For those of you who don’t know, the name of this event is taken from the song “Resist Psychic Death.” It is one of my favorite Bikini Kill songs and I even have a vague memory of one of my old bands covering it. Although sung by a white woman, the words “psychic death” remind me of the character Pecola Breedlove in Toni Morrison’s first novel The Bluest Eye. To make a short story even shorter, Pecola is born a dark-skinned black girl into a racist, misogynist, violent world that eventually drives her to insanity. Now, I am not saying that mental illness is equivalent to psychic death. I know that’s not true. The culprit in the book isn’t insanity, the culprit is hatred and its internalization. We live in an ugly and dysfunctional world and we all carry that ugliness and dysfunction around inside of us. Our mission in this life is to prevent self-destruction, to prevent our own psychic deaths–and then to lend a hand to others so that they can do the same. Often, it’s just as simple as speaking publicly from your experience just so that other people like you realize they are not alone in their thoughts and experiences.
And then there are those among us who actually experience physical death. Premature, violent, unjust physical death. In the last year, we’ve seen the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement here in the U.S. in the response to the killings of unarmed black men and the lack of accountability for their deaths. Of course, this predicament isn’t new and my zine was definitely written in reaction to the limited expectations placed on black people solely because of our skin color. Like the Afro-Punk movement, I focus on freedom of expression for black people–but admittedly, this goal has seemed frivolous to me when compared to the myriad other challenges faced by black American communities. But on the other hand, look at how acceptable black expression and representation has been newly confined in the wake of the shooting of Trayvon Martin in particular. Now, black men can’t wear hoodies without feeling the weight of suspicion on their backs? Respectability politics are in increased effect in black communities and in its own little way, “Shotgun Seamstress" was always meant to reject those kinds of confines.
I attempt to use a Xerox copy music fanzine to resist stereotypical conceptions of blackness. It doesn’t feel like much, but I promise, the desire to redefine ourselves, to redefine blackness, to surprise people with the scope of our self-expression, was always central to the project.
shotgun seamstress, I Will Resist With Every Inch and Every Breath: Punk and the Art of Feminism