Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Gay and the Country...

More ramblings about living in the country.

Coming from a more metropolitan area into a rural setting, there has been a shift in how one lives in private and in public.

I was/am a gender activist fighting for human rights – the right to be gay, the equality of female, the awareness that gender is not only a two party system.

Now I live out in the boonies where there isn’t an audience for my thoughts except for my partner and dog who listen in support as I rant and rave.

In fact, when we do go out in public, we are reverting back to being aware of how we communicate to one another. Shopping in the local grocery store, we are aware when we slip up and say, “Hey Babe, did we need some tomatoes?” Or walking down the aisle and we affectionately put our hand upon the other’s shoulder to direct a question. Or in introduction, it has become, “This is my friend, (insert partner’s name)”. It’s not even a direct communication that we live together and it’s out of the question to say “partner” or “girlfriend”.

The horror stories of the past and still seeing the stories in the present of how gay couples are subject to terror and harassment make us aware of our mannerisms. The recent incident in North Carolina underlines the present day reality. There are also a lot of hunters in this area so the chance of easy violence seems real.

We are pretty quiet people anyways so making a stink in the public forum isn’t our style. But it is nice to have the freedom to walk around as any other couple does.

I am aware that my truck has references to Stonewall and has a quote from Audre Lorde. Ironically, it says, “Your silence will not protect you.” I refuse to be so paranoid to take the stickers off. Yet I am aware that they are there.

In many ways I feel like I am letting down my activism side. This is the reality of being out in a rural setting. Am I showing cowardice by taking this stance? Am I a coward for not courting violence in the name of human rights? Is it okay that the activism I am comfortable with is the one that shows on an individual basis that the big, bad gay person as portrayed in the media is not so true, and we are human just like anyone else. I know it’s obvious, when in conversation with my partner and I at the same time, that there is affection between us and that we do live together and are building a life.

Is this a new form of activism that we show one by one that really…gay is okay. Is it a new form of activism that we build our lives, same as everyone else, carrying out the daily grind. Isn’t becoming a real part of society one in which the status of your relationship isn’t the forefront of every aspect in your life…that it is a sector just like liking mashed potatoes and hating lima beans? Like liking blonds instead of brunettes or choosing a partner who has a kind heart rather than a violent past?

I am fully aware that in the federal government, we cannot file taxes jointly because we aren’t seen as couples like heterosexual couples that had overindulged in a wedding. The benefits of heterosexuality are endless and that’s the biggest battle of all in facing equality. But in the daily grind of things, is it ok to be…to use social media as an outlet instead of using the corner picketing with signs? To maintain awareness of the world at large and to speak out when driven but to nurture hearth and home? Or is it living falsely to have your cake and eat it too when you live in an area where you would court violence if you choose to be blatant about your relationship status?

Or does it come down to being your authentic self regardless of which fence, or train track, you stand on?

Race in the Modern Age

The issue of race is a thread that continues to raise strong emotions, expose deep hurts and has become a token issue that threads across many realms. Race has very different perspectives based on the color of your skin. Race divides, collects and infuses on many aspects of an American life.

The truth of race is something that the American public has gotten away from. There is a portion of American history that one race was subjugated by another race solely based on the color of one’s skin. There is no argument about that. The argument lies in how we react to this portion of history.

What I saw last night was a lack of shame. Shame that human rights were so discounted. Shame that the mindsets were so strong of the inferiority of another color that it still echoes in present day.

Let me backtrack…
we attended an auction in our little town we had moved to. Still acclimating to this environment, we found a little slice of heaven when we came across “Rusted Gold” (Thanks American Pickers!) Most every Monday there is an auction and we happily jaunted to see what treasures our second auction would uncover.

Sitting two rows from the front table, we had almost prime seats for the action. Between the auction guys holding up the latest treasure (or trash) to bid on, we saw on the table some curious articles. Two books had the title, “Negroes…Animals or Humans?” Next to that was a framed picture…come to find out it was the Women of the Ku Klux Klan taken in Roanoke sometime in the 1930’s. There were two long sheets of printed paper that had a picture of a black man kissing a white woman and in bold letters, “The Kiss of Death”. As the auctioneer held up this paper, he read what it said in a jovial voice and made some comment about the kiss of death.
While this lot was being auctioned off, I watched Darryl – the auctioneer’s assistant. We had met Darryl, a man of color, the first time we ventured into the auction house one cold Saturday morning. He was so helpful to us as we moved through the piles of junk waiting for rusted gold to pop out at us. He even found things in the storage section that we might be interested in. With a kind heart and gentle soul, he aided us on our first treasure seeking venture.

