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This past weekend my partner said “Doing Public Allies might just be the 2nd best decision you’ve ever made.”  In response, I asked “What’s the 1st…?”  The reply I received: “Being with me!”

I know she’s right about the 1st best decision, and I think she might also be kinda right about the 2nd.

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The Jump

This became a sort of metaphor for me throughout the year. I remember coming into the program thinking, do we really have to do this? But that strong sense of fear was something that I encountered throughout the year and was something that I had to deal with instance by instance

Sharing

I shared a lot. I shared myself, my life, my experiences and I heard other people share theirs throughout this process. I remember being able to share my experiences as a Muslim women, particularly in regards to exchanging gifts around Christmas time. I remember having a lot of time to be able to reflect about that and being able to share why it was important to acknowledge those who do not have religious privileges in this country. Being able to share that really helped me to have conversations with allies on a continuous basis throughout the program.

Quitting

Throughout this program I’ve had communication problems with my supervisor at work. At one point this lead to a serious conversation with my her where I felt disrespected, unappreciated, and abused. I wanted to call it quits. I don’t know how serious I was but at the moment I felt like i couldn’t muster any courage in me to stay. I felt like a victim. I called Krithika and told her how abused I was. How much I felt like I couldn’t just take it anymore and told her I was done and wanted out. To my surprise she didn’t coddle me. she validated my feelings but told me something that ill never forget. she told me leaving was a privilege and asked me if I was really going to use that privilege at this moment.

I didn’t reflect in that way before. I knew I had privilege I just never knew where that privilege played out and how it did. I couldn’t abuse this privilege so I didn’t leave and I learned so much from just being held accountable to my own actions.

Anger

This has been a huge component of my learnings this year. I have been angry and that anger has been festering inside me. I’ve been angry about things I can’t change. I’ve been angry about my health, about my fathers condition and how he just wont seem to change. I’ve extended that anger to the knowledge I have been continuing to gain about systems of oppression and the way my communities are targeted. I come from places of compassion and love but this year, in the last few months, that has been turning to a place of anger and rage. In class someone said that I must be said that Osama bin Laden died, I reacted with anger and almost got hit, in the gym I did something similar. I wanted to point this out because this anger hasn’t been a growth by my learnings from it have. I have begun to learn that this anger is an unfiltered channel of energy that I can and will harness for greater good. I know that it needs to be redirected and I’m learning this , like just now, like just yesterday. David taught me how this anger is harmful. it’s a process to be able to go through this with you all and i really feel grateful that i can learn so much from something that can potentially be so damaging and that is because of this space.

Allies

The most important, most impactful, most meaningful part of this program this year was building community with my allies and the program managers, and my coworkers. It was through being able to have racial affinity with Krithika and Kanchan, gaining a healthy body image through Stephanie, understanding my privilege and being challenged on it by Vanessa, being in awe of what ally building can look like through Daisy, through being held accountable by you all, and most importantly just being held at my most strongest and most weakest of moments by EVERYONE here that I have continued to learn. Thank you for showing me what integrity looks like, thank you for letting me into your lives. I’ve learned that people have diverse ways of being allies and that is a beautiful thing

I’ve learned that I haven’t been working alone in isolation against my own oppression this whole time. Hell no. I’ve been held. so thank you for that. I love you.

1 of these was removed and kept private for pol only.

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Ok, no more comparisons of the PA program to a certain 1999 sci-fi / action / philosophy movie.

I just wanted to add my two cents before I exit this program once and for all. For future allies – BE prepared to let go of the space. Failing to do so can cause serious harm to your emotional and mental well-being. Real spit. I was at a training today and the space just felt  dead. The community I’ve come to enjoy and look forward to being in looked tired. That’s really no one’s fault, and I know I can do my part to spring that shit back to life, but it takes two to tango.

Meaning I can’t make other people want to engage with me no matter how much I want to bring back that feeling of…damn. What word am I looking for? that feeling. Excitement, raw and uncut. I guess it’s like the first day of elementary school when everyone wants to be your friend for the purpose of just wanting to be your friend. Fast forward 9 months later and the whole cot damn cohort has senioritis. Including myself. I’ll partially attribute my apathy and lack of enthusiasm to this feeling I have of being jaded. Jaded about myself, society, love, and just life in general.

