Final Project: The Other DAC

For my final project for 504, I choose to spend time volunteering with an organization I used to work with, Detroit Action Commonwealth (the other DAC, not the Detroit Athletic Club). I had already started “volunteering” when I moved back from Boston, and I thought that spending time writing journals and reflecting each week would be a great project for this course….and a good habit for an organizer that I never really utilized before as well as I should have. Below is my analysis (?) of DAC, the work they have done, the work they are currently doing, their power-building structure, and how I reflect on my role.

Detroit Action Commonwealth is a community-based organization of low-income, homeless and indigent residents of Detroit who organize around civic engagement and policy reform efforts. Read more on their mission, model and accomplishments on their website. The entire membership and leadership of DAC is of homeless folks, with the exception of a former Professor who is acting Executive Director (unpaid), and one paid organizer. (And me…but I don’t think I do very much to help besides advise leaders and help them make agendas for meetings…they honestly don’t need my help…)

It is clear that DAC has two equally important goals that balance and reinforce each other: Community Organizing and Human  Development

Organizing

DAC organizes around issues, people’s self-interest. The first part, is for organizers, leaders and members to form relationships through one on one conversations. In organizing, we talk about POWER as “being able to” accomplish your goals, interests, needs, etc. In our society, folks gain power from two main sources: money and people. Well, folks in DAC don’t have a lot of money…so the only other way to leverage POWER is to bring lots of people together. You do this by forming relationships and getting to know people’s VALUES and SELF-INTEREST. By bringing together people based on their values, you can form powerful organizations to make change.

Second, they develop practical strategies, winnable strategies and campaigns around the issues identified by their community. Modeled after various organizing sources, such as Saul Alinsky, Industrial Areas Foundation and Dudley Street Neighborhood Initiative.

Humanity

The other goal is to develop members and leaders to reach their full human capacity. This includes the public part of themselves which is involved in their community…in politics and society. It involves individual development of confidence, various organizing and leadership skills, the ability to advance their own goals and aspirations.

Much of this work is extremely difficult and a high priority, because of the internalized oppression throughout the homeless and indigent community. As we read in Mullaly, impacts of oppression include “loss of identity, powerlessness, fear, suppression of anger, isolation, ambivalence and sense of inferiority“…all important and necessary skills in organizing and building power. Organizers have to work actively and thoughtfully when planning small, winnable actions, skill-building workshops, and community meetings to reverse these impacts.

These two goals (organizing and human development) work hand-in-hand. The more people FEEL and EXPERIENCE power and confidence, the more they are developed as human beings, the more effective they will be when organizing and winning issues.

LADDER OF CITIZENSHIP PARTICIPATION

DAC, like a lot of community organizations, operate under the system presented by Sherry Arnstein that strive for decision making power in policy to be controlled by citizens.

arstein's ladder

Most DAC members when first coming to a community meeting or having a 1-1 conversation with a leader, are in the Nonparticipation (Manipulation & Therapy) steps of the ladder. It is DAC’s goal and mission to climb the ladder, build power, to reach Citizen Control, where citizens “handle the entire job of planning, policy making and managing a programme e.g. neighbourhood corporation with no intermediaries between it and the source of funds.”

December 2017 Update

In the last few months, this is what I watched DAC work on…and some of the strategies they used to make change happen.

  • Homeless Bill of Rights
  • Illegal Tax Foreclosures
  • Leadership Development
    • fundraising (planning, developing, advertising)
    • negotiation skills
  • Weekly Community Meetings
    • 4 chapters, each chapter has an elected Board that also meets once a week

What is the biggest success of DAC?

The organization. DAC started form 6 people sitting around a table at a soup kitchen, talking about trash piling up on Connor Ave. Now DAC has 4 chapters with just under 5000 members. More than 8000 people have participated in DAC activities. A lot of development of humans, leaders, who continue to work with DAC or have gone on to do other great work and organizing in their neighborhoods.

POPULAR EDUCATION – DAC has succeeded in raising the understanding of social justice as opposed to charity, amongst folks in various social services, by demanding a seat at the decision-making table. DAC educates folks of the value of organizing marginalized and oppressed people for POWER.

DAC is NOT advocacy. It’s easy for organizations to fall on the advocacy track, because to funders it is a lot more efficient in terms of time and money…but if you do that you’re going to lose the purpose of why you started organizing in the first place.

