Talking to the Founder of The WOC-Centric Zine You Need to Know About
During our first meeting, we leaned on the trunk of visual artist and designer Kyna Uwaeme’s car as the sun went down and she got ready for the shoot. There was this sort of excitement in the air, quiet and yet everywhere. As we waited, Tam-Anh Nguyen moved her camera from her knee to her eye to her hip. There’s this pose film kids do when they get into the zone; you either know it or you don’t.
And Fabiola Ching and I, not film kids at all, did what most non-film kids do during a shoot and talked. We talked about her website’s revamping and her collaborator Adriana Lafarga, who lived all the way on the opposite coast. We talked about their project, “Workspaces,” and what sort of questions Ching would ask Uwaeme when the time came.
For just over two years now, Ching has been the editor-in-chief of the WOC-oriented The Coalition Zine, and for nearly two years the Tumblr-turned-zine-turned-website has sported a dedicated following of girls of color—cis, trans, riotous, angry, sad, or content. Maybe it’s the pastel-lit faces of brown girls—both carefree and just doing “them”—that keeps the crowd coming back. Maybe it was the promise of the physical zine coming in the mail, of this thing that felt so real and irreversible. Because as a brown girl, what more would you want to feel?
Or maybe it was the promise of growth that was evident even in its first months. As 2016 winds to a close, The Coalition Zine is shedding, growing, and their long-awaited premiere series, “Workspaces,” only hints at what’s to come. The premise is simple: a femme artist of color shows off her workspace to the camera. Sometimes, as was the case with Uwaeme, they show the viewer around their neighborhood and the spaces where they grew up. Other times they remain in the comfort of a bedroom. After all, not everyone has the funds to have some big, luxurious studio. But then, that’s the point. For Ching and Nguyen, financial visibility is just one of the many reasons why this project matters.
We sat down with Ching a few days later to talk about The Coalition and how it all came together.
“When I [first] saw zines and creative shit like that, I thought, well, that’s not gonna be me. Only white women get to do that.”
What inspired you to start The Coalition?
I started The Coalition at the height of when zine culture was really poppin’, when Rookie mag was really poppin’, but there were no black women that I could relate to. I didn’t feel part of the culture because [of that], and in my head I always thought, okay, this shit is reserved for white women only, and the Tavi Gevinsons of the world. When I [first] saw zines and creative shit like that, I thought, well, that’s not gonna be me. Only white women get to do that. And I got fed up… and started The Coalition—it was actually [initially] called The Black Girl Coalition; it was just four black women, and it was a Tumblr blog where I just highlighted black girl-owned businesses, [as well as] movies and songs that were made by black women that weren’t [getting] attention. And it really popped off!
But then a few months later I got really into the publishing industry and into literary publications like Adult Magazine and Hazlitt. And I was like, I can start a literary magazine based around this idea of uplifting and creating a space for women of color. I started thinking about how not just black women, but all women of color, could come together in what I felt was a revolutionary way. We’re all different obviously; there’s so much shit surrounding us, and [black women] are always being thrown under the bus by other women of color, but I truly do believe in solidarity. So that’s why it became The Coalition. All we did was write and post writings on our website, and people really liked it and it kind of snowballed.
There are so many connotations that come with a zine. What made you choose that medium?
I just love the idea of having a publication. I think that print lives on forever, and I like the idea of having [physical] proof that we did this, that we had all these amazing ideas. I like the internet, but technology is so fuckin’ fickle—that shit can fuck you over any day.
We started putting out [the zine] every month, and it wasn’t until recently that [we started building up] the website.
“I definitely feel that riot grrrl did some type of good, but all of it doesn’t apply to me. There was nobody in there that looked like me.”
I definitely feel that riot grrrl did some type of good, but all of it doesn’t apply to me. There was nobody in there that looked like me. And I know that representation is such a dead topic, but it does have an impact.
Is representation dead?
I no longer care about being represented through white people. But no matter how I feel about it, it is still very important, and it does make a difference because it does make an impact when you see someone who looks like you in mainstream media. I’m just not interested in mainstream media anymore.
And by mainstream media you mean…?
Like TV, movies—even some of “the underground” is mainstream now. All of that shit you see on Instagram, Twitter, [and] Tumblr is mainstream now. When you’re just scrolling through the internet, it kind of has an influence on you. From 2010 to 2014, that was like my life: I liked all this cool shit but I couldn’t dabble in it. It was all white women. And I didn’t see how much it was [impacting] my mentality until recently when I was like, oh, I really do feel like shit because I don’t see myself in these spaces.
The Coalition started out of anger, really. There was this piece that I wrote that really blew up, and I hate that it blew up because it was so awful, and it was just fueled by anger. Everything I did was just fueled by anger and deep frustration; I was so pissed at everything. And I think that it had been building for years, and when I could finally find people that could identify with what I was feeling, I felt really viciously angry about it. But if it wasn’t for the internet, I wouldn’t have been able to find all these people who were like, “Girl I feel you.” Currently, even though I’m still an angry person, that’s not what’s fueling me.
Images by Nakeya Brown.
For more information on The Coalition, visit their website here.
Stay tuned to Milk for more from WOC artists.