Interview with Daniela Capistrano of the POC Zine Project
A couple weeks ago I got a piece published in Colorlines that included an interview with Daniela Capistrano, founder of the POC Zine project. I’m excited to share more of the brilliant things she said that unfortunately for cut from the Colorlines piece below.
Daniela is a self-made woman of color media professional. She has put tremendous amounts of time, love, and energy into building community among POC zinesters through the POC Zine Project, which wrapped up it’s Northeast/Midwest “Race Riot! Tour” early last month. I caught up with her in Current TV’s San Francisco office to find out about the success
How did you become interested in zines?
In the late 90s, I was a teenager and I met a Mexican lesbian punk. She was the first lesbian I ever met, and we were friends in my hometown of Sacramento. She had a bunch of zines in her studio. What led me to where I am today though was that most of her zines were by people of color. Since I had never encountered zines before, I thought that zines were mostly a POC thing. At that point I didn’t know anything about riot grrrl, I didn’t know much about punk culture, I was really naïve.
Over time, as I became more involved in DIY/punk/feminist communities - not only making my own zines but trading with people and trying to be a part of zine communities - I became really aware that a lot of white folks with a lot of privilege issues made it really difficult for me to be a part of those communities. I was really disappointed because I really loved how zines made it easy to make new friends and to find out more about the world. At the time the internet wasn’t really a thing yet. For several years I stopped making zines because I felt disappointed. I felt like, “Oh well, maybe zines are a white thing and I’ve just been deluding myself.”
I kept having conversations about this with folks of color, and they would say “that sounds nice and all, but there are these bigger issues more important than diversity in zines.” And I agreed with them. I honestly don’t really care about zines. What I care about is how self-publishing and creating your own culture is so empowering. Sharing your thoughts in writing, and the process of even writing it down, is so cathartic and so healing. Even if you’re not the one who wrote it, if you’re just the recipient, the culture built around that exchange is so healing. Especially when it’s with someone of color who understands what you’re going though.
The POC Zine Project just wrapped up its first tour a month ago. What was that experience like?
In each of the thirteen cities we kept hearing the similar messages, “This needed to happen,” and “I’ve been looking for something like this.” And I know that what they’re talking about isn’t about the zines, it’s about community, it’s about finding spaces where you don’t feel silenced, where your thoughts and feelings matter.
What was so beautiful about this tour is there were folks who came to these spaces who maybe wouldn’t have usually come to these spaces, but they met other folks of color there who connected them with other resources. That, for me, is the point of POC Zine Project. The mission is to make zines by people of color easy to find distribute and share, but behind that we’re about liberation, and we’re about revolution, and we’re about connecting people of color and helping them feel empowered to share their stories.
The tagline of the POC Zine Project is “activism and community through materiality.” Could you talk a little but about why materiality is important?
I feel like there is this healing process that comes with putting your ideas on paper and seeing it manifest as this completed project. Knowing that you can, for very low cost, some times free, create something that will inspire yourself and others. A lot of times there’s a lot of thought put into zines. “How am I going to do the layout? What images am I going to use?” A lot of times you can develop new skills through making zines that can tangibly pay off, not only in your professional life, but in rethinking what your own creative abilities are.
A zinester will grow, if you look at the body of their work. Every time you make a zine and you get feedback from people and you look at it you’re becoming a better writer. A lot of the feedback I get from folks of color, making zines helped them figure out who they are, their politics. And helped them let go of a lot of baggage. There’s a reason why there’s art therapy. Making zines is kind of like giving art therapy to yourself for free if you can’t afford a therapist.
What is the future of the POC Zine project and how can folks plug in?
We are planning a Southwest/West Coast tour next year. We really need help finding POC-run venues throughout the Southwest and the West Coast. We haven’t determined the cities yet, so if you’re interested in having us come to town, volunteer to host us in your city. That’s probably how we will get there. We also need financial assistance to help with people’s travel costs. You can donate through Paypal to POC Zine Project on the Tumblr.
We’re also working on a zine series by and for people living at or below the poverty line, and the point of that zine series is to give voice to folks with that experience, but more importantly to connect with others to share resources. We need help getting more submissions. We want this zine to be available for free nationwide and available at organizations and spaces where the zine is relevant. We need distribution partners who can help us reproduce the zine and get it out to people.
We’re also planning a national People of Color Zine Conference for 2014. If you are interested in being involved, please contact us ASAP because we’ll be starting the planning process in January.
We covered all the stuff that I wanted to talk about. Is there anything else that you’d like to add?
Ultimately, as part of my career goals, one day I would really like to start an endowment or a scholarship for women of color who want to self-publish and need the resources to do that, such as a residency where they can get away from their lives, but in a way that’s practical. It’s not just enough to offer someone a residency. If they have kids, who’s going to watch them, how are they going to pay for a sitter? How are they going to fly there? How are they going to eat? I want to be able to address those needs, and one day I will do that. I don’t have the money yet, but I will.
Any other final thoughts?
Never underestimate the power that you have when you express your reality in writing. The impetus of starting the POC Zines project was your zine, Angry Black-White Girl in the Queer Zine Archive Project archive, and I want to give huge credit to QZAP for inspiring POC Zine Project. Because of finding your zine in there, I was like “This has to happen. I have to do this.” So never underestimate the power of your words and of your ideas and what happens when you share them. You have all these great ideas. Write them down and share them with the world, and you never know what could happen.