When we arrived at our first auction, he greeted us like old friends. The second auction he stopped us to clue us in on a curio cabinet he’s got up there in case we wanted first dibs.
As the “historical curiousities” were being auctioned off, I saw him divert to other sections of the auction. As he traveled through the warehouse bringing more things to the front, another man thrust one of these materials into his hand to be held up for the latest bid. Usually Darryl camps it up for the audience with the latest product, but I now saw a man put in a horrible position of holding items from a violated past.

With quiet strength he was able to pass that on to someone else to hold and moved towards the back to appear to be working as he removed himself from being put back in that position.
I sat in shock that these pieces were displayed without remorse or reaction. In fact, there were quite a few bids on these pieces, each one being auctioned off. I thought about the audience members, the ones bidding on these pieces. I thought about the spattering of people of color in the majority white audience. I started thinking about the idea of shame.

When global atrocities occur, there seems to be a sense of shame from the governing party, usually brought upon by citizen protest. Governing parties, sensing the needs of their people, tend to address and apologize for the human rights violations that have occurred. Of course there are plenty of governing parties that still refuse to address and if they do, refuse to apologize.

With the Civil Rights issue in the United States, there still seems to be an air of disregard from the governing parties. The white ruling class is still in power, even in the age of a man of color being President. There have been grounds gained in changing the ruling white mindset but there is the overall attitude of white majority dominance. This trickles down to the citizens of the country so any progressive thought will still take at least 30 years to trickle down to majority thought. The only other change from the political mindset is the celebrity obsessed influence of this country. Other than colored celebrities slowly winning accolades, such as Halle Berry being the first woman of color to win an Oscar, the issue of race is not one valiantly being fought on the forefront.

The furor of the Civil Rights movement seems to be relegated to the volatile environment of the 60’s and 70’s. The 80’s was a band aid to the seemingly exhausting environment of the previous decades. Has the fight gone out with history? Are the seemingly passive, quiet battles being slowly won the new form of human rights activism?

Change takes place slowly so it’s realistic to know one will come across pockets of blatant discriminative attitudes, especially in rural settings. What can be done when these pockets rise up in these settings, especially when there still resides the predominate ideals that white is superior and color is not? There seems to be a quiet acceptance that there are certain freedoms of all people regardless of color but that idea hasn’t soaked into the core beings of the majority public. There is still the thread of superior whiteness that is maintained, just more subtly.
When it comes to historical pieces and iconic items that reflect specific eras, there is no price to pay for history continuing to be told. yet do these pieces of subjugation priceless? Interestingly, the iconic pieces that tell the tale of how a race of people were completely and utterly terrorized raises more money in auction than white pieces of history. In our consumer driven society, doesn’t that reflect where our attitudes lie?

Should there be a consumer market for items that represented violations of specific people? Doesn’t that reflect a complete lack of shame for what happened? Is the attitude that it was a part of history make it okay? What about the people who live today knowing that it wasn’t too far in the past that they could have been subject to the same lack of human rights at their ancestors?

Interestingly, there was also a 1935 copy of the Emancipation Proclamation up for bid. It garnered no sales and no interest.

Doesn’t that just put the underline in the subject?

Monday, January 17, 2011

Introducing the new series of trees...

