ISSUE 02: DIAL UP
Diaspora Drama celebrates creative and offbeat people of colour on the internet. Editor-in-chief, Isaac Kariuki Senior Editor, Lulu Roman Assistant Editor, Amal Hassan Associate Editor, Momtaza Mehri Content Editor, Danielle Mahri Cover image by Ayqa Khan Back cover by Manara Please contact the relevant artists and writers for enquires regarding their work. diasporadrama.com email@example.com twitter: @diasporadrama facebook: diaspora drama zine instagram: @diasporadrama issuu.com/ddzine 8tracks.com/diasporadramazine
This issue is dedicated to Aki Nawaz
Dial Up "I dance the jazz with physical passion, real and surreal, terrifying and funny, nocturnal and diunrnal, usual and unusual, the tacky terror, the war and the madness, all those things, in my backpack."
by Zahraa H
Before Stardoll.com, my Internet experience was limited. If I was using the computer, it was for IM’ing cousins on Yahoo, or playing on CD-roms. But in June 2007, some of the cooler girls in my class suggested this brand new site to me while we were in the computer lab, something that wasn’t blocked by the school’s network. If you’ve never heard of Stardoll, its old slogan sums it up perfectly: fame, fashion, and friends. You dress up paper dolls of celebrities, design your own doll and go shopping, and make friends with people from around the world. It feels silly now, as I log into my old account and look through my account, but at age 10, it felt like pure glamour. Revisiting the site for the first time in years, I notice a lot of evolution from since I started playing. Ten times more glamorous, and ten times more complicated. I explore some of the hairstyle options and see inspiration taken from Paulina Porizkova, Elly Jackson, and Amy Winehouse. I also look through my old purchases, including hair dyes in colours like Sea Foam Silver, Regatta, and Cake Pink. I do feel a little lost as I see how much things have changed. The current trend among dolls is contouring
On Stardoll, the only real way to have any good fun on the site was by becoming a Superstar, paying with real money. So that summer, using money on the flip phone I’d gotten for my birthday earlier that year, I bought a Superstar Membership, along with a new ringtone: Rihanna’s “Don’t Stop The Music”. It was then that my experience on the site really kicked off. I could buy more clothes, accessories, things for my “suite”, and access Superstar-exclusive things. I went on the site non-stop. Dressing up celebs, putting together outfits for my doll, decorating my suite, figuring out how to get free clothes and decorations, and interacting with other girls worldwide, messaging and commenting on each other’s stuff. I introduced it to my best friend, my sister, and my cousins. I spent most of my time on there interacting with either them or a handful of good friends I’d made. But the place with the most direct and usually volatile interaction with a large group of people wasn’t added until a year or so of me being on the site, which really got things fired up: the creation of clubs. Essentially chat rooms, not from its conception but from its development.All the juicy stuff happened in “OriginalClub”, the first club ever made. I’d never used MySpace before, but I got my taste of scene & emo through here. Dolls styled with the volumized skunk stripe haircut, excessive lip rings, heavy, heavy black make-up, and at least one person whose username referenced Bill Kaulitz or Oil Skyes in each popular discussion topic, the equivalent of a forum thread. All threads were either role-plays, rating games, someone trying to get others to talk shit about some “populars”, or selfie-sharing of the people behind their dolls through Tinypic links. Revisiting the site, I see they’ve created actual chatrooms, which is where the majority of the drama & gossip seems to have moved, as I visited some of the more popular clubs and didn’t see too much activity, other than a few users trying to promo some clothes sale they’re having. OriginalClub was deleted, by either the creator or the staff, for a mess of reasons involving harassment, website rule breaking, and allegedly an 11-year-old who was convinced to strip on camera for members of the club. Involvement with specific niches on the Internet has its ups and downs, typically in that it can get really messy and if you get too involved some serious things can happen to you. But looking back on it now, the things that weren’t too serious are a good laugh. What seemed like someone’s entire world was something that a lot of people reading this right now probably have no idea even existed. The best thing about these kinds of websites is the freedom it allows you to explore different realms of yourself, find out more about your personal style. Elegant, goth, sleek and sporty, preppy and girly, R&B glam, the possibilities are endless in these kinds of worlds. 12-year-old me couldn’t even dream of having pink hair in the real world, living in a minimalist penthouse furnished with modern art pieces, or designing my own line of clothing, but on Stardoll it was all possible. Being able to curate an image of me without worrying about expectations or limitations has helped me discover more about what kind of person I am, or could be. I think having a creative outlet, through any means, is essential regardless of one’s personal means or skills. Was Stardoll always a healthy one? Not entirely. Could the money my parents used to keep renewing my Superstar Membership have gone towards something more important? Probably. Do I wish I’d spent more time at age 12 playing outside instead of inside of holed up in the basement on the desktop for hours? For sure. Do I regret signing up for Stardoll? No way.
Los Cassettes: Música de Mis Padres
Edgardo Antonio Jr.
The project is an homage to my parents. It honors a specific moment in my parents lives as recently arrived immigrants from Mexico and El Salvador to the United States in the early 1980’s. The cassettes featured here are among the cassettes played in multiple settingsinside the cramped, 3-bedroom apartment they shared with multiple families; at the house of an absent American employer while my mother mopped their living room; or in the after hours of a closed restaurant as my father cleaned the kitchen counter. These cassettes were played at Saturday night parties where my parents were able to let loose, chill and convivir with their friends, also immigrants from Mexico and Central America- each and everyone of them striving for the “American Dream,” to which there was no clear definition.
Whether in settings of labor or home, this music represents familiarity and comfort. For the duration of one side of the cassette tape, my parents were transported, at least sonically and emotionally, out of the Mission District barrio in San Francisco, and landed somewhere else, closer to home. The musical notes and songs found within the tapes inspire melancholy, nostalgia, felicidad, yearning, pride- a connection. The cassettes provided a lifeline to my parents. To this day, I am in awe of my parents and their ability to navigate through American society. Against all pressures of American assimilation, racism, xenophobia, sexism and capitalism- my parents attempted to preserve themselves and their histories. And they were aided by the music streaming from these cassette tapes.
