Blkgrlswurld message as far outside of NYC as possible. Black girls love metal and punk rock too! It challenged me to create a traveling system to affordably leave the city and arrive at any venue with a pop up shop out of a single bag I could carry on my own. (This is NYC, I don’t have a car ok?) Traveling on buses, trains and taxis to these other places tested my dedication to the project. Was I willing to get up at 6am for my zines? Here are some things I learned about being on the road with our lil books.

Punx of Color are everywhere.

Here at #Blkgrlswurld we aren’t always a certain an event or venue we attend is appropriate for our project. When tabling events like the Boston Art Book Fair, this became a critical question. Our $3 coloring books standing next to $75 high quality art catalogs? Likely a sign that our intended audience wont be strolling through this event. But they did anyway. There was not much diversity at that fair, but when a few Black youth did stop by we had great conversations about music and a few sales. Never underestimate who will take interest in your work.

Some people will never understand us, and that’s ok.

We stepped into new spaces and venues – that means local audiences are new to our work and what we’re about. Metal is not a widely understood musical form, so that alone was confusing to some along with the layer of being femme and Black. *Shrugs* All of these adventures help me determine what events to do next year.

Taking a stand empowers those around you.

Our focus has always been on young folks between ages 17-25 with little pocket money, that are curious about new music. Especially if they identify as outsiders, geeks or weirdos. That will always be the community we represent and sharing with these kids a safe space to express themselves can save lives.

I encourage everyone to start a zine, a blog, a fan club. Every time an awkward Black girl who doesn’t feel like she belongs any damn where stumbles across an artwork or photograph of women who look just like her, I feel a little better. Let’s all strive to create content that represents who we are and make sure its accessible. As I sat at these events with my little table, I met a number of fans this way. Women who had been searching for something to relate to, and see themselves in. Some that found us had already collected our items at previous events or online – they continue to comeback because of community. We are out here, together at shows, festivals and record fairs.

I fucking love Metal.

From Boston to New Jersey we did our best to keep our schedule loose, giving us a chance to meet more people and explore the visited cities. But the true connection to all these stops became the metal music blasting out of my headphones. At one point I wondered, is this really what I’m about? Hells yeah! Leaping off a megabus in platform towering boots, chewing bubble gum in band tees and dark glasses while the music blasts on in my ears. My favorite albums energized me to keep going, to keep traveling and to keep celebrating this scene and the women who support it. We know we don blend it with the people around us and that’s ok. I know where to go to spend time with my peeps, hopefully our books help that happen too.

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Books and Conversations

 


Zine Event June 27th @ Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture

Ahhh! Our fav Harlem spot to uncover Black history is hosting a zine event this week and we’ll have a table 😀 😀 😀 Tuesday, June 27, 2017, Zine Fair from 4-6pm followed by Panel Talk at 6:30 p.m.

We love every chance to expose young brown folks to alternative music and media that represents and validates our shared quirky, sometimes geeky interests. #PUNXSOFCOLOR

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Zines: Elaborate Disruption and Black Creativity

“The resurgence of zines—self-published limited-distribution works—is stemming the tide of erasure, disrupting publishing, and offering creative spaces for diverse voices within marginalized communities. Remembering zines like FIRE!!, created in 1926 and “devoted to the young negro artist,” author Steven G. Fullwood will join in conversation with contemporary zine creators Devin N. Morris (3 Dot Zine), Nontsikelelo Mutiti (Nontsi), Kevin Harry (KHzines), and Jermel Moody (maple:koyo) to elaborate on their zine-making practices and impact on publishing and creativity. The program will also feature a marketplace of zines selected in collaboration with Morris, Moody, and the Schomburg Shop.

FIRE!! contributors included Harlem Renaissance figures Langston Hughes, Zora Neale Hurston and Aaron Douglas.

@SchomburgCenter #SchomburgZineFair

First come, first seated

For free events, we generally overbook to ensure a full house. All registered seats are released 15 to 30 minutes before start time, so we recommend that you arrive early.”

Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture | 515 Malcolm X Boulevard | New York, NY 10037

#heavygirlsloveheavymusic

 

Music, Zines & Riso Machines

Phew! We spent the 1st four months of this year printing and editing new work and now we’re ready to share it with you \m/ this is the 1st year my sibs and I have Really dug deeply into the purpose of the zine and what inspires us to keep it going. Up until this season, we’d usually only focus on the project 2-3 times a year for a few weeks, collecting drawings and writings from our sketchbooks and building something collaborative.  In January we heard about a Zine making/small press course at the School of Visual Arts and jumped in with both feet!

So What is a Risograph?

Well, you could term it one of those things that’s so mundane, its cool again. Risograph is a brand of digital duplicators manufactured from Japan since the 1980s. Intended for high volume office printing like Xerox machine were, they have mainly been marketed to law firms and city offices where 1000s of text heavy pages are printed daily.

Printmakers and designers have warmed up to these machines due to their archival ink quality and soft textures that can occur from the rice paper master (A fine stencil the ink passes through) the machine creates to duplicate files. With soy based inks and rice paper stencils, its quite the toxic free endeavor in comparison to the intense chemicals, varnishes and alcohols many of us have been managing in traditional printmaking processes.

The average riso machine usually only holds 2 ink colors at a time, so 4 color printing requires registering your prints and switching out ink tanks. At times its hard to imagine business folk in suits actually get this manual in an office but thats still its main function. LOL!

During my season at the SVA Riso Lab, I printed on various weights of paper and sticker sheets. Overall I found the process of editioning with these machines really fast and efficient, but at the same time lacking the monotype flexibility I’m able to accomplish during a screenprinting session. I gotta admit I missed getting a little dirty in the shop, but that’s my printmaker side I guess. Working with these machines in a clean environment created a medicinal setting. Where’s the screen emulsion, litho stone sander and liquid screen filler?

In dedicating a good few months to developing the zine at the School of Visual Arts Riso Lab, projects were difficult at times, and we uncovered the best parts of zine making. The Music! Our zine will always be a way to share our excitement for heavy music, we live it and breathe it from the way we dress, to the things we read, write and of course stream on our stereos. We are proud punks of color who cant help but talk your ear off about the latest bands and albums and we hope our readers get as geeked about this stuff as we do. For as long we rock to this music and mosh out at shows, there will be  zine. *See you in the pit!*

Upcoming Events Featuring Our Books:

#SummoningtheArchive Print Fest @ NYU |  Saturday, May 13th from 2-5pm at 20 Cooper Square. Details

BABZ Fair ( Bushwick Art Book & Zine Fair) | Friday, June 2, 7–9PM: by invitation only
Saturday, June 3, 1–7PM: free & open to the public
Sunday, June 4, 1–7PM: free & open to the public

Where:
Knockdown Center
52-19 Flushing Ave
Queens, New York 11378

 

Zine Fair at MoMA PS1 Music Fest, March 26th

MoMA PS1 and Other Music Present
Come Together: Music Festival and Label Market

Sunday, March 26th, 2017
12PM-6PM

Coming up next week, #Blkgrlswurld Zine will join the Zine tables lead by Suffragette City art collective at the record label fair taking place during the music fest. Both labels and zinesters will be selling underground wares full of indie funk and style. We’ll have the latest Riso prints of our Zine and special variant editions.

*Access to the label/zine fair is free with museum admission. Events and screenings in the VW Dome are ticketed, $13-$15

Collaborative performances in the VW Dome celebrate the intersecting communities that make for a vibrant music scene. With Black Quantum Futurism (Moor Mother & Rasheedah Phillips), Matana Roberts, GENG, Hisham Akira Bharoocha, Brian Chase, Ryan Sawyer, Robert AA Lowe, Greta Kline, a.k.a. Frankie Cosmos, and more.

Panel discussions feature some of the most innovative individuals in music, including Ric Leichtung, Matt Conboy, Douglas Sherman, Esneider Arevalo, Delphine Blue, Brian Turner, and Francois Vaxelaire.

