Observations, Self, Social Justice

on maybe just thinking casually about the possibility of considering going temporarily vegetarian.

Given the fact that my latest date– a guy I’d only been out with a few times but who I thought had some relationship potential– had been cancelled (he dumped me. It’s a trend these days; all the cool kids are doing it!), I found myself with a free evening.

I then remembered that my dear friend Nandita had invited me to see a movie. If you’ve read for a while, you may remember that Nandita is the angel who invited me to the Jam. She’s artistic, she’s gentle, she’s fierce, she’s loyal, she’s grace-full, and she’s super hippie.

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Isn’t she loooooooveleeeeey?

I worry about being one of those girls who forgets about her friends when a new boy comes along, so I was embarrassed that I had even planned a date for that night in the first place. I hurried straight to the theatre to meet Nandita after work.

The place was packed, and I could barely squeeze through the theatre doors. Nandita had promised to save me a seat, but when I got inside, I was surprised to see she was sitting in the middle of a row of people: her parents, her uncle, her boyfriend, and two other friends. Leave it to Dia to invite everyone she knew to a movie about climate change.

The saved seat was next to a friend of hers from college, so we chatted for a few minutes before the film began. Someone was passing around a sign-up sheet for email updates from the director.

Honestly? The movie wasn’t anything to write home about. The director seemed very into his own face and his own thoughts and feelings. Which I would’ve been okay with if he had been honest about his own lack of efficacy, his smallness in the grand scheme of these “climate change wars” he described, if he’d been less visible and less upheld in the stories he told about native activists from other cultures — if he’d been more humble. But instead, several of the storylines seemed only to aggrandize him, glorifying his small personal victories against anti-climate-change officials. There were also a lot– a lot– of shots of him playing the banjo.

I have a hard time getting past things I don’t like in movies. What was good about the film was the way the director highlighted how art, communal feeling and experience, and creative direct action can form a kind of protected(/ing) island in the midst of the sea of climate change (which we will literally all be swimming in by 2036, if the film’s scientists are correct.) Lots of climate change films seem to focus on science and fear and politics. This one focused on art, and love. That was good!

The section that really struck a nerve, though, was the part that talked about energy production and consumption: specifically, about how much energy is consumed in the production of meat energy for mah belly. I love meat. I love hamburgers. I was vegan for a hot sec and vegetarian for around 2 years in college, but DAMN all I wanted the ENTIRE time was a burger.

And before any of you vegetarian enthusiasts (yay you!) tell me I just wasn’t doing it right (eating enough protein, combining food properly, getting enough vitamins and minerals), I was. 😀 I strongly believe that some people’s bodies are just not suited to vegetarian diets, and that that’s okay as long  as those can source their food ethically.

Unfortunately, my neighborhood may technically qualify as a food desert; and if it doesn’t, it definitely doesn’t have access to fresh organic meats and produce.

But hearing how quickly we’re headed toward climate-change-induced oblivion is making me reconsider buying the highly processed, inhumanely raised, and energy-guzzling meat at my supermarket.

So this is a very long  post to announce that I’m kinda thinking about possibly going veg.

Any tips appreciated! Share them in the comments.

xoxo m.

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Self, Social Justice, Writing

Yes! let’s jam.

Q: What is a jam?

A: A delicious spreadable fruit-based condiment to be slathered on bread with butter, traditionally consumed in the morning but also at night by people who just can’t get enough toast. Duh.

Other A: a creative gathering for people working at the intersection of arts and social change to come together, reflect, share our challenges and breakthroughs, nurture ourselves, support and inspire each other.

Fortunately for me, I get to have BOTH kinds of jams in my life! About a year ago, my dear friend Nandita attended a gathering in central Cali and came back a different gal. Or rather, the same gal, but more hopeful, energized, and fulfilled. This gathering was the 2015 Arts for Social Change Jam, which I understood as a networking/ group therapy/ art-making workshop for creative types. This year, she was selected as one of the facilitators and she begged (okay, casually invited) me to apply. Although it was a stretch to think of myself as an artist, I did.

via Yes! World

I was super honest in my application essays– about the fact that I’m not really sure it’s possible to earn a decent living while making a career out of helping people; about my stressed relationship with money; about whether art can really change the world; about how little art I’ve produced lately. It was less a personal sell than a “I don’t think you’d want me, but if you did, I’d sure be glad.”

Somehow, though, something in that real talk caught the admissions team’s eye(s?) and I got in!. So on April 5th, I’m flying out to sunny San Francisco (and then likely hopping in a van to drive for several more hours) to attend the 2016 Arts for Social Change Jam in Ben Lomond, CA.

I have very little idea what to expect in terms of concrete activities, but here’s what the website says I can expect to think about:

 

  • What is my story as an artist?
  • How are we to be sustainable and valued for our artistic gifts?
  • What does success look like for artivists? Where am I challenged as an artivist? What does it even mean to be an artivist?
  • How do we collaborate as artivists across mediums, modalities, and issue focuses?
  • How do we create an enduring support network of people using their creative passions for social change?
  • How do our diverse identities relate to us as artists and as activists, and how do we build bridges across those identities with each other?
  • What feels like the purpose and value of artist-activists in these particular times?