Iâ€™ve chosen to photograph these cassettes and venerate them as holy objects because just as strong as faith and religion, these cassettes grounded my parents. Part of my practice is to photograph the mundane- the daily objects and the routine so embedded to identity, they become unrecognizable in hindsight. By positioning these objects as extraordinary, it reveals a multifaceted and powerful culture woven behind the gauze of American homogeneity. In this case, these cassettes serve as testimony to the lifetime of experiences my parents inhabited despite American hegemonic culture. Moreover, the cassettes represent my own preservation too. I am Mexican and Salvadoran. Similar to a two-sided cassette tape, I have two distinct cultures in me. Growing up, I wasnâ€™t very aware of what being a Mexican and Salvadoran American meant. At times, I suppressed one heritage over the other and other times, I suppressed both out of the need to fit in. This series illustrates a reconciliation and celebration of two cultures I felt so insecure in reveling. These objects of the past grow in transcendent power over time. By listening and experiencing these cassettes, I affirm myself.
Los Cassettes: Musica de mis Padres is dedicated to my mother, Bertha Alicia, and my father, Edgardo Antonio Sr. These cassettes are part of my soundtrack. I play them today.
Edgardo Antonio Jr. (b.1989) is a Mexican Salvadoran American photographer and filmmaker based in Richmond, California. nomadedgardo.tumblr.com firstname.lastname@example.org IG: nomadedgardo
Shell, Saffa Khan
‘the internet has suckled our generation. like all mothers, her lap is a world’ The first act You don’t know how to fix this up yet. Wire mishmash boiled spaghetti only an older brother can make sense of but it feels so close so you wait. Wait with breath so bated, it frosts chunky Sony VAIO glass. Distract yourself with Pinball SpaceCadet’s whirling abandon. Minesweeper is a high-octane affair; sweat beaded on young upper lips as plastic mice hover over that next inch, that next uncharted territory. Difficulty setting: easy. It’s a slide in bedroom slippers into the underworld. By next morning, you will be a netizen. #thestruggleisreal the dial-up hisses its sibilance. An aunt is occupying the lines with her hard-headed accent and okra laughter. AOL chatroom on stand-by, that triangle A is a horcrux for the heady years, the best years. In hindsight, it was probably a precursor, another illumaniti symbol looming in cyberspaceland. But today, today it is Miniclip, Neopets, dubbed anime and Destiny’s Child fansites. 11 year self is convinced Stardoll is the greatest historical contribution made by man. Periodically, a scarlet flag raises its bulbous head, staring you down with that fierce PARENTAL BLOCK gaze. This is a roadblock carved in HTML. By the hundredth guess at the password, you give up, raise a Ctrl + X white flag. You push the keyboard away. Get yourself a glass of clear grapefruit and scowl at your mother for the next 24 hours. a portrait of the artist as a young woman You don’t think of yourself as a writer, no, more of a world builder. AU fanfiction lacing Harry Potter with X Men: Evolution. The reviews are glowing. Stardustgurl20 thinks you’ve captured the romantic tension well and this makes your fingers tingle. Your current project is a reimagining of Artemis & Apollo as high school students. This will be your magnus opus, the one that will have you featured on the homepage. It is etched on roughened notebooks first, pen ink blotted like goat eyes. DeviantArt links to a Myspace which links to a Piczo. This cut-throat world of comments, plagiarism and hits. No one at school knows. They wouldn’t understand. exeunt You are a grown-up. You pay for your music. None of that mp3 smuggling from Polish sites. A neat, shirt-pressed Facebook page. Even a Goodreads, to showcase an intellect behind the sepia-toned Instagram coffee-stains. Google still won’t let you delete your hyper-neon web histories. Those lost profiles piled up like bric-à-brac. Your timeline is a hallmark of adultness; all politics, awareness and sharp wit. You are an adult now. Which is why you spent three hours yesterday on Tumblr, looking up photoshopped images of Lil B’s metal grin morphed onto the body of a cat.
Sara Foryame The Guided Man
The rules to being a Man come from society and what is expected. “Be fit.” “Stop acting like a girl!” “Be strong.” “ Don’t cry.” Those are some of the expectations. What if I said; “Show me emotion.” “Be kind.” “Cherish your mother!” “Kiss her forehead.” What if I revealed that these very words came from the Quran? The same Quran that the media keeps focusing on when it comes to negative actions. There is currently so much focus on the Arab and Muslim woman, that we tend to overlook the psychological and physical issues men go through in Arab societies as well.
Wish I Were (T)Here by Kevin Le, Images courtesy of Danielle Mahri
Beep. Beep. Pause. Beep. Má rummaged through her cracked faux-leather purse as the cashier rung up all our items: fish sauce, deep fried catfish, rice noodles, vegetables, a box of instant noodles, and other ingredients for Vietnamese cooking. I had just picked her up from the nail salon she’d been working at for more than ten years and, as usual, her hands were dried out from all the harsh chemicals she dealt with on a daily basis. She was still wearing the white scrubs and her worn out Reeboks she bought at Goodwill last month. She refused to buy a brand new pair and insisted that I bought her those. “Those were too much,” she said as she found her Reeboks. I tried, but failed, to convince her to get a new pair of shoes. “These are good. They’re the same thing, and they’re cheaper.” Má was a tiny woman standing at just two inches shy of five feet with high cheekbones, a thick head of hair that draped down with the blackness of ink, and skin as dark as clay, all of which I inherited. Her body was stout and powerful, which she often bragged about because she ate so well now—“something I never did in Vietnam,” she always told me. There was one wrinkle on her forehead, but despite it, Má looked like a forty yearold woman even though she was fifty-six.
