Let's Talk About: Nia King on her 'punk privilege'
By Nia King, POCZP Contributor
There are a lot of things I hate about punk culture. You can read about most of them in The First 7-Inch Was Better: How I Became an Ex-Punk. But one of the positive things I took away from punk was the knowledge that I could do things myself (whether it was publishing a zine, putting a show together, or cooking a meal for a big crowd at Food Not Bombs with little help and little culinary training).
I’m not saying the zines, shows, or meals were exceptionally well-produced, but as a pink-haired 16 year old, I knew they were all things I could do myself. I didn’t need to ask permission.
[DESCRIPTION: Nia King assembles some of her zines at home (2013). Photo credit: Nia King]
As I got older, being a punk became less important to me, and identities like “queer” and “woman of color” began to play a bigger role in my life. I took my passion for social justice out of the VFW kitchen, and poured it into campus organizing in college, and after graduation, an entry level job at a terrible non-profit. There I learned that doing things well required years of training, lots of money, and often outside consultants. Little emphasis was put into helping us build the skills we’d need to do things ourselves. A lot of emphasis was put into making sure I didn’t forget to use oxford commas.
Three years outside of college (and one year outside the uber-dysfunctional non-profit), I am thankful for my punk roots. Though I dropped out of art school and still draw at, what I feel, is a high school level, I started a webcomic, which is currently being featured in the Lady Drawers exhibition in Chicago. With very little audio editing experience, I started a podcast. (I record all the interviews on my phone.) And without ever having taken a journalism class, I started writing for magazines. The verdict is still out on how that’s going.
None of the things I made are award-winning, all of them are a little rough around the edges. But I’ve overcome that deep-seated fear of imperfection that comes from the knowledge that as a queer woman of color I have to be a super-overachiever to be given even half the credit I’m due. I’m amplifying the voices of people from marginalized communities (whether it be myself or other queer and trans artists of color) in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to if I’d continue to believe I needed more training and better equipment before I put my foot in the water. Growing up in punk culture and zine culture taught me, “It doesn’t have to be perfect, you just have to do it.”
I’m sure my privileges as a light-skinned, middle-class, cisgender woman had everything to do with the doors that have been opened for me. Doors were also opened for me by the incredible mentors I had at Mills College and Colorlines Magazine (which is not where I developed my fear of forgetting oxford commas, and was actually an amazingly supportive work environment.)
But punk is where I learned the DIY ethic that taught me I don’t need a ton of schooling or a ton of money to call myself an artist. I just need to make art, self-publish, and hustle to get my work to the audience that matters most to me: other folks from marginalized communities struggling to figure out if they can do it themselves.
“Let’s Talk About” is an experimental series by POCZP created to share communal knowledge, resources and reflections on a wide range of topics affecting communities of color.
If you are a person of color—or a white person with a history of supporting POC Zine Project— who wants to contribute to “Let’s Talk About,” submit to firstname.lastname@example.org with “Let’s Talk About” in the subject line.
All submissions to “Let’s Talk About" will be compiled into a zine (print & digital) that will be released by POCZP in December of 2013.
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