What I am most proud of, is that while DAC does get a lot of support from Professor Markus and various volunteers (like myself), DAC is developed into such a powerful organization that it can stand on it’s own. If Professor Markus decides to move away, DAC will still function. Members have been developed into Leaders, and then many Leaders have been developed into Organizers. DAC no longer needs to look externally for hiring staff. This is why I love coming back and visiting and working with DAC…it’s proof that organizing works, and you don’t have to give in or sell out or water it down.

This older but extremely relevant interview with Grace Lee Boggs sums up the important of DAC to me. When asked where she sees hope, she says:

“I see the signs in the various, small groups that are emerging all over the place, to try and regain our humanity in very practical ways.”

As Social Workers, we can participate in organizing communities we live in. We can create Co-ops. Organize locally. Start small. Connect with each other. Create our own systems, organizations, leverage power. Listen to Grace Lee Boggs, learn about why DAC, DSNI, BLM…

Academic Source from UM Professor Emeritus Greg Markus Organizing in Detroit Soup Kitchens for Power and Justice

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Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

A good friend, mentor and former boss-lady of mine recommended this book to me back in the late summer. We were talking about reading for pleasure, and how it has been so long since I can remember reading and enjoying fiction. She recommended Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, which is historical fiction, but still fiction. I do pretty much anything KR tells me to do, so I bought the book and put it on my shelf where it sat for a few months…as I dived into my first semester of grad school.

I read the book a couple days ago, and it was the first time I can remember loving a book so much. I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed reading for pleasure, or the last time I couldn’t put a book down. It is a beautiful book, and it brought me through all the emotions I can think of that we as humans experience.

But Ed why are you writing about this on your SW 504 blog?

Because this book is relevant AF. Some of the major takeaways from this book (without spoilers, because if you have not already read this, go read it):

We are not far removed from our dark history. History can repeat itself, in obvious ways or in new, disguised ways. We all act in systems that are informed by histories of oppression, and we should always be searching and learning for alternate histories than the ones taught to us in school. What is our role now? How do I go about day by day interacting and participating in these systems? Who’s history do I know, and why? This book makes a few hundred years seem so close together…a good reminder when we have Trump as President or a modern-day slave trade in Libya…and how Western Culture and colonization has informed these realities and horrors. We might be going in circles rather than moving forward (or a little bit of both).

Masculinity, femininity, marriage, relationships, love, family, spirituality. My God, in such a short book she went so deep. And wide. She explores how culture informs these systems, how they change, and how individuals develop to meet or not meet cultural and society expectations. How does my own culture inform my current relationships? How do I view my own masculinity, in relation to the culture I was brought up in? How has that informed by human development, my relationships, or my expectations of others? AND how is it different from someone of a different culture or upbringing?

This book reminds me of the Danger of a Single Story...it reminds me to take another trip to the Charles H. Wright Museum, and read the walls more closely. It reminds me that a few hundred years of history is not that long, and that for many people who have heard stories passed down through generations, American slavery can seem like yesterday. This book only talked about two parts of the world, but every country, people, region has it’s own history, it’s own dark pasts that inform it’s present day. Again, who is in power? who is controlling history? is there an agenda?

This book is beautiful (in the most authentic, complex way). Thank you again, KR. Even though you’re not my boss-lady, I’m still learning so much!

popular education & organizing

Freire ch 1 & 2 are always one of my go-to readings when I wanted center myself as an organizer. These chapters demonstrate the importance of true collective power over direct service, and are a reminder that withholding knowledge is a form of oppression (being in control of what folks know/don’t know).

I would argue that popular education is an essential anti-oppressive strategy. Power comes in two forms – money and people. Often the people who hold the most power in western culture have control of a lot of money, so we need to form organizations and coalitions to leverage power. In my experience, the most powerful and effective way to do this is for people to engage in dialogue, form relationships, and make connections with each other’s shared values and self-interests. Lots of people do this all of the time, which is why the next step of organizing around a shared issue or community concern is important. Lets identify an issue we all share, do some research, and figure out how we can make something change. Of course change seems impossible when you don’t have political power or a shit-ton of money, but that’s where power in numbers is important. Lets hold a rally, write a petition, identify allies in local government, shut down city council until they listen, form a radical coalition and leverage that power….so many options. We don’t have to play by the rules…Playing by the rules won’t disrupt the current power structure anyway.

