I had been a spokesperson once, but I wasn’t anymore. After that training, I committed to developing tools and providing training for people who did not otherwise have access to communications and media training: people of color, women, and trans and gender non-conforming people. People with rich experiences and stories that illustrate the systems at play in our society.
I experimented with radical self-reflection this year. My goal was to understand what prompts me to be out of step with what I value and believe, to tinker with discomfort, and crack open what I pushed down, shoved away, and ignored. I started by asking questions.
We all want to belong because belonging is an intrinsic survival strategy that kept us from being ostracized or killed in primitive societies. How we dress is one way we demonstrate belonging, and whether we like it or not, how we dress and what brands we associate with signal to other people the group in society we belong to or want to belong to … [At ComplexCon] the people trafficking in these exclusive wares were predominantly white kids—or well-to-do kids of color—who measure their belonging not by kinship but by how much access one has to exclusive brands. Belonging then becomes something you can pay for and negotiate, instead of something born out of struggle and resilience.
I’m planning to open a modern speakeasy. It’s a long-term project, something I want to build slowly, with a lot of attention to detail, over time. I put my first coins away, set my intentions, and now I’m ready for discovery. Discovery is where I do all of my research: finding out what it takes to open and run a bar, figuring out where can I afford to buy, and deciding whom to hire to help me. I also get to ideate on fun stuff like names, concepts for décor, and how I’ll get involved with the community—eep! So many questions. So, today I started with a tour of Kings County Distillery, New York City’s oldest and largest whiskey distillery, the first since prohibition.
Elections feel a lot like the hunger games; each team prepares year-round for a culminating battle and brandishes weapons in the form of political attack ads, lawsuits, mobilizing violent mobs, or using dog-whistles to wake up sleeping giants who massacre people in synagogues. They’re rife with competition, fear, and scandal. If elections reveal a blueprint to genuine freedom and healthy co-existence, it’s lost on me. When we cast our ballots, we are voting for two Americas–where some people are in, and other people are out. Pundits said this election was the most important of our lifetime. I don't know about that, but it upheld that we’re not only on different pages politically, we’re not even in the same library.
Our fears are shaped by the people around us; by what we see, hear, and read; and by our experiences. If I burn my hand on the stove, I’ll be afraid to get close to the stove again. This election season’s political commercials and radio ads using language like “illegal aliens” incites fear of immigrants and refugees. When we see our family members and friends stereotype people because of how they look and where they’re from, that stokes fear too. And sometimes we’re afraid because we’re losing control and things feel unpredictable—a pervasive fear often used to justify why so many white people voted for Donald Trump in 2016.