All the bluejays, grackles, and doves outside my house. This Resident Advisor house playlist. LP by Discovery. So many helicopters and so many fireworks. Grateful for the bass of my neighbors' many layered musics and the sounds from cars passing by that make our house feel connected to all the other houses, all on the same pulse.
"What Is an Anti-Racist Reading List For?" by Lauren Michele Jackson. I've been moving through and interrogating some deep skepticism around the work that white people are finding themselves doing right now and this piece by Lauren Michele Jackson was a real balm for me. I’m skeptical of the idea that reading novels written by Black Americans will be enlightening for white people discovering and unsettling racism for the first time. I would like to encourage white people to read watch and listen to the same shit they always do and instead look for whiteness. It’s too generous, pleasurable, and comforting to read some of the greatest thinkers of the century speak on their experiences, their experiences of Blackness in this country and to seek some kind of enlightenment around race from that. Someone I used to work with at a youth literacy nonprofit once referred to my favorite book, Their Eyes Were Watching God, as “just a book you get recommended in high school”. White people do not currently deserve. Do most people generally read books this good when they aren’t reading for diversity? The classic and canonical texts chosen and repeated speak so clearly to the “twice as good” standard that Black Americans are held to. My proposition is that we recommend, if we insist on teaching about race through novels and text this way, mediocrity. Black folks deserve space to be as normy and mediocre as everyone else. What are the beach reads by Black women, crime thrillers, airport books? What kind of books would you normally read if you weren’t reading for your new homework? I’m trolling obviously but maybe not?
"The first thing to point out is that police officers don’t do what you think they do." Mariame Kaba in the New York Times
Revisiting Omayeli Arenyeka's "How to think differently about doing good as a creative person".
I'm bouncing between a couple different books. 'm appreciating how easily I can become enveloped in The Woman Warrior by Maxine Hong Kingston but I'm taking a break to take advantage of my "digital copy" (I understand why we can't all use the same ebook at once but...) of The Third Plate by Dan Barber. Dan Barber cowrote this piece on the state of small farmers amidst Coronavirus in 2020. I'm becoming increasingly interested in food systems, the inequities and possibilities of it. I've fostering a growing interest in people's relationship to the earth, particularly that of Black and Indigenous people in the United States. I've started reading Trace: Memory, History, Race and the American Landscape by Lauret Savoy, an extremely rich and layered document of the land that we call America. How it's places got their names. How each piece was stolen and guarded. There's a lot more I'd like to know.
Will the Coronavirus Make Us Rethink Mass Incarceration?
When Josh and I visited Austin in February, our last stop before leaving town was the Blanton Art Museum. I was so pleased and moved by the collection featuring so many pieces and artists I'd never seen or heard of. It felt like a really special place. So I was so excited when I read this piece that Francisco shared about how the museum's director repurposed so many roles to keep her staff employed during the shutdown.
Cocktails. We had mint at home for some reason so I decided to try out making a mint julep for Ally's going away Zoom call and remembered I don't like whiskey so I made it with gin instead. I made a gin julep with muddled mint, a shot of gin, simple syrup, and some seltzer. Fresh as hell. I dug up the instructions James sent me three years ago for making iced coffee and today I added a shot of rum, simple syrup, and half and half for an afternoon treat.
The Long Goodbye (1973), directed by new-to-me favorite Robert Altman and starring a young, hot Eliot Gould. I stand by that, I really do. If you are looking for more young, hot Eliot Gould you can watch California Split (1974), another Altman and clear influence on Uncut Gems (2019). I'm don't understand gambling or the appeal of it but I sure do like watching movies about it. During this time, I also watch Paul Thomas Anderson's first movie, Hard Eight (1996) which stars G. Paltrow herself, Philip Baker Hall, and my forever fave John C. Reilly. You can see in this movie the seeds of many ideas that will come into fruition for PTA in later movies. If I ever finish the last twenty minutes or so of Inherent Vice, a movie I really can't stand, I'll be a PTA completist. But at what cost.... Hard Eight has a brief yet incredible Philip Seymour Hoffman moment. When I see that guy on screen, I just light up. Craving more Hoffman, Josh and I watched Capote (2005) for the first time. I wasn't so psyched on it (maybe because I haven't read so much Truman Capote, including In Cold Blood, the story of which is being written in the movie) but it was extremely worthwhile to see Hoffman fill out that role and just to watch him move through a scene, interact with characters. I wasn't so into film before PSH died in 2014 so I feel his loss only now, exploring these special roles and appearances of his. What an incredible artist.
The Age of Innocence (1993) is a lush vision of New York City society life directed by Scorsese and made me feel like I was in the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum.