I feel the same way I did when I first got into the program except I know how and what kind of a fucked up person I am. Whoa, right? It’s not all negative though. I do have the knowledge to make informed decisions about my leadership. What I do with that power and privilege is up to my discretion. Am I going to keep living my life with disregard on how it may affect others?

What’s funny is that I’ve had conversations with Vanessa about recognizing my own power which she told me I’m not cognizant of. Part of that means taking time to think about how my words and actions effect others. It’s a work in progress, but when you’re facing all sorts of discrimination because of your immigration status, not to mention growing up poor, living in the hood, and lack of family support then POOF! its not  hard imagining someone like me having a “one life to live” mantra. I live for the moment. I always have.

The coaches say I’m impulsive, I call it opportunistic. ‘Los says my passive aggressive nature leads me to act  impulsively. He might have a point. Eko thinks I’m a hot mess. Like that lunch tray you get from your school cafeteria, and the lunch lady has the ice scream scoop filled with mash potatoes? and the lunch lady slams that shit on your lunch tray and makes a mess. I’M THAT LUNCH TRAY.

I’m side tracking, but all I can say is that the things I’m use to doing to get myself to where I am in life –  and I’m successful by my own admission, are the same things I should be tempering according to this program. From having an impulsive nature, to hearing and listening to only what I want to listen to, to being aggressive at every opportunity, to being open about how I build community with others (pass me a bottle of red stripe, and light one up for me please) all that needs to have caution tape around it because it’s ruined a lot of things for me and people in my life. Truth be told, all signs seem to point to me being a sexist, selfish jerk who has a hard time listening. But that’s only the negative.

Now for the positive

Yo, the coaches have good hearts. So does the rest of the cohort (at least from my experience). I know what I’m good at, and I know what I’m not good at. I’m a more than capable community organizer. Yeah, so and so has a degree, or they’re more articulate, or this person is sweeter than me, but put me and anyone in the cohort out in the street to outreach and I will wear them out. That’s my chamber. No one’s fucking with me in that department. I’m going to go ahead and toot my own horn, because I rarely do, but I’m a big reason why we had a larger than expected turn out for my group’s final TSP workshop. I take pride in being able to approach ANYONE, from the 23 year old recent college graduate who thinks they know shit to the 15 year old kid on his BMX bike riding through South Central L.A. Grandmothers, fruit vendors, street beggers, strippers, and hipsters. It’s whatever.

So for future allies my point is this: Don’t be discouraged by the disposition you may find yourself in. Do your best. If you’re going through something difficult, know the lessons that can be learned and use it as an asset. Take what you gain from the program and use it to inform your leadership so you can kick ass. No one is going to give two shits about our community but us.

 

Fernando Espiritu

Public Allies Class of 2011

 

 

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(This.Shit.Gets. Messy.)

This morning I came across a song that lead to this post on accountability and “digging deep”. Lately I’ve been sitting on a couple  of topics to bring to the blog I just haven’t had a chance to sit and just…write. But today’s lyric (brought to you by Spoons “I Turn My Camera On”) reminded me of a core value which I have been working my brain around; Transparency.

“I turn my camera on
I cut my fingers on the way
The way I’m slipping away
I turn my feelings off
You made me untouchable for life
And you wasn’t polite”

“I turn my camera on- I cut my fingers on the way” 

This reminded me of  how I came into this program and realized I wanted to see things from a different lens, but that turned into a painful process for me-it meant digging deep.

“I turn my feelings off, you made me untouchable for life…and you wasnt polite”

This screamed transparency for me. And most of all its messiness. Transparency has the potential of making you turn yourself and your feelings off. Who really wants to have to own up to their shit? I surely didn’t. The bit about it being impolite? Who is it coming from? Do you know of their intentions? Delivery? Tone? Location? All  things to take into account about the transparency of the person.

Truth is, Public Allies gave me a space for reflection that I had turned off a long time ago. I was hesitant and stubborn and realizing I wasnt going to change any or all of that in the context of this program was the most difficult. There was no “band-aid” solution to my socialization. I couldn’t  just pinpoint something I wanted to work on and expect a puzzle solution.

My difficulty was in understanding how could I truly believe that when I was challenged it was because someone cared about me and not because they were being vindictive and mean?

vulnerability.

