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:

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.

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.

NYC Women’s March & Other Nearby Events

I cannot wait to march this Saturday, Jan. 21st in NYC to stand up against the most dangerous political leadership of my generation.

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There are dozens of events going down around NYC to come together in resistance and to at least let these powers know that the people will be watching them very closely, and pushing back on the things that directly hurt our communities. Below are a few events we’ve heard about:

  • Women’s March NYC, Jan. 21st Saturday. People will be meeting at staggered times throughout the day so as not to exceed capacity.
    • From 11am-4pm we will march from Dag Hammarskjold Plaza to Trump Tower on 5th Ave. More info
  • Thursday, Jan. 19th. A protest outside Trump International Hotel in Columbus Circle planned by Michael Moore, Mark Ruffalo, and Alec Baldwin is scheduled for 6 p.m. the night before the inauguration. More info
  • Also on Thursday, Jan. 19th will be an anti-fascism concert at Symphony Space on the upper west side, 96th and Broadway. Tix $30
    • An extraordinary evening of artistic passion, urgent commitment, hosted by five time Grammy winner Arturo O’Farrill, this live streamed concert takes place the night before the scheduled inauguration.
  • On Friday, Jan. 20 a march will take place at Foley Square at 5pm. NYC Stand Against Trump Rally and March. More Info
  • Other artists and cultural institutions are also coming together for a Jan. 20 Art Strike. They feature an online schedule of anti-inauguration activities in NYC taking place at institutions like the New School, Whitney Museum of American Art and CUNY.

Let’s join together and work together to create opportunities for everyone to have a voice and improve their lives.

penny-proud

 

Blkgrlswurld Autumn Edition 4.3 Now Online

She’s finally arrived, the latest edition can be found at the link below. This season’s book features artwork by Trifecta Studios and a short story we crafted during November’s National Novel Writing Month.

Later this week on Dec. 15th, we’ll be reading from the book & performing a bit of music in Brooklyn at Pioneer Works Book Shop. Details in the poster below.

See you in the pit! \m/

Edition 4.3 | December 2016 | View PDF Here


 

Pushing Through The Pain for Trivium

When you’re as passionate about live music as I am, having an invisible illness can really put a damper on getting out to shows. That’s why it’s such a special moment when I find a band that’s worth the pain and hustle it can take to stand for hours in a hot and sweaty club theater surrounded by the moshing energy I enjoy.

I’ve been collecting Trivium albums since early 2005 and this Irving Plaza show was my first chance at seeing them live. I arrived early enough to catch some of Sabaton’s set and patiently waited for Trivium to begin. Slowly approaching my 30’s its become more difficult to stand still for hours in converse sneakers without getting a leg cramp. I’m all oooooold and shit w/ autoimmune drama 😦 ugh…Anyways,  after 30 minutes of standing around for band set up, the lights suddenly went low and the crowd started freaking out; prepping for circle pits etc. when I immediately I got one of the most painful Charlie Horses I’ve ever had. Shiiiiiiit..

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As one of my fav bands began to play, I stood there in excruciating pain trying to decide if walking towards the exit would make the injury worse. I attempted standing on one leg as still as possible in a sea of moshers (all that shoving helped prop me up) to wait and see if the pain would subside. Luckily after about 15 minutes, I was able to stand again and remember that I was at a fucking Trivium show for a reason. I looked at the crowd, looked at the band, peered back at the crowd again and decided to stay – they sounded Really good live and eventually i was able to leave the show without limping through east village.

I’m glad I stayed for the show because they were worth it, and if it had been any other band my ass would’ve immediately been in an Uber to home. These guys make me want to practice my mandolin more than ever and strive to be a better artist. \m/