The New York City premiere of the film A Life in Waves, follows the life and innovations of composer and electronic music pioneer Suzanne Ciani, directed by Brett Whitcomb and written and edited by Bradford Thomason.

#Blkgrlswurld @ Brown Paper Zine Fair Jan. 28-29, 2017

#Blkgrlswurld ZINE will be selling our latest editions and coloring books Jan, 28-29th, 2017 at the Brown Paper Zine and Small Press Fair for Black and PoC Artists. The free event takes place at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA). Details below.

MoCADA (80 Hanson Place, Brooklyn, NY) – 1st and 4th Floors Free RSVP

We are also thrilled to participate in a panel discussion on Sunday during the zine fair, moderated by Kimberly Drew. Social Sunday: Black Ink Zine Panel Sunday, January 29, 2:30-4pm Free RSVP

3 Dot Zine presents its first installment of the Brown Paper Zine and Small Press Fair for Black and PoC Artists as a part of programming for Diagram of the Heart, by Glenna Gordon, currently on view at the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA).

3 Dot Zine is a collaborative submission based zine founded by artist Devin N Morris in 2014 as a way to extend the reach of important dialogues Morris was having with his peers.Throughout his time participating in zine fairs and festivals in New York, Baltimore, and Philadelphia, he noticed a lack of Black and People of Color (PoC) representation within these environments, which stood in stark contrast to the diverse independent publishing communities Morris found himself apart of.

As such, the Brown Paper Zine and Small Press Fair was created to provide a space where the creative efforts of Black and PoC artists working in print mediums could be exposed and proliferated. Bringing together established zine makers, small presses, and artists working in print mediums to MoCADA, the fair asks each participant to seek out new and young artists to showcase their zines, or facilitate the production of their print-based work. In addition to encouraging young artists to use zines as a viable, independent avenue for sharing their work, this effort also acquaints young makers with the communities that fairs create.

The Brown Paper Zine and Small Press Fair will occupy multiple locations within the MoCADA building as the weekend boasts inclusive programming in the way of; the Women’s Healing Space, a writing workshop and a space for women to check in, be seen, heard and affirmed while in community with each other; a screening of #BlackGirlLit: Between Literature, Performance & Memory, a documentary exploring “black woman-ness” and the literary traditions that inform it, featuring artists Ayana Evans, Kal Gezahegn, Dell M. Hamilton, Tsedaye Makonnen, Helina Metaferia and Marceline Mandeng; Social Sunday: Black Ink, a panel discussion interrogating the world of self-publishing and the instance where inspiration leads to action; and more to be announced.


PARTICIPANTS:

3 Dot Zine
Blk Grls Wurld Zine
Brown & Proud Press
Brown Recluse Zine Distro
Codify Art
Collectiva Cosmica
DATE NIGHT
Endless Editions
La Chamba Press
La Liga Zine
Lambey Press
L’ENCHANTEUR
Maroon World
MoCADA Shop
Mohammed Fayez
No Shame Distro
Nontsikelelo Mutiti
Oxford Plain
PJ Gubatina Policarpio
RAFiA SANTANA
Red Hook Editions
True Laurels Magazine
Yellow Jackets Collective

Bringing In The Asexual New Year

Dec. 31, 2016

I’m outside the Harlem Target store loading up my new kitchen appliances when suddenly a little old lady approaches me. With a smile across her face she exclaims,  “Ah! Bringing in the new year with a fresh start eh?”

I shrug bashfully, “Sure, sure.”

She nods knowingly, “I gave up new year resolutions ages ago, but a friend of mine, she’s a bit older than me, she told me a good one to try is having less sex. Hehehe.”

I nod and smile, “Indeed.”

Sometimes it’s bewildering even to me that I’m in my late twenties and still identifying as the same asexual I’ve always been since age 5. Back when I first learned of frogs that could reproduce without mating with an opposite sex. “That’s me,” I’d tell my parents, “I stand on my own. I’m asexual.” I’ve always struggled to understand why people strive to pair up or find each other sexually attractive. Why would anyone need to be so…close?

