We Are Everywhere: Lesbians in the Archive

Aché: The Power to Make Things Happen, Part I

Aché Staff at Lisbet’s House, 1990

Lisbet Tellefsen (left) and Pippa Ann Fleming

In 1989, Pippa Fleming and Lisbet Tellefsen founded Aché, a free publication for and about Black lesbians in the San Francisco Bay Area. Aché magazine quickly grew into The Aché Project, a community that brought together Black queer women around the world. Over its five-year run, Aché committed itself to building an accessible space where Black lesbians could share resources, publish work, and build community. Fifteen years after Aché’s dissolution, Tellefsen described isolation as a central hardship of the queer experience: “One of the things that I feel is universal no matter what era you come up in is a sense of isolation,” the “feeling that you are the only one.” Aché gave community members the tools to fight this feeling, replacing isolation with connection and invisibility with power.

Journal Committee

Paula Ross

Aché Project March

Dee Ann Davis (left) and Ekua Omosupe

Skye Ward

An early community flyer.

Aché’s role as a community resource did not end when the magazine stopped. To Tellefsen, archiving was an act of community care, undertaken “so that other groups of women trying to organize and do work will have it a little easier.” Blurring the line between “archivist” and “activist,” Tellefsen documented every aspect of Aché, from inception to disincorporation, producing a remarkably complete archive that contains photographs of board members, event flyers, grant applications, and more. Before Issue 1 was published, Tellefsen and Fleming sent out flyers, pictured on the right, asking community members to share resources via mail, so that the magazine “may come to be shaped in each of our own images.”

Tellefsen’s work builds on the self-archiving of previous generations of lesbian historians like Silvia Dobson. Tellefsen’s archive is the first hit when one searches “lesbian” in Beinecke’s catalog. It self-identifies for the explicit purpose of making itself legible to future lesbians.

Translated, Aché, means “so be it,” “may it happen.” From the beginning, Tellefsen and Fleming wanted Aché to serve as a community bulletin board for Black lesbians. The questionnaire draft and early to-do list below shows Tellefsen’s intention to compile lists of Black publications, organizations, and professionals that could later be gathered into a “resource guide” for the magazine.

The below pen-and-ink “IF A /FUTURE/” doodle, from the cover of Tellefsen’s planning binder, suggests Aché’s purpose as a place where Black lesbians could come together to imagine a more united future.

In the early stages of Aché, Tellefsen and Fleming profiled each other, documenting their goals and dreams for the magazine. These handwritten notes from the interview reveal that Tellefsen and Fleming both saw Aché as a tool Black lesbians could use to empower themselves and each other. Fleming describes how, before Aché, she “was dying from the inside out.” In Aché she found community, and in community she found power.