Sounds cool, right?! This opportunity couldn’t be coming at a better time. I recently ended a (short) kind-of relationship and am starting a new full-time job next month, so it feels like a great way to kick off what hopefully will be a year of rooting down and finding some personal stability.

xoxo

m.

 

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Self, Social Justice, Uncategorized

where to put that extra christmas cash you might get from returning unwanted gifts.

It happens every year: the influx of gifts you don’t want. A well-meaning aunt gives you a grown-up size of the bejeweled sweater you loved in 7th grade. Grandma gifts you the fourth mug in a row. Your sister gives you a shirt you actually like so much you’ve already bought it for yourself.

Might I make a suggestion?

Please don’t, you think; but it’s too late.

Instead of exchanging the item for something else (aka spend two hours scouring the store for something you actually want), why not take the money from the return process and donate it to one of the following charities? Each of these is an organization close to my heart, but which serves a wide variety of people.

Oregon Extension logo

The Oregon Extension: a unique alternative semester-abroad. Students (like I used to be) “can settle into our mountain hideaway in the southern Oregon Cascades for a four-month conversation with professors and peers who love to read books, ask big questions, and confront big ideas.” Participants “move out of the current where [they] can think about issues that tug at [them], cultivate friendships, feel the touch of the breeze in the forest, listen to the stream in the canyon, and reach some understanding about what things mean and why they are worth caring about.”

Amirah | From Exploitation to LiberationAmirah Boston: “a faith-based nonprofit organization located in the Boston area that strives to provide a refuge for those seeking to break free from exploitation and heal in community on their journey toward lasting hope… by providing safe homes for those that want to break free from sexual exploitation, mobilizing the greater community to create opportunities for healing, restoration and reintegration.

Picture The Homeless

Picture the Homeless: An organizing group that “was founded and is led by homeless people. [They] refuse to accept being neglected and we demand that our voices and experience are heard at all levels of decision-making that impact us. [They] oppose the quality of life laws that criminalize homeless people in any form by the city, state and national governments[,] work to change these laws and policies, [and]challenge the root causes of homelessness.”

I’m curious: what organizations do you care about and support? 

xoxo, m.

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Observations, Self, Social Justice, Spirituality

hello, st. louis!

I’ve got 20 minutes to create this post with the airport’s free wifi, but I wanted to give a shout out to mahself because it’s my birthday on Friday! The big 2-5. I’m currently sitting in SLA waiting for my (late) brother to pick me up; we’ll spend the day here in the city, then drive back to Columbia where he lives with his girlfriend (whom I’ve never met until now!) They met in the Peace Corps in Burkina Faso and then upon their return to the US they moved almost immediately to the Midwest. I plan to treat this excursion like a real vacation: hopefully I’ll get to do a little writing, go hiking, yoga myself to sleep, and enjoy time away from screens.

Tritely, I can’t say this year has turned out like I expected. But in many ways that’s a good thing. I broke up with the bf, and while that has been a much more twisty, complicated process than I wanted it to be, it was absolutely the right choice, and didn’t leave me feeling as confused and hopeless as I thought it would. I have begun attending a new church that draws on good scholarship, art, and embodied experience, that serves its community, and glorifies God with as much humility as I could hope a church could. I started this blog (!) to keep me accountable for noticing the world around me, and it’s done that. I have kept my New Year’s resolution of exercising 30 minutes/ day (!!!). And I have finally started shelling out for grown-up foundation that doesn’t make my face break out and actually draws people to compliment my skin (which still, lol, is rare, but has never happened before a month ago.)

My prayers for next year are big-picture: for wisdom on where to live after I quit New York (which won’t be toooo soon, but is certainly on the horizon); for more friends in the city with whom I can talk issues of justice and race and gender; and for career guidance on what sort of job roles I should be searching for. But mostly, they’re for the harmony of strength and peace and joy that (sometimes–dry spells are a real thang) accompany the pursuit of truth and justice in God.

Much love,

mel.

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Design, Self, Social Justice

odds and ends.

What are you all up to this weekend? I have to work, but I’m also looking forward to finishing The Spiral Staircase and doing some writing. Hope these links will see you off to a great start 🙂

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Stunning paintings and prints by my dear friend Kait Stockwell at Larkspur and Laurel.

What I’m reading next. 

This movie looks devastating but so good (and this one was sneakily riveting, too.)

Classic gray couches for every budget (even mine!)

What I’m doing for my birthday. 

An amazing organization run by and for the homeless in NYC on issues of human rights, housing, police, and others.

xoxo,

mel.

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Self, Social Justice, Spirituality

help wanted: people with short term volunteer experiences

Hello, fellow bloggers! I’m writing an essay on short term volunteer-abroad experiences, and I need your input! If you’ve been on a short term (3 months or less) missions OR volunteer trips, send me a message or comment about how you felt about it.

