All images taken from Black Fly Zine. This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
When Ella Frost and Nana Adae-Amoakoh decided to start their zine, Black Fly, the idea wasn't just to shed a light on the intersection between love, racism and sexual health, but also to offer a sex positive and non-heteronormative perspective traditionally absent from communities of colour.
While the zine might be part of a new wave of women of colour creating much-needed spaces for their communities, this is the first of its kind to specifically tackle the unique intricacies of sex and sexual health from the perspective of PoC. With its debut issue released this month, we spoke to co-founders Ella and Nana to find out more.
VICE: How did the zine come to be?
Ella: Black Fly Zine started when I had a really frank conversation about my sexual health with a friend and it literally lifted me up out of a hole. I posted on a group for black women, femmes and non-binary people about the idea and Nana responded, completely on the same level – and that was it. We spoke a lot and were really honest about what we had gone through, what that meant in terms of racial identity, the differences and the similarities, building a friendship and a working relationship simultaneously.
How would you describe the zine to someone who's never heard of it?
Nana: It's a platform via which PoC share and learn through their lived experiences of sex and how our particular intersections within this context ultimately impact and shape us. We don't just focus on sexual health but also sexual well-being: black and brown love, sex positivity, diverse reflections on queer identities and sexualities, to name a few. This decolonised information is presented in the format of a zine which consists of submissions from PoC across three continents, expressed through poetry, short-story, illustration, photography, collage and essay.
You describe your zine as dissecting racism within sexual health for PoC.
Nana: For us as two women of colour, one black African and the other mixed black Caribbean and white, sex has been enshrined in shame. I remember when, at 19, I told my best friend I was in my first same-sex relationship and she could only respond with laughter and a request to be present when I told my religious mother.
Ella: Exactly, or cleaning your vagina incessantly with soap, believing it to be dirty and ugly because you'd never seen another brown person's vulva. Sexual health is always personal, and even though me and Nana are the ones collecting these experiences, it's about the whole community of PoC and us having the drive to get them out there.
Sexual health can be white-washed and heteronormative, often not intentionally. Since our diverse experiences tend to get erased from mainstream discourse, do you see Black Fly Zine as more of a "guide" for PoC than simply a zine?
Ella: I don't think this zine acts as a guide, but a validation to see yourself reflected back. Voices like your own being uplifted can have a profound effect on anyone, especially when this isn't the norm. To a certain degree everyone's vulnerable in the pages of the zine, and we are saying that that's OK.
What kind of things can we expect in the issue?
To sigh, cry, smile but ultimately feel affirmed in your sexual desires and self-worth.
Logistically, how does putting the issue together work? You live in Mexico, Ella.
Oddly without too much difficulty, even though I'm in Mexico City and Nana is now in Toronto. We have been extremely lucky to find each other and start a relationship that has been so honest in terms of capacity and delegation, and we trust each other to make decisions – and that's the hard bit really. Our skills complement each other well.
Where's the most far-flung place you've received a submission?
Nana: I think the furthest place has been Virginia in the States; it's a place neither of us have been or even know anyone who lives there, and yet we still received a submission from there. The internet is dope.