The cashier finished scanning, and began putting our things away into flimsy plastic bags that said “Dalat Supermarket” in blue letters. The little screen displayed a green $73.94. Má finally found what she needed in her purse: her EBT card. She handed it to the cashier to swipe, and the number on the screen dropped to $36.18. “There’s no more?” she asked out loud in disbelief. “Oh no…” She dug through her purse again, pushing things around inside as she laid it down on the counter. Keys jingled, coins chimed, and old receipts got in her way. The line behind us grew longer as she searched. One-by-one, she found crumpled and random dollar bills in hidden crevices of her bag. She found a total of $13, which was what she made in tips at the nail salon. “I’ll just pay for it,” I interjected, before she could give it to the cashier. I handed the cashier my debit card and used the financial aid I still had from before I graduated. Má looked relieved because this issue was resolved, but she was still upset. She didn’t like it when I helped her pay for anything because she hated asking anyone—let alone her son—for help. We swiftly took our things and exited the Vietnamese market with dinner for the night and enough food until next week. “Now, I have some money left over for next week,” she said as we entered the parking lot. That was her implicit way of thanking me. “If you need help paying for the groceries, I can help,” I offered. She didn’t speak, holding the lighter bag filled with fruits and vegetables. “That would be nice.” We found our car in the parking lot: a dark green 1999 Toyota Corolla that had seen so much through the years. There was a dent on the passenger side from when another car reversed into us, and the windshield had noticeable crack, which was bigger than the last time I remembered. The paint started to oxidize while the leather seats cracked and chipped away. But it drove well and got us from point A to point B. That was all we needed anyway. My family wasn’t exactly the “road tripping” type.The car sputtered and struggled before starting, but the engine revved and we headed home. The shrine dedicated to ông ngoại greeted us as soon as we walked in, and Má kicked a shoe as she hurried inside. The house had its usual mess. (I call it “the house” because it didn’t belong to us. We were only renting it.) Bolts of fabric and loose thread laid all over the living room, and sewing supplies, jackets, clean laundry, and garbage bags for clothes donations sat on the couches for months, which only got bigger and bigger. Sometimes Má went through them to find something that she later regretted putting in there. The sewing table was in the corner and had articles of clothing that were waiting to be tailored, neatly folded and stacked on top of each other. Most of those clothes were mine because nothing ever fit my correctly. Her yellow áo dài was also on the table, completely laid out.
Above the fireplace (that we never used because California doesn’t need it) was a traditional Vietnamese lacquer painting that every Vietnamese household has. This particular painting had three girls wearing áo dài and walking in front of a temple against a reddish black lacquer. All the artistic details were in a pearl-ish finish. Má had this one far before I was even born, and it came with us every single time we moved houses. She told me that she brought it over with her from Vietnam when she escaped. Or, maybe she got it from a relative or friend in Vietnam. I couldn’t remember. On the fireplace’s mantle was my mother’s pictures and figurines of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, crosses (so many crosses), and braided reeds she brought home from church visits. She didn’t pray yet, but her rosaries and booklets were already laid out for that occasion. She only ever held the wooden rosary when she prayed because she said it brought her good luck. It was the one that she wore when she left Vietnam, prayed to every single night on the boat trip, and “protected” her.I put the groceries on the kitchen counter as Má grabbed a plate and carefully placed the newly bought fruits onto it: mangoes, apples, pears, and oranges. She brought it to the shrine and burned three sticks of incense to make an offering to ông ngoại. She whispered something indistinct in Vietnamese. Ông ngoại’s portrait bore into me his face stoic and unmoving (very much literally). It was one of the last photos we had of him before he passed away eleven years ago, and it has been up there ever since. Ông ngoại’s appearances betrayed his age. Even up to his death, I always thought of him as fifty-something because he looked very young, so I had a hard time believing that he was actually seventy-six when he died. (He was seventy-seven in Vietnamese years. To Vietnamese people, you’re a year old when you’re born.) His face drooped down toward the earth into which we buried him, and his eyes were dark and wide; they weren’t uninviting, but they lacked warmth. Ông ngoại’s silver hair was thinning, which he hid by shaving his head bald. Once, I found him polishing his head. He told me that he saw the people in cartoons doing it, so he wanted to try it himself, laughing at his own ridiculousness he embraced in his old age. A waft of musky air filled the living room, and it started to smell a lot like temple. The sticks of incense belched out a trail of smoke, their heads burning a vibrant orange. Má went to the kitchen and started to finish off tonight’s meal: pho. She put the browning pot of broth onto the foil-covered stove and turned on the flame and vent, grabbed the chopping board and knife and necessary herbs and garnishes, and started chopping. She was a machine. The knife perfunctorily went up and down, cutting the herbs into small strips on the stained plastic cutting board. Chop-chop-chop-chop-chop, the blade going up as quickly as it went down.
I sat down at the kitchen table that was covered in old Vietnamese newspapers. “Cheaper than getting a table cover,” Má told us. “Also easier to clean up!” She liked to save money wherever she could, and she did save a lot of money by doing stuff like using old newspapers as table covers. An ad on one of the pages was selling skin lightening cream, another for private tutoring services, and another for a doctor’s office that accepted MediCal. Another page that read “Việt Báo” had that day’s news, which involved China’s expansionist policies into Vietnamese territory. I tried making out some of the words and their sounds with my elementary understanding of Vietnamese. I didn’t understand any of the words, but I could make the noises the best I could, which probably wasn’t that great at all. The collective scents tickled my nose, and I felt like a kid again, watching Má make these elaborate dishes with incredible deftness and absolutely no struggle, and refusing to ask us for help. Má was singing and humming to herself, which she did whenever she cooked. I never understood what she was saying, and whenever I asked, she’d always give me a vague “Nothing important to you.” The air above us started to pulse repeatedly, and Má froze with one hand on the garnishes and the other petrified in midair, ready to chop. The helicopter’s blades cut the air with quick, heavy beats as it flew overhead, buzzing back and forth overhead. The knife stopped chopping. The singing turned to forced silence. The vent whirred. Má’s body tremored as she lowered her body closer to the ground, keeping her head low, covering her neck with her hands, and staring directly at the ground—and only at the ground.
