A couple of months ago, I decided to revamp my YouTube channel. I wanted it to reflect my interests in literature/writing. I review books, zines, and everything in between (movies, etc.) It’s an opportunity to expand my work on a different platform. I’m still working out the kinks, but it’s been fun to play around with creating videos/video editing. I’ve been inspired by so many wonderful Black YouTube content creators. In a few videos, you may hear light snoring in the background. I usually have to record while my toddler is napping 😉 I encourage folks to subscribe, like and comment! 🙂
This past summer I hosted a workshop on women of color: creativity and self-care. I decided to reach out to good friend/fellow writer, Hannah Eko. Eko has done amazing work on the issues of self-love/body positivity/mental health. I knew she would have some fabulous advice for attendances. So, I was thrilled when she agreed to an interview. I thought I would share with y’all as well 🙂
Hi Hannah! Tell us about yourself/background…
I’m a Nigerian woman who was born in London and mainly grew up in Southern California. I’m the oldest of four. I’m also an Aries with a Gemini Moon and Ascendant in Aquarius. I served in the Coast Guard for 8 years and was Miss Tall International 2014. Currently, I’m a third year MFA in Fiction student at the University of Pittsburgh.
I first met you at a zine event. Why did zines resonate with you? In your debut zine, The Weather up Here is Great! you write about your experiences as a tall Black woman. Why was it important for you to tell this story?
I grew up reading TONS of magazines as a kid/teen. I went to this after-school center. The site leader, Cristina, would gift me all her magazines. I read Teen, CosmoGurl, YM (my fave back then), Teen People, and Seventeen. I had adolescent dreams of being some kind of model-writer person, but obviously wasn’t really seeing too many models that looked like me. Nor was I always interested in the banalities covered within the articles. So, when I moved to Portland, Oregon, I was really looking for something to express myself. I somehow luckily got wind of your Black Women Zine Group and immediately loved it. I loved how with zines, anyone could create what they want and share their unique vision with the world. I loved the creativity and the community. I had a lot of insecurity about being taller than the average woman. So, zines were the perfect place to write about this. I wanted other tall girls to know that they were gorgeous the way they were. Of course, I wanted to tell myself this as well. My experience being a tall woman is multi-layered and a lot less straightforward than I was seeing presented. I wanted to at least showcase my own point of view.
You’ve been published in various magazines (Bust, Bitch, etc.) Did you always want to be a writer? How do you stay passionate about writing? Are there any writing tips you can give to folks?
I always wanted to be a writer, though I had absolutely no idea how one “became” a writer. I honestly thought you were just kind of discovered (a nod to my modeling dreams, I’m sure.) First I was into drawing, probably around age 4 or 5. And then writing soon followed. I love writing because it helps me make sense of the world. It’s a way I talk with myself, it’s a way that my thoughts become crystallized and I can sit back and be like, wow, so that’s what I think. Writing allows me the room to create whatever I want to see. Though I have many interests and extra-curriculars, writing is the one thing that has been a constant. I sometimes get frustrated with my own progress and fearful of the fast pace of the market and all these new, sparkling writers. However, I will forever love writing. I don’t really have to push myself to be passionate about it. I’m a constant journal writer, so I am always writing. I think my only suggestion is the piece of advice I am doing my best to live out, which is: write from your deepest self. Let go of ego and awards and fame and being clever and cute. Write fucked up things. Write things that make you cringe and propel you to go deeper. Write the thing you most want to see.
and I’m tripping! It feels like I just posted I was going on blogcation. Well, I guess all good things must come to an end. I hope everyone had a great summer. I tried to stay off social media and failed miserably. It’s hard when EVERYTHING you do is connected to the internet. I spent a lot of time with my youngin. I participated in community events. I also tried to partake in nature, which is saying a lot for me as I like the luxuries of life 😉 Overall, I had a decent summer. I think I am ready for the upcoming cooler months and seasonal festivities. I made a short video of some of the shenanigans I engaged in these past few months. Enjoy! 🙂
This blog initially started out as a zine. A zine is a take on the word maga(zine) and is a form of self publishing/Do It Yourself (DIY) culture. In Portland, the zine community is popular. Unfortunately, it tends to be symbolic of the city (white folks), so it can be difficult for zinestors of color to find space, at times. A few years ago, I started workshops for women of color (WOC) who made zines, or wanted to learn more about zines. It turned out to be a pretty successful group. We hosted workshops for five years, becoming well-known in the city. During that time, I connected to brilliant WOC artists/writers. I have also built up a fabulous zine collection.
