I MADE A PROMISE TO LIVE MORE AUTHENTICALLY. CALL IT MY COMMITMENT TO WELLNESS. AN EFFORT TO AVOID BURNOUT AND FALSITIES. I JUST WANT TO GO WHERE THE GOOD VIBES ARE.
THIS IS MY JOURNEY.
Progress Not Perfection
Tonight a friend came over and I was telling him how I've been planning the Network event series. He asked your basic details - when it's happening and such - to which I had no response because.. ya know, I'm planning. So he says, "well, great, so.... do it," and I laughed. Then he said something to me like, "you're just rearranging the furniture in the room."
I sat there for like... m i n u t e s, in complete silence. Like, shit! He is so right!!
I AM just rearranging furniture in a room!!
I started talking about how I never thought of myself as a perfectionist but how in the last few weeks I'd been noticing how I fixate over words on my website. I know I can be pretty OCD and I like things to look a certain way and am particular about my brand... which I think are normal. I'm hard on myself and refuse to put anything out that I'm not 100%+ satisfied with... which, again, is "normal".... right?
But then I thought about it... that sounds exactly like what a perfectionist would say!! I'm soooo stuck on how words sound on a website that people barely know exists because I've yet to produce enough things where people would even be checking out the website! And like my friend said last night, "and even so, who cares! Who says you can't change it again even after people have seen it?"
(that part made my OCD self cringe but I get the point, lol)
I had to laugh again, because it's like.... I know this. I tell other people this! And as I sat there looking at a room I've rearranged a hundred times (which usually ends up back where it was to begin with), I realized how right he was. It's exactly what I'm doing with my business... rearranging words on websites and images on flyers, and making plan after plan after plan for events I have yet to actually produce.
It's time to do something different.
Last year I treated myself to a birthday tattoo that says fear/less. It's not really about fear but a reminder to think less and do more. And as my birthday approaches, I find myself reflecting on that ink. I know I have the tendency to get stuck in my head. To be so cerebral that I out-think myself out of anything... and as it seems, outplan myself out of execution.
As I think about my conversation and my birthday ink from last year, I sort of feel like I've let myself down. What have I done to honor what I have written on my body? Nothing, really. But feeling sorry for myself is unproductive, and I'm no victim. So I've got two weeks to honor my promise.
As my friend said when he left, it's time to "pick a date, and make it happen."
When I'm not planning events for the community, I'm doing work with the youth. On Tuesday, in my role with the Jefferson Awards Foundation, I ran an all-day conference for over 100 middle & high school students. The Jefferson Students in Action program empowers youth to become leaders by encouraging them to get involved with their communities through service.
We host a fall and winter conference that provides the students with tools to start service projects. We teach them about communication, teamwork, community needs assessments, fundraising, and how to build networks of support. After these conferences, the next phase is the regional competition then the national competition.
It's really empowering to see these students take such charge of the things they're passionate about, to want to connect to community members through service, and are willing to take time out of their lives to do so. When I attended our organizations conference in Delaware, we commented on how they could be doing anything - hanging out with friends, enjoying time away from school, or practicing a hobby, but instead they took their Saturday to sit in a conference to learn about service.
Experiences like these always leave me buzzing. If children are our future, I'm glad it's these.
On Sunday, March 4th I hosted Taboo or Nah: Experiences of Queer People of Color. It was a partnership with Boi Society in celebration of Boston Black Pride. I held it at the Milky Way in JP which was the perfect backdrop - intimate, exposed brick, fresh flowers. I ordered a bunch of appetizers to start then salad and pizza for dinner. Cash bar.
The energy was palpable. People seemed excited to be sharing space, a space exclusively for us. A space where we could let our hair down, talk about things that effect our community, and do so without fearing judgment or misunderstanding. It reminds me how important it is to create spaces like that. To build community. To even take the time to understand what that community is.
The panelists were great. I flew in Brooklyn Wright of Boi Society from Oakland, CA. In actuality, I planned this entire event around her. I'd been following her online for a few months and had grown to really admire what she built. She developed Boi Society out of a desire to build a community that reflected what she didn't see in the media - masculine of center queer women of color. And it took off, growing to a following of over 50,000 active users. She sold products in over 9 countries and in 2018, kicked off the Queer AF Tour. To say I was in awe was an understatement.
I thought about who could speak to the experience of being both black and queer, and wondered if the experience itself was really that different. I thought about my own story, how queerness has been received in my family, the families of friends, former roommates, colleagues. I knew the struggle. How difficult our paths often were. I wondered with all the progress we've made as a society in the LGBTQ movement, was being queer in POC families still really that taboo.
I pulled together a diverse panel. Eddie Maisonet - an afroboricuan nonbinary trans boi; Erin Ebony - an MTF trans activist who's the product of a Southern African-American mother and an immigrant father; Jha D Williams - a queer cis woman of color who has spent over 15 years building a robust following of poets and creatives; Shaunya Thomas - a lesbian cis woman of color who founded the Lesbians of Color Collective (L.O.C.S.) out of a desire to develop a space for education and empowerment for queer LGBTQ POC; and Brooklyn Wright - a queer nonbinary cis POC. The panel was moderated by Nia Evans - a queer nonbinary POC who has been active in the cooperative community, creating opportunities for visibility of all communities.
The conversations were powerful and got a lot of people thinking in the room, and after, which is what I always want. To leave people thinking, continuing the conversation once the event has ended. Days later and people are still talking about it. Panelists shared their experiences in their communities, families, and networks. We talked about how it translates professionally, and how we learn to deal with forgiveness. Even the audience raised good questions during the Q&A period. We talked well past 8 o'clock when the conversation was scheduled to end, which made me really happy. People stayed to mingle afterwards for quite a bit, and I was happy that I'd rented the space until 10:00pm.
After the event ended, a few of the panelists and I headed to Legal Test Kitchen and had dinner and drinks. It was fun. We wanted to make sure to give Brooklyn the best first-time-to-Boston experience, which can be hard to do during the winter months, but easy in good company.
I was extremely grateful for the opportunity to produce this event, and felt really blessed to have gotten all the support that I received. Even having priced the tickets higher than what most in the community is used to, people stretched their wallets to attend. Two organizations sponsored the event which also moved me. And the panelists really stepped up and showed their support throughout the entire planning process.
As I sat around that table at LTK, it reminded me why I love doing this work, and how personal this business really is. To be able to connect with people across the states and produce magic together is unforgettable. To have a relationship develop out of that and a desire on both ends to continue to work together, is priceless. To have people willing to take time out of their busy schedules to take part in something that you're creating, especially at a cost, is beyond amazing. No one had to do any of it, but they did.