She inhaled and exhaled, slowly, slowly, her chest rising and falling mechanically, silently, rising and falling mechanically, silently. The pot of broth began to boil and bubble. The beating went in another direction. The beating became fainter. The beating stopped. Then, Má stood back up, and the steel blade went up and down and up and down, the singing resumed, and the pot of broth was tended to. Bà ngoại popped into the kitchen. “Is it gone?” “It’s gone,” I informed her. “Trời ơi,” grandma sighed, and left as soon as she came in. “I’m fixing my áo dài because the wedding is going to be traditional! It doesn’t fit me anymore,” she lamented, as if that didn’t just happen. “I’m so fat now!” “The yellow one you have in your closet? I thought you threw it out.” I went along with her. I pointed it out only once years ago, and she had a major anxiety attack. Her áo dài was slender and felt like air brushing against your skin. It was hard to tell if the color had faded or it was actually a canary yellow, but it was beautiful. I had never seen Má wear her áo dài in my life. She always left it inside the closet covered in plastic, pulling it out to look at it every so often and, then, putting it away just as quickly. “How could I throw it out? This was the only thing I brought over from Việt Nam,” she reminded me again. “There are things that you just can’t throw away, con, because they’re too special even if they seem useless.” For Má, everything was special in some way. She found a reason to keep every single thing: from fake flowers, to cracked vases, to disposable utensils, to styrofoam plates and plastic cups. She made herself from seams that kept our daily lives together, from scraps that other people threw out, from luxuries that other people enjoyed and she never could. She made and moved mountains so that Thuy and I could see the world she could never have, hoping that in our success, we would pull her up with us. But she had such high hopes from which we could only fall and halfremembered dreams that needed four times as much ambition to pursue. And we failed. So many times, we failed, because we were all trying to figure it out—figure this out, figure ourselves out, being here, and what being here meant for us.
And still, we created a home out of each other even though we never had one ourselves. Even though the idea of a “home” meant a place we came back to and expected to see each other. Even though we were always wishing for a place that never existed, aching for people whom we didn’t know, and grieving for a tragedy that never happened to us. For us, home didn’t necessarily mean four walls and a roof. It was smelling the burning incense in one room and pungent nước mắm in the other, and trying not to step on shoes left at the front door. It was Việt Báo newspapers covering the dinner table you’ve had your entire life. You won’t replace it because that was always out of your budget— as if you had a budget to begin with. It was looking at pictures of your parents before and after they came to America, and vaguely talking about “before,” about what they left behind and seeing what was left of them now. It was revisiting lost memories inside the forgotten words of your childhood and, then, forgetting them again just as quickly. It was hearing fractured and accented English, and substituting English words with Vietnamese ones. Because sometimes, the Vietnamese words felt more real, more vivid, more full. Buồn. Sad, melancholy, grieving. Hồi xưa. Long ago, always implying “in Việt Nam.” It was hearing your own name the way it was supposed to sound, and knowing that it was spoken by people whose arms held up roofs and whose hearts laid down stable foundations for you to stand. Má cut all the garnishes, lowered the flame to simmer the broth, and went into the living room to turn on her sewing table. She examined her áo dài and delicately ran her fingers along the fabric. “It’s been so long since I’ve worn this. I can’t even remember the last time.”
Fresh Off The Boat, Ayqa Khan
Fresh Off The Boat, Ayqa Khan
Bryan Rodriguez All The Things I’m Doing With My Young Money Jacket (things that would make Drake smile) 2015 These images are stills from a performance (with the exception of the left side of the diptychan installation) at the Queens Museum in Queens, New York, in February 2015. I am wearing a Reebok jacket styled by 90’s street wear that I got at a Young Money concert when one of Drake’s hype men threw it at the audience. Ever since I caught the jacket, I’ve been wearing it to make art.
This piece is an extract from a larger body of work underlining the implications of being a PALOMILLA DE VENTANA, which I think Drake personifies through his music/lyrics/light skin/public perception/fandom culture/attitude. PALOMILLA DE VENTANA is a phrase used in my Black-Latin American experience to refer to someone who experienced the HOOD through a certain filter- CONSTANTLY LOOKING THROUGH A WINDOW, IF YOU WILL. Being in the HOOD but being protected, existing in the HOOD with a privilege, which in this case, that privilege would be being light skinned. Like Drake, my survival in the HOOD was guaranteed by my body and the women who ultimately made up the matriarch I was raised in. No man in my life served as an unconditional shield, in fact, they were in my peripheral. And so I depended on a certain type of femininity for protection. Still, the thugs in my life were present as family and the visual culture I was developing a language for. This was home nonetheless- inside the window, inside the house we were being protected in.
I question our discussions (Drake’s and mine) about the HOOD in our work- we are from there or close to it in complicated ways. Still, we feel an urge to frame it or elaborate on it in ultra familial ways, and sometimes in a rather simple manner. Other times, we are completely and shamelessly honest (being soft vs being hard) according to context. The point is that we can do this wherever/ whenever it appears to be beneficial- this is a side effect of being a PALOMILLA DE VENTANA, the privilege of code-switching. Other than what I know of Drake’s lyrics/interviews/public appearances/ kinesthetics, I am frankly uncertain of Drake’s actual upbringing. This may all be based on assumptions and I’m okay with that. More-so, my interest lies in the type of sensibility Drake displays as a hip-hop artist, and how this informs my behavior as a hip-hop/hip-pop lover in a competitive, raging millennial context. I am Drake (the idea, the lens) in many ways, and there are a lot of us. I don’t necessarily feel the need to empower Drake but I do feel the need to have a conversation with him. That being said, I am not looking to use Drake and his music as a comic relief or touch of irony as artists (mostly, but not all being white artists- although this trend is colonial) love to do so with Black bodies and Black music. I truly love Drake and his music. I truly find his existence essential to understanding how my body functions politically, exchangeably, and like a dialogue. How is he managing something we (the Drakes) already knew was activated? How does he validate our (the Drakes) physical and emotional presence? How does he inform our (the Drakes) romances and fucks? What type of language is he providing for us? How do I complicate my excessive fandom? I believe light skin pride needs to be reconsidered- self exotization, self futurizing as a result as well.
