In 2008 Portland-based zinester Alex Wrekk established International Zine Month during the month of July. In honor of International Zine Month, ComicsVerse is featuring a Zine of the Week for the month of July to help you learn about zines, find new zines, and explore zine events. This week is MELANATION plus information about other collectives and distros by and for people of color.

Emerging as a fixture of the whitewashed world of punk, zine culture might have become equally exclusionary to people of color. Although underground culture is not exempt from racism, homophobia, or prejudice, people of color play an active and important role in zine culture.

Additionally, there are many creators and collectives working to put equality and liberation at the center of their art. Moreover, zines offer a fantastic tool for critiquing social injustice through art and facilitating cultural change on a grassroots level. One outstanding example is the work by BYP 100 Washington DC’s group MelaNation, and their zine by the same name, MELANATION.

MELANATION
MELANATION issue 1.

BYP 100 DC’s MELANATION

BYP (Black Youth Project) 100 is a grassroots organization founded in 2013 to advocate for Black liberation using a Black queer feminist lens. In 2017, the Washington DC branch of BYP 100 began the art zine MELANATION. The zine builds a space for Black artists in DC and advocates for Black liberation. Following the mission of BYP 100, MELANATION uses a Black queer feminist lens.

As a result, the zines acknowledge the importance of recognizing and supporting marginalized groups within the Black community. Supporting groups including LGBTQ+, disabled, poor, and/or undocumented people is critical to the goals of Black liberation and social justice. In addition to the zine, the website provides in-depth educational materials on the subject for their readers.

So far, there are 3 issues of MELANATION. The team writes that each issue focuses on a

“theme related to the fight for justice and liberation for Black communities.”

Each issue is available on the zine’s website, along with blog posts and information about events and workshops. The zine’s first three issues address the themes “agitate the administration,” music, and “we are family.” Each features beautiful artwork that celebrates Black identities and demands social change.

The pages include poetry, collages, illustration, prose, and even playlists. Additionally, the zines are immaculately organized. The three issues bear witness to the work of Black artists to reclaim creative space and forge an environment of radical activism. The anthology-like issues each include a dedication to the readers, families, and ancestors. Ultimately, the zines tie history, art, and activism together.

Zine of the Week #1: STOLEN SHARPIE REVOLUTION

Black Art and Liberation in the Time of Trump

MELANATION’s work is significant across the country. However, the zine’s specific locus in time and space deserves a special note. In the same city that now houses an administration that is hostile to people of color and supportive of white supremacy, MELANATION elevates the creative work of Black artists and fights against oppression.

Zine of the Week #2: QUEERS READ THIS!

Supporting artists of color on a local, national, and international level is an important piece of resisting white supremacy. Indeed, cuts to funding for education and the arts and daily oppression and violence against people of color makes projects like MELANATION all the more important. MELANATION takes a stance against a culture of oppression by elevating the voices and works of Black feminist artists.

Finding Zine Distros and Communities

One thing I like about zine culture is the tendency to find collaborative works. Some collaborations are for fun. Others engage more directly in the political action. MELANATION isn’t the only collaborative zine focusing on social justice. Another example is SALLY HEMINGS DREAMS, edited by Jamila Zahra Felton, Jess Solomon, and Hadiya Williams. Specifically, the zine focuses on

“radical imagination and exploration of the conscious and unconscious thoughts of women of African descent who experienced slavery in the Americas.”

Like MELANATION, SALLY HEMINGS DREAMS is DC-based, and the proceeds of the zine go towards Thrive DC’s Women in New Directions program.

MELANATION
MELANATION issue 3.

Socially engaged zines by and for people of color are not limited to the DC-area. For example, Brown Recluse Zine Distro takes zines by people of color on a consignment or donation basis and makes them available to the public in the Oakland, CA area. MELANATION, SALLY HEMINGS DREAM and the works from Brown Recluse Zine Distro make zine spaces radically intersectional accessible.

Keep up with MELANATION and support their work with BYP100 DC here

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