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How Richmond Zine Fest supports LGBTQ and QTPOC people

Ishan Bose | July 21, 2017

In preparation for Richmond Zine Fest’s eleventh year, the convention’s organizers are hosting a benefit show at Strange Matter in the beginning of August to raise funds for stipends for QTPOC and LGBTQIA people in need and get the word out. The lineup includes recently-featured McKinley Dixon & Friends, as well as Listless, Castle of Genre, and Julie Karr.

Like in many other cities, especially those with concentrated populations of diverse young people, zines and zine fests are an integral part of community building for Richmond’s DIY culture and creative scenes. Zines themselves are emblematic of DIY (do-it-yourself) culture, founded on the radical notion that anyone can create a small publication on any topic, regardless of how controversial. A person can literally find these mini-magazines on any subject under the sun— from informational zines on the Natural Hair movement in the 1970s or interviews with Radical Queer Muslims to photography zines of gas stations and streetlamps.

“I think it’s important for people to have a variety of access points to DIY, independent publishing, as well as activist thought, community, and cultures,” said Celina Williams, one of the organizers. “It’s also vital for our sustainability and networking that we don’t isolate ourselves. Richmond Zine Fest is just one of those access points for people within these communities and people aren’t quite sure what they’re looking for yet, but may find it in one or several of the zines available at zine fests or at one of the workshops we have.”

Richmond Zine Fest (RZF) organizers make an intentional effort to support QTPOC and LGBTQIA people by allowing first priority for tables in their curation as well as providing printing stipends for those in need. After submitting an application, vendors can choose to receive, if approved, a $25, $50, or $75 printing stipend.

“For several years, Richmond Zine Fest and other zine fest organizers grappled with inclusion and diversity [among] tablers,” said Williams. “It’s no mystery why cis hetero white men and women dominate fests— same as any other fest that is not specifically POC only or LGBTQIA only.”

“We didn’t like it, but we were so focused on just paying for a venue to host and didn’t have any energy beyond that,” she continued. “How do we organize an event that is general while still prioritizing Black and POC voices and queer and trans voices? And the voices of people with disabilities? Our move to Richmond Public Library has been a major asset in our ability to implement things that wouldn’t have been possible at Diversity [Thrift].”

Transitioning the convention to the Richmond Public Library has been particularly beneficial in making sure accommodations can be made for those who need it.

“Being in a more accessible location, being able to budget for and assist in printing zines for POC/queer/people with visible/invisible disabilities, and this year changing from a first-come first-served table sign up model to one that is curated is how we’re putting our values and priorities into action,” she said. “We’re also considering things like table placement (e.g. many POC would prefer to be beside or in the vicinity of other POC, people with social anxieties often prefer being outside of the auditorium in one of the smaller rooms). We want to be able to provide options and we want more volunteers to be able to check in on tablers throughout the day.”

As in the past couple years, Richmond Zine Fest is a two-day event and will take place on September 29 and 30, with workshops on the 29th and vendors on the 30th. Further details will be announced closer to the dates on their website.

The Strange Matter show will be held on August 2. Entry fee is between $5 – $10. For those that can’t attend, RZF is also accepting donations through Paypal. More information can be found here.