Layers of nostalgia burden and transform. Nostalgia for an impossible place of return, for a home. I am simultaneously nostalgic for the girl of my childhood, who believed there was a home, and grateful for the shattering of this imaginary. Existing beyond this fantasy, floating in liminal space, another nostalgia embodies past and present. Stories that make up my stratified nostalgia. A temple. Fishing boats. A bullet train. NHK childrenâ€™s programming are the marrow of my mixed race, diasporic bones. Adrift between continents, cleaved by borders, these bones find their density In the internment camps, In Pokemon, In white faces. I am oscillating not only between lands but between stories. Born of miscegenation, but still unable to reconcile whiteness with colour. The recombinance of my body does not ameliorate races, but confounds them. The uncomplicated nostalgia of my girlhood shatters into fragmented histories, all of their nostalgias spill out. I am most nostalgic for those things lost that were never really there. I am nostalgic for the promise of another home, delivered to me in my grandmotherâ€™s stories and in cybernetic affect. I am nostalgic for the homecoming before the homecoming happened, when there was no home to be found, only the falsity of the phantasmatic world of Gwen Stefani and Miyazaki. The eagerness with which I grasped symbols of a homecoming flounders in the Pacific Ocean. I try to stretch myself across it; wrap my arm around the Pacific Rim; lodge my fingers into the coast of the Sea of Japan and the Georgia Straight. It stretches this ambiguous skin beyond recognition. Infatuation with any culture is no shelter from eyes too wide or too narrow to anchor on either side. The shipping boats of my ancestors and those that bore them from Okinawa and Liverpool never reach my shores. My nostalgia for a young and uncomplicated cultural identity eats at the multiracial core. Each nostalgia births another. Each memory springs from the loss of the unknown. Childhood belongings live and die with their many disparate narratives. As I traverse homes, I weave these splintered origins. The nostalgia lodges itself deeper. It is my dark hair. It is my grandma peeling kaki for me. It is my feet, too large for any uniform shoes at Yuhigaoka Gakuen. Jane Komori
flagler Back when CVS was Eckerd and the Presidente Supermarket was a Food Star and this frame hung on the wall of our first Miami apartment everything was on and off of West Flagler street, the stop for the 11 bus that took us to downtown to the sunglasses store and later to the perfume store where mami used to work both Kinloch Park Elementary and Middle the Ocean Bank Movie theatre where I saw Finding Nemo and got stuck in the elevator the public library where we made those butterfly refrigerator magnets that mom still has the coin laundry where Andrea and I went on saturdays where we got our first puppy Chocolate and watched the husbands play on the slot machines the church we got kicked out of cause we were wearing shorts the blockbuster that was next to the laundromat where we rented our VHSs the $3.99 shoe store that dad used to pass out flyers for and where uncle Max got me some sneakers for my first Miami birthday the kmart that was a far walk away the burger king we would sometimes go to afterschool the apartment building Genesis lived at where I tore my knee open on her bike the intersection where dad had the accident the stop where we met Evelyn the liquor store immigration office the fortune teller and the classroom where mami met Lu the efficiency where dad lived for a while the Spanish restaurant that dad filled with foam from the mop and detergent the church where I did my first communion the corner where Manny and Nelly's schoolbus used to come get us the dollar store where I got Lu a hammer for Christmas and all the decorations in our apartment the bakery where Lu used to get us pastelitos at the living room where I talked to Alina on the phone for hours after watching Clifford Dragon Tales and Sagwa the Chinese Siamese Cat the store where I got my first CD with all the 2001 hits the road where Lu taught mami how to drive again the sunshowers that soaked us on our way home where we used to get our calling cards the pharmacy where we got the disposable camera the place where I took this picture. Ximena Izquierdo Ugaz
Damani Baker The House on Coco Road Interviewed by Lulu Roman
Lulu: At what age did you realize that filmmaking was the route you wanted to follow? Damani: I started making films in high school, I would shoot homemade music videos with my friends, and if people were lucky, I’d get them a hot VHS copy. This was before the Internet, so I ran a mini duplication operation in my basement. I later got obsessed with filmmakers Charles Burnett and Julie Dash. They were making films that felt like reflections of my cultural self, with nuance and three-dimensionality. L: What was the process of filming The House on Coco Road? What made you choose the achievements of Black people, but specifically Black women, to be a major subject in this documentary? D: My great grandmother fought for her family and did her best by them, raising 11 children in 1920’s Louisiana. And my grandmother did her best, moving her family to Los Angeles in the 1950s. My mother, who at first glance might seem like this radical activist, her decisions, when you’re close to them, were intimate decisions about giving her family a better life and making the world a more loving, compassionate place. That’s why in 1983 she moved my younger sister and me from Oakland to join the People’s Revolution in Grenada. I want people to see this film and see how these women built a better world, not through getting elected president, or making a million dollars, or writing a famous book, or inventing a new technology, but through a dedication to family, compassion, and love.
L: Were there any major setbacks during filming that may have discouraged you from doing this film? If so, what was that “push” that kept you in the process? D: Filmmaking is incredibly expensive, and sadly, funding is a huge hurdle for most independent filmmakers. I started producing the film in 1999 with the generous support of the Sundance Institute and many incredible individuals. We pushed post production as far as we could afford, and then put the project on pause iwn 2002. I’m happy to report that we’re moving again due to the incredible support of over 600 people who participated in our recent Kickstarter campaign. The film has been re-energized and now an incredible family of activists, friends, and strangers are part of the growing community that will see the film to its completion. I am forever grateful.
L: Lastly, is there any words of advice or encouragement you want to give to people of color, but especially young Black kids out there wanting to follow their dreams of becoming filmmakers? D: I am here because of the genius, sacrifice and imagination of the often unseen and unheard. We can shape a new narrative that is rooted in humanity and respect, while carving out a piece of history that will inspire those to come.
is a collaborative project by Florentino Diaz and Patricia Bordallo exploring issues regarding Mexican, American culture and its influence on us as artists currently working out of Kansas City, Missouri. The body of work explores different perspectives in consideration to traditional Mexican customs and Chicano history. The goal of Mexican, American is to explore and celebrate our experiences as Mexican-Americans and share that perspective with new and familiar audiences. The main component of the publication is our portrait series. We decided to highlight key cultural movements and figures specific to our own experiences. The portraits are not meant to be literal portrayals, but rather loose visual interpretations of the people who have inspired them. They are not definitive as to what Mexican culture is, but rather what Mexican culture can be and the countless narratives it can take on. We see this series as a celebration of Mexican culture, Mexican-American culture, Chicanx culture and everything in between.
