Redistribution is an everyday practice
By Brown Recluse Zine Distro
Every issue, we invite artists, writers, DIYers and community members to offer a slice of their Zine Philosophy.
This edition is by members of Brown Recluse Zine Distro, a collectively run zine distro based around the Pacific Northwest. BRZD distributes work by and for Black, Indigenous, and POC zinesters. Check out brownreclusezinedistro.com
Since 2013, Brown Recluse Zine Distro has existed to uplift the work of QTBIPOC zine makers. Operating mostly in the Pacific Northwest and currently based on the Ohlone lands of the Chochenyo people, our collective members have traveled to zine fests, taught workshops, and made new affinities in communities all over. We would not exist without the incredible network of BIPOC who support the distro directly by helping out at events, packing orders, assembling zines, and creating our artwork.
Amidst the pandemic and uprisings for Black Liberation, we had to quickly pivot our collective practice. Three local Oakland print shops — Floss Editions, Irrelevant Press and Unity Press
— stepped up, and reached out to our distro to offer free printing for Black zine makers through our distro this past summer. Currently, with local copy shops out of the equation for most of our creators’ list, we are printing and assembling a great portion of the distro’s catalogue titles ourselves. We have no aspirations to become a press, but see this as an offer of resources at a time when copy shops are scarce.
While tabling events and zine fests, Brown Recluse has always offered pricing on a sliding scale that asks people to pay in accordance with their proximity to the experiences of the authors whose work they are buying. We do this to acknowledge the structural realities people live in and the complex impacts of the white gaze on Black and brown liberation movements. Prices in our store are for BIPOC only. We ask that white people and institutions add the “Sliding Scale” item to their cart before checkout when purchasing online. This adjustment pays for the distro’s overhead costs, and without these funds we are not able to operate or offer any forms of redistribution to our Black authors and Black trans/ queer people in need. We still operate like any small zine distro and do not pay ourselves for this work. The people we select to receive our profits are from our own communities. Before the pandemic, we had already been building these horizontal networks of care and mutual aid out of political conviction and survival. We don’t see ourselves as a mutual aid project, though. We just see this as the right thing to do as a profitable “small business” facilitated by non-Black people of colour.
We decided that all Black authors we distribute would receive 100% of the cover price sales for each of their zines. With this shift, our orders skyrocketed up 1000%. The material support for Black people, especially by white people, dwindled after the summer months gave way to election season. But redistribution efforts (not the same as reparations, which can only be given by the state) to individuals and collective mutual aid funds are not a fad or something to do on a whim, but everyday practice. We cannot wait on the state to give reparations for kidnapping Black people and stealing their livelihood over countless generations. We need to understand the power that people have to collectively create the future in the present, especially individuals that benefit from it. We don’t see zines as a hobby but a way to exist, politically educate, and share experiences safely outside of law enforcement surveillance of social media and big tech shadow banning in a post FOSTA/SESTA-climate.
We hope that our authors and their offerings can be an inspiration to QTBIPOC who engage in autonomous forms of resistance and political education against the violence of capitalism, white supremacy, colonialism, patriarchy, and imperialism. That’s our mission, and we have no choice but to believe in it.