Of course they passed it off as silliness but by the time I was in the 5th grade the pressure was real to claim at least one boy attractive; to recognize the innate game of cat and mouse between the genders. My parents didn’t care if it was someone I knew, a celebrity or a damn cartoon character, I could feel them searching for “normal development” behavior and that there would be social consequences for not fitting in. Was I mentally falling behind my peers? Gay? Emotionally immature?  I caught on quickly that I needed to start acting ‘normal’ and began lying about boys on TV I thought were “Cute” or “Crush-worthy.” The look of approval from them when I did this made my stomach churn.

Stereotypes of Black women in the United States are hyper-sexualized to a caricature level. As a brainy femme teenager the expectation that I would fail in life was everywhere, from the Black community in my home to my white peers at our rural suburban high school. There are countless moments where my brown skin felt like a magnet for sexual advances. “Black girls are fast, Black girls are trouble, Black girls are easy and their bodies develop too early. They’re boy crazy and obsessed with babies.” –Total bullshit I still hear from my elders today.

I understood some of the discrimination I was getting at school surrounded by whites who’d only ever seen black people on the BET cable network booty popping (a channel they were proud to sneak a peek at when their parents weren’t home). But what hurt my feelings more was how often my relatives spoke of good clean girls vs. nasty fast girls – lecturing my parents on how to keep my sister and I in check of our hormones.

But quite the opposite was happening in our home. Our hormones were quite fine. I was a tomboy that didn’t talk about crushes, never asked about dating, and knew my helicopter parents were worried I was gay. (To this day they don’t believe asexuality exists. Everyone loves sex!)

Up until grad school it would bother me sometimes that my lack of interest in connecting with others in a romantic way hadn’t changed. I’d never so much as kissed another person but also didn’t want to do those things and had a hard time relating why anyone would want to. My fun was music, writing, art-making, conversation.  I saw the sexual currency people exchanged and consistently felt isolated from that market.(i.e. flirting through a job interview, the benefit of combined household income, professional approval…)

But the simple truth for many asexuals is, we’re solid in who we are. There isn’t a feeling of something missing, if sex never came up in our lives we’d never notice. It’s why I’m so surprised when people discuss their fear of being alone. Is it that scary taking care of yourself? Fighting your own battles?

I have friends, family and community just like you. I stand on my own and I’m cool with that, I’m building a life around that and enjoy what I do. I try to keep my mind open to having a platonic partner one day but honestly…I’m indifferent.

So you may be wondering why asexuals are coming out more and more, with some flowing into LGBTQA activism.

  1. We are “other” and therefore subject to many of the same discriminations and violence. Especially young people of color. When a homophobic family member suspects your sexuality is anything other than hetero, they rarely wait around to hear you explain asexuality. And because our society is that sex obsessed it’s not likely they would believe you. To them it’s just another gay person trying to hide in plain sight.
  2. People grow. Some of us reach asexuality later in life or fall somewhere else on the Spectrum. Maybe we already have children or have identified as gay most of our lives and now feel differently about our attraction to others. That doesn’t necessarily mean we stop having romantic relationships or stop identifying as queer.
  3. It’s only one part of ourselves. Queer, trans and non-binary folk can also be asexual. Some peoples feelings around attraction shift over time and it’s all about learning and understanding yourself better.
  4. We are not against sexuality in any way and support everyone’s journey. Granted I don’t like media propagating sex as a life or death need, but I love seeing my friends freely expressing themselves and loving who they love. You do you! It’s all about  everyone living their truth  without the threat of violence or discrimination from opportunity.

I believe anyone who supports shifting this cis-gender patriarchal system should join forces and build a stronger inter-sectional community of love and respect. Especially in 2017. This is a moment where the powers-that-be will strive to divide us and create doubt within our movements. It is critical that we support each other.

~ C.L

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P.S > *USA Womens March Jan, 21 2017

#blacklivesmatter #feministkilljjoy #qwoc #equality #asexual #pride #lgbtqa