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. 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.

Day 5 – Feminist Art…

This is the day I was anticipating most…and it did not fail to infuse powerful inspiration.

Since we didn’t have to be in Brooklyn until 11, the Virginia girls were going to FedEx to retrieve my phone. Found a cab…then he told us he didn’t know how to get to the Bronx. (We were on the Upper West Side which is across the river from the Bronx). We walked…couldn’t find an empty cab, talked to some MTA people, found out were originally at the right place on the upper West Side, then said fuhgetaboutit when time was creeping away. So…we asked another MTA person where to find bagels and found the mecca of bagel goodness.
I now understand what a good bagel is. Everything bagel with veggie cream cheese…HEAVEN!!! We ate on the bench in the middle of Broadway and relished in heavenly goodness.
Off to Brooklyn…the subway is getting easier to maneuver and found our location…much like a choose your own adventure, we came up to the address and found a building to call up. Luckily someone was walking out so we jumped through the open door. Since we had directions to Powderkeg on the third floor, we started climbing stairs. On the third floor was an unmarked door and we were unsure if this was right at all. We knocked..hoping for the best…and happily..we were in the right place. Being the first ones, we got to relax in this awesome space. Powderkeg is a writing center that rented this space in which several books have been produced. It is reminiscent of theater space with eclectic chairs. Katie chose the old fashioned wheel chair which was the scene of later accidents as there isn’t a graceful way to enter and exit the chair.
Once everyone gathered…we met with the Guerrilla Girls. WOW!!!
It was so great to meet a few of the Guerrilla Girls and hear first had their amazing grassroots work. Their approach is fresh and their history shows how in tune they are with the world around. We started our activity spouting off what feminist topics need to be addressed. After picking out top 4 topics and breaking into groups, we worked on a video piece addressing our topics. In 20 minutes, there were 4 videos that were stellar. Once they are compiled I will post the link to them all. It’s powerful to see what was able to be done with a hand held video camera or by using the video option on our own personal digital cameras. I am in awe of the collective.

We then met with Arts Effect.
I can’t say enough about the work being created here. First, these two ladies quit their non-profit work to follow their dream. Another real life example of following your dreams. The stories they shared about the middle school girls and their experiences were powerful. So many of us experienced people like the Boob Inspector whose job as a middle school boy was to fondle the newly emerging breasts of the girls. The juxtaposition of hating this violation and feeling adolescent acceptance is one of the many struggles for girls in this age group. When the girls get together in this space, they are able to talk about their experiences and gain the knowledge that they aren’t the only ones going through this. Through theater arts, they create change both within and externally. They revamped a hip hop song to represent feminist power…the link which I will post when I receive it. It is super powerful and to know that it is the collective voice of middle school girls was emotional. We were led through an Arts Effect activity and journaled for a few minutes about a memory of when we first noticed injustice or something that led us to feminism. We broke out in groups and created a theater piece around the one or two sentences that resonated through our writing. Interestingly, our group of 5 had 3 people write about their fathers. We had to incorporate the lines that resonated in our freewrite. In short, our group’s scene was a girl and her father, Tommy Hilfiger. It was after a whole day of the girl and her mother getting everything ready for the party and Daddy T was criticizing the daughter for reading her book and not having combed her hair for the party that was about to start. This triggered her reaction when he was vicious about the fact that she was reading Smut Manifesta and the daughter raged at him. His only reaction was to look down at his empty drink and ask her to get him another beer.
The other 4 presentations were immensely powerful and brought up so much emotion within. I treasure the space that allowed this beautiful work to come through the collective groups and to have witnessed how the ideas came together. I am thankful for Angi’s powerful performance on the window ledge, the strength in 4 words still drawing emotion from the depths of my spirit.
With this full morning of inspiration, we ventured to Streb.
This is a new way of movement and there were rumors of trapeze. Amy Richards did do the trapeze for her birthday but there were other things on our agenda. This space also holds a tightrope workshop taught by Phillipe Petit who is known for walking the tightrope between the World Trade Center buildings. Once we learned pop action and how to fall from a standing position full body face down, we split into groups. First, my group, 5 at a time, stood on top of the rafter that usually holds lighting in theater spaces. In the air, we did 90 degree pops and jumping formations. A few of us wanted to go higher which we did. When you are high in the air and the skinny platform you are on is moving from the 5 people jumping together at once, it is pretty scary.
We switched spaces and learned to jump on the trampoline launch. After a running start, we took one jump and landed on the mat. Then we took a jump and landed on the mat in a full crouch face down position. How amazing…
Our final acrobatic adventure was for groups of 5 to hang from the rafter as it was lifted to see who could hold on the longest. There is something surreal about holding onto a metal framework and feel it lifted until your feet are no longer on the ground. Lack of upper body strength made my journey short but most of felt the affects for days after.
6:00 and our day as a collective was done. We had yet to eat the famed NY pizza so we found a place and happily was not disappointed. Chicken bacon ranch pizza is a must try for pizza lovers. We searched for a gelato place and weren’t disappointed. Knowing I still had yet to conquer my phone debacle, I started planning my way to the Bronx. Lizzy joined me and I was so grateful. We had an hour before FedEx closed. Unknowingly, we jumped on the express train and passed the stop needed. Now we had 30 minutes. We jumped off the subway and decided to catch a cab. Thankfully we did since we would have had to maneuver through an industrial section and with 5 minutes to spare, I ran into FedEx. With phone in hand, I did the victory whoop exiting the building. We took the subway to where Lizzy was staying and I made my way back to the hostel. After finally getting to hear Cassie’s voice, I went to bed exhausted but happy.