Big Joanie Interviewed by Zahraa H
“Despite myself, I’ve been dreaming…” are the first words heard on the opening track of Big Joanie’s Sistah Punk EP, “Dream No. 9.” Kicking off the record with an addictive bass-line, a fuzzy, roaring guitar, steady drumming, and moody, melodic singing, their self-created description as “The Ronettes filtered through 80s DIY and riot grrrl with a sprinkling of dashikis” feels just about right. Hailing from London, U.K., Big Joanie is a three-piece punk band, with Stephanie Phillips on guitar, Chardine Taylor-Stone on drums, Kiera Coward-Deyell on bass, and all three contributing to vocals. Big Joanie operates under a crucial manifesto: increasing visibility with their “strong, powerful vision of black womanhood”, as well as appreciating and recognizing classic black punks - “by making black punks more visible we believe we can inspire more young black punks to start the bands they always wanted to hear.” The history of punk in the U.K., a movement calling for anti-establishment and for people to stand against “the man” and “society’s rules”, has done a fair job over the years of turning a blind eye to, or encouraging, some of the same oppressive ideologies and standards as the body of people they’ve claimed to be against. Noting the most blatant examples, from the emergence of Nazi punks, the links with white power skinheads, to the likes of Sid Vicious and Henry Rollins of the scene eternally receiving more accolades than the Poly Styrenes and Alice Bags, punk has seen a lack of visibility for people of colour, especially women of colour, and racism prevalent throughout the scene. As always, there’s white punks who’ll cry out at critiques with the typical arguments, “But what about Bad Brains?” or “You’re just making everything about race.” However, the plethora of experiences punks of colour have had in the past and today in the punk scene shows that it’s still largely a white boy’s club. So what’s a punk of colour to do when the state of punk alienates your existence? Big Joanie’s solution: find the others, and fight back. In this roundtable discussion, they talk about what the new band experience has been like for them, their style and sound, as well as their views, from a personal and societal perspective, on what it’s like to be black feminist punks in the U.K. today.
How was Big Joanie formed? What inspired you to all come together? Steph: Big Joanie formed in Summer 2013. I was previously in the feminist punk band My Therapist Says Hot Damn. I wanted to start another project and had a few songs that I liked. I was also increasingly frustrated with the DIY punk scene and its way of dealing with with race or racism. People would break down and dance in a stereotypically ‘ghetto’ whenever a rap song came on but they never questioned why their spaces were exclusively white or if they were doing anything in particular to sustain that level of whiteness. I knew that other black punks existed but I just needed something to connect us all. Luckily I saw that a gig called First Timers was being set up, organised by Bryony Beynon. The gig meant that every band has to be up and coming, the members had to play something new and one member had to be a woman, person of colour or queer. This allowed me the confidence to ask around to see if anyone wanted to start a black punk band. I posted on Facebook where Chardine replied immediately and told me how she wanted to play drums and the sound she was aiming for. We then found Kiera on a black feminist group on facebook too. We all had similar experiences in the punk scene so it was easy to work together. Our first challenge at the time was getting enough songs ready for our first gig. Describe that first gig experience with the new band. Kiera: I just remember being terrified; not really being able to talk to anyone, just smiling really nervously you know? I think once other people started playing I calmed down a little and realised it was a completely supportive space. Most people were hyped simply about us just existing as a band in the world. Playing itself was fine, I was acutely aware of messing up but people were dancing and once I realised they probably hadn’t even noticed, I began to enjoy myself. Afterwards, we were all in disbelief at how in how well we’d done for a first show.
What has the journey of exploring your sound been like, individually and as a group? How did you reach the D.I.Y. girl group sound you hear on your “Sistah Punk” EP? Steph: Chardine’s drum style has been quite influential on our style as it forced us to make our music more sparse. I think Kiera’s bass always sounds quite decorative rather than always remaining on a steady beat which I think layers and adds to a our sound. I really love 60s girl groups like The Ronettes and The Crystals so that has influenced the structure of our music, which I think leans more towards a pop framework. I also really love singers like Kim Deal and Corin Tucker so I think they also influennce me vocally. Kiera: I like the idea of distinct elements within songs, which are discernible and drive the sound in different ways. I try not to think formally about harmonies or structure in what which may contribute to the decorative element Steph mentioned. I think just going for a simplistic, pared down style is what made that happen, with me & Chardine learning to play our instruments as we went along. I also remember wanting the basslines I wrote when we started to have a kind of Moss Icon/Nation of Ulysses sound when we started, but I wouldn’t say that’s true anymore. How much do you utilize the Internet to interact with others in the scene, or spread the word about the band? Steph: Luckily our first gig kickstarted our band and from that we got more gigs. I think the fact that we are a black feminist punk band in some ways sells itself. We’re on most social media platforms but tumblr has secretly been really beneficial to us. We don’t even use it properly but people have been able to find us and share our posts with their communities really easily. I guess the best way to interact with people in the scene is through Facebook which we all use. Kiera: Yeah we’re most active on Facebook but I’m pretty sure a lot of opportunities and interactions with people, especially from abroad, have come to us through being visible on Tumblr, even though we don’t use it that much. Have you found a platform, online or offline, which you feel is a safe space? Steph: I’m not sure what is a safe space when dealing with race as it doesn’t really exist, not in English society at least. I think we have slowly started to build a community in the DIY punk scene that understand us and wants to get involved in what we’re doing. The best thing about stating that we’re a Black feminist punk band is that people that want to hear us can find us easily and people that would hate us know to avoid us straight away. It’s a win-win all round. Kiera: I find tumblr to be a pretty safe and reflective space; obviously it’s open to critique and pretty flat and dichotomous thinking can often go unchallenged but I’m really into it as an affirming space. When I try to go about anything under the activism or organising umbrella in everyday life I still feel like I’m met with so many hurdles that I don’t always feel comfortable addressing. But then I get on the internet and there are brown & black girls worldwide pissed off about the same shit. I’m not shouting into a void.
Within the band or not, what has navigating the Internet been like for you as black women? (For example, Steph, your experience with the feedback you received on your blog post about racism in the punk scene, prior to forming Big Joanie) Steph: Yeah when Big Joanie was started, I wrote a blog about the problems I had with the punk scene and why I wanted to start a black punk band. Some of the responses I got were positive and some of them were negative. There was a lot of questioning whether I had actually experienced any racism, demands that I shouldn’t focus on race. One guy even suggested that a guy at a gig I played at who mistook me for the one other black woman did so because he might have suffered from a disease preventing him from recognizing faces. The internet is both a place where you can meet like-minded people but also a place when people hate what you represent. Kiera: A kind of virtual cesspit that somehow brings me closer to home and affirms negative conceptions of self? I mostly like being faceless on the internet; I think there can be a slightly troubling slightly voyeuristic aspect to that I’m trying to address now though. I produce electronic music and put it on the internet under a moniker none of my friends know. I like people being able to interact with people and ideas without my identity being seen first. When I was younger I noticed quite acutely how you could play into these hierarchical ways of thinking and reproduce this in internet interaction - even with your best friends. That was especially true with platforms like Myspace, Bebo & Piczo; Top 8’s and ‘rate da gals’ pages where you’d rank people you knew on their attractiveness. That definitely cemented the idea of beauty standards amongst my peers; which was mostly features that have come to symbolise whiteness on black and brown bodies. I try not to engage with arguments on the internet at all now though; at the moment I find a lot of communion with more discussion-based facebook groups for POC.