In the midst of Old Dominion University, there is an angel.
The influence this one woman brings to this corner of the world ripples through to reach globally. Without ego, with an immensely open heart, she teaches her classes and opens eyes to incredible worlds. It is subtle, most times, the effect she has but long after sitting in one of her classes does the affect continue to flourish within the student.
In her class Chick Flicks, the world of movies is opened up in a way that one never sees a movie the same way again. Names that roll through credits are now paid attention to, the threads of the movie machine are recognized, and the history of movies has a spotlight shining down on it. It is this new world that these trees were created.
Josephine Baker...
Names of people have always run through my mind, regardless of not knowing anything about them. I recall seeing pictures of Josephine Baker and knew she had quite an influence but on what I had no idea. Her name kept popping in my head and with glee I began research.
Now I am in awe.
Her place in life was boundless. Her beginnings were full of reasons not to become anything. Yet within these meager beginnings, she emerged to rule dance halls, rule Harlem Renaissance, to cross countries and influence a Europe that was beginning its rule in Art Deco. She was in the midst of Folies Bergeres.
That wasn't the only side of this amazing woman.
Josephine Baker stood in her beliefs to aid in going against the Nazis. Her success as a performer aided the war effort; so much so that her adopted country of France bestowed many awards on her and full French military honors at her funeral.
Her sexuality wasn't within bounds, either. She lived fully and without apologies, rising while the world around her were exposed to something they had never seen before. She performed with zest, lived life on her terms and her influence remains without bounds.
Marlene Dietrich...
Marlene is another woman who lived life on her own terms. The movie machine of the early 20th century is known for ruling every aspect of the life of one of their contract players, but Marlene made her movies and became a glamourous movie star in her way. Her legacy remains as a person who embraced both male and female sides of her personality and didn't apologise for it.
Marlene Dietrich also supported the anti-Nazi war effort and was recognized from both the United States and France. In doing so, she received alot of backlash from her home of Germany.
Her daughter's book lovingly sits on my bookshelf and I adore delving back into the many facets of her life. She died in Paris, a month before I graduated high school. How I wish now that I paid more attention back then to the women who would have such an influence.
When I started these trees, I never knew the many coincidences between these two women. Until I began writing did I see how similar they lived their lives. Their affect on me came from completely different corners but now I see the common thread that invisibly drew me to them.
Isn't it interesting what life brings to you and only unveils itself when you sit down to look?
Pausing in this hectic life to see the path that brought these trees to life, to see the immense influence Professor Vaughan Frederick still has on my daily life, and to witness the result of the richness that surrounds each and every one of us is awesome.
And I wish each and every person that they have a Vaughan in their life.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

One girl, One tale

Let me ask you this...what does a person with these following traits look like to you?
Molested at 12, teenage pregnancy, poor single mom, rigid familial gender expectations, depression issues...
what is your internal picture of this person?

Let's take a look at another person.
Undergraduate monthlong study in San Francisco, weeklong feminist boot camp in New York City, research symposium in Norfolk and Richmond, VA, internships in oyster restoration projects, assistant for NOAA/University Oceanography cruise, influence on leading texts in female gender, facilitator of riveting gender and disability performances in Norfolk, VA, a founding developer of a local LGBTQ community center, multiple scholarship winner, student of the year, multiple conference attendee, symposium creator, connector of gender activists and artists.

How did these two people become one and the same?

Let me begin with the statement - I didn't believe in myself. Too often, the voice in my head and the voice outside of my head said I couldn't do anything. But I was sick of being poor. I was bored with the jobs available to me. So I went back to school and saw a program where I could get a stipend for being a female interested in science. This was during my days at a community college. My assumption was I would get my Associate's degree and get a good job. I had no knowledge of the college system and the degrees of Bachelor, Master's and PhD were for other people.
Then I became a member of the STEM project, a National Science Foundation Initiative to bring more females into the fields of science, technology, engineering and math. In this program, the director told me I could do anything I wish. She proved it with the paid for career/personality assessment test. Meanwhile, during this time I was put in a headlock by my alchoholic girlfriend. Because my son was in the house and I would never want him to witness anything like that, I told her the next day to move out. While I was being stalked and my son and I were both threatened, the director of the STEM program gave me a safe space to talk. She still told me I could do anything I wanted to. She then sent me to a conference in Washington, DC for the AAUW College Student Women Leaders. I had never stayed in a dorm before so that was a new experience. During the conference I experienced criticism from some other women's center attendees for being "too gothic" but that was just a dark blemish on an amazing conference.
I listened to Zainab Salbi who spoke of her ordeal growing up under the reign of Saddam Hussein and being a victim of rape. She created Women For Women International and conitnues to do amazing work. I came back from that conference and met the director of the Women's Studies program at Old Dominion University, Dr. Anita Fellman. Her presence and the things she said, especially regarding the criticism I faced at the conference, gave me the drive to include women's studies in my education and to attend Old Dominion University. When I transferred as a Biology major/Women's Studies minor I was excited to view my future path in helping women in developing countries with their local biology/ecology.