Day 4 - Media and Job Training

Day 4 Brooklyn Bound…

Wednesday, June 9: Media and Job Training Day…
::: Initially I was going to my Bronx adventure to retrieve my phone but we realized we didn't have quite enough time since FedEx opened at 9:::
The Virginia Girls (Amy, Katie and I) are venturing on our own to Brooklyn. The three of us met on the first day and have roomed together, along with our sojourner Sarah. Katie is a wonderful feminist from JMU. On our way to the Broadway station, we passed Casa Frida Kahlo. No time to stop today but definitely have to find out what this was all about!!!

Not quite sure where we are going, we made it to the Brooklyn subway station on Jay St. Friendly New Yorker guided us in the right direction, couple of turns, a few minutes to get there, one wrong turn, and then we were at the Ms. Foundation. Intense security check, name badges and off we were.
We met with Suzanne, Kara, and Melissa to discuss their journeys in working in feminist organizations and Melissa’s specific journey to grad school. Their insight was great and refreshing to know that there are many journeys to a goal. As with all the discussion on paths, I’ve found that when you trust your own instinct, what is in your heart prevails. Sometimes it takes the right person whose path you can learn from to come your way. As Amy and I are finding out, the Women’s Studies department at ODU is more amazing than we knew as we compared our stories to the ladies in camp. When the panel discussed business cards, Amy and I were among a few that presented theirs. Katie did a wonderful job creating them for us…Thank you!!!
Our lunch was also at Ms. Foundation and we listened to a panel of great speakers…Julie Scelfo from the NYTimes, Courtney Martin from Feministing, and Veronica Chambers from Glamour magazine. WOOHOO!!!! The best thing about their stories was how organic the process was…there’s always the ideology that there is a straight and direct path to your dreams and more often than not it isn’t the case. Hearing that from feminist voices is so great.
There was a guy standing around with a bright red shirt that said “I heart Feminists” Come to find out, he’s Vinnie from Vinnie’s Tampon Case ( The story is cool.

Off to the Feminist Press. Tillie Olsen is close to my heart as she was my first feminist representation. Her work was amazing though limited because she was a working mother and she acknowledged how the many roles we have can limit our work, our art and our creativity. To be in the organization she had a critical role in was great. The executive director, Gloria Jacobs, joined us alongside her staff and interns; she was truly interested in our discussion on new technologies and the potential of replacing in your hands texts. Her presence reminded me of Dr. Anita Fellman at ODU who was critical in my feminist journey. To connect with the publishing house who produced so many of my women’s studies books and whose work I’ve referenced countless times was very cool…too cool for words.
As if this day wasn’t already chock full of goodness, we ventured onto BUST magazine, a publication I adore. Debbie Stoller joined us and once again, it was another inspiring story of how a collective, working for the corporate machine, joined forces. What was striking is how BUST started out as a zine…and now is an amazing voice for feminist thought. Debbie was frank and open in her discussion which I loved. There was a point where she was talking about negative feedback and while I can’t recall her very frank answer…it had the flavor of what the fuck ever. She says BUST is a celebration of women’s culture and change begins in culture. Rock On!
This grandiose day just keeps getting better as we made our way to the evening event. The subway was right by Bluestockings, a wonderful feminist bookstore. But first we had to answer to our hunger so we ate at the all vegan restaurant next door. Throughout the day we had a person from NPR following us and recording our adventures and she joined us at dinner. She is working on a piece for New Hampshire NPR but will have the podcast when available. Throughout dinner she interviewed us and her questions were spot on and very intuitive. She is definitely in the right profession as she was stellar in her questions. There is something intimidating about having a microphone in your face but hopefully I represented well enough. Dinner was amazing…
We ventured next door to Bluestockings and I was in love. Since I had been to Chicago’s feminist book store (and the nation’s oldest bookstore) I knew better than to look at any books because I would have taken them all home. I found a scarf of the woman’s reproductive organs that will now live in the women’s studies department of ODU. Postcards and buttons for my special feminists…and we collected for our journey to the gallery and tonight’s event. First, we finished up a conversation of an older man whose goal was to read every book at Bluestockings. Behind me was the shelf of gender non-conformity and I told him I wish I was there when he started reading that shelf. That started a whole conversation of Trans identities and what is beyond the binary…subject I love to talk about!
We made our way to Gallery Bar for the Feministing, Paradigm Shift and Soapbox happy hour. Very cool art space with very mod and hipster people. Most of the people throughout the week that we met and the fellow students were mingling and having a nice time. We felt the impact of our intense day so called it an early night.