Pandemic Chronicles, Volume 1

Black-and-white photograph of an older woman and a child embracing one another; both are standing outside and wearing handmade cloth face masks. The title of the zine and the name of all contributors is superimposed over the image.

Pandemic Chronicles, Volume 1 is a multidisciplinary, multimedia zine created in response to emergent cultural circumstances and the histories of social injustice that helped precipitate them. It is authored by the Pandemic Poetics Collective (Esther Belin, Titus Brooks Heagins, Mahogany L. Browne, André Leon Gray, Olmeca, ursula rucker, Jess X. Snow, and Chip Thomas, aka jetsonorama) and features additional work by Emory Douglas and others.

Initiated by an invitation from Chip Thomas, this project brings together a diverse group of artists to collectively bear witness, in solidarity, to this unprecedented moment in our shared histories. Originally designed as a means for participating artists to collaboratively respond to how the current pandemic is disproportionately affecting their communities, Pandemic Chronicles, Volume 1 quickly blossomed into an opportunity for the participants to offer their combined creative strength to a growing, international uprising against white supremacy and state violence.

Pandemic Chronicles, Volume 1 is divided into four chapters: Response; Life Goes On . . . ; Loss; and Hope, Redemption, and Empowerment. These groupings braid a series of deeply situated, individual perspectives into one another, in the hope that readers will benefit from the ways the collective reflections overlap and diverge. The zine’s DIY format is intended to encourage readers to form similar creative coalitions and to take direct, creative actions of their own in the name of a more just world.

Please hover over the images and click the arrows that appear at bottom right to advance through each section of the zine. Click on individual images or videos to enlarge.

RESPONSE recognizes the degree to which communities of color are always already prepared to respond to large-scale, systemic threats to physical health, psychological well-being, and the material means of everyday survival.

This chapter celebrates community-based forms of collective care and recognizes the beauty inherent in being able to be there for your people (and for yourself) in times of acute calamity.

It works to resist the notion that the crises we face are “natural,” inevitable, or acceptable.

LIFE GOES ON . . . considers how we can maintain a sense of balance and hold on to certain routines in a world turned upside down.

It works to hold space for new forms of living (and flourishing) despite the pall of anxiety and death cast by the coronavirus pandemic.

It evinces a need to speak to possibility, to speak truth to power, and to simply stand up for one another.

“Life Goes On . . . ” labors to understand how the present moment is generating new forms of responsibility, new abilities, and new ways to attend to the hardships and joys that befall us all.

LOSS links the work of mourning those lives lost as a result of the coronavirus pandemic with the complicated labor of witnessing, documenting, and archiving the murderous grammars of white supremacy and anti-Blackness that plague contemporary life.

It directly takes on this violence and works to account for the collective and individual feelings of anguish and anger instigated by the loss of so many Black lives.

It attests to the poignancy of certain shared senses of identification forged between those who have been subjected to white supremacy’s dehumanizing gaze, and it works to avoid metabolizing anti-Black violence, or normalizing it, through its overabstraction or displacement.

HOPE, REDEMPTION, EMPOWERMENT pictures a present that is pregnant with the hope of a more equitable future.

It looks back to ancestral spirits, to freedom fighters, and to our early revolutionaries in order to recognize how the spaces we are currently holding down in the name of justice and equity were made possible through their beliefs, struggles, and hard work.

It documents what empowerment looks and feels like, while arguing that redemption will not come from without; it must be forged within our complicated, diverse communities using the power that we hold in common and in defiance of the status quo.

It celebrates connections that will break through border walls. It praises love and laughter. It holds open the space of belief.


In addition to its digital publication in Art Journal Open, a small print run of Pandemic Chronicles, Volume 1 will be available via Justseeds in December.

Pandemic Poetics Collective is Esther Belin, Titus Brooks Heagins, Mahogany L. Browne, André Leon Gray, Olmeca, ursula rucker, Jess X. Snow, and Chip Thomas, aka jetsonorama. For full biographies, see the slideshow above, and to learn more, please follow the artists’ links.

Pandemic Chronicles, Volume 1 also features the artwork and poetry of X Alfonso, Emory Douglas, Sierra Edd, Jaden Fields, Thea Gahr, J. S. Ondara, and Yu Tamura.