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The planting seeds community awareness project: Commited to ending oppression in this world

An interview with basil
from Seattle, USA

by Elke Zobl

July 2004




"the planting seeds community awareness project is mainly the love and hard work of two people; basil and billie. with our friends -- who help out sometimes -- and the communities we work in, we are ending oppression and bringing out liberation.

it is our belief that all people are intelligent and have the ability to solve problems which face their communities but are often held back by powerfull, self-serving (economic, political, social, religious, and cultural) institutions. our main goal is to aid in the process of self-determination and healing for all living beings by fostering open and honest communication between people.

why is this so amazing?
what you're looking at is the collective vision of two queer Arabs living with a disability -- and that, in and of itself, makes planting seeds unique. we've come together to share our history, struggles, celebrations and visions for a world without oppression -- and this is what blossoms."


"one of the things we really want to talk about here is how living with a chronic illness has affected our family and our work. billie has fibromyagia -- a common condition of widespread muscular pain and fatigue. this, coupled with her psychiatric disabilities severely limits her ability to do things that the non-disabled world considers "basic." because of ability issues, the models that are presented by the left for how to do activism don't usually apply to us. we've had to develop our own models for how to work together and with the world around us. through trial and error, we're creating ways of operating planting seeds that really sustains both of us." (text from their web site)

Read more about this amazing project in the following interview with basil!


 



Can you tell me first of all a little bit about yourself? how old are you? where are you originally from? and where do you reside now?

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.

oh 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.



on the road to healing: a booklet for men against sexism #2
Description: On the road to healing--A booklet for men against sexism" is a zine that exists to provide a printed space for articles, stories, art, photography and other printable mediums directed at critical theory and personal reflections on male socialization, sexism and the concept of manhood. How have these concepts influenced and molded us? How do they relate to all other facets of our lives?

creators: basil, with contributions by Chris Crass, Chris Dixon, Loolwa Khazoom, Cameron Bustamante, Donald Cavanaugh, Tony Switzer, Jeff Ott, Ahimsa Timoteo Bodhran and Michael Flood. Available as pdf file at:
http://downloads.pscap.org/mas2.pdf



For how long have you been part of the planting seeds community awareness project now, and when did start making zines?

me 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.

as for zines, i've been making them for almost 14 years. i started in my freshman year of highschool, with a zine about all these metal bands i was into. it was called, "from the grave". then i started doing story, poetry and narrative zines. around this time, i also got into learning about anarchist theory and feminism, and began to write personal and political zines that incorporated both of these into my life.

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?

i 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.


An Activist Approach to Domestic Violence chronicles the process of organizing the "no use for abuse" weekend of events in resistance to domestic abuse. includes concrete strategies and interviews with members of the coalition for human dignity, a grassroots organization that worked to end domestic abuse. creators: billie rain and basil.

What has been the response to planting seeds community awareness project since you launched it?

it's been really positive. we've put on film festivals in our living room, facilitated tons of workshops, gave out and sold a lot of zines, and connected with so many people. it's been a really great experience!

What does zine making and reading mean to you? what do you love and find challenging about doing the planting seeds community awareness project and zines?

i love zines because they can be so from the heart. i love reading zines that are real - something that someone put a good amount of their energy into. i also love reading zines that are informative in a way that no other media can be. reading and making zines has been an essential part of the way i've met people, connected with new ideas and communities and embraced change. having zines in my life has been a powerful experience.

as for what i love and find challenging about planting seeds… it changes so regularly. we've created planting seeds in a way that can evolve with us. when we change our projects, planting seeds changes with us. when we can do more or less, planting seeds offers more or less. this is what i love. and this presents its' fair share of challenges. but these also change with whatever we're doing. so, i guess it's hard to really pin it down for this interview.


What advice would you give to somebody who wanted to start a zine or community project?

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!

Do you define yourself as a feminist? what are the most pressing issues you are confronted with in daily life?

i consider myself to be a pro-feminist. as a "man," i think there's a level of caution i must take before identifying myself as a feminist. i'm very pro-feminist though and know that feminism has guided many of the ethical decisions i've made in my 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?

just thanks for the interview! and check out www.pscap.org!


basil


Contact the planting seeds community awareness project at:

email:

our general box: info [AT] pscap.org
to reach billie: billie [AT] pscap.org
to reach basil: basil[AT ]pscap.org

web site:

http://www.pscap.org/


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