In celebration of the last weeks of the exhibit “Kids of the Black Hole: The First Two Decades of Punk in Orange County,” the Leatherby Libraries held a panel on Thursday, December 5th, giving voice to women who grew up in the punk scene of Southern California. Stacy Russo, who led the panel, is the author of We Were Going to Change the World: Interviews with women from the 1970s and 1980s Southern California punk rock sceneJoining her at the panel were Kirsten Meekins, Angelita Figueroa Salas, Kathy Rodgers, and Laura Beth Bachman, who were all interviewed for the book.

Although the five women grew up in different parts of Southern California, from Oxnard down to San Diego, and each got into the punk rock scene differently, their stories revealed several common experiences. Each of them spoke about feeling like an outsider in their communities before finding the punk scene, and expressed how important the punk scene was, specifically because it offered them a place where they felt they belonged. Along with offering a sense of belonging, several of the panelists spoke about how liberating they found the punk scene to be, particularly as women. While family members or classmates outside of the scene may have criticized them for not dressing feminine enough, or not fitting a specific model of womanhood, the punk scene was more understanding of however they chose to express themselves as women.

Stacy Russo’s intention with the book was to share the stories that don’t get heard as often. A member of the punk rock scene since her adolescence, Stacy increasingly noticed how much attention was paid to the stories of the musicians of the punk rock scene, and to men’s stories in particular. She wanted to share more stories, to listen to the stories of women who grew up in the punk rock scene, to people who were fans, and to share those stories alongside more privileged stories. In her opening remarks at the panel, she spoke about the power of stories, and the courage involved in both telling and listening to stories. “Readers can see themselves in the book,” Stacy said, “and that makes them feel validated.”

In response to one audience question, all of the panelists expressed their relationship with the punk rock scene in the simplest way: “Did the punk rock scene make you different from your peers, or did you join the scene because you were already different?” an audience member asked. “A little bit of both!” Laura Beth Bachman answered, and everyone else nodded in agreement.

Five women sit at a table covered in a blue tablecloth, with microphones in front of them

L. to r.: Laura Beth Bachman, Kathy Rodgers, Angelita Figueroa Salas, Kirsten Meekins, Stacy Russo