When things turn bad, when all your worst fears come true, when that thing you always said could never happen actually does, sometimes the only option left is to square your shoulders, takes a deep breath, and yell with all your might. Trust us- it can feel really, really good.
Once you’re all screamed out, take some of that excess energy and check out a YELL zine. YELL, or the Youth Education Life Line, is an affinity group within ACT UP, the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power. YELL was founded in 1989 as the youth arm of ACT UP, to work on AIDS issues facing young people, especially AIDS education. Based out of NYC, YELL was born in response to the failings of the public education system to educate its students about HIV and AIDS, and the largely unaddressed issue of HIV transmission between young people.. At the time of publishing YELL #1, (1994) AIDS was the leading cause of death for NYC women 25-34, and “since the average incubation period for HIV to progress to AIDS is 10.5 years, most of these people were probably infected as teens.”
Despite (or perhaps because of) this grim reality, the pages of YELL #1 are full of humor and fun, as well as the spirit of punk rebelliousness and fierce strength. Its splashy pages feature pictures of Big Bird, Lucille Ball, Queen Latifah, Bart Simpson and Rupaul, all with mouths open wide and, clearly, voices up. The newsprint-style of this zine gives it the urgency it needs, along with a sense of pragmatism. Far from pandering or condescending, as so many youth-oriented publications do, YELL feels like it had actual teens on staff. Frank and effective guides on condom use and infection risk are mixed with articles about the triumphs and challenges facing youth AIDS activists in the 90s.
It’s easy to get discouraged. Easy, and understandable. At times like these, it can be helpful to look back and see how others handled times of crisis. YELL is unfortunately, at the moment, defunct. However, its achievements (as listed near the beginning of YELL #1) are nothing short of inspiring. From handing out condoms and safer sex literature to over 45,000 NYC students, to enacting change in NYC public education policy, to representing youth interests at the international conference on AIDS, it’s clear the body of this organization was just as energetic as its publication.
And that’s the thing- when you raise your voice, the rest of you is sure to follow. The worst thing is to stay paralyzed. If you get active by volunteering time or money, that’s amazing. If you do it simply by existing in the world as a queer person or a POC, or a staunch and vocal ally, that’s amazing too. Maybe, right now, all we can do is yell- and maybe, for now, that’s enough.
Dac Cederberg is a former QZAP intern, now residing in Spain. He will be periodically blogging about zines from our collection.
Dac recently graduated from the University of Montana with a degree in English Literature and Creative Writing. He’s a cisgender gay man, he/him pronouns, from Missoula Montana. His alter ego is drag-queen bombshell Lady Dee. He doesn’t quite know what he wants to do with his life yet, but he loves reading, writing, TV, pop culture, and all things queer. He’s a Gemini and his favorite color is purple. Feel free to contact Dac through QZAP with any questions or comments.
We’ve been struggling for the past couple of days to come up with something to say about the election. It’s super hard not to be swallowed by a feeling of absolute doom and horror for things to come. We’re threatened. ALL our communities are being threatened. We’re unsure what the next 6 months will bring for us all.
And, really, we don’t know what in our collection will bring comfort... Some folks will want to get active right away, some will want humor, or anger, or a little sadness to be reflected back at them.
As an/archivists here at QZAP we’ve taken it upon ourselves to not only collect and present or preserve queers zines, but also to act as guides through our collection. The driving force behind this is that our queer lives are important. And our queer stories are important. And we will be heard, and we will publish, on our own terms, regardless of who is wearing the bent tin crown. So here’s a list available to read at archive.qzap.org. It’s a place to start, but not at all a place to end.
- Queers Read This. Originally published in 1990 for the NYC Pride march, and republished in 2009, this is a call to arms.
- Auto Defensa Para Mujaras. solo en español/only in Spanish. It’s about women’s self defense and assault prevention.
- Borderlands: Tales from Disputed Territories between Races and Cultures by Nia King. Interviews and stories from QTPOC folks about their experiences.
- Queer Action Figures. These are collections of queer graphics/flyers/posters from Charlie, Audra, and Tom from the mid-1990s. They’re fun and angry and exemplify resistance.
- Nothing About Us Without Us. A zine about abelism and disability organizing and activism within and outside of queer communities.
- Activism Through Zines. Chella talks to a bunch of activists who use zines in their work.
We hope that this is an OK start. We'd like to do another one of these type of posts in coming days. If you come across something in the collection that moves you, please let us know what and why, and we'll include it in the next one.
Finally, we're in the midst of our MoFemmeBer fundraiser. We'd be thrilled if you are able to sponsor a reader or make a donation, but also encourage you to support orginizations like Planned Parenthood, The Sylvia Rivera Law Project, Black Lives Matter, The ACLU, and The Electronic Frontier Foundation.