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:

Shrill shares a truth that many fat girls discover as they become grown-ass women: Life goes on whether you’re fat or not.

Shrill is a new series on Hulu.

In the new web series Shrill, Annie Easton (played by Aidy Bryant) is on a journey to explore self-acceptance and through that, find her voice. While the show has some key issues and plot holes, I respect that it can be a process that takes committed effort to build up internal self-acceptance; giving oneself the freedom to try new things and discover personal realizations.

Annie is what I would term ‘Baby Phat’ as she begins to dip her toes into body positivity and the womanhood of her 30s and 40s. Grown Ass Women are not born overnight, OK?

Shrill shares a truth that many fat girls discover as they become grown-ass women: Life goes on whether you’re fat or not. This is it, our one life to live. As we approach middle age it becomes more clear for most of us that we will always be overweight in some regard. Maybe we lose 15 pounds on the latest fad diet, maybe we gain it back 6 months later. One thing is for sure, after a certain point being overweight is just part of who we are. It’s part of our identity, it just is. And it won’t stop us from living and enjoying life. We will still swim and hike, strut in fashion shows, start our own businesses or choose to raise a family, etc. I have never believed the stereotypes that fat women are failing in some way, automatically poor or ignorant for ‘not taking care of themselves.’ Most likely because I’ve been fat for most of my life, and getting grown has still been fun, exciting and active for me.

Of course we want to be as healthy as anyone else, but we also recognize using the term ‘healthy’ in conversation can be code for suggesting a woman should want to become more attractive. Only guess what? A fat person can still be stylish, intelligent, and take care of themselves. In a world where people can be overweight for hundreds of reasons that are their own private business, fat-shaming is total bullshit.

My favorite scene in the series occurs during the third episode *SPOILERS* When the main character Annie in all her awkwardness is having trouble navigating whether she has the right of way to cross a street. While going through a range of indecision about when to disrupt car traffic, a stylish plus-size woman in an all red outfit, brushes past her and crosses the street without hesitation. This plus size ‘woman in red’ is confident, feminine and most importantly claiming her personal space. The woman’s energy is magnetic enough that it compels Annie to follow her for a couple blocks. Annie looks on in awe at how this woman carries herself, and as she peers on from a distance we can see she is wondering how she can get to that level of solid womanhood. The series allows us to follow Annie through that exploration, which I found pretty fun to witness. Glowing up is hard work.

I hope every woman gets to this point of realization. Life doesn’t start when you’re suddenly slim. We are all living right now, and deserve every bit of satisfaction and success as anyone else. ##


Pre-Order Our Summer Zine

Ahh, it’s crazy y’all. We tried a new printer this time and we are so pleased with the bright colors and glossy pics.

Only did a short run of 30 copies for now but we’ll probably print more for live events as the season kicks off. Keeping our prices under $10 for the youth so head over to Etsy to see the deets on this fun and fresh #blkgrlswurld zine 😘

NYC Feminist Zine Fest @ Barnard 3/7/18

Catch us tabling at the next NYC Feminist Zine Fest this March 😀
We’ll have new merch, zines, coloring books and stickers. (Gonna hide our own wallet to keep us from buying all the other cool things women have been making this season, lol.) I’m gonna go broke for sure!
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Saturday, March 7, 2015
12 – 6 PM
James Room, 4th Floor Barnard Hall
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“The Feminist Zine Fest showcases the work of artists and zine makers of all genders who identify on the feminist spectrum, and whose politics are reflected in their work. For the second consecutive year, Barnard proudly hosts the zine fest, welcoming approximately 40 zine-makers eager to share their work. Home of the renowned Barnard Zine Library, the College is the ideal site to feature some of the boldest, most original and creative examples of micropublishing. The event is coordinated by Barnard’s zine librarian Jenna Freedman, Jordan Alam ’13, and other zine makers, including Feminist Zine Fest cofounder Elvis Bakaitis, author and artist of the Homos in Herstory minicomics series. Free tables are available to zine-makers interested in exhibiting their work” https://feministzinefestnyc.wordpress.com/

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#blkgrlswurld, Risograph prints, 2017

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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#Blkgrlswurld featured in Tom Tom Magazine :D

Yassss! Tom Tom is a magazine for female drummers and musicians, and we’ve been featured in their 31st issue! It’s based in NYC and it does so much great work inspiring women musicians and kicking serious ass in the rock scene. We are so honored they took an interest in our Black Girls Dreaming Coloring Book and chose to feature a review of that work by writer, Lola Johnson. Thank you Tom Tom Mag 😀

You can order their latest issue Online HERE

Print versions are available across the nation in shops like Barnes and Nobel. Check out more of the funky femme talent they’ve been dishing at http://tomtommag.com/

The Acacia Strain Deliver A Properly Heavy Summer

If you ever catch us on Instagram, you’ll know we’ve been headbanging at the heaviest NYC metal shows all summer. Much of it having to do with saying goodbye to our fav venue, Webster Hall, set to close for the next 18 months and less likely to book heavy music when it reopens. Another safe haven for new metalbands lost to corporate takeovers, grr.

I’d been patiently waiting for east coast band, The Acacia Strain to finish up the Vans Warped Tour this year and bring on the jams to NYC, when I heard about a new album they were dropping in late June. Yassss. Idunno what it is about doomy metalcore music, but what I like most about their style are the playful moments in their songs when the time signatures get screwy and unpredictable. This doesn’t happen as often as say, a composition from The Dillinger Escape Plan, but I enjoy the surprise when Acacia Strain explores this.

 

I found their newest album, Gravebloom to be their most polished project so far. A quality to the recording and mastering that leaves previous works like Coma Witch sounding more scratchy unfinished somehow. Not that there’s anything wrong witha rougher sound but, its nice to hear an artist tightening up their craft and focusing on the best elements of their songwriting.

Nothing trumps hearing their songs live, but Gravebloom has some great moments – enough to be added to our #blkgrlswurld Spotify playlist.

Songs we enjoyed from this album include, “Bitter Pill”, “Abyssal Depths”, and “Cold Gloom.” They each have a churning heaviness in their rhythm, the sort that makes you wanna stomp around the mosh pit like some 100ft Godzilla…or you know, in your living room wearing pajamas while growling at your cat. For me, this sort of metal is cathartic, calming and allows me to rest. I realize others have more stimulating reactions, lol- the point is, The Acacia Strain’s latest work is quite satisfying and a great soundtrack for our summer in this big ‘ol city.

I look forward to catching them touring this live.

##blkgrlswurld

Books and Conversations