The band refers to itself as “black feminist punk.” Have you ever felt boxed in labels, self-imposed or imposed by others? Is this label important to the band, perhaps in terms of identity and visibility? Kiera: I like using labels as a means of archive and discovery but in navigating my own life, I prefer not to. I am unashamedly who I am but that doesn’t mean I feel like discussing it with everyone I encounter. Capitalism and structural violence has striated us so we need to categorise and seek each other out in this way. Empowerment stems from identification. I’d love for that not to be the case but it is what it is. We aren’t making protest songs you know; just opening up a space so people know we’re here and hopefully they can channel their creativity in whatever way suits them and know the support is out there. It’s important that there’s space to show how unnecessary that imposed racialised narrative of constant struggle is. My existence is political enough just by being involved in a scene that hadn’t done much to show me it wanted me as more than a token. I don’t really view the punk scene in London as a progressive site of political action in relation to thinking about POC identity but think it has the potential to be. How long did it take, being interested in the punk scene, to realize visibility forblack women was virtually non-existent and that something needed to change? Steph: I guess I realised it early on but it took a while for me to realise that it was something that was wrong, inaccurate and something that didn’t need to be that way. It wasn’t until I had organised punk events and gigs that I felt I could get more involved in the scene and join a band. Kiera: I noticed from my first couple of shows but I guess I was more on an assimilation tip as a pre-teen trying to navigate and be accepted within an unfamiliar space. I realised, listening to grime and dancehall and hanging out with people I grew up with who were interested in that scene, that they were far more accepting of me aesthetically aligning with punk than vice versa. I remember being told I listened to ‘that white music’ and slowly realising and learning it was anything but; it had just been co-opted so throroughly that POC could only now view punk and hardcore as symbols of expressed white male rage. When it comes to singing, playing, performance, and style, what artists inspire you?
What do you see for the future of punk culture, people of colour, and feminism in the U.K.? Steph: I think a community of POC punks or generally black weirdos, black people who move against the grain of societal expectations is starting to grow. In the UK, it has every chance to get as big as America. Kiera: More experimental sounds, more rowdiness and sweat, more DIY spaces , more online friends making music together IRL, more celebration of British black identities, love in action, less binary thinking, less uncritical and misogynistic queer theory being presented as objective truth, more nuance, less respectability politics. Less of trying to play or participate in a system that’s never cared about you, be it academia or whatever, more love, abandoning of the term ‘black feminism’ for anyone who ain’t black (please God), more women of colour taking charge of movements, less prioritising of American thought, more working class brown girls not trying to fall into academia’s traps. What kind of differences do you guys see in the U.K. from America, in terms of subcultures and social movements? Like, how different is being an American woman of colour from being a British woman of colour, and what makes it different? Kiera: I couldn’t really give an honest comparison based on anything but perception having never having lived in the U.S. I’ll be spending the summer in New York so hopefully I’ll be able to then!
Steph: I really like Kim Deal from the Breeders so I think I base a lot of my vocal style on her. I’ve also been listening to a lot of Eartha Kitt and while I don’t sing like her, I do love the old fashioned comedic timing that exists in her songs. Musically at the moment I’m inspired by SleaterKinney, The Slits, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, Kate Bush, FKA Twigs and THEESatisfaction. Kiera: I live for Princess Nokia, Guy Picciotto, I like shouting, I like being kind of flat. I don’t really have any discernible performance style, I mostly focus on not fucking up and seeing which of my pals has shown up. I’m into people who are really aesthetically motivated but that’s not for me. I’m kind of a purist and don’t like to draw attention to myself in that way. I’m not a performer as such and I think that’s important to state. A lot of people start bands because they want to have fun with their friends; ego and showmanship and a desire to make it your life isn’t necessary, and even if you think you’re not confident enough to do it, don’t worry. We’re not all born naturals.
Sweet Toof, Isaac Kariuki
Camae also known as Moor Mother Goddess (mmgzmmgz. tumblr.com) is a soundscape artist, quantum futurist, word magician and curator of Rockers and other fly shit. Zubeyda also known as DJ Haram (djharam.tumblr.com) is a wanna be Wallah bro, queer failure, low key noise head, and a party/ show promoter/curator. We are freqeunt collaborators, both based in Philadelphia. In this piece we attempt to translate a conversation about music, families, nostalgia, alienation, honoring our histories, and how corny the euro colonist is.
Zubeyda: How did u interact w nostalgia since u didn’t grow up w a computer? I feel a lot of ppl have that significant thing, that stuff they got into as a kid or a teen. Like the passion they have for it was so memorable cuz it was the 1st time they found something they really vibed with. But a lot of folks can just go back into their old computer’s files n shit. Camae: I was kind of like that baby that.. well, my parents thought they were done w kids n then my moms pregnant and i’m on the way. By the time I came, my parents were done w being traditional mothers and fathers. I came in the height of the crack era. My whole shit was fucked up. But beautifully stained. Theres’ nothing that I can’t go back to. There’s no song i’m missing, it’s all like as if it’s my finger. That’s all I pretty much have. That experience. That weighs so heavy like.. I wrote a poem for that show on Saturday in Brooklyn. I used ppl from the neighborhoods name, people from my old projects. Cuz Akai Gurley was shot “bc the lights in the hallway were out.” I just think about all these people that just touched me as a kid.. alcoholics that were amazing dancers, these crazy complicated women and men. It’s like they haunt me in a sense. That experience haunts me. I’m always giving thanks to the complexity of fucked up ness and beauty, u know.i guess the intensity of my childhood helps me remember a lot of that stuff. Cuz theres really no record. Some of my friends have pictures and stuff but no one really has anything...
