I just came across this piece from my journal and thought that it would be good to dust off in light of the Women's March this Saturday. It's sort of amazing to feel the energy and activism that seems to be rising up from all corners lately.
Even though it's after 10pm and I'm full of fried chicken, I am also energized and hopeful. This is always how I feel after a Swirl dinner and I get to talk to others who similarly want to be honest about the flaws in our society, and think about positive ways to confront them. And this is not about getting together to pat ourselves on the back for knowing better. We acknowledge our own shortcomings and biases too. And our own inabilities - at times - to confront the very things that we also question.
In the past couple of years, I have noticed a certain complacency that I never noticed before, in my eleven years of leading Swirl. The same passion and the same excitement around building multiracial communities had faded a bit. In the one year leading up to the Presidential election, we launched five new chapters (the norm had been a chapter every year or every other year). People were excited by the energy created by Obama's campaign, and they were motivated and eager to be a part of creating supportive and inclusive multiracial communities.
One of my heroes passed away yesterday - Derrick Bell, a law professor and civil rights advocate. Years ago, when I read and resonated with his book, Ethical Ambition, I wrote him a note to thank him. I felt inspired by his choices and his courage to stand up for what he believed in, even when personally risky. I didn't necessarily think that I would hear back, but it was important for me to let him know the impact his writing had on me.
Today’s guest post is by Jen Chau, founder of Swirl, a multi-ethnic, anti-racist organization that promotes cross-cultural dialogue. “What are you?” is one of those questions like “Where are you from, I mean from from?” that people pose (sometimes ungracefully) when they are curious about someone’s racial/ethnic identity. What Are You? is also the title of an upcoming event(Monday, September 26th at 7pm), part of the Crossing Borders, Bridging Generations series, hosted here at the Brooklyn Historical Society and co-sponsored by Loving Day. BHS is learning more about Brooklyn’s overlapping, interweaving communities and we hope you’ll join the conversation here in the comments and at upcoming events.
In my years of diversity work, I am pretty sure about one thing. The people who are "good" at talking about race issues are those who have practiced.
As a participant in discussions about race, I have heard certain white individuals (not all) lament, "I just don't know how to talk about this stuff." And then I have heard some people of color (not all) in turn, say, "I am tired of talking about this stuff every day."
At the present time, I cannot do a headstand in my yoga practice.Whenever I remove bobby pin and ponytail holder and place the top of my head on the smooth wooden floor of the dimly lit classroom, forearms bracing, it feels like the weight of my body will surely accordion my neck like a used up coke can, causing my head to also combust. I'm pretty sure this will happen. I try to do the pose, but can't seem to achieve it. And so, I have heard many an exasperated teachers' sighs.
A friend recently asked me about the beginning of Swirl.
I told her how I started it. And why. She interrupted to clarify - she wanted to know how I felt. What specifically I was experiencing when I came up with the idea, when I took the first steps to incorporate, when it all came to fruition. I had to think about this - after all, it was nearly eleven years ago.