The grueling science classes began to weigh on me as I worked full time and had my son full time. The Women's studies classes were my vacation. I realized I didn't have the available time to focus on my first love of science so I changed my major to Women's Studies and my life exploded.
In class, I talked about reclaiming the work Dyke. It became a heated discussion but my professor (the same Women's Studies director that inspired me to get in the program) told me later, after my many apologies for the way the discussion went, that she loved my voice and to remember that the discussion doesn't end in the classroom. I felt safe in that space to discuss anything and my voice finally emerged after 27 years. The next two years of exploring many ideas and having the space to explore them enriched my life greatly. I had belief in my thoughts and ideas and a space to speak them. My fear of public speaking (taking the required public speaking class online) was faced head on as a professor of rhetoric believed in my controversial subject and helped me develop my conference topic. I took that conference topic to the state capital, fearful of the reaction but rewarded with the opening of minds. I still am receiving questions from people who heard the conference and wanted to discuss greater ideas of gender. That is an amazing feeling to have.

I graduated in 2010 as Student of the Year after experiencing a phenomenal final undergraduate year. The shy, voiceless girl still resides within but she is accompanied with the warrior full of strong ovaries that has ideas and the desire to fulfill them. The shy, voiceless girl emerges often without the support experienced in the collegiate environment, but the warrior stands by her side to remind her of the strides she has made in a scant few years.Seeing Zainab Salbi again this year at another conference outside of my university experience still brought the intense excitement of potential. Her words were even more powerful as I recognized the inspiration she gave me years prior. To couple that with seeing Leymah Gbowee, who we discussed in class, was a synchronicity moment that I was where I was supposed to be.
Life still remains uncertain, especially in this economy that requires severe determination to find minimal exmployment but it is a little more tolerable knowing that between these two ears the thoughts do have an outlet. That alone makes the daily grind a little more tolerable, the challenge of facing each day through the clouds of depression a little more hopeful. And when I get that call or email that asks my opinion, I still feel the awe and joy that somewhere, out there, my words are still resonating.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Omega Institute - 2010

The journeys of life are amazing, as this past year is most definite in my own life. This past weekend was the candle on the very awesome cupcake of this past year as it seemed to hug all the experiences I’ve blogged about so far, grab my doubts in for a squeeze, and plant a big fat kiss of encouragement to grab life by the ovaries and sail forth.

When I applied for Omega (http://eomega.org/omega/wi-power/faculty/) in Spring 2010, I thought it would be a cool experience. In the midst of my final semester of undergrad, I forgot all about it. After I came back from Feminist Boot Camp, I saw an email that I was granted a full scholarship to attend. Sweet! I get to hang out with Amy Richards again, see Zainab Salbi who changed my life 3 years ago (http://www.tcc.edu/students/specialized/womenscenter/documents/1684SU07Connforweb.pdf) and check out Ani DiFranco finally!

It wasn’t until the Tuesday before I was to leave that I digested fully the website. I couldn’t contain the excitement and stayed up way too late completely amped to be a part of this. If I knew beforehand the women I was going to meet and the amazing work they do, I don’t think I would have slept all week.

The greatest experiences of life are not only the direct experience, but also of the periphery experiences that come along for the ride. The universe was chock full of messages throughout all experiences so first, the conference details.

The congregation of women speakers was amazing. Friday night’s lineup began with Carla Goldstein who heads the Women’s Institute at Omega and Lateefa Simon who I instantly LOVED. The way she spoke was reminiscent of spoken words artists I love. She had the great task of introducing all of the speakers throughout the weekend and I adored the enthusiasm she had for these women.
Elizabeth Lesser spoke and I finally put a face to the person who cofounded Omega. It’s trippy that a person who lead an energy healing the next day to send love to Eve Ensler and who is so connected with amazing people across this Earth presents to down to earth, but isn’t that the way its supposed to be?
Then Lateefa introduced Leymah Gbowee. This was my second big moment of the Universe reiterating my right path (the first will be explained in a bit). Back-story – at Old Dominion University, a class on Motherhood and Rhetoric gave classmate Patrina the opportunity to share the story of her home, Liberia. Specifically she shared with us the work of the Market Women and Leymah Gbowee. Now I got to see this powerful woman and hear her words. Of the many great tings she said were “We need to redeem our time…you need to take it because the men will not give it.” She talked about how empowerment is spoken but never what that means – "...to empower, you have to give up some of your power. That is why patriarchy has such a stronghold because the men do not want to give up the power." I could hear her say the word Patriarchy all night, in her accent it was incredibly beautiful, not only in her tongue but in feeling the power she speaks of that patriarchy doesn’t want to give up but she is forcing it to. Without taking your own empowerment against patriarchal strongholds, it is like “taking a mouth of water, it turns to saliva and you swallow it.” Such poetry!
Simply put, she said, “Visions that change the world are trapped in a normal girl.” “Never lose sight that where you are is a privileged place. Never forget you represent yourself and never forget you represent a group of women.” And lastly, “It’s never about you.”

