“Are the waters rising or receding? Or just passing through?”
[video ID: a slowly moving river with the sky and trees reflected off the surface]
Honoring the history of the porch, the home, the waters, and Black, queer women led publishing projects as sites of revolution, Porch Water Press is a publishing house with the purpose of uplifting and celebrating the particular now-ness of young artistic life. At the nexus of crises - climate change, political upheaval, rising fascism - and the amazing communities working to love, hope, and transform despite/amongst the noise, Porch Water Press is an archive of this time in history, proof that we been here, and will continue to be here. We are both somebody’s baby and future ancestors, finding, creating, and preparing a world better than the one we’ve been given. We are a publishing house that will uplift writing, art, music, and further creative work of our community, especially Black, Indigenous, Artists of Color, Low-Income folks, Queer, Trans community members. This work will be uplifted on our instagram, hosted on our website (creative ecosystem/digital garden), and physically printed in seasonal zines and publications.
As a collective, we are inspired by other Black women led political and literary projects including the Combahee River Collective, Kitchen Table Press, and more.
[ID: The Combahee River Collective in 1974. Left to right bottom: Demita Frazier and Helen Stewart. Left to right top: Margo Okazawa-Rey, Barbara Smith, Beverly Smith, Chirlane McCray, and Mercedes Tompkins.]
[ID: Barbara Smith, Audre Lorde, Cherríe Moraga and Hattie Gossett, co-founders of Kitchen Table: Women of Color Press in 1980.]
Barbara Smith, co-founder of Kitchen Table Press, named it so because the kitchen table is “the center of the home, the place where women in particular work and communicate with each other.” Similarly, Porch Water Press is honoring the porch as a radical space of community meeting, where the home meeting the world around us, meets the land, meets what happens outside our front doors.
As Porch Water Press, our nia, (meaning purpose in Swahili) is to create an archive of our lives, to honor interconnections between our political and artistic struggles, and the ways we find and build community despite the deluge. We are here because our people, our people's people, and back and back and back made a way out of no way. We are here because our beloved ancestors (blood, found, chosen, etc) loved us before they knew our names.
Many of our ancestor's names, stories, and journeys weren't recorded, whether because of violent colonial archival erasure or because they themselves had to operate in ways that evaded the archive - creating maroon societies, passing secret messages through song around the campfire, braiding messages into quilts and hair. Our people have always balanced discernment - worked creatively to both build solidarity and protect themselves from surveillance and other forms of colonial record.
In other worlds, our artists, our activists, our organizers, our aunties used art and other forms of imaginative creativity to honor the truths of our experiences. Through music, writing, art. In spite of forced assimilation, our people created spaces where we could talk amongst ourselves, talk together, recognizing that our freedom and liberation would require us to know and honor our own stories and power.
For those in power, these tactics were treated as an affront. Ancestor Toni Morrison, when discussing her creative process of writing as a Black woman writer, said "I stood at the border, stood at the edge, and claimed it as central. Claimed it as central and let the rest of the world move over to where I was." (Toni Morrison)
Porch Water Press is inspired by this invocation - publishing stories and other artistic expression that takes seriously the necessity of placing our community - Black, Trans, Queer, Indigenous, Working Class, Disabled, further marginalized - in the absolute center, speaking for and amongst ourselves. Another ancestor, bell hooks, thinks similarly about this tactic. She writes,
“Our living depends on our ability to conceptualize alternatives, often improvised. Theorizing about this experience aesthetically, critically is an agenda for radical cultural practice. For me this space of radical openness is a margin— a profound edge. Locating oneself there is difficult yet necessary. It is not a “safe” place. One is always at risk. One needs a community of resistance … As such, I was not speaking of a marginality one wishes to lose— to give up or surrender as part of moving into the center—but rather of a site one stays in, clings to even, because it nourishes one’s capacity to resist. It offers to one the possibility of radical perspective from which to see and create, to imagine alternatives, new worlds.”
bell hooks, from "Choosing the Margin as a Space of Radical Openness" (148 - 149)
May Porch Water Press serve as a space for us to bring our full selves and leave respectability at the door. May this be a garden, fertile soil for us to place down roots. May we grow unruly and tall, different sizes and shapes that nourish each other, like the three sisters of corn, beans, and squash. May we form a "community of resistance" that "nourishes [our] capacity to resist." We are not interested in "integrating into [the] burning house" (Rev Dr. Martin Luther King Jr) that is the mainstream literary publishing world. We are interested in meeting at the porch, meeting at the water, and meeting on the land to imagine and work towards a more libratory future for us all. asé.
- The Porch Water Press Editors, 2023