Rakia closed our session on IG Live this week when she said,
“People are coming face to face with what it is that they value. And holding fast to those things that they value.”
We’re of course talking about showing up in this moment right now, for Black Lives Matter, for Black Trans Lives Matter. And about those who are not. We’re also talking about showing up for those most close to home. These are the people who take care of you and those you care for in difficult times.
Rakia showed up for me on IG Live, many of us are showing up for protests nationwide and we’re all showing up for each other on vid calls or in person if we can.
Those who don’t show up, do not deserve a place at your table, especially now. Loving actions sometimes feel like separation, but by making space we take care of ourselves and foster the opportunity to rebuild something new in time. This hit me close to home recently and feels like it’s simultaneously part of a much bigger conversation.
Creating your own space and deciding your distance from others is an opportunity for new relationships with those same people even when it seems otherwise. This is true of the racial pandemic, health crises and personal relationships alike.
I didn’t leave home 18 years ago only to follow my dreams as an architect. I departed to create distance and chart my own path in search for belonging. Turns out that it feels strongest when you build it yourself.
Even at 35 years old, I think about this daily. It’s because redefining my relationship to my big, beautiful family has come to define a lot of who I am. I’ve often felt like I didn’t fully belong, yet the differences that have defined me as different from my family are the very things that link us together.
I keep a daily meditation practice that I’m proud is not within a religious construct yet I arrived here partly in response to my Catholic upbringing. I’m diligently building a career based in playfulness and community, which is a reflection of being raised by an adamantly hard working, immigrant family who literally came home everyday with sweat stained shirts and cash in their pocket from making a living by their own grit. And I don’t care to put a label on my gender or sexuality after feeling like I couldn’t find space to discover my own inside an overly-masculine middle eastern culture.
I did not leave home to reject my family or how I was raised, though I felt some of that at the time. I love my family and did even when it felt painful. Coming out has not been easy. And still my parents are still two of the closest people to me in my life. In many ways I’m coming full circle as family members I wasn’t previously close with have reached out after reading different newsletters. For that I’m very grateful.
I’ve been building a feeling of belonging literally brick by brick as Neon Fabrications comes to fruition. This newsletter feels like I’m uncovering the stone foundation. We’re not preparing to build architecture or sculpture atop, as much as we’re building a communal sense of belonging.
I believe we’re going through a similar shift on the largest scale possible as countries worldwide are redefining patriotism. That word is contentious in this context but this is how I would describe the protests in our streets, prolific social media posts for #blacklivesmatter and the vandalizing of historical monuments worldwide. Hear it in Billy Porters rallying cry at the end of his video damning those who have caused suffering and fear. He ends softly with “God bless you all, and God bless the United States of America.” This is our home whether we feel like we belong or not.
The loud chants and call to action is defining a new love for ourselves and sense of belonging for our community. We’re living in the liminal space as my friend Carly reminded us. I’m thankful for all of the activists demanding space in order to allow healing and to build a new relationship to this country we value so much, even and especially when it’s painful.
Activists are performance and visual ARTISTS. They are decorating our monuments in a dance that is giving them new form. In a single week, splashes have been heard across the world!
Find a few linked highlights below.
“I’m a black man walking those streets. I’m looking up at those things that give me a sense of dread and fear. What does that feel like — physically — to walk a public space and to have your state, your country, your nation say ‘this is what we stand by’? No. We want more, we demand more, we creative people create more. And today, we say yes to something that looks like us, we say yes to inclusivity.”
– Kehinde Wiley, Dec. 2019 at the unveiling of his sculpture Rumors of War in Richmond,VA