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Zine Week, Day 1: A Rejected Summation by brownfemipower

May 16, 2011

I’m not really sure why it took me so long to get into zines. Even now I’m not particularly ‘into’ them, to tell the truth — which is strange, considering that I love handmade objects, and I obviously love informal self-publishing. True zine-ophiles (ha! xenophiles!) might cringe at overly broad definitions of the form, but to a layperson like me, the essence of zines seems to be (a) self-manufacture and (b) text and images. Why wouldn’t a blog count? (Unless, of course, you’re a stickler about the handmade-object thing, which, really, I wouldn’t blame you, because as I said, I have a crush on handmade objects.)

Today’s zine captured my heart immediately, not only because it was made by one of my all-time favorite bloggers / writers, who goes by brownfemipower (or bfp for short), but also because it arrived at my home in the mail as a gift, all the way from Ypsilanti, Michigan, accompanied by a beautiful note in sky-blue ink.

When I pulled this work from my milk-crate file cabinet yesterday morning, I realized that I actually need it now more than ever.

Bfp writes powerfully here about movement, race / white supremacy, nations, bodies, fat, labor, and gender. She explodes the health / environmental lie of “movement in the outdoors,” of biking and hiking and strolling as jolly, earth-friendly fitness mechanisms. (For me this calls to mind a poster I saw recently inside a BART train: a slender East Asian woman jogging alongside the San Francisco Bay, her sleek black ponytail (not too long; not too short) and two cinnamon-bun breasts bouncing in jaunty synchronicity. Her skin is sweaty yet somehow clean.) But we, she points out — we being people of color, variously colonized, kidnapped and/or economically blackmailed into the U.S. — have been moving outdoors for a long time, and it has had little to do with health and recreation, and a lot to do with labor, coercion, and survival.

Sacagawea, she reminds us, walked with Lewis and Clark because she was required to stay with her husband. Throughout the expedition, she suffered from “undiagnosed inflammation of her reproductive organs. Her pain was often so great it made it into the journals: ‘if She dies it will be the fault of her husband as I am now convinced.'”

With her characteristic genius for articulating connections between lived experience (suffering, respite) and political realities, bfp points to the coercions of labor written on the body.

I identified . . . with this woman whose body probably hurt more often than it didn’t while she worked. . . . I could imagine how hard it must’ve been for her to move out of bed each morning—her journey to the upright position was my journey. A journey of unpaid labor to achieve something that was ultimately not good for her or her people was my life. Oh, how I knew her story.

And she connects these inflictions and containments with internalized contempt for the fat brown working-class female body.

Before I could ‘move’ in the name of health, I needed to spend some time consciously and purposefully not moving. And by ‘not moving,’ I didn’t mean, “passed out on the couch after a 15 hour work day.” But rather instead, intentionally acknowledging what it feels like to not move at all. Paying attention to the stiffness that seeps into muscles and hips after long periods of no movement. Watching the world move when my presence was not a part of it. Imagining different ways to move. Wondering why the thought of beauty connected to my own movement was such an impossible thing to imagine.

Then there’s the movement of migration. Bodies crossing borders and fleeing literal hunters: U.S. vigilantes who shoot and kill people at the Mexico border.

Bfp, courageously, shows compassion for this hunter (“[H]e needs the companionship his fellow patriots offer and the desert is beautiful in the early morning hours”), but when this man tracks down “illegals,” he murders “my friends. My neighbors. My loved ones.” And so, faced with coercion, exploitation, and murder, we begin to see how “Control is intimately connected to movement.”

Like I said, I needed this piece more than ever yesterday morning. I was about to drive north with a few friends to Glen Cove, in Vallejo. There, indigenous people and allies have gathered for over 30 days to defend a sacred burial site — one of the few remaining mostly-intact shellmounds (indigenous burial grounds) in the Bay Area — from being paved over to create a redundant parking lot, bathrooms, and needlessly re-routed biking trail. The link above leads to their web site, which is comprehensive and has a lot of beautiful photos. Here are some that I took yesterday, with permission.

Soon I’ll have more to say about the Glen Cove sacred site defense (East Bay Solidarity is getting involved, as a group, in solidarity work), and more photos to share. But for now, I just want to thank bfp for giving voice to ways that free movement for colonizers depends on the restriction and coercion of movement for the colonized. And, in this case, their buried ancestors.

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Click here if you’d like to purchase a zine by brownfemipower.

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