Posts Tagged ‘Public Allies’

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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(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?


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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If in theory you think you’re either an optimistic or a pessimistic, I’m going to have to challenge you on that. Correction: I’m going to have to challenge myself on that one. You know that saying about how depending on whether you see the glass half empty or the glass half full you are either an optimist or a pessimist? I have to thank the ever so witty and funny Demitri Martin for challenging that notion and saying the following:

 You know how they say people that say the glass is half full are optimists, and people that say the glass is half empty are pessimists? They don’t really specify what the glass is full of. What if its a half a glass of sh’t? As an optimist I would like to see it has half empty. Baby blood is even more confusing, cause is this blood going  to a baby, or coming  from  a baby? Cause if it’s coming from a baby, I’m gonna say “All right, come down, it’s a half-empty glass of baby blood, no big deal. Don’t ask me how I got it, just listen to what I’m saying…”” Demetri Martin

 What does this have to do with my Ally experience? Content,context,and patience. It has been very easy to me in my personal life to always focus on the negative. My “short fuse” makes me jump to conclusions and be impatient about the things that aren’t going as I planned.  I joke and say I’m an optimistic pessimist but I have realized the following: 1) at some point I’m going to be neither, or just one of those. And 2) why am I so focused on binary thinking again?

 So here I am juggling these big words like “binary, deficit perspective” (and my favorite one, although not so much “a big word”) “Its all in your head” (Credits: PA Coach). If this is all in my head and I’m freaking out for no reason- I just lost sight of content, context, and the need to be patient. Insert the identification of the fact that I have a deficit perspective and that more than likely it’s my default. So the ideal answer is to be vocal about what is not so negative and about my needs in the context of serving my purpose. When we loose sight of an end goal or objective (for Public Allies that would be serving our community) it’s very easy to begin focusing on “every little reason why my life sucks”, and that’s just shitty in general.

It’s been a painful process (aren’t they all at this point?)  a challenging one (that’s why I’m in the program, right?) but also an enriching one ( Pessimism:2 Optimism:1…almost!). The best part is that I’m developing a support group that has caught my deficit perspective. Sometimes something as simple as “Let’s look at the bright side” shatters my tunneling deficit vision. I guess I could give this a try.  I’m working on it.

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By tomorrow, I will have experienced all program components of Public Allies in only 3 days time.  Breakdown:

9 Hours of Placement
2 Hours of Coaching
2.5 Hours of TSP Planning Meeting

7 Hours of Training

4 Hours of SPEAK UP!

It’s all coming together, and it feels like as an entire cohort, we’re really onto something different, something good, something unheard of according to the Program Managers.  Still vague, still confusing, but I think we’re planning something great.  Note to self though: after all the planning is through, execution and adaptation are still key.

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 Our past training on power, privilege and oppression has warped much of my thinking. It broke the puzzle that I had so neatly constructed as it threw the pieces all over the ground, similar to the way an angry child who does not know how to control their emotions does. And now my puzzle pieces are all over the floor…now what?

 In the context of social justice I doubt that it’s  a case of putting these pieces together. Maybe they’re suppose to be all over the floor. Maybe this shift in paradigm that comes with opposing the binary and dismantling systems is suppose to be an angry child throwing puzzle pieces. Why? Because that carefully constructed puzzle of a supposed “masterpiece” that are our institutions, is not working.

All of this turns a rather irrelevant turn into what I’m actually getting to. So, picture this; there I am completely thwarted after our training and I come home antsy. Feeling uncomfortable and not finding my place for some reason or another. As I decide I need a moment to myself, a moment of clarity,recognition and familiarity what do I do? 

 I grab my laptop and  drive to the nearest Starbucks. I needed time to think, reflect, and have a space to jot down my thoughts. Compliments of the Public Allies program.       

 But wait ,was it really going to be over a cup of chai?

Guess so.

 My “moment” of…whatever it is that I thought I needed turned into the purchase of a cup of chai and some pumpkin bread. Was my moment gone? Or did I just share it with Starbucks? That conglomerate of a monster corporation that is slowly leaking in to our communities; sometimes wanted, sometimes deeply loathed. Responsible for the commodification of the tranquility and intimacy of a coffee visit.

 Wait, did Starbucks did just commodify my “moment”? Yup.

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Got a haircut today.  Some conversations from the Manila Barbershop close to Santa Monica and Vermont went as follows:

“You Pilipino?” “Opo.”  “Talaga…?  No half?”  “Hindi po.”  “You don’t look like a Pilipino.  Pilipinos don’t have this one (pokes his comb at my beard).  That’s why Pilipinos don’t know how to shave!  Maybe you’re from Mindanao? Di ba?  Oh, so how do you want your hair?  Like mine?”

10 minutes later… “Oh, sige…  Now I’ve made you handsome!”  “Now???”  “Oo, oo,  kasi, before you were ok, now you are handsome!”  “Kahit ano po…  magkano ba…?

Did exchanges in the barber’s chair touch upon sensitivities and tensions I had brought to the surface around exclusion/inclusion with regards to Pilipino identity, and the Fil-Am community?  Yes.  Was I still very happy to be in a barbershop my dad used to bring me to when I was a kid?  Yes.  Where else around LA do I get to see a bunch of lolos and lolas watching a Laker game, shootin the shit, and doing random stuff like moving an exercise bike out of the barbershop and into one of the pare’s nearby apartments?

Do I feel a strong sense of inclusion in this tiny barbershop community?  Not really.  Do I feel a strong sense of exclusion due to the perceptions that manifest in the interactions that take place there?  Not really.  I suppose it’s more nostalgia that keeps me coming back.  Oh yeah, and my usual barber here looks kinda like DJ Rhettmatic


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