Wildabout in conversation with Nana Adae-Amoakoh and Ella Frost on Black Fly Zine, a zine focusing on sex positivity and sexual health for people of colour and by people of colour.
Nana Adae-Amoakoh is a queer, British-born Ashanti babe focused on facilitating healing spaces for disadvantaged women of colour. Former educator at a specialist school for children expelled from the mainstream system, followed by working therapeutically with victims of sexual violence, Nana now manages a girl’s home in South London developing long term projects to heal trauma and support young women of colour in thriving.
Ella Frost studied a Bsc in Audio and Music Technology in Bristol. In 2013 she became involved with Sisters Uncut London raising awareness of governmental cuts to domestic violence services. Currently living in Mexico City, Ella works as an English teacher and continues her art practice of photography, digital distortion and video around themes of race, identity and sexuality. She screened a film ‘Merger’ at the Hackney Picturehouse in London of Autumn 2015 with feminist collective Hysteria.
Cw. Mention of violence in sex
Wildabout: Where did the idea for the zine come from?
Nana: For both of us, because of personal experiences and experiences of friends, we need this zine because of the taboo. Taboo is stopping people from having access to the appropriate health support, to useful conversations. Concepts around people of colour having sex is always carnal. Black men with giant penises, black women with huge hips devouring men. Moving away from those means being open. We wanted a lot of sex positivity for this zine. We don’t seem to think having conscious sex, who we have sex with, things our partner may demand of us, as part of our well-being. Just accepting things because you feel you don’t have a voice. I’ve experienced violence during sex once I got strangled. I told a friend and it had happened to her too. She was scared in the moment but only later said, “I’m not down with that.” We have to be open about sex to enjoy it and to understand it. There’s no space for taboo. If I don’t have a conversation with my friends about sex, I won’t be able to inform myself.
Ella: When I started thinking about the zine was when I had a really honest conversation with another friend about sexual health. It was so freeing. It can have such an impact just being honest with another person about it without stigma, you don’t feel as isolated anymore and that’s kind of what sexual health means.
Wildabout: Who is this zine for?
Ella: At the moment we have lots of artists and people from different communities talking about their sexual health in the medium they want. It’s incredible. We’re also creating waves around the world. Someone did a poetry reading to a room of 50 people in New York talking about their herpes. We also need to start using the privilege and knowledge we have to access people who don’t have that confidence or agency. We need to start using it to help each other.
Nana: When we go to spaces that talk about the experiences of people of colour it’s always a certain level of education or access. I work with people who are of colour, often black, and they have no access to our facebook groups, to our events, to our twitter conversations. We want to be able to access and empower those people who are often left out. I currently manage a girls’ home, my girls feel structural violence and they see it because they often live on the breadline. They’re living the things we often sit in our spaces and discuss in very particular eloquent language. So why aren’t we communicating with them? The fact me and Ella can make a zine is because we’ve got time, a lot of people don’t, they’re surviving. It’s about saying you need to not only survive, you need to be able to thrive.
The PoC community we’re not that good at talking about sex. Coming of African descent, we have this shame, especially as a woman, around having sex. When you have a problem with your sexual health you don’t know who to go to. I was about 14 when I got thrush. I lived with so many women my mum, my aunts, my sister, and couldn’t tell anyone. I would try to manage it, over-soap myself till my poor vagina was just screaming for help! My mum found out and laughed like, ‘you’re silly, it’s just thrush.’ When I was older I thought about how much shame there was around sex and myself as a sexual being. If you’ve grown up being told beware of boys and sex, why would you tell your mum you have a problem with your vagina?
Wildabout: What content can we expect in the zine?
Nana: It’s a mix of people’s creative outputs, drawings and illustrations. Someone did a piece about masturbation and yoni eggs and my girl added pictures and everything! Thinking of my early masturbating experiences, I really wish someone had shown me. You don’t even know where to touch. Also some practical stuff like how to disclose around STIs, simple things about diet and to boost your immune system. Just long term maintaining, getting your power back because often when you get an STI you feel really powerless.
Ella: We got an amazing submission about disclosing information about their sexual health on grindr and the responses they got. Just because of what that platform usually means, I found it really moving. There’s also a powerful piece about decolonised love. Even when you’re with two brown bodies it’s impossible to find a space that’s free from heteronormative behaviour without racism. It’s a lot of work finding a safe space, might be a safer space but it’s not going to be everything.
Nana: Two brown bodies in a bed, you can’t assume that you instantly understand each other. Also decolonising yourself is really hard on-going work. Don’t be ashamed when you’re called out. You fuck up all the time and it’s ok.
Ella: It’s important to fuck up and to be called out compassionately within your community who know more than you. Trying to eradicate racism from parts of my life I was always angry it was exhausting. Personally this zine has saved me, finding Nana and a really POC space was like rebuilding.
Nana: How do we build if we don’t critique and deconstruct and problematize our own experience? Not everything has to be in opposition to whiteness. I’ve been happy to be working on something that’s for us. In building ourselves up the external becomes easier to manage and fight. With sexual health or anything if you’re going through shit and you don’t talk about it, it becomes this monster. The minute you do, it becomes more bearable or less important.
Coming to print in March, make sure you head to their London launch, also a fundraiser, on the 25th of February at the Depot, 38 Upper Clapton Rd London E5 8BQ. A New York launch will take place in early April and a Mexico one in May.
Help them raise funds for the print of the zine:
Follow their tumblr: www.blackflyzine.tumblr.com/
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