Interspersed with this first day of greatness were the universal messages that were coming loud and clear. Backtracking to Port Authority in New York City where we caught the shuttle to Rhinebeck. Luckily the universe was looking out for me because I originally told the cab driver from LaGuardia that I was going to Penn Station. I also told him I didn’t want to spend more than $20 on a cab. He was a really awesome person from Turkey and we had a delightful conversation about Turkish tea and he clued me in on a great Turkish restaurant in Va. Beach. Who knew? As we approached Times Square he asked which gate and that’s when I realized I told him the wrong place I was going to. I could be wrong but it seemed like he stopped the meter because the almost 40 minute cab ride only cost me a just over $20.

So I’m waiting at Port Authority and this lady comes up to ask if I was going to Omega. We chatted and she was such a cool spirit. After this venture she was going to work at an ashram in Virginia. When we got to Omega and were getting our room assignments, she was getting her room the same time as me…go figure it was the same room! We shared much in common and as she smoked too, we would sneak off to the only place allowed to smoke…a far off tent past the parking lot WAY away from the main campus. This was only the beginning of the universe.

(My cabin in the morning light)
Saturday began our choice in movement classes before the say of speakers. I chose Tai Chi and there’s nothing like feeling how out of shape one is when you are tuning into yourself. The beautiful tree pose and grounding one’s self felt so amazing. Tai Chi is so lovely in its beautiful simplicity but make no mistake it can leave you achy. Off to another amazing vegetarian meal and then the main hall.
I wish I could have an alarm with Lateefa Simon. Her vibrancy in the morning is just the positive spirit that coffee doesn’t really reach to.

We heard the words of Annie McKee. Her words on leadership were spot on.
* You cannot be brave until you’re really scared
* You cannot lead until you know what it means to be powerless
* We operate on false assumptions about what it means to be a great leader
* Things are changing constantly so everything is new, can’t be shut down.
* The minute you become victim you cease to be a leader.
The last two especially resonate and remind me to stop the inner voices that constantly shut me down. Even when the daily routine gets me down, it is new so I need to get off my rear and step it up.

The moment I looked forward to arrived with the speaker, Zainab Salbi. I had known her story from her great book, Between Two Worlds. When I met her at American University, I was struck that after her stellar words and obvious exhaustion from a long day, she engaged each and every person at her book signing. The look in her eye as she signed your book and thanked you personally was one of such quiet strength and depth. I had forgotten that she was such a big fan of Rumi and because of her words three years prior I was introduced to Rumi’s amazingness. She shared the stories of the women she came across in her work with Women for Women International and what still strikes me is that it isn’t charity the women wanted but dignity and integrity. With the great need to lead assistance to women whose voice is taken by the patriarchal structure, this is crucial to remember. With dignity we can aid, not give charity. Zainab Salbi shared how these women gave her the courage to tell her own story and reminded us that it takes courage to show our vulnerability. “A strong heart is not heart a with armor and a sword. A strong heart is one that can dance and that can be happy. Only when you have the joy and heart can you venture into darkness and with happiness can you dissolve.”
The power of her words resonated all throughout the weekend as I will share in a wee bit.

Pat Mitchell, after speaking great words and sharing amazing stories had a dialogue with Jensine Larsen who started World Pulse magazine. Her online Pulse Nation gives voice to global women who want to speak out about what is happening in their country. Many women traverse hard terrain and long hours to venture into an internet café to tell their stories. Oftentimes this is detrimental to their safety.
What stops us in our privileged America to not take action and tell the stories of ourselves and our sisters?