I’m always looking to add to my stash. So, I was tickled to receive the Contemporary Black Genius Coloring Book, from artist Tazha Williams. This book features beautifully drawn images of folks like Ms. Badu, Kap, and more!
I’d planned to take photos to share, but decided to make it more interesting. So, I created a short video. Then I thought it would be fun to add music. So, I dropped in a tune. Then I thought, some ambience. It started getting a little out of control. Luckily for y’all, I clicked off the editing tool 😉
If you are interested in starting your own collection of art/writings by DIY folks of color, Williams’s book is a great place to start!
Last weekend, I attended a zine festival. I was excited, because I knew I was going to see friends of color I hadn’t been able to connect with since moving back to my city. While folks seemed okay for the most part, I noticed a weariness with a lot of them. The DIY (Do It Yourself) event showcased the creative writings/art/comics of those who self-publish. The history of the festival has traditionally been white hipsters. This year, organizers worked hard to center the voices/work of writers/artists/activists of color. The overall theme was how marginalized communities are resisting the resurgence of hateful racism happening in America.
I actually was invited as one of the guest speakers, and hosted a workshop specifically for Black women/non-binary black folks. My workshop was called “The 94%: Dusting Off Our Shoulders,” after a piece I wrote for a women of color zine collective I contribute to. The workshop was a continuation to the homage I wrote to Black women. Black women were a powerful force during last year’s election. It wasn’t so much because Black women overwhelming voted for a potential woman for president (while white women let Clinton down), but rather the bigger issue of Black women’s activism, leadership, and organizing skills that were ignored by mainstream media, including “progressives.” Instead the media focused on the woes of the white working class, especially white women.
We had a heartfelt conversation about this at the workshop. The thing I that stood out to me the most was the fact Black women are exhausted. We are giving are all to better our communities/society as a whole, and keep getting degraded/rendered invisible. Later, I thought about this discussion, as well as remembering the tired faces of some of my friends of color, I encountered that weekend.
Racism fatigue is hurting our health. I mean, at this point, what more can Black/Brown folks do? We’ve written scholarly books. We’ve put on insightful plays. We’ve read soul-stirring poetry. We’ve made numerous truth-telling movies. Hell, Black/Brown folks even created a whole new genre of music, rap, to discuss these issues (early rap music focused on the lives of poor Black/Latino youth).
Yet, despite it all, studies show that most white folks still tend to hold stereotypical views of Black folks/folks of color. It doesn’t matter if we’ve gotten the degrees, have traditional relationships, or “act right…” most white folks still tend to see Black folks as less than. It’s strange. One would think it was Black folks who held white folks in slavery for hundreds of years, and continually denied them their basic human rights.
It’s not that we’ve given up hope. It’s just that we are “sick and tired of being sick and tired,” to quote Fannie Lou Hamer. We keep giving and giving, and all we’re getting back in return is a kick in the ribs.
Sorry about that y’all. I’ve been a bit neglectful keeping the blog updated. Thank goodness the holidays are over. That was such a stressful time. HAPPY NEW YEAR!! (I hope you got your spoonful of black-eyed peas 🙂 Unfortunately, we are starting 2017 with the inauguration of a President who has made it clear he is anti-people of color/women (don’t be fooled by the celebrities of color who are kissing azz for their own benefit). I encompass both, so Trump will be no ally to me.
It’s more important than ever to support marginalize voices/communities, as these groups will not be able to look to the new administration to align with those who aren’t white, male, and wealthy.
As someone who is a big lover of DIY (Do It Yourself) culture…I urge folks to financially/promote alternative forms of media/activism, as we will need these resources to keep ourselves safe and heard these next four years.
Here are a FEW to connect with:
Black Girl Dangerous: “Amplifying The Voices of Queer & Trans People of Color.”
Black Women’s Blue Print: “Black Women’s Blueprint envisions a world where women and girls of African descent are fully empowered and where gender, race and other disparities are erased.”
Feminist Wire: “The mission of The Feminist Wire is to provide socio-political and cultural critique of anti-feminist, racist, and imperialist politics pervasive in all forms and spaces of private and public lives of individuals globally.”
Brown Recluse Zine Distro:“Zine culture is not white culture. D.I.Y. culture is not white culture. Punk is not inherently white culture. So in the spirit of resistance, in the spirit of visibility and in the spirit of celebrating our cultures and intersectionality: Brown Recluse Zine Distro.”
While I was banished to the land of sickness, I was still able to see Kendrick Lamar’s interesting Grammy Performance. The 28-year-old rapper made a heartfelt statement about black men and the Prison Industrial Complex (PIC).
