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wikipedia scholarship in the cfprt by Kearra Amaya Gopee

Last Fall, I started working at CFPRT as the Wiki Scholar. Working primarily from the Darby Romeo Collection of Zines, I have been writing and improving Wikipedia articles about Black people involved in Los Angeles’s punk, hardcore, and performance scenes form the late 80s to early 90s. Currently, I am developing a page on Sean DeLear, front-person of popular band Glue, as well as providing heavy edits to performance artist and musician Vaginal Davis's page.

In the 90s, due to the influence of riot-grrrl and the Internet, zines were in heavy circulation. With bands such as Bikini Kill and L7 putting forward feminist manifestos that championed the acts of communal resource sharing and self-publishing, zines quickly began proliferating across the west coast to the majority of North America, and ultimately abroad. Much overlooked, however, is the Black presence in these scenes. From my research in the Romeo archive, musicians such as Monic Reynolds of the Motor Dolls, Stew (both as a solo act and as part of the band The Negro Problem), Arthur Lee of Love, as well as Karla Duplantier of The Controllers, among others, have come to the fore. The zines in the Darby Romeo Collection range in their reach—these zines functioned as articulations of locally shared sentiment and mutual affection for a variety of subject matter across the scene. Unfortunately, beyond the zines, not much material about these bands exist in the public domain, which makes developing Wikipedia pages for them difficult. However, even in the act of identifying them, one can begin to make inroads towards finding more.

Scan of an article featuring Stew and The Negro Problem in Volume 3, Issue 16 of Strobe magazine, June/July 1996. Written by Jen Hitchcock, photograph by Carol Sheridan.

Sean DeLear, affectionately known by many as Seandy, fronted the band Glue and was a fixture in the Los Angeles scene. Raised in Simi Valley, California, DeLear was one of the only Black people in his neighbourhood. In a 1995 issue of Strobe magazine, DeLear detailed the travails of his teenaged years as well as the energy of Glue’s fanbase. His vocal style was described by journalist Mara Schwartz as not, “torch [but] melodic punk: he’s like a cross between Kurt and Courtney, with a hefty dose of Diana Ross.” Tracing DeLear’s archival presence has proven to be rewarding at moments, while deflating at others: many journalists opted to focus their attention on interrogating the perceived spectacle of Sean’s performances (both on stage and in terms of gender/race), rather generating holistic reports that include nuances of his upbringing or Glue’s musical stylings. He appeared on a popular cover of Ben is Dead and began living between Los Angeles and Vienna, Austria shortly thereafter, where he passed away from complications stemming from liver cancer in 2017. A film about his life is in development.

June/July 1995 cover of Volume 2, Issue 12 of Strobe magazine featuring Sean DeLear (left) and Glue.
Scan of an article featuring Glue in Volume 3, Issue 16 of Strobe magazine, June/July 1995. Written by Mara Schwartz, photograph by Carol Sheridan.

Vaginal Creme Davis is a performance artist and musician from California, who now resides in Berlin, Germany. Davis rose to prominence in the LA’s punk scene through her own zine, Fertile LaToya Jackson. Chronicling the fictional life of Fertile, a pregnant teenager, the zine was then developed into a series of videos produced and directed by Davis herself, many of which can still be viewed on YouTube.

In addition to her own zine practice, Davis fronted several bands. These included the Afro Sisters, Pedro, Muriel and Esther (PME), and most notoriously, ¡Cholita!, in which she assumed the persona of a 13 and a half year old girl alongside bandmates Alice Bag and Fertile. Hailed by the late scholar José Esteban Muñoz as the originator of what he termed “terrorist drag,” Davis has long been lauded as a transgressor of queer stereotype who in turn generates new meaning as often as she rewrites them. Davis has had a Wikipedia page for some time but I had the pleasure of incorporating new material to it from zines in the Romeo collection such as Fizz and Coagula.

Scan of an article featuring Vaginal Davis in Issue 6 of Fizz magazine, 1996. Written by Jim Jones, photograph on the right by Curt Doughty. (1/2)
Scan of an article featuring Vaginal Davis in Issue 6 of Fizz magazine, 1996. Written by Jim Jones, photograph on the right by Curt Doughty. (2/2)
Scan of an article featuring PME in Volume 3, Issue 16 of Strobe magazine, June/July 1996. Written by Steven Gizicki, photograph by Carol Sheridan.

In conclusion, I hope that my ongoing investigation into the Zine archive will yield more discoveries about these prolific performers and their lives while attracting more patrons to the repository.

Credits:

Images from Darby Romeo Collection of Zines (Collection 1746). Library Special Collections, Charles E. Young Research Library, UCLA. ©Regents of University of California