July 25, 2016

Our home is the Internet.

Photo credit: Molly Matalon

Photo credit: Molly Matalon

It was 2008, and you were probably on Myspace. Millions of us were captivated by this platform before the iPhone was even a concept. Then there was Facebook, which was cool for a while until us twentysomethings turned to Tumblr. Now, we’re teetering between Twitter and Instagram at any given point during the day. When one gets boring, we open the other. This goes on continuously until we refresh into a void. Welcome to “the Internet.”

We were brought up by way of URLs. And yet, pixelated interconnections have led to networks IRL — maybe there isn’t always such a difference between the digital and the “real.” In the summer of 2013, sparked by multiple conversations about identity and our own intertwining experiences, Shade Zine became more than just a dream to us.

What we had recognized was an emptiness within the world wide web: Where were all the voices of black and brown kids like us — creating, surviving, existing? We have always existed; it was just a matter of unlocking a space where our community could thrive. Tumblr had been a safe space for us in our early college years. Today, it still stands as one of the best platforms for community and activism among our favorite social media outlets. Our dashboards have long been a haven for creative and emotive expression, and Shade’s intent was to see itself in that circulation of imagery and to spread messages that inspired us. On Valentine’s Day 2014, we debuted with our first post, on self-love.

Photo credit: Azha Luckman

Photo credit: Azha Luckman

The platforms that raised us became the outlets for our movements. Think of all the digital archives and information we have at our disposal. There are grants and art funding in so many areas that we might not even imagine; just a quick search on Google for “Oakland art grants” yields thousands of results, including organizations that give grants like the Oakland Museum of CA, The City of Oakland, the California Arts Council, and Oaklandish. A lot of this money is allocated for public enrichment through art practice and education, making it crucial for us to encourage art communities and accessibility. We try to highlight particularly inspiring organizations, such as the East Side Arts Alliance, which is working on the Black Arts Movement Business District. The group’s website is full of art initiatives, workshops, and events that promote self-determined creativity, offering a guide to communities based in Oakland through healing and uplifting expressions.

We seek to innovate through inclusion, blending social media trends and communication. If we have access to certain knowledge or skillsets, those are pearls we want to pass on to our audience. Locally, we have made the effort to participate on creative panels and in art shows. Even this opportunity to participate in Open Space came about through a local spotlight in the East Bay Express.

Earlier this year we had work in What A Time To Be Alive, a show that revolved around conversations about social media platforms and the importance of our access to these platforms. Our digital age exposes the brutality of reality. Cell phones record evil at the hands of police while tabloids and trash mags circulate nonsensical news: our world is a contrast of realities. This art show was one way in which we try to use our knowledge and resources to create a space for meaningful conversation about our times.

Every piece of art we produce is a result of our intersecting identities. Shade Zine is a product of how the surrounding world views our existence. Our first print zine, SASSY, is a discussion of tone policing. It was sparked by Azha’s experiences as a black woman in a biased work space. She was frequently told that her actions and words were perceived as “sassy”; this accusation became a call to action. We interviewed our friends who have experienced mistreatment based on how strong, powerful, and vocal they are as women. This zine is our way of communicating with the world about what it is to be us. These tangible zines help create community and reliability. When you flip through one, we hope that you will you engage with something you may not have known, and grow as a result of this encounter.

There are so many channels for involvement in local art politics, and action needs to be taken. We were recently granted the opportunity to speak with the San Francisco City Council about art legislation in the Bay Area and how this affects working class creative communities in San Francisco and Oakland. We were the youngest voices in the room. It was us and one other woman of color in the room. These legislative spaces are predominantly white and male: there is a gap in reform and action in part because of a lack of representation, and a lopsided balance of power. Art, which can exist through institutions, can likewise suffer from similar disparities—it can become institutional. We encouraged everyone in that room to seek resources and learn about cultural centers that foster close connections to artists like us. We want to be a bridge.

Art accessibility in a digital age is central to us as a publication. Oftentimes, art is discussed in such stifling ways — our narratives reduce it to nothing but bourgeois musings, to be enjoyed only by those who might “understand” it. Yet art is not limited to a particular history or to museum walls: its reach is so much greater than this, which is why it’s crucial that we push for art in therapy, art in inner city education, art in public education, art in the mainstream media we consume.

As Shade Zine, we constantly work towards creating content that stays true to our vision and sparks constructive dialogue for those who participate. The work we cultivate is evolving, tangible, intentional, and real. Artists of color like us are often placed into boxes, inhibiting our creative expression. We are reduced to whatever politics people project onto our work. Creative resistance is not limited to the spoken or written word. We resist through sound, music, paint, design, film, photography, and collaboration. Our visions are our activism. Our unity is our resistance.

As a duo, our work is continually shaped by the ways in which our identities sync up to create a symbiosis. Though it is just the two of us curating our content, we have shared our vision and voice with a vast list of inspiring contributors. In part through countless hours spent thumbing through Instagram pages and hyperlinks, we’ve been able to forge a strong, ever-evolving network, a virtual family flooded with links. We are digital vanguards and tastemakers, and we have learned the power of perseverance and the importance of sharing.

As a way to acknowledge our gratitude, here’s a brief introduction to two of the most significant role models and friends we have had the pleasure of working with as Shade Zine has grown:

Sunday Los Angeles

Ada Rajkovic is the creator behind Sunday LA, an inclusionary space for arts education and enrichment. She is our fairy godmother. Before traveling the world, she opened up her LA studio to the community by hosting art shows and running what was formerly a shop right outside her bedroom. Ada has used her vision to fuel an important conversation around art accessibility. Though Sunday’s gallery doors are sadly no longer open, Ada continues to curate an Instagram filled with important resources, ranging from election information to films and books we should all keep an eye out for. Her commitment to Sunday LA is a perfect example of technological art activism with a purpose.


Art Hoe Collective

Since we witnessed its beginnings on our Tumblr dashboard, this hashtag has become a viral movement. Art Hoe Collective, founded by QPOC, is a resource and space for artists of color across all ages and artistic practices. Teen activist and curator Mars works with many other incredible individuals to facilitate empowerment. They exist to inspire and uplift work that is underrepresented with messages our community can relate to. Their mission is to help us find ways to portray and express ourselves in our own eyes. We look forward to seeing their upcoming interactive platform, which is projected for a 2016 release.


Shade Zine is bigger than us and this is just the beginning.

Black Lives Matter



The woman in red by @dariusxmoreno

A video posted by GLU NYC (@glunyc) on

Brown Grl Theory




Wine & Bowties

The House of Malico

Team work make the dream work.

A video posted by The House of Malico (@thehouseofmalico) on

Yetunde Olagbaju




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