It was a bold stand at an event that has become too pop/boring/white washed. I know I personally haven’t paid attention to the Grammy Awards show in years.
I read an article critiquing the lack of space given to black women prisoners in his performance. I’m willing to give Lamar a slight pass for this. As a young man, he’s probably had more experience with his male friends/relatives/young folks he mentors having contact with police/the prison system.
With that said, despite black women being incarcerated at an alarming rate as much/if not more so than black men, the focus still tends to be on black men in prison.
Years ago, I took a class on women and the PIC. Our class read “Resistance Behind Bars: The Struggles of Incarcerated Women,” by Victoria Law. Law, an anarchist writer and prison abolitionist, detailed her experiences working with women prisoners. A zinester/DIY artist, she helped the women create a zine showcasing their words/art on prison life. The majority of women she came into contact with had children.This brings me to why it’s urgent we also focus on black women in prison.
The truth is, women tend to be the primary caretakers of their families. It doesn’t matter if there is a male partner in the home or not. This is particularly true in black communities, were we rely heavily on our extended female relatives.
A disturbing trend I noticed in our class readings, is that whole black communities are being wiped out due to the PIC. It’s leaving significant amounts of black children without parents or guardians. Because not only are the mothers being overly incarcerated for minor/non violent offenses, but so are grandmothers/aunties/cousins etc. I remember reading about a grandmother and her daughter and the daughter’s daughter all locked up in the same prison (drug addictions). The young daughter’s children were in foster care. There was no one to take care of them.
These mothers are losing custody of their children left and right. Obviously, they are in prison. They can’t just walk down to the local courthouse to attend court dates etc .
The PIC is destroying black motherhood/families. This issue really needs to be addressed in folks anti-PIC activism. Good job to Lamar for highlighting the problem of black men in prison, but we need to expand the conversation.
As folks know, I’m about that zine/self-publishing life. I was pleasantly surprised when a good friend shared she was venturing into DIY (Do It Yourself) work. I know she has always wanted to establish herself with a major publishing company. She said it was I that made her fall in love with small press (yes!) I met Olivia Olivia a few years ago when I organized my city’s first women of color zine symposium. Olivia Olivia was a young woman who let you know she was in the room. We quickly became buddies as we were both foodies at heart. Olivia Olivia writes about her experiences as a Salvadoran author/activist. In her new chapbook “no one remembered your name but i wrote it down” chronicles her time living in Berlin, growing up as an undocumented youth, and the death of a beloved sister.
A great addition to anyone’s zine/small press collection 🙂
I love interesting DIY (Do It Yourself) crowdfunding projects. I came across the Black Feminist Film School Fellowship Fund on Facebook. They are so close to their goal. Support if you can 🙂
“The answer, the vision, the liberation. Black Feminist Film School is an initiation journey that will transform all involved toward love and light. I invite you to join in and support in the ways that make sense for you….Black Feminist Film School Summer Session (bffs Summer Session) will take place June – August 2014. We will be focusing on building skill and practice as Black Feminist storytellers using the filmmaking medium and accompanying art forms. Within the three month session we will cover all phases of filmmaking including research and writing, pre-production, production and post-production.” http://www.alexispauline.com/apgblog/cause-view/support-the-black-feminist-film-school-fellowship-fund/
I have a lot of respect for Dr. Alexis Pauline Gumbs. She’s an amazing young artist/organizer/radical activist. She is also a fellow zinester. I have the SPEAK! CD that she and fellow women of color zinesters created a few years ago. It should be added to folks DIY collection. Check out this great interview with Dr. Gumbs:
“HI! MY NAME IS MARYA– I’m the founder of ABQ Zine Fest, (now in its 4th year) The Albuquerque Zine Library, and a co-founder/curator of The Tannex, a DIY performance clubhouse, in this outpost, in the high desert of New Mexico. I love my creative community, and I do a lot to support and nurture it. I’m asking for your support as I embark on a new project that expands my love for zines, self-publishing, and storytelling . . .THE PAMPHLETEER PROJECT MISSION: to help diversify existing zine collections, or help establish new ones by presenting women/feminist focused, people of color influenced, gender-inclusive zines and comics to groups and collectives around the world.” https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-pamphleteer-project
I have met Marya a couple of times at zine festivals. She’s a great writer, researcher, and artist. I love her Mocha Chocolata Momma zine (isn’t the name da bomb…yes breaking out my 90’s slang).
Y’all know I’m big supporter of DIY (Do It Yourself) folks, so help Marya if ya can! She has some nice perks! 🙂