More yummys from the dining hall, I was quickly falling in love with quinoa. Finally I ran into Amy Richards! So great to see her after the Feminist Boot Camp.

The afternoon workshop was a hard decision. I chose the writing workshop as it kept popping into my head. That should have been the clue that the Universe was trying to steer me that way.
The leader of the workshop spoke of how we need to turn off the inner voice in our head that tells us we aren’t good enough. We have stories that need to be told and we are now going to do it in a 20 minute free write. I wrote down the ideas in my head about my own personal journey but nothing I really wanted to share. When we broke into groups of three, I let the other two ladies read their work.
The first woman to read was the moment I was waiting for. I knew that my mother would show up at one point in the conference. I had been struggling with her passing but not sure exactly why; I just knew it was a little more than the normal mourning process. This woman read her story about the last breaths of her mother and the peaceful journey she had at the end of her life. She had stepped out to catch a break and at that moment was when her mother decided to venture onto the other side. When she came back into the room the nurse told her to hold her chin as she arranged her body before rigor mortis set in. They sat with her body to help ease the spirit to the other side. I realize this was what I missed from my own mother’s passing. My emotions were locked in my throat and when she was done reading the two of us that listened sat stunned. When it was my turn to say something, all I could do was say thank you and start crying. I highly dislike crying in public, especially in front of people I don’t know. I reached such healing with her words, it was indescribable. Thank you universe.

Before dinner, there was a reception in the beautiful library. The main reason for the reception was to highlight the scholarships that are awarded. This year, they were able to award 140 scholarships, $1000 per recipient. A few recipients spoke about what it meant to them to be able to attend. A girl that had ridden with us on the bus spoke. Coming from Haiti, she became emotional as she spoke about how she was able to live the life her mother could not. She knew she made her mother, whose voice wasn’t able to reach out, proud to be a college student and attending Omega showed her the right path she is on. She would have been completely unable to experience so much without the scholarship.
Another woman spoke up about being a Hutu woman. Earlier in the writing workshop we were graced with her story – how her father was killed when she was 7 and what her home in Rwanda was like. It wasn’t until this reception that she spoke about the courage Zainab Salbi gave her. Zainab spoke about not wanting to talk about being the daughter of Saddam Hussein’s pilot. She didn’t want her face to be replaced by his and how the women she came across gave her the courage to tell her story. This woman also didn’t want to speak out about being Hutu, but after hearing Zainab she had the courage to do so. So powerful…

The first year they did this reception, they raised $10,000. Last year they raised $15,000. We found out Sunday morning that this evening’s reception raised $35,000 – all of which goes to fund scholarships for the Women and Power conference. Beautiful!!!

So with heightened emotions, Saturday ended with Poet Elizabeth Alexander and Ani DiFranco.
Elizabeth Alexander was the fourth female poet to read at the presidential inauguration, “Praise Song for the Day.” The other works she shared were reminiscent of poets I got to know through Women’s Studies and her honesty in her work was similar to the frank honesty of Lucille Clifton, who was one of her mentors. The thread of great poets continues to live through the words and the influences of those that walk among us.
My first Ani DiFranco performance was stellar. Why have I not fallen in love with her work before? I felt so lucky to be in such an intimate setting with songs mixed in a Q&A format. There is a song on her upcoming album that is my new anthem, I was too engrossed to take down notes but it speaks of the power of the feminine and is a great F*U to the patriarchal establishment. So I realize that speaks about many of Ani’s work but this song in particular is up there with Alix Olson’s Subtle Sister, in my opinion.

If this day wasn’t enough, there was still another day. (And the periphery experiences that parallel the power of the speakers).

Sunday began with a lakeside personal vigil. Originally I was going to kayak but they were locked up so I sat and watched the water. Mists were rising up in the chilly air. It is in silence that we realize the times few and far between that we experience the beauty of nature and the serenity it gives. The fish jumping, the birds beginning their day, the moon setting and the sun rising, absolute tranquility.

Another yummy vegetarian breakfast and off to hear more speakers.
Lateefa’s energy started us off right and then we were blessed with Gail Collins. Her stories of amazing historical women showed us that it’s the women who didn’t do what was expected, who didn’t live within the boxes framed for them, but had courage to see a problem and fix it against many odds. Well behaved women rarely make history, correct?