For me, community organizing is or course about building power, policy reform, making structural changes, changing consciousness, but it is also about allowing people to be fully human. To find meaning in life, to develop skills as a leader, a speaker, an ally, an advocate…in DAC I definitely the members and leaders to WIN campaigns, to see change happens from their hard work…but it is just as important to see folks develop their leadership skills, or to see folks hold more meaning and value in their own existence. I find it to be radical, revolutionary and humanizing for folks and communities that are marginalized, oppressed and de-humanized. The soft-skills of an organizer are equally important to the hard-skills. I want people to see themselves differently, see that they are part of change work, see that when they organize their community for power it works (and not in a fake way….which is why winning campaigns is important too!)

Outside of organizing, I think popular education can be used theoretically by most social workers. For me, it is never part of my job to decide what information people should or shouldn’t have. Social workers can make sure their clients feel validated when systems don’t work, and maybe even share some inside knowledge about why those systems don’t work well. Social workers can be allys for folks who are organizing or advocating for change or policy reform. Social workers can help connect folks who have similar experiences, values or struggles and work with them to identify an issue and work together to solve it. These are broad I know…but I could give a million specific examples.

I hate assessing myself. I feel confident in a lot of my organizing skills, particularly soft-skills. I’m a good listener, I always seek to understand people rather than being understood, and can be radically accepting. As an organizer, in order to be true to Freire, I had to develop a LOT of patience. So many things I could have just done myself….but then I wouldn’t be a good organizer. I spend a lot of time working with leaders to develop listening campaigns, analyzing the results of the campaigns and identifying folks in the community to work on various task forces around specific issues. I work with leaders on public speaking skills, how to develop agendas for meetings…how to form and leverage relationships with elected officials or leaders in social services. My style of organizing is very much a “neither scene nor heard”…which means the professional development of leaders is super important. I think where I need to improve is how to use these skills more as a clinical social worker. Sometimes in the past, I’ve gotten in trouble with organizations I’ve worked with for being “too transparent” with students or clients…but lying or withholding information from clients about structural issues, funding, resources feels like oppression.

nonviolent action: this is obviously water so wtf do i do now?

in response to the readings from this week, and for my own personal self-care, i took time this weekend to re-read this is water (audio). i used to read and re-read this a lot when i used to work in a high school…it felt really relevant when trying to teach teachers how to view their role as educators in a more humanizing way and probably relevant in like 1,000 other ways too.

“Most people don’t want to hurt another person without justification and resistance”

i feel as though everyone feels justified in their actions. even if they feel regret or remorse later on, i think we all feel justified in the moment. folks who voted for trump felt justified in doing so. police feel justified in their actions. students and administrators who feel we cannot violate freedom of speech by not allowing Richard Spencer to speak on our campus feel justified in that stance. i feel justified in speaking out against Richard Spencer, because i believe hate speech informs violence. and i can definitely use tools and techniques to engage in meaningful dialogue with all of these people. i can seek to understand rather than being understood. i can remind myself this is water.

and i won’t feel as though i did right as an ally, an activist, an organizer, a social worker or as a human.

O Me! O Life!

BY WALT WHITMAN
Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring—What good amid these, O me, O life?
                                       Answer.
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

why critical intersectionality is important

multiple and intersectional identities complicate issues of power, privilege, and oppression in a lot of ways. this post is my response to week 9 readings, videos and discussion questions…

tbh i’m not convinced i’m in the best space to write this blog post. the recent email from Dean Videka was really upsetting and frustrating to read…why are we prioritizing the feelings of “well-intending white people”, or why do we have to keep using oppressive experiences of POC as ways to “facilitate dialogue”. at some point Dean Videka and others need to pause and realize this is real life, and sometimes we have to solve things in real life ways (like calling out racist shit and when racist shit is said…or taking racist hate crimes seriously and actually investigating them, following up, and seeking justice)

I know that’s not ahimsa…I know…I’m sorry…

sometimes, when it comes to power, privilege and oppression, only one identity matters. Mullaly states that “it is over simplistic and incorrect to impose a singular identity on individuals because most people obviously belong to more than one social category”, and yet Jordan Edwards and countless others were only viewed by the intersecting identities of “black man” when fatally shot by police. there were no weapons, no aggressive behavior, and the people in the car along with Edwards were not even suspects in a crime. the racist stereotypes and biases of one social identity overpowered any logic or reason.