A constant thing to have to shield myself against. No, I don’t want to be vulnerable- it’s like driving without a seat belt or riding a bike without a helmet. You hurt yourself once (or someone hurts you, for that matter) and it’s really easy to not want to deal with that anymore. It’s “messy” It’s making me have to dig deep.

I think Public Allies has really helped me in finding out that to turn yourself inside out for all to see isn’t such a bad thing after all. It’s baby steps.It’s speaking your truth and your realities. We’re not being “opened for the sake of being open”. It’s moments when our vulnerability serves a purpose. I feel that in finding that purpose I lost myself at some point,  only to find myself all over again. It was messy that’s for sure. But so far, it’s been well worth it.

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Wow, it’s been a hell of a (insert any timespan here since start of PA).

First off though, welcome to our newest PA blogger, queenmc!

It’s been a quiet month on the blog, but if you’re reading this I’m gonna say you’re either a current first year, an applicant for next year, or someone looking for news on John Stockton, thanks to this post.  Right now, I’m gonna address prospective members of the 2011-2012 first year cohort.

Applications were due this past week for prospective first years and for those who might have seen that last post by theresawargoingonoutside, you better know that once you take that red pill, you can go pretty deep into this rabbit hole if you’re willing to dig.  I think it’s a great idea to get to know more about the program before you get deeper in, even when it comes to the application process, cuz that alone is pretty intense.  So with that being said, applicants feel free to read through what’s up here, leave us comments, ask us questions, and we’ll try to fill you in.

We as agents (of change) look forward to finding out all about you all.  Curiously enough, if we continue playing out this Matrix analogy, would we be the Morpheus & co. crew or the Agent Smith conglomeration?  … Cuz either way, we’re all out to somehow shift the structures in place.  But again I pose the question, toward what end…?

Applicants, I encourage you all to try to figure it out as best you can before you get any deeper, so that IF you get in, you really maximize what you can get out of this.  You all figure it out, just as we’re all figuring it out right now, and will probably continue to long beyond the upcoming July 15 end of our term, but also know that again, if you wanna find out more, this is one of the spots where you can ask…because just as queenmc was saying, we should all be able to ask questions and engage–how else is anything gonna get done?

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So to be perfectly honest, I do not consider myself to be much of an intellectual, and really have no desire to be any sort of professional intellectual. However I do see value in learning, education, deep thinking, theory and even intellectualism itself. It’s important to be involved with inquiry, but it can be problematic when you don’t match knowledge with wisdom. For example, it is not wise (and this is all my opinion) to intellectualize your emotions, or anyone else’s for that matter. Sometimes things just are what they are, so we should just let them be and allow for our humanness to happen. What I mean by this is that it’s okay to be mad, sad, angry, depressed, happy, joyful, whatever sings from your heart, and you don’t have to feel like you are not allowed to have that emotion. I am not saying that we can’t analyze and reflect on a situation after it happens, but not allow that analysis to place a value (or at least a negative value) on that experience…ie…a person crying at an unacceptable moment…a person becoming angry in public…etc… Placing a negative value on a persons experience may rob them of their right to have that emotion.
Additionally, although I have a strong belief in the importance of being sensitive to people in the world around you, I also believe that a climate of political correctness is not going to get us anywhere. If we really want to make positive social change then we have to take on the “walk a mile in my shoes” philosophy. You can read a million books on the theories of why this world is a messed up place, however, it won’t mean a thing if you can’t stop and take the time to communicate with people in order attempt to understand just what it is that is going on with them. You can’t authentically communicate with anyone, when you are too worried about being politically correct. Yes, I understand that we should select our words carefully, because we may have to live with them for a very long time, but there are ways in which you can be sensitive to others without completely avoiding the elephant in the middle of the room. If we have a question (as naïve or stupid as we may think it will sound) we should be able to ask it. We should not be afraid to engage in a little confrontation, however we have to be prepared to stick around and deal with whatever comes up in an honest way. How else can we really develop respect for each other. We have to accept that there are people out there with good intentions, who genuinely want to try to understand, or at least be empathetic to our experiences. And unless we create teachable moments, nothing will be taught. I believe that people learn best by talking to each other, and our ignorance toward each other can ONLY change by opening up and sharing our experiences.

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Do you want the pretty lie or the ugly truth?

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