Want to change the world? Join a non-profit agency! At an organization full of compassionate visionaries dedicated to making the world a better place, nothing could possibly go wrong – right?
Okay, so nobody’s perfect, and no non-profit is the perfect agent for change. As you may know, some aspects of non-profits can be stressful, challenging, and even counter-productive to the ultimate goals of social change work. And that can be hard for me to hold, knowing that even people with the best intentions can contribute to creating obstacles in the way of true liberation.
Luckily, we now have some courageous folks to help us name what goes on in the wacky world of non-profits, through a new activist-artist group called Peacock Rebellion. And they’re doing it all with fun and sass, as well as a deep sense of hope in the power of true activism.
Peacock Rebellion is centered around queer and trans people of color, and the artists craft their work through lenses of intersectionality, interconnection, interdependence and transnationalism. These artists aren’t afraid to speak the truth about the dangers of a non-profit industrial complex that upholds problematic patterns and stifles activists' dreams.
The truth is, we don’t have to accept the problems of the non-profit world, even with the best intentions. As Peacock Rebellion founder Manish Vaidya says, “we can dream bigger.”
Our big dreams take center stage at Agen(c)y: Nonprofit Dreams + Disaster
, Peacock Rebellion’s first cabaret. Twelve queer and trans people of color use comedy, film, burlesque and more to critique the current state of social change, and to share their freedom dreams. The tremendously talented performers include Lambda Literary Award winner Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Deep Dickollective founder Juba Kalamka, and Mia McKenzie, of the revolutionary blog Black Girl Dangerous. In addition to the all-star performers and curators (Maya Chapina and Manish Vaidya), there’s an all-star line up of sponsors: INCITE, Mangos with Chili, POOR Magazine/Prensa POBRE, Queer Rebels, and QWOCMAP. In other words, a whole lot of fierceness has gone into this show.
Agen(c)y: Nonprofit Dreams + Disaster premiered last night to a packed house at La Peña Cultural Center, and tonight’s show is nearly sold out, so it may be too late to see it on this run. But don’t worry! We’ll be seeing much more of Peacock Rebellion’s amazing work. To find out more, you can visit their website
or their Facebook page
, and to offer your support, visit the Indiegogo page
Around this time last year, I began posting about Good for the World holiday shopping
. The truth is, I absolutely hate shopping around holiday time. There are plenty of reasons for this, plenty having to do with crowds and greed and anti-gratitude and the larger picture of how consumerism hurts the world, but really for me it all comes down to this - Christmas is no longer as magical as it was when I was a child, and I bitterly blame every holiday Wal-Mart commercial for this fact. Never mind that whole growing up thing. How can one believe in magic with the message that we can only be happy if we add the season's must-have material item
to our collection of...stuff?But I believe
it's not too late to get the magic back. Or, at least we can create a new version of the magic. We don't have to buy into the idea that we must gain material things to celebrate one another. We can hang on to the more real, less tangible things that make life worth celebrating.
So, my first suggestion for Good for the World holiday shopping is to participate in Buy Nothing Day
. You can participate today, or tomorrow, or hell, you can make it a whole Buy Nothing holiday season if you want. Instead of shopping this weekend, why not make an extra effort to spend time with loved ones, or to relax alone? And if you feel like you're falling behind in the season of gift-giving, why not spend the day creating something new? Personally, I'd prefer a thoughtful, handmade gift to one purchased at Wal-Mart. Know anyone in your life who may feel the same?Buying nothing doesn't mean we have to do nothing. It means we can take a moment to remember that the true value of things isn't determined by how much they contribute to our credit card debt. Our most precious gifts are our hearts, bodies and minds. At least, those are the holidays as I remember them.
I watched a movie this week that has me thinking twice this morning about the trash that I’ve created already, in the few short hours I’ve been awake today.
But Waste Land
isn’t a movie about garbage. It’s not a film about recycling. It’s not even a documentary about art, which was the impression that drew me to it. Waste Land
is about people. People who do what they can to survive. Who also hold their heads high, and smile, and yes, make art of it.
Here’s the trailer. If you get a chance to watch, I’d highly recommend it.
Happy Earth Day!
Today is a day to appreciate our natural world. How are you celebrating? Here are a few ideas
. You can also visit the Earth Day Network website
to learn more about how you can appreciate the planet that holds us, today and all year long.
And because it's Friday, today's Friday Friend is earthshots.org
. It's a simple concept, featuring each day a new breath-taking photo that reminds us of all there is to admire on our beautiful planet. There's another idea -- take a camera today, and venture into nature. Maybe you'll capture the next featured Earth Shot. Love your Mother (Earth)!
