Black women in hardcore punk and metal

Afro Toronto‘s Laina Dawes has written a new book called “What Are You Doing Here?: A Black Woman’s Life and Liberation in Heavy Metal” about black female musicians and fans within the metal, hardcore, and punk scenes.

The book is due out in October 2012.


Dawes commented:

Yes, I know it’s been a long time.

A lot of things have been going on…some very good, like the book cover you see within this post, and some not-so good, which I’ll get to in a minute.

About the book: Yes, after four years it is finally going o be out in September!!!! YAY!

Here is some additional info about the book ( taken from the Bazillion Points Website:

ISBN 978-1-935950-05-9
Softcover 6″ x 9″, 240pp
Coming September 2012

What Are You Doing Here? investigates how black women musicians and fans navigate the metal, hardcore, and punk music genres that are regularly thought of as inclusive spaces and centered on a community spirit, but fail to block out the race and gender issues that exist in the outside world.

“We can neither reflectively choose our color identity nor downplay its social significance simply by willing it to be unimportant… but our color no more binds us to send a predetermined group message to our fellow human beings than our language binds us to convey predetermined thoughts.”—Amy Gutmann

“Sometimes I think nothing is simple but the feeling of pain.”—Lester Bangs

I’ll be the first to admit that, like any other book, What Are You Doing Here?is partly self-serving. I wanted to find other black women like me: metal, hardcore, and punk fans and musicians that were rabid about the music and culture and adamant about asserting their rightful place as black women within those scenes. I wanted to find other women who put aside the cultural baggage that dictates that we must listen to certain musical styles, and simply enjoy the music that influenced us, not just as black women, but as individuals who grew up in an era when, thanks to technology, a large variety of music is accessible and available to everyone. I found many black women and have shared their stories, but I also realize there is still a lot of work to be done.

Table of Contents:

Introduction – lead up to why the book was created ( I wrote an essay on Skunk Anansie’s Stiffed album for the anthology Marooned:The Next Generation of Desert Island Discs in 2007, which inspired me to write this book).

1. Canadian Steel (about my personal experiences as a black women in metal)

2. Metal Can Save Your Life (or at Least Your Sanity) – Discovery of freedom / liberation in metal, punk, hardcore music

3. We Were Here First – history of black participation in music, from the blues era to punk and metal

4. The ‘Only One’ Syndrome – being the only -or one of a few -black people at a show. Interactions and dynamics

5. So You Think You’re White? – Criticisms from friends and/or family members in being black in the metal, punk and hardcore scenes

6. Chapter 6. Too Black, Too Metal, and All Woman – Black female sexuality in the metal scene

7. Not a Whites-Only Scene: Fighting Racism in Metal

8. Get the Music Business Out Of the Way – Advice to women musicians from music artists, industry workers

Epilogue – Final comments about the book and interviewees and results from the surveys I distributed during the research phase of the book.

Plans in the upcoming months: I’ll be planning a book launch / concert in Brooklyn this fall. It’s still too early to give you a date or the performers that will (hopefully) be playing, but please stay tuned.

In addition, I plan to create two additional sites. One will be dedicated to What Are You Doing Here? and the other one will be focused on a ‘Zine in which I am slowly starting to create. I will be looking for contributors in the next couple of months and will post here as to who and what I’m looking for. Just need to get my thoughts organized………

As for this blog, I hope to keep on posting here but because I am in a very transitional phase – I got laid off my job in March and have been editing, freelancing and attending Maryland Deathfest V (you can read a review at The Offering – click on the “Articles” link in the sidebar; or check out Exclaim – I just did the photos; or my photos via Flickr), and simply hustling. It’s been an exciting time, but also pretty stressful.

As for the Zine: In April (or May, I can’t remember) I attended a chi-chi photography exhibit, as my friend had a photo on display for a contest ( he placed 2nd – Yay!). Anyway, my best friend and I were the only black people in the very packed room, and there were the usual looks of WTF? from the other attendees, and you could tell they wondered why we were there. As usual I felt a bit fustrated at the whole situation and feeling very uncomfortable in the city in which I’ve resided for two decades, and I came up with the name of a….well at the time, a ‘project’ that I’d been thinking of doing for awhile, but didn’t know what kind of format I’d create it in. Thanks to a lovely friend of mine, I decided to go with an old-school ‘Zine format.

I don’t feel entirely comfortable revealing the name right now, but the theme of the Z’ine – which will be available in print only – but I’ll have a blog so you can get snippets of the content and order it – is based on articles, essays and interviews with people who are creating, participating and working in art scenes where it is commonly thought they don’t belong. The ‘not belonging’ might be based on their ethnicity, gender, age or ability (physical and otherwise). I wanted a space where I could write about issues and about people that it is difficult to publish in mainstream formats ( yes, even this blog…..I’m loking for a job, y’all)! I also want to do some album reviews – most likely metal / hardcore – centric, ’cause that’s where I’m at. I have some stuff to do but hope to have at least one issue out by September, when the book comes out.

Anyway, sorry for the delay but please visit me again in the upcoming months for more information on the book, the launch(es) and other stuff.

Check out “Women Write Women’s Experiences in Music” conference at SXSW Festival 2010:

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