Zine Review: On Confronting Anti-Blackness in Our Communities

Image courtesy Brown and Proud Press.

On Confronting Anti-Blackness in Our Communities

Brown and Proud Press
A.V.A., Gabo Banksy, Cuauhtemoc, Tanuja Devi Jagernauth, Hoda Katebi, Munoz, Fatima Noekai, Fernando Romulo, Melisa Stephen, Vicko, and Monica Trinidad

On April 29th and 30th, Chicago Zine Fest will host dozens of incredible zinesters, and will feature several of them at a Friday evening panel and reading. To give you a taste of the wonderful people you can see at the Friday events, I’ll be reviewing three of their zines! This review is of a collective zine created by Brown and Proud Press, as two of their members are on the lineup. Monica Trinidad is moderating a panel titled “Permission Not Granted: Women of Color and the Politics of Zines,” and Tanuja Jagernauth will participate in the exhibitor reading.

On Confronting Anti-Blackness in Our Communities is half of a split zine released by Brown and Proud Press and MOONROOT that examines how non-black people of color resist anti-blackness in their unique communities. MOONROOT is a collective that describe themselves as “womyn, trans and genderqueer persons of Asian and Pacific Islander (API) descent living in diaspora.” This review focuses on Brown and Proud Press’ half of the zine, but MOONROOT’s section is also excellent and deserves your attention!

In the introduction to the zine, Brown and Proud describe themselves as “queer chicanxs, working-class hard femmes, mixed, intersex, brown and gender non-conforming latinxs” who share personal narratives in order to drive social change. They publish a series called On Struggling, of which this zine is the fourth issue.

In each piece of Confronting Anti-Blackness, a different member of the collective reflects on anti-blackness in their community by offering advice, celebrating black voices, or calling out a specific instance of anti-black racism. The essays are printed on a myriad of multi-colored, patterned backgrounds, and many are accompanied by photos from Black Lives Matter protests and similarly minded events. Both the backgrounds and the photos project a sense of optimism, suggesting that social change is possible if communities unite to fight for it.

Ultimately, the voices in Confronting Anti-Blackness unify against the insidious divide-and-conquer brand of racism that keeps people of color from working together. I’ve highlighted a few of the pieces that resonated with me.

“Death by Naturalized Causes,” a poem by Tanuja Devi Jagernauth

Jagernauth opens the zine with the mythical autopsy of T. Devi Jagan, an immigrant woman and mother from Guyana. Through the visceral, cold language of an autopsy report, Jagernauth paints a picture of fatal wounds shaped like patriotic symbols and microaggressions. The poem is ferociously empathetic; when Jagernauth describes Jagan’s tongue you will feel the weight of your own tongue, and when she describes Jagan’s burns, you will feel your skin burn. This piece also provides a perfect, complex framework for the essays to come, in which writers with personal or family immigrant histories explore how those histories relate to anti-blackness.

“Untitled Essay,” by Hoda

Hoda is an Iranian Muslim woman, and opens her piece by describing the hyper-policing that plagues her everyday life. She draws on this experience as a way of understanding the shared struggle between Iranian Muslims and black people, noting that “our oppressors are the same—we differ only in the chains used to tie us down.” However, the real heart of Hoda’s essay is her breakdown of how divide-and-conquer tactics have succeeded in teaching her community and the black community to fear each other so that they will not unite. Her tone is optimistic, but she does not sugarcoat the fact that much damage has been done what could be a powerful relationship.

“Untitled Essay” by Melisa

Photographer is unknown, image is courtesy Brown and Proud Press.
We Charge Genocide in Geneva, Switzerland at the United Nations Convention Against Torture standing to defy protocol and protest the Chicago Police Department’s murder of 23 year old Dominique “Damo” Franklin after delivering a report on police violence against young people of color in Chicago. This photo follows Melisa’s essay.

I found Melisa’s piece particularly interesting, because it is both a celebration and an admonition. As a young child, Melisa was drawn to black women’s writings and continued to learn and benefit from black women’s teaching and activism as they grew into their own activism. However, as a non-black person of color, Melisa is cautious of benefiting from black activism without also working to combat anti-blackness and the specific issues that threaten black lives. I loved that their essay is pasted on top of a background of multi-colored jewels; it’s a great visual representation of the wealth of black political thinking that has informed Melisa’s politics.

“No Job, No Money, No Food, No Home: Unequal Employment in the US Workforce” by A.V.A.

A.V.A.’s essay is printed on a grey photograph that interrupts a series of brightly colored, patterned backgrounds. The photograph shows two protesters holding up their fists; a symbol of activism that provides a literal backdrop for a long-established example of institutional anti-black racism. In his essay, A.V.A. identifies the anti-blackness within a company he eventually left because of their failure to address their racism. He speaks to a point that Hari Kondabolu also make in his bit on the idea that in, 2042, white people will be a minority in America: POC communities are not homogeneous. A company may claim to be diverse and have POC on staff, but not employ a single black person, and that is still racism.

Pick up a copy of On Confronting Anti-Blackness in Our Communities at Chicago Zine Fest, from Quimbys in Chicago, Brown Recluse in Seattle, No Shame in New Brunswick, or read it at Issuu. Keep up with Brown and Proud Press’ work by following them on Tumblr, Facebook, and Twitter.

Alenka Figa

Alenka Figa

Alenka Figa is a queer librarian and intense cat mom. She spends her days reading zines and indie comics, and twittering about D&D podcasts at @alenkafiga.