sometimes it’s hard, depending on what marginalized identity you hold, to reflect and theorize intersectionality because of how you are treated on a daily basis. while Mullaly goes on to say that “an affluent person of colour will not experience racism in the same way as a poor person of colour” may can often be true…but can also sometimes not be true. sometimes a wealthy person of color can still be subject to racism, bigotry and violence.

it’s important to be critical about intersectionality. that within marginalized communities, there is racism, classism, ableisem, homophobia, heteronormativity (also within privileged communities and identities). the racism in the white gay community in the united states is shameful. the privileged, appropriation of black culture, particularly queer black culture by gay white men is appalling. the hyper-sexualization of men of color in the gay community is far too common and excepted. the transphobia in the gay community, from white and people of color alike, is still an issue. being ‘masculine’ acting as a gay man is valued, and gay women often are accepted as “lipstick lesbian” or “butch” (but heaven forbid anything inbetween).

i think a lot about how my identities impact my life. one thing i often experience, is navigating being a gay man in a world where often i receive all the privileges that a straight white upper-middle class man experiences. for me, sometimes people don’t know i’m gay (or just assume i’m straight) and i receive that privilege in those interactions. i also often find myself making sure i’m “acting straight”, not talking too much about Tori Amos, or even letting homophobic comments slide by for my own ‘comfort’ or safety.

this is important as social worker – because you can never assume anything about an individuals experiences until you take the time to listen and get to know them. you have to be mindful, that systems of power, privilege and oppression have impacted and informed individuals in some ways that are expected, and others that are not. just because you’ve worked with one low-income Asian american immigrant does not mean you can apply their experiences to every other person who holds those same identities…and you cannot hold other people to your expectations, experiences, values or ethics…

you also cannot enter a community without understanding the historical context of how your identities may or may not impact the community you entering. as a white man, despite what identities or experiences i may hold, what impact does it have to walk into a community that is 100% low-income black folks? and people in that community have their own individual experiences with poverty, discrimination, racism, etc and may view my presence in different ways. and you won’t know until you ask. and even if you ask, what you do with that information is very important to your work. maybe it means you step back. maybe it means people need to get to know you. maybe it means you need to check what your intentions are…and is your impact ever going to match…

final project description

For my final 504 project, I will journal and reflect on my time volunteering with Detroit Action Commonwealth (DAC). I started volunteering with this group back in 2010 with their state ID workshops, and ended up slowly getting more involved with the leadership, board and later as an organizer. I “worked” with them for a few years before moving to Boston, but always kept in touch with leadership in the group as well as visited whenever I was home.

“Detroit Action Commonwealth is a community-based organization of low-income, homeless and indigent residents of Detroit who organize around civic engagement and policy reform efforts”

Since moving back to Michigan in July of this year, I have been volunteering with DAC weekly. I’ve been meeting new leaders, getting caught up on people’s lives as well as seeing what the group is organizing around now. I’ve been asked to start working more closely with a new chapter of DAC at a church downtown.

My photos and videos will be kept to a minimum, as to not be exploitative of an already very vulnerable population. Public meetings with elected officials or folks running for office will be the best place for video and photos.

I think it’s important to analyze on a critical theoretical level how DAC organizes for power. I truly believe it is the most true and pure form of organizing I’ve ever witnessed…I don’t want to get too much into it now…read the article above…

I think it’s more important for me to analyze how my role fits in with the organization, how am I being true to what an ‘organizer’ does versus what a ‘leader’ does or what a ‘white savior’ does…I have often been so busy there has not been time to do a whole lot of reflection on the personal level.

I’m going to take advantage of this project for that purpose.

 

the leaders and best and white supremacists

It’s only Wednesday and we’ve already had a heavy week of organizing, social action against white supremacy on our campus. Our SSW was hit hard by having a staff member defending white supremacy by undermining Dana’s protest (and acting like kneeling at the flag was defying God…Good God Girl Get a Grip), the SSW staff calling the billies on students who were doing a peaceful sit-in instead of using dialogue and restorative justice techniques to resolve conflict, and a whole lot of back and forth emails with some badass amazing content and some incredibly ignorant content.

MY FEELINGS

1- One of my colleagues and friends who participated in many of these actions took to facebook to say the following:

“…its very telling when a bunch of people say “wow I wish I knew what to say.” etc etc. when I call stuff out. …If you want to put a stop to anti-Black stuff your classmates say and do, then DO it. Don’t just applaud Black femmes for their emotional labor in the aftermath.”

Totally 100% highlight underscore bold like retweet

I appreciate being checked.

