Or, how I let my fear of vulnerability stop me.
A lot has happened in the two months since I last posted. I wrote a 1,770-word essay that I’m considering sharing, but am not sure what the repercussions may be, so that’s some progress. lol
In other news, I went to an “unconference” on free and open source software at the beginning of October. I was very observant of the diversity – or lack thereof – at the conference, so tweeted about it. This blog post was written in response to my tweets. I didn’t read all the comments to his post, but I did listen to a discussion that the folks over at Ubuntu UK Podcast had in response/as a result of Mark’s blog post. Both Mark and the Ubuntu UK hosts pretty much understood the points I made and seemed open to discussion within the free and open source community. However, from the few comments that I did read, as well as the tweets I received the day Mark posted the article, quite a few people chose to become defensive and misinterpret my points, which pretty much shows they’re not particularly interested in “diversifying” the conference – also, it’s worth noting that it’s not just about OggCamp though since the same criticism can be made of many tech conferences and spaces, especially in the free and open source software community as a whole.
Last Friday, one of my classmates asked our professor why there were only middle-class white people in the pictures from a research project she conducted and was sharing with us. She responded with a round-about answer that basically said “diversity is hard.” When I asked, “why was it difficult,” she gave some bullshit answer that beat around the bush instead of her just admitting that she could have reached beyond her (and her colleagues’) networks, and done so without tokenizing the non-white people she encountered (she made some comment about going up to non-white people on bikes being like “We want YOU at this event. It’d be great if you came.” SMH.
Why do white people continue to think that “diversity is difficult” or “I can’t stand attempts at forced diversity” (as one person said in the comments to Mark’s post) are good excuses for why so many of the spaces they occupy – jobs, academia, community organizations, friend groups, etc. – lack diversity?
I’ve noticed more interracial couples with black women here in London than I’ve seen in the few cities I’ve lived in in the U.S. It also seems that there are more black people with natural hair than there were when I first came to visit London in 2011.
In other news, I have some thoughts about home, particularly the making of “home,” roaming in my head. I’m having trouble putting the thoughts into words though, but will share once I can.
Here’s a glimpse.
Of course I ordered a copy. I refuse to pay the $40 international shipping fee though, so it’s going to have to sit at the house in Chicago until my mom sends me a care package (which I hope is sometime soon).
“But as we come more into touch with our own ancient, non-european consciousness of living as a situation to be experienced and interacted with, we learn more and more to cherish our feelings, and to respect those hidden sources of our power from where true knowledge and, therefore, lasting action comes.
At this point in time, I believe that women carry within ourselves the possibility for fusion of these two approaches so necessary for survival, and we come closest to this combination in our poetry. I speak here of poetry as a revelatory distillation of experience, not the sterile word play that, too often, the white fathers distorted the word poetry to mean – in order to cover a desperate wish for imagination without insight.”
-“Poetry is Not a Luxury,” Sister Outsider, Audre Lorde
Ugh. The “Black American” vs. “African-American” conversation is playing out on my Twitter timeline. AGAIN. It would be great if we could have this discussion without being antagonizing or conducted in a way that wasn’t a constant attempt to one-up the other. Identity is a very important aspect of who we are and labels play a huge role in how we identify as individuals and as community. It’s perfectly possible to have a conversation about separate and overlapping identities without ignoring the realities of world history though.
I have a feeling I’m going to have to interact with “accidental racists,” particularly drunk racists, more often than I would like to while I’m here. I imagine that once school starts I’ll have more ability to shape my friend group and who I’m spending my free time with. Until then, I’m pretty much rolling with Fin to the pub, parties, etc. with his friends, majority of whom are cishet middle class white folks…..
“Just tell me one thing. What are you doing not in your country right now? Why did you run off to America, Darling Nonkululeko Nkala, huh? Why did you just leave? If it’s your country, you have to love it to live in it and not leave it. You have to fight for it no matter what, to make it right. Tell me, do you abandon your house because it’s burning or do you find water to put out the fire? And if you leave it burning, do you expect the flames to turn into water and put themselves out? You left it, Darling, my dear, you left the house burning and you have the guts to tell me, in that stupid accent that you were not even born with, that doesn’t even suit you, that this is your country?”
-in “Writing on the Wall,” We Need New Names, NoViolet Bulawayo
I have been in London 3 full days now and am finally over my jet lag. When I’ve come to visit in the past, I haven’t allowed myself a full rest recovery period because I’m normally only here for two weeks and eager to do as many things and to see as many people as possible in that short span of time. This ultimately ends with me running on adrenaline my entire time here and needing another vacation (which I never actually get) to recoup once I’ve returned home. Since I know I’ll be around for at least the next 15 months, I’ve given myself more mental and physical room to rest and get accustomed to this massive adjustment. I am very familiar with the city, but feel that I am looking at it through new eyes since I am now living here rather than just visiting and I don’t want to rush into it.
The two months leading up to my arrival in London were very emotional. It was the longest I’ve been home in 7 years and I felt a constant rush of emotions my entire time there – most of which I haven’t actually processed yet, to be perfectly honest. While I was home, Mike Brown was executed in Ferguson, Missouri on August 9th. The attack on black bodies, black PEOPLE, by the state and vigilantes has been going on since before the United States became the United States. As James Baldwin stated, “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a rage almost all the time.” I am always in a rage. Sometimes that rage fluctuates between being somewhat bearable and being completely overwhelming, but I am always acutely aware of its presence even if I don’t always refer to or comment on it.
Leaving the States two weeks after Brown’s execution, in the midst of the nationwide protests and the knowledge that his murderer, Police Officer Darren Wilson, had (and has) still not been arrested yet, has left me quite disconcerted. I feel as if I’ve run away from my problems and my community. As more people joined organizing movements against state violence and anti-blackness and began to strategize long-term goals and plans of action, I worried about my visa, luggage allowance, and what classes I’d be taking this year in grad school. All of these things feel very trivial compared to Mike Brown’s killing – the protests, and the systemic use of state violence as a tool to maintain white supremacy and anti-blackness. How can I be involved in affecting long-term change if I’m 10,057 miles from home – a home I was already disconnected from in the first place? I’ve moved around quite a bit over the last 7 years and have found it hard to build a stable community, particularly one that I can be committed to doing anti-oppression work with. I’m hoping that I can continue to offer support to people in the States doing the much needed on the ground work, while I’m here at school gaining skills (particularly those related to documentation such as long-form writing, photography, and film) that will ideally be useful to grassroots anti-oppression practice once I return home.