Addressing Anti-Blackness in the Black Women Matter Zine

By Underground Sketchbook Collective


The Underground Sketchbook Collective has been coming across online criticisms regarding the Black Women Matter Zine and community concern as to where the donations for printed copies went to. We have spent time reflecting and discussing these concerns as a group. We resolved to discontinue the print copies of the zine. The Issuu version (which is free to print and distribute) will remain online.

All donations (minus printing/shipping costs) received from the zine have been split in half and donated to LaKiza, sister of Larry Jackson who was killed by former APD detective Charles Kleinert (learn more here), as well as, Destiny, sister of Nathaniel Sanders who was killed by APD officer Leonardo Quintana (learn more here). We initially hoped to send the donations to families affected in the zine, but our research in tracking down their contact information was proven difficult. Ultimately we decided to stay consistent with our principles, which is to localize our collective efforts. We are proud to support these 2 powerful black women who are actively organizing in Austin for justice.

Below, we hope to shed light into the production process and provide documentation of our funding to address any unanswered concerns.


The Production Process:

The Black Women Matter Zine’s art was created by a non-Black collective artist at the end of December 2014. This collective artist was noticing the disproportionate attention that black men murdered by police were receiving over black women. As this collective artist did more research, they began to notice how passively mainstream media articles wrote about these deaths. For example:

This person was struck by a bullet from the officer’s gun.

versus

“The officer shot the person.”

The collective artist began to gather more mainstream media news articles (as well as referencing obituaries) and rewriting them in active tone, using first names instead of last names, omitting irrelevant and “criminalizing” information which worked to divert the attention away from the crime at hand — police violence.

The collective artist never intended to tell the full “stories of 11 black women who have been killed by law enforcement,” but more specifically the stories of law enforcement encounters and the deconstruction of how these stories are told in mainstream media news articles.

We owe these women a sincere apology. We know their lives were rich and that these events leading up to their death are not the only salient part of their lives. Also, we truly regret the exclusion of trans Black women from this publication and we welcome readers to leave notes, relevant articles and alternative media that will help us become more conscientious.


The Funding Process:

The Black Women Matter Zine is free to read online, download, print, and redistribute at your own accord. If you wanted a physical copy, you had the option of sending a paypal donation of any amount you wanted to give. The description recommended $5 in the United States and $10 international to help cover printing and shipping costs.

We’ve sent out at least 127 zine orders, as well as donated copies to the Audre Lorde Project, @Cards4Ferguson, Monkey Wrench Books, Resistencia Books, and sent in support of a former panel coordinator of the Brooklyn Zine Festival, whose proposal for a Black Lives Matter zines panel was cut from the schedule (Read more about that here).

A Breakdown of our Donations & Costs:

Total Donations Received: $750.42

Donations Unrelated to BWM Zine: $180

Donations Received from BWM Zine: $570.42

Total Costs from Printing & Shipping of BWM Zine: $131.03

Remainder of BWM Zine Donation Surplus (already donated to LaKiza and Destiny): $439.39

Here’s our public folder of the funding spreadsheet and receipts.

If you’re curious about how our funding works beyond the zine, here’s a little infographic about the flow of funds.

We are supporting social justice artists and other organizations with supplies and resources through the power of artist collectivism. At the same time, we highly value transparency and strive to refine our processes. Feel free to send feedback and ideas!

Conclusion:

Where We Believe We Have Failed:

  1. The zine was published too hastily without consent from the featured women’s families.
  2. The artist should have been more upfront about their non-black status and to be more careful about any claims of representation.
  3. We started accepting donations without completing our collective discussions about how to handle funding.

Where We Believe We Succeeded:

  1. Although we could not illustrate the richness of these women’s lives (nor do we believe it is our place), we still believe this was radical content. As we witness the power of #SayHerName protests all over the country, we feel that we have amplified their names and recounted their moments before being killed by law enforcement in a way that offered them more dignity than mainstream media.
  2. Working through community criticism together has made us feel stronger, more trusting, and more willing to try future projects, keeping the lessons we have learned in mind. We do not think we should get a pass, because we at least tried. We embarked on this project, fully aware of the risks associated with making radical art. We do believe there is some merit in falling down and getting up again.

Thank you to the community for keeping us diligent. We are products of this capitalistic system and our artists are capable of perpetuating racism, sexism, classism, homophobia, transphobia, ableism and other terrible practices. Although we know we may never be free from these practices, we will always strive to keep ourselves and each other accountable. Please feel free to email us at undergroundsketchbook @ gmail.com for any other feedback, thank you!

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