I finally, finally watched Before Sunrise (1995).I think it's easy for me to take for granted how intimate and well-crafted this movie is. How seamlessly and naturally the relationship between the two main characters progresses and swells. I could imagine another time in my life, this movie would have really destroyed me. Needless to see, Ethan Hawke is fine as hell. Julie Delpy, fine as hell. Richard really did say they'd link later, SMH.
I'm trying to make space for planning and acting, in the immediate and long term. I guess I can consider myself "lucky" (I mean, in so many ways but specifically) in that I'm damn near fixated on this question 365 - how to maximize myself, make the most of my time, my resources, my attention, my life. It's something I really struggle with and I've been trying to address more directly during quar. Now what feels like my constant internal homework, the homework of figuring out how to to live my life not only with the most meaning for myself but how to make myself useful for justice, feels prescient and essential. As someone who becomes easily consumed by thoughts of not doing enough and not being enough, becoming more grounded, moving slowly and intentionally, and being strategic does not feel optional to me. I'm grateful to understand this about myself and to already have some tools at my disposal about how best I learn and process.
For one, the only good things* to do are to process thoughts alone (I journal every morning) and to talk 1:1 or in small groups with people. I use social media to gather and scour but it's not where I synthesize, where I share in the messy work of learning and unlearning. I'm not succinct or clear enough to do meaningful work there. I am not quick to think or speak. I take a lot of time.
Second, I know that being organized and making information legible for myself is one way I learn and feel the stability and confidence I need to grow. I'm starting by making a list of all the things I see in my vision for the world which helps me identify the gaps and to get clear on what's important to me. From there, I'll gather some resources to learn more about how these aspects of the world are the way they are. Next, I'll research and see who is doing the work currently to make the world more like this vision and what they're asking I do. Then, I can do it. I don't have to start from scratch — people have been doing this work and I have to join them, not start something new.
I've made donations (in case you're looking for some new places to donate to!) to the Parsons Scholars Program Self Care Fund (Venmo and Cash App @pspselfcarefund), Transgender Emergency Fund of MA, Solutions Not Punishment Collaborative, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, Sisters Unchained, Justice for Breonna Taylor, and Reclaim the Block.
A couple weeks ago I organized a zoom conversation with twenty-some friends to start thinking about what each of us can bring to the movement for Black lives right now. I wanted to explore the idea of asset-mapping and relationships to see where we might be useful, motivated, and productive. Here's a sample agenda if you want to try something similar.
Before quarantine, I was really struggling with loneliness. I wasn't really ready to confront the homesickness for my friends and for New York that I still feel more than a year and a half, soon to be two years after moving to Boston. I visited my friends in New York in February and that melancholy became sharp and present. And now, in some ways, that sadness, loneliness, and homesickness (even for the towns we still live in, left empty and quiet without the life of our favorite places, our favorite people animating them) is for all of us to share. In many ways the past three months of quarantine have created opportunities to connected to my far flung friends, as we find time to talk on the phone during the day, text about the birds that live near our respective houses, talk about projects and ideas and things that are coming up for us. I feel especially connected and in community when I know that we are all making something, together though independently. Knowing that we are all thinking and learning and moving at this time, even when I just take a minute in my day to think, I wonder what Eva is doing right now. I wonder what Kendra is doing right now. I wonder what James is doing right now. I feel connected through the making and sharing and even in what we keep to ourselves, what we don't share. I can't wait to see everyone and right now I see them through our making, through our little texts here and there, through audio messages, through watching reality TV together.
My loneliness is coming back new and in a different shape as people start to gather in real life, outside hangs and porch hangs. On Friday night, I fell asleep to the sound of a group of woman having a hang through twilight into full night, surrounding some candles in a patch of the grass in the garden outside my house. I heard their laughter and their intimacy from all the way up here and I felt relief in being able to name the ache. An old loneliness is new as I try to find a way to explain myself and the acute and specific pain, fear, and empathy I feel in the wake of these recent murders of Black people by police. As I try to describe myself, make myself known and understood more clearly and accurately without centering myself. I found connection in mobilization, in feeling moved to mobilize and gather, which I hope is a gift that I can offer right now. Are you lonesome, too?
“I Just Want to Wear My Orange Dress to the Tennis Courts & Come Back Home Unbothered,” 2020, Jamaica Plain, MA. pic.twitter.com/sK7IMUnqFe
— Golden (they/them) (@goldenthem) June 8, 2020
Big New York Public School Teacher Energy.pic.twitter.com/NVeBMHltiU
— Jamaal Bowman (@JamaalBowmanNY) June 3, 2020