The planting seeds community awareness project: Commited to ending oppression in this world
interview with basil
my name is basil. i work with the planting seeds community awareness project (www.pscap.org), and do a couple zines. i've been making zines for about 14 years now, and recently, i've been working at an agency for homeless people ages 15 - 22, teaching zine-making as a way of building employment skills.
i grew up in chicago, live in seattle, am from the middle east, and am moving to austin, texas. i'm a 29 yr old, genderqueer man, whose spent most of my adult life working on various projects that encourage people in our world to make personal commitments to ending oppression in our lives and in the world.
What do you do besides the planting seeds community awareness project?
a lot! aside from planting seeds, i write a lot - mostly screenplays. i'm also involved in various art and political projects. i helped microcosm publishing a little bit with their zine documentary that's coming out. i've also been working on making a movie about a queer arab coming out story. and - well, actually, i think that's about it right now. i'm usually involved in 10 things simultaneously. but this time, i think i've got my projects down to a minimum.
yeah. as i write this, i'm ending my work with an agency that uses zine-making
as a way to give employment skills to homeless youth. who knows what i'm doing
as your reading this.
Can you please tell us a little bit about the planting seeds community awareness project and the zines you have done? e.g. what topics do you discuss in your zines?
sure. the planting seeds community awareness project is the work of me and billie - and some of our friends. we have a zine distro. we do popular education workshops (challenging racism, men against sexism, holistic healing from abuse, and more). we have our web site where we're about to do a monthly radio show and some other things. we also have a resource database on our web site where people interested in facilitating workshops, creating zines, or whatever, can come, find resources and help put their plan into action. we're trying to promote the creation of just, sustainable and anti-oppressive communities. we use planting seeds as our vehicle to do this.
as for my zines, i've done a bunch over the years. probably the one that has the most relevance to this web site is my zine, "on the road to healing: a booklet for men against sexism." topics covered in this zine relate to men working on sexism and making a commitment to taking the time and energy in our lives to deal with our sexist conditioning. i've also done zines that focus on issues of child abuse, racism, gender issues, and so much more. my regular zine (that i actually haven't done in a while) is called spirals upward. it's a mix of all these thoughts, beliefs and ideas that stroll around in my head.
and billie started planting seeds in the end of 1999. we wanted a place where
we could distribute all the zines we'd made and a place where we could facilitate
workshops from. we designed a 12 class, unlearning racism intensive workshop and
began planting seeds as our vehicle to promote and facilitate this class.
What made you decide to start the planting seeds community awareness project? how did you come up with the idea and the name?
well. both me and billie had just finished college, and wanted something that we could work on that was a collective project, that expressed our values and that was a singular vehicle for the work we've been doing in the world. we didn't want to have 10 different projects.. or at least, we wanted them all to function under the same title. we wanted to connect the different projects that we were interested in and working on and promote them from one place. the planting seeds community awareness project was this solution.
as for the name, we just did some brainstorming and came up with it. we wanted something that encapsulated what we were thinking and trying to do. planting seeds of change is the essential idea. and we added the part about community, because we want to recognize that this isn't just our little thing - it's part of a grander community, whether that's the zine community, activist communities, survivor communities, our neighborhood communities, and more. this was the project we wanted to use to connect with people around us and to give some of the knowledge, ideas, and skills that we have.
What do you hope to accomplish by running the planting seeds community awareness project and creating the zines you have been involved in?
i want to create space for people to explore their own creativity and i hope that people who read this will check out what we're doing and that it will inspire them to make a commitment to end oppression in this world. i want people to find tools, resources and community through their work and interactions with planting seeds.
one of the most amazing things that feminism has brought to my life has been the space to think about the experiences in my life in a context that really makes sense to me. it's helped me to explore issues of power and oppression in my life. where have i experienced oppression? where do i have privilege? and, how do i use this privilege? when i interact with power, is it from a place of trying to use the power i have over someone else? or, am i able to respectfully share power with others?
want people who interact with planting seeds to have a place that connects with
their experiences. through zines, workshops and our web site, we're trying to
put a lot of information out there for people to interact with! i hope that people
take us up on this.
do it! have the idea, but follow through with it too. even if there are a million other zines out there, yours is important! create it!
What are some of the zines you read and admire?
mostly personal zines. i really like a lot of the older riot grrrl zines! they changed my life. my latest favorite zine is done by colin kennedy, and it's called "fuck pity!" (you can get it through hir web site at: http://cripqueer.resystseattle.org).
Do you feel part of a zine community or network, locally, nationally or/and internationally? and, what does it mean to you? if yes, could you please describe a little bit the grrrl, lady, queer and transfolk zine community or network in your country?
at this point in my life, i'm not really part of a larger zine community. i've been lucky enough to be part of a multi-racial, multi-gendered, radical queer community in seattle. it hasn't been focused on zines, even though a lot of us do them.
Has the experience of doing the planting seeds community awareness project and zines been empowering to you? in which ways? what were some of main influences that have empowered you in your life?
hell yeah! it's been so empowering! being able to create this project where we get letters telling us how much we've influenced other people's lives in positive ways is something that means so much!
Which role does play the internet for you?
huge! planting seeds mainly exists on the web right now. when we've had more energy, it comes off the web and into our communities more. but now, as we're moving across the country, it's main place is online. through this, we can still create the kind of message and community we want to create, and we don't have to put so much of our hourly work into it! the net has also been great because it allows us to put our zines online, so people who don't have the money for them can still read them. that's way cool!
you define yourself as a feminist? what are the most pressing issues you are confronted
with in daily life?
as for issues that i'm confronted with in my daily life. right now, a lot of this revolves around being queer, an arab, economically poor, and living with someone with severe disabilities. the cool thing is that feminism has created a language that i can use to talk about my experiences to others who know the same language, and we'll be able to connect easier about the experiences that i, or we are having. this pulls me out of the isolation that is so common for many oppressed people.
Do you consider grrrl and genderqueer zines and projects as an important part of a social movement? do you think grrrl, lady, queer and transfolk zines, resource sites, and projects can effect meaningful social and political change at large, or do they have significance mainly in individual lives?
absolutely. if someone who doesn't have access to these kinds of communities around them gets online and searches for them, they'll all-of-a-sudden have access to many people in radical queer, grrrl, genderqueer and trans communities. this is really important both for connecting individual people to larger communities, and in building communication between various people in these communities.
Is there anything else you'd like to add?
thanks for the interview! and check out www.pscap.org!