This is MY community. The SSW, University of Michigan, white people in SE Michigan, white supremacists, these are my people (whether I want to claim them or not) my actions (anti-racism) and more importantly lack of action (non-racism) contributes to these events on campus.

What am I doing? What really goes into my decisions when I choose to kneel in the diag, but not respond to or address racist things my classmates or staff members say or do via email? It is telling indeed…and I have so little (or nothing) to fear or lose in these moments where I could respond and don’t. I need to step it up.

[Why I Kneel] Kneeling for almost 24 hours is physically, emotionally, mentally exhausting and painful, and probably doesn’t compare to the experience, stress and inconvenience students of color, particularly black students experience on this campus year after year.

Racist Incidents at UM

It’s like the more things change the more they stay the same.

oppression on the personal level

This weeks readings were extremely relevant, there’s way too much to say in a single blog post. I’m going to try to focus in…

In the spirit of diversity, social justice and learning, I’m going to go out to the edge of learning and be vulnerable and transparent. We’ll see if it’s regrettable or not.

In theory about oppression, we [need to always] define the oppressor as white, male, heterosexual, able-bodied, Christian, western, wealthy and the list could probably continue. The oppressor defines groups and dictates actions (Mullaly ch 3)

When I think about systemic racism and violence, it is easy to see where internalized biases from the oppressor play out in interpersonal relationships and interactions. Not all people are treated equally, because some ideas are so heavily ingrained in people that it is difficult to recognize and fight against. For example, at work last week we had a client’s brother (middle-aged Black male) come and visit. He ended up getting very upset, for very legitimate reasons, at the state in which his brother lived. My co-worker (middle-aged white woman) pulled me into the office and asked if I thought he was becoming too escalated and if we should call the police. While I would hope the Ann Arbor police could recognize the difference between anger and aggression, it was not something we wanted to risk…the situation was not that serious.

“All members of subordinate groups must live in fear of random & unprovoked physical attacks on their person, family or property” (Mullaly p 71)

The recent acts of hate and violence on this campus over the last few weeks is an example of this. Interpersonal violence particularly with women and their male partners (because of the existing power imbalance) continues to be an issue. Often trans women of color are disproportionately victims of hate crime, hyper-sexualization and murder. For me, I must think about how I not only internalize oppression in relation to my own identities, but in order to be a good ally I have to learn and listen to how my actions reflect the oppressor and thus perpetuate oppression.

Mullaly talks about how “marginalized groups can protest aversive or avoidance behavior, or they can suffer its humiliation in silence. Because an aspect of the dominant group is to avoid conflict, these actions are tactless or in poor taste.” He says that these actions can lead to exclusion from public of social events…I think a very public and well known example of this is Colin Kaepernick. [disclosure: I don’t really watch sports]. It appears there is a lot of internal conflict and battling of identities within the NFL. We have the President being an asshat by saying things that re-enforce the ego-protecting belief that it is wrong to kneel on the flag. It’s very easy for me to think “This man is a monster, I’m not going to listen to him” just as easy as it is for other white folks to think “hell ya, fuck those unpatriotic athletes and owners for disrespecting our founding fathers.”  Structural, cultural and personal oppression exists, because all of the people who watch Trump on TV and agree with him will continue to carry these beliefs, they will inform all of the interactions they have with people, regardless of race or ethnicity. He holds so much power in their eyes that he can remind folks publicly to protect the ego, protect the oppressor, at any costs.

Internalized oppression is a huge barrier to liberation. It is one of the most difficult things for oppressed positionalities to overcome because it has too big of an impact on one’s development of self from an extremely young age. It is a dangerous tool the oppressor has in place, because it allows the oppressed to perpetuate their own oppression. In Kaepernick’s situation, the negative reaction and feedback he has gotten is an example of how even though he stood up against racism, specifically police brutality, he is viewed as exclusionary. His exclusion serves to protect the dominant ego.

It is like the idea of people reproducing their own oppression. One example of this I’ve witnessed is youth gang violence, which I believe Mullaly says that Freire would call ‘horizontal violence’. Violence among gang-involved youth, often Black and Latino youth, re-enforces the oppressors views as dangerous, unworthy, or that they are causing their own problems in their own communities. It fails to see how gangs are products of oppression, symptoms of poverty because people have been denied access and power, and organizing to collect it. For those young people it has a huge impact on their human development.

