How Some Smart People Are Planning To Fix This Terrible Mess Our Country Is In
We went to the Brooklyn Museum to hear the voices of people who care about making America a better place for all of its citizens.
On Thursday night, the Brooklyn Museum was converted into one of New York's safest spaces. Queer femme artist collective BUFU, whose mission is "to highlight the lived experiences of those who have been impacted politically and socially by white supremacy," teamed up with Yellow Jackets, a "queer/intersectional Yellow American collective collaborating towards radical futures that centralize marginalized bodies," to hold an event that let people process their post-election grief together.
Walking into the atrium of the museums third floor, I found a large group of young people buzzing around the events organizers. After convening in the center of the space, we broke off into groups. There was a healing area with stretching and yoga, an art corner, a library, a music group, a space for discussing trauma, and a history lesson on white supremacy and wealth. I was fortunate enough to participate in that lesson held by economist Imara Jones who made her presentation very accessible by delivering it as colloquially as possibly. She started her lesson in 1774 and traced the line of white supremacy straight to the election of Trump. During the two hours I spent there, we listened, learned and conversed as part of the healing process, which are all essential activities during this dark and scary time.
I asked members of the welcoming crowd how they plan on taking action, specifically, what they are planning to do in order to deconstruct America's culture of systemic racism and misogyny. Their answers gave me hope that we can work towards protecting people and fighting for what we believe is right.
Sasha Bonét, 29, and Sofia Bonét, 5
When I think about what I can do as an individual, sometimes it feels quite daunting. It feels like it's impossible. I get really discouraged and so I come to places like this where I can fellowship with other women and people of color, marginalized people. We talk about our ancestors and what they experienced and I'm able to feel a bit of empowerment. For me, I have to tell the stories, and talk to the people, and I have to listen to people. I can only contribute with my passion to give people voices and to empower other women to tell their stories, it seems to be the only way. I know there's a quote going around by Toni Morrison that says, "We can't use this time to cry but use this time to revolutionize, stand up, and do our work." Its difficult to make art when things are really great actually, which hasn't been the circumstance of my ancestors as an African american woman ever, but a lot of the beauty comes from the pain so we just have to exercise our experiences and tell our stories, and essentially not roll over and die.
Connor Voss, 25
I'm a physical therapist and a performing artist. I'm already involved in a number of small organizing groups and I'm introducing my friends and family to those groups. I think day to day, more people are asking me questions about the organizing work I do and I have some good answers to give them. I think in terms of communication with my neighbors and the people that live around me, I've already had a bunch of talks with them.
What I'm going to do to help the situation is not be scared, point blank. The results of this election were meant to put fear into people's hearts and minds. What we need for communities of color is strength and bravery. So that's what I'm going to do, be strong.
The way I try to dismantle that within my own community with the advent of the internet is educating people on how we can move forward and how we can get the rest of the country to understand how we've made so much progress, and how to represent and have empathy with people who are not our race and culture. I think living in a place like New York, it's really such a melting pot and we're in this hub that's so accepting and kind of engaging with different types of people that it becomes such a norm here. We forget we're in a bubble here and the rest of the country is not like this. In order to make effective change and mobilize, we really have to turn to the internet as a resource, turn to the media, be reporting things good and bad. The info is out there whether you believe this is or not, you're getting information. It's in your face and you're going to have to read and grapple with that, regardless of your beliefs. I think that will shift the conversation and hopefully can move to revolutionary change more than ever. Something like this is so extreme and radical, what else can happen but something really radical?
I'm an artist and a community organizer. I will empower my community by bringing knowledge of how to gain political and economic power to both the people of my community and the businesses of that community.
Angelo Capayachi, 16, & Christie Na, 17
Christie Na: I think what's really important is people coming together regardless if people hate Trump or liberals. Maybe they can come together and somehow work together to create a change or create some sort of support for each other.
Angelo Capacyachi: I've been viewing that from the ages of 15 to 16, activism is really important in art and film. Right now, I feel like coming together as a community and for people who feel scared. I want to put that in my film and say that it's ok to be scared but we're gonna work together to fight these terrible things in the country.
Alexis Bute, 17
Honestly, I want to be a nurse but my interest is communications through mass media because I believe that has a big impact on how information is spread about white supremacy and the importance of individualism and finding your identity.
Leslie Clark, 24
I plan to start a listserv to help educate people and keep them informed on all of the issues going on. Hopefully, a lot of people get involved and I want to potentially start motivational speaking.
Sean Kierre, 25
Everything I've been doing already. I don't think this is anything new at all. Just doing and making the moves that you have to do like organizing, meeting other people, helping where you can, but honestly it's a time to be peaceful. We have a big problem and I'm going to do everything in my power to stop that. If it requires me to be aggressive, then that's going to happen.
Nicole Kim, 23
I think one of the ways — and this is really difficult and requires a lot of empathy and emotional labor — is to talk to these people who might be really full of hate and try to not vilify them, and to talk to them with patience and compassion. I want to try to explain why this hate and fear will do nothing but kill and destroy and ultimately hurt the people around them. As difficult as it is, that's a powerful way to combat that.
Jazmin Jones, 26
I think I am very similar to many disenfranchised folks right now in that I'm feeling pretty hopeless. In the past that was a feeling of apathy. Over time, my apathy has turned into a hopelessness, but I think that's a very singular mind state. But with the work that BUFU does and what BUFU is trying to do with Yellow Jackets Collective, you can see what happens when you bring a lot of people together. Not a single element of this could I have achieved on my own. Giving Brooklyn Museum 24 hours before an event, getting Harriet's Apothecary to lead opening prayers, getting art workshops. None of this could have been done by a single person so this event is really crucial to myself and our community to be reminded that together, we are really powerful. I don't believe that one single person has the answer to how to fight these things, but collectively I think we can come up with some pretty effective solutions.
I think spaces like these help galvanize a bunch of like-minded folks who have the same goal in mind and who can safely gather, unite, and start sharing resources, start sharing spaces, start sharing platforms, and amplify each other's voices. These places are rare in our generation where this kind of work is done online. Having this space where people can see each other physically and being around these folks felt extremely empowering, especially as a person of color, as a queer person, as a non gender conforming person. Being around people who feel that sort of strength, and hope, and sort of readiness to activate, and to fight is extremely uplifting
It took this long for some people to wake up. People of color have been doing this, we have this momentum, so we can't afford to catch people up. It's up to people who are in this transitional space to do that. For artists, keep on doing and sharing your work, creating spaces where you can create exposure. It's all about helping each other because in this white supremacist world, they're not going to do anything for us, so it's all about us taking initiative like these, we are setting the example for what's to come.
I think the best way to break down misogyny and racism is really to continue reaffirming our individual identities and making sure everyone supports those identities. I think events like this couldn't be any better because people feel creative and comfortable in this skin.
Grace Naw, 23
I'm going to try and stop white supremacy in one way or another. I think I'm focusing on myself, and myself is an Asian american femme who's queer. I think building family and meeting with other Asian Americans, specifically east Asians, because that is my identity and offering political education as to how certain systems work — [for example] various facets of white supremacy, the economy, or politics, or social science, any facet like that. I want to offer political education in that way. Not that I know everything myself but I think it also comes with sisterhood and building that.
Parissah Lin, 24
For me the most important thing to do is hold safe spaces for our families, create safe spaces for people of color, queer folks, trans folks, immigrants, and all vulnerable people to come together and build a community. And to use the anger — harness the anger, not stamp it out under this unity bullshit, but to harness the anger in our differences to build a more just world.