I admit I was a little restless so I ventured. I conversed with one staffer whose life journey knocked him down and his solace became the Omega space. I ended up getting a tarot reading from another of the seasonal staff. (How cool to venture to Omega to work for a season). This was his fourth season working. When I’m moved to get a reading I do so to check in; this reading really reinforced that things were groovy on my path and how I am putting to rest the self-sabotage that has been the Bain of my existence.

I came back to the main hall in time to see Jennifer Buffet who started the Novo Foundation. I’ve heard a lot of the work they’ve done and seen immense support coming from this organization. Her personal story was stellar in that it doesn’t matter who you are, many women are born with a lack of voice. (For those that know me, the finding of my voice has been the saving of my life).
Jennifer Buffet called her experience a living gender experiment. She had the “wounded belief that opportunity wasn’t for her.” She “stopped participating in her delusion and trying to run love like love existed outside of her.” She also reminded us that “self-care is never a selfish act, it’s good stewardship of the only gift we have.” It’s fantastic to see someone whose work is far reaching but whose story is so similar to many of us.

Suddenly, this amazing journey was done. It was time to get one more quick bite of yumminess in the dining hall and get on the bus. Life charged back into my existence with the delay of my plane and horrible weather but at midnight I made it back.

Writing these words gets me back to the vibrant feeling within that I obtained at Omega. I knew one of my greatest challenges would be to maintain this feeling to keep at bay the doubts and stress that keeps me from reaching towards what is beautiful. I now know that there is a place in this world that I can return to recharge this beautiful vibrancy and I can’t wait to share stories of others who have made the venture to this wee bit of paradise in the mountains of New York.

Thank you to the donors who made this journey and all of my previous journeys possible. Philanthropy is not only the right thing to do, it has the ability to transform. The altering gift goes beyond the monetary value and has perpetual outcomes. It is the ripple in the pond that creates lasting effects.
And thank you to the women who came before me to create their stories.
I am one very blessed person.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Day 7 – Last Day

We tried to get our last bagel…but the line was out the door. So we found another shop but after the best bagels in town was largely disappointed. We found ourselves at another hostel for our self-defense workshop. The instructor was a slight man whose philosophy on self-defense was great. The first defense is confidence and awareness. He walked us through scenarios and when he put his acting cap on it was intense! His role as perpetrators was so real. We wanted to learn how to physically defend ourselves so our last lesson was how to knee someone. EMPOWERMENT!!! Until you actually go through the process of grabbing someone behind the neck and pulling them into your knee that is kicking, you cannot feel the physical power you carry within yourself – no matter how tiny the person is. A last round robin circle, photo ops, exchanging info and then Feminist Summer Camp 2010 was over.
Unfortunately I had to deal with some fraudulent charges so I had to excuse myself to deal with the bank.
One last Virginia girls adventure…we made our way back to the hostel to change and venture to Empire State. Walking around Rockefeller Center was tourist mecca…

Our last meal was at Le Pain Quotidien. www.lepainquotidien.com/ Yum!
Although the hibiscus tea was ick, the food was amazing, the dessert was scrumptious and the coffee was to die for. The little touches like warmed milk and your personal coffee pot was cute. Katie had to meet some other girls so we parted at the subway so Amy and I could get our things at the hostel. We got on the express train…and passed the stop. We had a cushion of time but it was slowly diminishing. We found the right train, hauled to the hostel, hurriedly gathered our things and rushed out the door to catch a cab at Central Park West. We jumped in with joy…an after a couple blocks got stuck in traffic. Panic started rushing in as we slowly maneuvered our way through traffic and got on the highway to LaGuardia. 7 was our deadline time of being there and we managed to get there at 7:03. Through the check in, security, and FINALLY on our way to the gate. Almost there and I hear my name…Christina who I worked with at ODU was sitting at our gate! Small world! She was returning from a conference herself. Too funny…
Our pilot had superman on the wings of the plane and we arrived 25 minutes early.
Amy’s phone had died so she waited for her ride (which ended up being an ordeal for her) and Cassie pulled up in her vehicle.
My luggage gained too much weight apparently on the trip…at least that’s what it felt like to me.
In the car…and on my way home. Happiness!!!
I'm so thankful for the donors who made this amazing trip possible, for the support of the best women's studies department, family and friends who encouraged and supported, the fellow students that made this week fabulous, and a great partner who not only put up with my challenging dog but with whose encouragement and support I couldn't have done this.
I am one lucky gal...
Day 6 – Internship day

I have officially given birth to cankles. The past two days I’ve seen my feet become sausages and it’s not pretty. Especially when they gave mini births to many blisters. Flip flops and NYC do not get along. Neither do non-supportive sandals and swanky Converse.