When you read in Mullaly about oppression interfering with development and a maintenance of a healthy identity, what worries me the most is that those are things extremely difficult to overcome. In general, I’ve had a lot of relationships and experiences that have shaped who I am…27 years worth of things. If my entire life I’ve been told feminine qualities in men are bad, homosexuality is wrong, and I didn’t realize this was oppressive language until recently, it would be almost impossible to unpack and reflect over 27 years worth of shit in a day. Or in a week. Or probably in 10 years! As Mullaly says, this is a hard process, and guilt is sometimes easier than accepting structural oppression.

Since my working memory (kindergarten-ish) I can remember getting feedback from peers and adults about my affect, the way I talked, what kind of toys I wanted to play with (girls vs boys) and attaching a shit ton of shame to those memories. As I got older, and as I realized that ‘who I was’ was mostly out of my control, the shame turned into anxiety. Living in a conservative community, places like the boys locker room, bathroom or the lunch room were scary, anxiety filled spaces that I was not strong enough to navigate. I wasn’t just afraid of being yelled at, called a fag or bullied, but in some spaces I was afraid of getting beat up, outed to more people, and knowing that the adults in my life would not defend me. I don’t think I really started to reflect on these experiences until I was in my early 20s and realized how much they impacted my sense of self, my self-confidence or self-esteem. They impacted parts of my life that don’t relate to my sexuality. Sometimes I wonder what it would have been like growing up in a like-minded community, would I have been set up with better sense of self, or at least better skills to navigate the world. I also need to remind myself that the anxiety and shame created tendencies and parts of my personality that often allows me to enter many spaces and receive straight male privilege. People often but do not always, assume I’m straight and I gain access to that privilege in how I am treated (not as the other).

In the LGBT community, so much of the public images and civil rights movements have centered around the white gender binary experiences, I am deeply concerned about LGBT people of color dealing with bigotry and oppression from this community. Being masculine is a number one priority for gay men, and anything away from that is seen as less desirable, unattractive, or embarrassing to the community. Wealthy white queer communities often contribute a great deal to gentrification of poor neighborhoods, without acknowledging the large number of homeless LGBT youth of color. In Philadelphia (and probably other places) activists wanted to add black and brown stripes to the gay pride rainbow flag to represent the intersection of queer communities of color and their unique set of circumstances, and it got significant opposition from predominantly white community members. Some saw it as “divisive”.

Sometimes marginalized identities (LGBT) identify with their privileged identities (white, male) and create conflict within a community, or probably even more so within themselves.

Very specific examples of how I perpetuate oppression in my daily life:

#1 Being a white man working a job that provides services to homeless adults, 98% of whom are people of color. I often think about how my mere presence in this space is oppressive, not only being a white man but particularly a white man educated at UofM, raised in Grosse Pointe working on Detroit’s East Side…

#2 Holding men I have dated to heteronormative standards i.e. not wanting to hold hands, kiss in public, just being in general ashamed of PDA (I’m not going to pretend like I would feel the same way if I was straight)

#3 I have certain feelings about what spaces I can safely “be out”, and which ones I’m concerned for my safety. When I analyze what spaces are safe versus unsafe, I sometimes assume that rural white and urban Black and Latino communities are unsafe to be out. Particularly in communities of color, I’m subconsciously associating aggression and intolerance.

And what can I do about it? – analyze, check myself, reflect, be willing to be wrong, be willing to make different choices, listen to feedback.

#1 I could NOT work the job I work…work with the community and train others who are already there to do the same thing…I could instead organize in Grosse Pointe Park to get those oppressive and ridiculous flower pots removed.

#2 In dating I can be honest with folks about my insecurities, but also be able to navigate what’s the difference between shame and actual physical safety…and…

#3 …what biases come into play when I decide which spaces are safe and which ones aren’t…which is to be brave and re-associate what safety is in my brain and what that looks like in another person. I have to remind myself that in my experience, I’ve been “out” in multiple spaces and communities. And the ONLY community in which I was a victim of bullying, aggression and violence was from white men in Grosse Pointe. My internalized biases are the ones that create the ‘danger’ alert in my brain but are programmed to go off in Black communities, rather in ones where I’ve experienced violence. (that’s not to say that homophobia doesn’t exist in all communities…oh boy it exists…but nowhere as bad and as publicly accepted as where I grew up).

That was a lot…sorry. If you made it all the way through here is a video of Johnnyswim, a wonderful band. This song “Georgica Pond” Amanda wrote for her mom, the late Donna Summer.