It’s a Zine Thing, You Probably Don’t Understand

Zine   /rhymes with mean/ : A small, noncommercial, independent, handmade or internet publication typically with focused content dedicated to a specific topic, issue or opinion.

Tonya…Wow! How are you doing?
I’m doing great! Thank you for the interview.

It sounds like you’ve been pretty busy lately…
Yes, it’s been pretty hectic. Besides organizing the Women of Color (WOC) Zine Workshops, I take classes at Portland State University. My career goal is to work with returning students at a community college. I was older when I returned to school, so I relate to that journey. I also volunteer with the Women of Color Action Team on campus (Women’s Resource Center) I just returned from a trip to Atlanta, GA. I received a grant from the Regional Arts & Culture Council (local organization) to attend a conference in the ATL. It was fun!

Okay, let’s get into it. What in the world is a zine? Specifically, The Women of Color Zine, How did this come about?
The word zine is a take on the word “magazine.” So, it’s like a booklet. It’s basically a form of self-publishing/Do-It-Yourself (DIY) culture. Portland is known for its DIY vibe, so zines are pretty popular here. However, the zine community here reflects the population of the city, very white.  So, I started the women of color zine workshops as a way to provide a space for WOC artists/writers in Portland. We are currently celebrating our fifth year of workshops.

This is such a fresh and unique idea. Why did you select this format as a way to communicate the thoughts/ideas/issues and desires of non white women?
I specifically made the workshops for women of color because (1) I’m a woman of color/African-American and (2) women of color have different needs/face different kinds of oppression than white women/men of color. I have noticed our workshops tends to attract women of color that have recently relocated to Portland from more diverse cities (Chicago, New York, etc.) It’s a culture shock when they come to Portland. Portland is a predominately white city and communities of color tend to be marginalized here. Back in the day, these folks would have been able to go the NE side to meet/build community with other folks of color. But those areas have been gentrified (Alberta, Mississippi, and Williams neighborhoods). Those old communities have been fragmented and/or pushed outside the city (Gresham, St. Johns, Vancouver).  We make a zine collective called “Women of Color: How to Live in the City of Roses and Avoid the Pricks.” It’s basically about our experiences as women of color in Portland covering topics such as gentrification, housing, art & fashion, etc.  It’s a good way to purge some of our concerns about the plight of folks of color in Portland. I think zines are a good format to talk about these issues because there is no middle person. We have creative control over how we want to be represented. We don’t have to worry about offending sponsors or even readers. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to read it, but we are going to tell it like it is.

Share some of the topics discussed in these zines, don’t hold back…
I always say the one rule about zines is that there are no rules. While there is unspoken courtesy of not using oppressive language/images etc., zines can be about anything. It depends on what your interests are.  If you enjoy cooking/eating, you could make a foodie zine. If you love to read, you could make a review zine, etc.  Typically, most zines do have a political angle. Zines tend to attract folks who are marginalized in mainstream society. So, zines are made by those whose voices are not part of mainstream stories (including media of color) radical women of color, LGTBQ community, those with disabilities, survivors of abuse/violence, punks, anarchists, etc. So zines can be about more complex/deeper topics such as feminism/womanism, queer theory, challenging rape culture, deconstructing the prison system, sex work, etc.

I’d imagine readership extends beyond Portland? How can people get their hands on the Women of Color Zine, where are they sold?
Ha, ha! I’d like to think so. I think we are mostly local though. Folks can purchase our zines from Portland Button Works, In Other Words Bookstore, or check them out from the Multnomah County Library. The Central Library downtown has an amazing collection of self-published titles. It’s a great way to read a variety of zines.

Ultimately, what is the goal?
You’ve published 5 zines so far, can we expect a zine # 6? My hope with the WOC Zine Workshops is that women of color will write, write, and write some more. I want women of color to know that their lives do matter. I want them to know that they don’t have to wait around for mainstream media to acknowledge them. They can take control and self-publish and promote their own work. Our group just finished issue #6. It’s called “Women Off Color.” We looked at the humor of women of color in Portland. We are always looking for contributions to our zine collective. We usually make the zine in the fall/spring. WOC artists/writers can go to our blog to stay updated with our and other submissions calls:

What does the future look like for you? Where do you see yourself in the next few years, where does the WOC zine fit in your plans?
Next fall I hope to graduate from school. My plan is to relocate to the Maryland/DC area. I’m ready to live in a city with more diversity. Sadly, this will be the last year of the WOC Zine Workshops (unless someone takes them over). It will be a couple of years before I leave, but I want to spend time working, preparing to move, etc. I will miss the workshops. It’s been great connecting with other women of color. It’s been empowering. I learned that I liked organizing/putting events together. I might try to bring zines to the east coast, but I’m not sure how popular the culture is there. As I shared, I would like to teach returning students. They are a growing population on college campuses, especially students of color. But, that’s not for a while. In the meantime, I encourage WOC to come to our workshops! You can find the schedule on our website.

Lastly,  are you single?
Ha, ha. No. Thanks for asking though.

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