We once again ventured to the same bagel shop for the amazing bagels. Sarah and I had our internship together at an organization that deals with domestic violence. Since the location is sensitive, it wasn’t written in our listing of organizations and all we had at that time was the idea that it was near Wall Street. Exhaustion trumped my preparation. Once we go directions, we successfully maneuvered the subway on our own. Victory! The subway was graced with the music that reminded me of my beloved Honduran brothers in New Orleans. Bypassing some beautiful architecture, we made it. We were in fact a half hour early. Once we got in and met with the director of volunteers, we met the corporate organization that was also doing their Impact Day. They had just had their huge annual fundraiser so the staff was pretty weary but once the corporate firm was given their task, the fantastic director Emily came and spoke with us. She was truly interested in what we experienced and, as a doula herself, was interested in our reproductive justice day. She set us up with the amazing Leah who is in charge of the Butterfly Boutique. They had revamped a closet into a boutique shop where women can get clothes for their children and themselves. It was such a cute space! Sarah and I took boxes of donated clothes, separated them by season and restocked the empty boutique. While simple, the task was hugely satisfying. Leah is a one woman power behind the donations and giving the women and their children a beautiful place to what could be a demeaning task – accepting donated good to simply clothe one’s self. Emily and Leah were both thankful for the work we did although I didn’t get to make as much of a dent as I wanted. The work they do is so amazing and necessary and I was so thankful for been given the opportunity to help out. Anytime I am in NYC I will be back to help in whatever way I can. Their parting gifts touched my spirit in so many ways. That is the heart to heart connection that bypasses everything. True, honest warmth from within emanate from these women and I was honored to be there. I was also happy to spend the day with Sarah who is a freshman. Interestingly, she is the youngest and I am the oldest student at the camp. I cannot wait to see the wonderful work she will be accomplishing back at UTEP!
As we wandered after our internship, we found ourselves in front of the Stock Exchange. We saw that there were cameras at the Federal Building and wandered over to see what was going on. There was a group surrounding a woman speaker so we tagged along to see what was up. Unknowingly, it was the end of a walking tour…how so New York to tag along!! Ha Ha.

We made our way back to the hostel and I had a rare moment of vegging in the room, much to the thanks of my feet. After a couple chats on the phone the fellow campers reconvened and we got to hear each other’s tales of interning. Some good, some not so good. Amy, Katie and I decided to venture and after finding that the Casa Frida Kahlo was just the name of the building, we decided to find where John Lennon was shot. As we walked around the area we came across 2 New York women that showed us that it was the next building over from where we stood. They let us know that the Dakota was named such because when it was built most people lived on the other side of town so the owners said they may as well be out in the Dakotas. They suggested hopping across the street to Central Park to Strawberry Fields. A few pictures later, we went into the park and found the beautiful mosaic in his honor. Beautiful.
We walked around Central Park, debated taking the carriage ride until we found out how much it was, the ladies were gracious in camping it up for the camera, found the French film being shown in the park, saw the gondola ride and made our way out the other side. Hungry, we looked to find cheap eats. Then we realized we were on Madison Ave, Park Ave and 5th Avenue. We didn’t think cheap eats were going to be found here. There were 2 older couples dressed very elegantly enjoying an after dinner walk together. They said their goodbyes and we then witnessed one elegant couple chase down the bus that was approaching. I loved it!!
We found a deli and had more yummy NY pizza and fab dessert. We were going to stop by a jazz club that was outside the subway stop near the hostel but alas, it was Friday night and they had a $30 cover. Welcome to NYC.
A shower, chat on the phone, and we attempted passing out…which proved challenging due to the international students chatting loudly on the balcony outside our window until the wee hours. Welcome to hostel living.