Z- wat year u were born? C – I don’t reveal that info. Z- don’t want the hunnies on the internet to know? C- no. hunnies? *goes close to microphone* i’m a bee with the hunnies. Na but u know the crack era. Anyone can Look it up.. and should look it up. No one had anything. We were all in a bubble. Were were isolated, u have hundreds n hundreds of people together just in a spot. There was a trailer park behind it but who’s going to the trailer park, u know? Besides the white people [who lived there]. Things are very white and black. They say don’t go around there.. unless u wanna throw rocks and be rude. Z – I don’t remember a lot of my youth. Part of that I’ve realized is because somethings I just can’t cope with remembering. I don’t want to hold on to certain things that are too intense and stop me from respecting the complicated situations of inherited shit and fucked up experiences that people around me were also forced into. But besides involuntarily blocking it out part of it is being on the internet and being on a computer is what /was/ memorable for me. Especially cuz my parents figured I should only be spending time with family, the religious community, and the immigrant squad. I don’t know what it was that made me feel out of place in our tradition but I always felt like I wasn’t like the same as all the other kids who really got into our culture. All my IRL options for wat to do w my life were unappealing cause they were intimidatingly large, doing good to an old ass legacy.. Until preteen life when I was like #muslimrebellion, n drugs n boozes n sexy stuff.. Before that I spent a lot of time on computers role playing and in chat rooms pretending to be other people, pretty white girls or gay ass middle eastern studs... Its kind of funny and fucked up that some of my memory capacity is taken up by a fake life instead of the real thing? C - Isn’t that the same shit that people do? Especially kids who go outside and play different roles w their friends n find out wats suitable for them? Sometimes in real life u stay in those situations much longer than u need to.. I feel like thats general curiosity. This whole idea of place in the world.. Its like u found a place without authority to find what u naturally dig. Z - wat u naturally dig, huh? Camae – yeah I mean u mite not just be like oh shit I love science. U gotta see a caterpillar turn into a butterfly and be like oh shit!! especially with tradition and family and temperaments of children. You see all those do-gooders n ur like “why r u so into it??” I have that same thing with church. I remember the day I quit. I looked a the car and looked at my friends and was like.. i’m gonna go w my friends, i’m sorry church lady. We just told her. I was so scared to tell my grandmother. I was going karate so I was probably like 12 or 13. I said fuck that shit. Z- they couldn’t force u? C- no. I mean like I said by the time I was born they were over the traditional parent thing. They weren’t gonna be like “these are the responsibilities of god!!” they were like “its alrite baby” and u know, I was so sensitive. Z - “was”!? C- psh Z-”starts crying” C- I haven’t cried in 2 weeks Z – I could never escape going to the mosque. C - what would happen if u tried not to? Z- I just had to go, it wasn’t an option to be a brat and say no. I was pretty scared of my parents, I had weird expectations w how conflict would escalate. But going back to the nostalgia thing.. Searching in the past is important but nostalgia for me isn’t when I try to learn more about my ~diasporic context~.. You can’t consider trauma in a nostalgic way. Idk if it’s useful for figuring out who u are and who ur ancestors were and wat ur culture is before it was exploited and claimed by someone else. Nostalgia is when I’m thinking about something in a better lite than it actually was in.
Camae – Cuz ur memory? Cuz someone is manipulating their own memory? How come it cant b the same as it was? Zubeyda – It’s just incomplete memories. I was on the internet, practicing to be a real person by pretending to be an imaginary person. For me I think theres harmful things that came with that, it made being in a super lost and alienated space more tense. I dont think technology is wack or interacting w ppl through digital media is “dirty” or *shaytanli* but I do think it is alienated. And lots of interactions can be alienated, irl or not. I dont talk to everyone like I talk to you, you know? If I’m feeling nostalgic about my bb chatroom life i’ll be like “oh, how fun. I was developing creativity and writing skills. I was mostly unsupervised and breaking rules and norms and trying to be subversive.” but i’m not remembering logging off and being a person who was confused and depressed, 10 years old and unfulfilled with real life which is where I actually had to survive. Camae – so like, more like having those times of experiencing where you’re at as a kid versus the escape mechanism of it? Z -yeah C- I feel like. But also i’m that kid who had all that time with all those feelings. And... what? What was that about? Was there even and dialoge? There was only internal dialoge. I’m upset and I’ll go into my room and cry forever. I remember one time I was gonna /do something/. I was all cried out. I get ready to do something and my sister is laughing at me, being like, “you’re so crazy! Look at you! Whats wrong with you?” At that moment something happened where I was like... Ok, so I can go to the darkest place and probably only laughter will be there. So where do I want to take this? Z – When u show other ppl the place ur in? C – Yeah. Like, lemme walk into the living room and be like ”look at me!!” and then that’s the reaction. What reaction do I really want? What is this outcome I was expecting? After that I was still really emotional but took my way from the deep end. I guess I should thank my sister now instead of yelling at her for laughing at me. Zubeyda - When youtube became a thing all these old heads in my fam were looking up their favorite dirt road in the motherland, looking up traditional songs. They thought it was the shit, it was affirming the reality that we do exist outside of our own insular culture and we exist outside of the west’s warped historical memory.. Basically without saying it they were like “Sweet! Cultural preservation! this is helping stabilize cultural resources for people who won’t have us to tell them about it.” And when I was little I didn’t care, i was like “why are you looking up this ish you already sing to each other?” lol. Like “why aren’t you looking up videos of girls in crop tops??” But now I’m always using the internet to look up my people’s history bc altho the most accurate, non-colonizer viewpoint comes from my living ancestors... theres still much much older history that people don’t even talk about partially bc the success of assimilation. You know..comparing customs and being like “ok we’re def related, we were all eating the same shit, wearing the same shit, building shrines from the same reasons...” C- most definitely Z – I feel like u do that.
She is an asylum. She is earthy Eating hershey's. She is refuge and spicy food. We were riding our bikes To tame impala after eating mangoes with masala. I linked her to gorillaz and skepta on MSN, And sometimes we talked about running away by Jill Scott on BBM. Bright eyes for headlights, And it was getting dark outside. The sky was the colour of her knees, And the hues under my eyes after Sleepless nights. Now my baby's on away status. Sometimes it feels like being offline Made us hate us. -Raheela Suleman
HAVE FAITH IN CYBER SPACE