Digital Project Welcomes East Village Other, Others

It was a good week for Independent Voices, the underground/alternative/literary press digital project that has consumed the better part of my last four years. I won’t detail every connection I made with rights holders or prospective rights holders. Getting an official okay can take many weeks and require my sending of multiple reminders. That’s just the nature of email communication. This project has taught me patience.

Today, I’ll just mention a few of the major agreements that I received.

After a long campaign to find out who the rights holder was, I was thrilled—yes, that’s still an understatement—to welcome East Village Other and Gothic Blimp Works to the project. I ended up not finding one rights holder. Rather, I sent my invitation to a list of every EVO veteran I could find, and even some folks peripheral to EVO who weren’t really in a position to say yes or no anyhow but might have been able to provide input, and then I responded to everyone who got back to me. I found strong support for being included, and no opposition, which is what I anticipated. EVO was one of the most important underground papers of the Vietnam era and was one of the first five members of Underground Press Syndicate, the first nationwide network of underground papers. In fact, as the story goes, the name Underground Press Syndicate came out of their office. Gothic Blimp Works had a brief run of eight issues in 1969. It was published by EVO and was billed as “the first Sunday underground comic paper.”

Along the way, I developed a nice email friendship with veteran Alex Gross. I’m currently reading his memoir, The Untold 60s: When Hope Was Born: An Insider’s Sixties on an International Scale. It’s a huge book, approaching 700 pages, but it’s a fast, enjoyable read, taking on his adventures in England, Germany, and the United States, including his time with East Village Other and London’s first underground paper, International Times (a.k.a. IT).

Another major paper to come on board was Southern Patriot, published by legendary civil rights organizer Anne Braden. I got the okay from her son, who is her estate executor. Along with Independent Voices, we are developing other Civil Rights- and Vietnam-era digital collections, including the archives of Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), the archives of the Highlander Center, and the news packets and photos of Liberation News Service. Having connected to Jim Braden, we’re now talking about creating the Anne Braden Digital Archives. Just in the talking stage so far but exciting to me.

Meanwhile, speaking of the East Village Other, I should mention that three new literary publications that have recently come on board are Yardbird Reader, Y’Bird, and Quilt, all co-published by EVO co-founder Ishmael Reed, who gave me the okay.

Other recent additions to the literary collection: Reflections from Chapel Hill, Personal Injury, Fire Exit, Not Guilty, d.a. levy’s The Marrahwanna Quarterly, and the feminist Earth’s Daughters.

And then I topped off the week by getting the okay from Tessa Koning-Martinez, daughter of Elizabeth “Betita” Martinez, to include El Grito del Norte (The Northern Call), an important bi-lingual (Spanish and English) paper from New Mexico, co-founded by Betita and attorney Beverly Axelrod, that covered news of the Chicano movement, workers’ struggles, and Latino political prisoners from 1968 to 1973). I thank Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz for connecting me to Tessa.

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