What did you expect going in, and how did the trip prove or differ from that? How did it impact you? Do you feel that short term trips are valuable or harmful or both, and in what ways? WRITE ME, PEOPLE. SERIOUSLY. THIS IS FOR GRAD SCHOOL. I NEED TO GRADUATE.

I’m also curious. Years ago I went to India for three months to research gender roles and sex trafficking, and I ended up doing absolutely nothing to do with that. I did a bit of teaching, a lot of baking, and writing elementary school lesson plans about environmental sustainability. Coincidentally, I also did a lot of shitting and a lot of picking lice out of my hair and killing cockroaches and scratching mosquito bites. And yoga, and laughing, and reading incredible books, and drinking beer under the stars.

Before I left, my grandmother told me in the car that she was proud of me for traveling so far to spread God’s love. I hated letting her down, so I just told her thanks. But I wasn’t interested in being “a light,” in so far as that meant trying to convert people. I just wanted to learn about these things I was interested in, and if someone saw God in me because I was kind or empathetic or genuine, so be it. And you know what? I think the only conversion experience had that summer was mine.

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Self, Social Justice

a response to Jezebel’s “I Don’t Know What to Do About Good White People.”

Before anyone reads this, I should say that you should read the article I’m referencing first. It’s really good, reads like a literary essay, and thought-provoking. Also thought-provoking (and angering, and saddening, and challenging) are the comments below it.

(Also before I begin, let me just ask: are the comment threads online really what people think about things? What role does online posting play in what we’re referring to when we say things like “Everybody knows that,” or “Most liberals think this,” or “Our generation behaves x way”?)

Anyway. I read Bennett’s piece on Jezebel, and immediately felt frustrated. I was frustrated because it seemed that there was no way for me as a white person to take an appropriate or “right” stance concerning race relations and approaches to issues like the recent racist police shootings. It seems like I’ve read all these articles by various black writers and heard just as much advice on how white people should respond. I felt like, “So what am I supposed to do? What do you want from me?”

I’m not the sort of “good white person” she refers to, I don’t think, because I don’t make a big show of debating political issues, picking the right viewpoints, or going out of my way to be nice to Black people. I have kind of just avoided thinking about race issues, to be honest. It’s a privilege to be able to do that. I feel like I need to sit with that for a while. It’s a fucking grand privilege to go about my life pretending that racial issues don’t affect me; to, for example, walk around not being the object of suspicion. Because I’m in the majority, I have the amazing fortune of being unaware. I theoretically understand this.

But I never think about it.

But what made me think about it now is the following lines from that article.

“Sometimes I feel like I live in a world where I’m forced to parse through the intentions of people who have no interest in knowing mine. A grand jury believed that Darren Wilson was a good officer doing his job. This same grand jury believed than an eighteen-year-old kid in a monstrous rage charged into a hailstorm of bullets toward a cop’s gun.

[Darren] Wilson described Michael Brown as a black brute, a demon. No one questioned Michael Brown’s intentions. A stereotype does not have complex, individual motivations. A stereotype, treated as such, can be forced into whatever action we expect.”

I read that and took a deep breath, because it totally pinned down the problem with my own casual considerations of the Michael Brown case. I felt fairly confident that, yes, had Michael Brown been white, he would not have been murdered, and that, no, the looters and rioters and violators running amok during the Ferguson protests did not represent the character of Black people and were not the heart of Ferguson’s resistance. But barely at all had it crossed my mind what Brown had been thinking or feeling when he robbed the convenience store or was encountering Wilson. I hadn’t treated him as a person at all, but as a ghost.

With that guilt, I finished the article and then began reading the comments below. The first one was, I thought, relatively fair– a white person admitting to discomfort while reading the article and wondering, like me, how to become an ally in racial issues without becoming the “good white person” Bennett criticizes.

Several of the responses in that thread took stabs at advice, but most of it hovered around “just do your job and try to be nice to people,” which seems totally inadequate. Then I found one–which must have been deleted now, since I scoured the thread and can’t locate it–that said something more substantial.

It advised that there is no one right way to be a white ally. Black people have diverse opinions, so trying to find a course of action about which you can feel, “Ahh, now no one can criticize me because I am doing things THE GOOD way” is pointless. You have to be engaged–opting out is not an option. But you also have to be constantly willing to hear criticism. You have to let people get mad at you. You have to change methods. You have to listen and not talk. You have to stay uncomfortable. You have to avoid asking for thanks.

I read that and took a deep breath, because it totally sounded exhausting.

I thought, “Why would anybody sign up for that? Letting yourself get constantly shut down, being called things, having your intentions cast aside.”

And then I thought, “That sounds almost as exhausting as being Black in America.”

So. Not that I feel all enlightened to go start posting anti-racist quotes on my Facebook or initiating discussions about race, but I do feel like just spending the time thinking about race and reflecting on my own discomfort with it, and also, p.s., realizing that responding to Bennett’s essay with primarily frustration at first is just another symptom of my insufficient dealing with race, is a start– not towards being a good person, but towards living more in line with my own professed ideals.

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