We're six days into the month of April, so you may have noticed already that it's National Poetry Month
. Throughout the country, people are celebrating in various ways, from committing to reading poetry to attending events to leaving poems in unexpected places. Find more ideas for ways to celebrate here
. One way I'm joining in the celebration is by writing a poem every day in April. That's 30 poems in 30 days. Want to join me? Please do! I'd love to hear how it's going, and to read some of your poems. Or, just write for yourself and don't show anybody. Poetry for poetry's sake. Here's my poem for today. It's short and rough now, perhaps something I'll revisit later. april
your sunlight stretches
like a newborn child.
from my shoulders,
your rains rise
into the sky.
we welcome you,
as if you’d be happy
to find us here.
as if you weren’t
through our concrete borders,
for the softness
of the earth you came for.Maisha Z. Johnson
I'm dedicating today's poem to the good people of POWER
, who, rather than staying hushed, are speaking up. They're spending the morning calling for accountability from the City of San Francisco and fighting for justice for low-income people of color. Read details here
of the legal showdown over health concerns surrounding the construction in the Bayview-Hunter's Point area of the city.Go POWER!Here's a rough poem I've been piecing together. hush
here is where we learn to hush:
at mama’s bedside
to sleep, she needs the silence
of secrets submerged
below soft voices
here is where we learn to hush:
before the pulpit
voices may boom from behind it
but from where we sit,
not a word of the pain resting in the pew
not a word
here is where we learn to hush:
where words don’t come from live voices
where words are set it stone
we learn to keep our voices scattered
never gather enough sound at one time
for it’s always time to hush, now,
so silent before we shout Maisha Z. Johnson
I’ve been dreaming for a long while of getting a bicycle. There are many reasons to ride
one, of course – for personal fitness, for the convenience of getting around without relying on public transportation, for the environmental impact of using human power to travel. I already walk a lot, for many of the same reasons – I’m typing up this post as I rest my legs in a café in the Mission
, where I walked this morning from my home in the Inner Sunset
. If you know the city, you know that’s far. But if you really know the city, you may be unimpressed still, because you may know that if you put your mind to it, getting across San Francisco by the power of your own body isn’t too difficult. On a bike, I’m sure, it would be even easier.
Wave rack by Ryan Dempsey
And now, as if I need any more reason to get a bike, I’ve been hearing about art projects related to bicycling. This is what I love about art – no matter the situation, art can be used to highlight it, and to add creativity and make it fun. The simple act of locking up your bike, for example, can brighten your day if you find one of the fun artist-designed bike racks around the city, like the one on the left. You can read about these racks from the San Francisco Bike Coalition here
. I’m disappointed that I’ve never noticed these racks in the city before, but I guess if I were riding a bike I might pay more attention to such things.
So biking is good for the planet, and art can be involved. What more do I need? I suppose I have only one reason for not getting a bike, and that’s my fear of riding in the city. But with free urban cycling courses
available from the SF Bike Coalition, I guess that’s no excuse.
What do you think? Can such art projects change our way of moving through our worlds? What would it take to convince you? And if you bike already, what are your reasons?
Let me know if you know of any other bike-related arts projects, and if you have any tips for getting over my fear of riding in the city. And finally, last question: where can a girl get a cheap bike in this city?
Until then, I’m off to continue my walking adventures…
Happy holidays! I can't believe it's already the week of Christmas. I've made a couple of suggestions for Good for the World holiday shopping, and here's one last reminder for last-minute shopping: shop local. I know that at times like these it's easier to get everything at the big corporate stores, but don't forget to save some holiday love and spending for the small businesses, which are having an especially rough time these days. For gift ideas, don't forget to try your local craft stores, artists from your town, or, my favorite, independent bookstores. It may be too late to order online, but you can check out resources
to track down local artists and craftspeople and contact them to lend your support. Or, why not give the gift of a donation to a local organization
doing good for the world? Last suggestion: a locally-produced literary magazine
featuring the poems of your favorite blogger makes a great gift. Okay, so maybe that last one was more selfish plug than Good for the World gift idea, but really any of these could help support your community, and local artists. Read about more reasons to shop locally here.
I thought it was appropriate that the sky was raining ruthlessly the day I interviewed poet Camille T. Dungy
. I was heading to a café in the Mission to meet with the woman who edited the first collection of nature poetry by black writers, and by the time I got there, nature was on my mind, in my shoes and dripping from my clothes. It felt only right to find myself sitting with Dungy and her six-month-old daughter, two black poets coming in from the rain to discuss, among other things, black nature poetry.
Having her take the time to sit down with me was a big honor. Camille T. Dungy authored the poetry collections What to Eat, What to Drink, What to Leave for Poison
(Red Hen Press, 2006) and Suck on the Marrow
(Red Hen Press, 2010), edited Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry
(UGA, 2009), and co-edited From the Fishouse: An Anthology of Poems that Sing, Rhyme, Resound, Syncopate, Alliterate, and Just Plain Sound Great
(Persea, 2009). Dungy has received fellowships from organizations including the National Endowment for the Arts, The Virginia Commission for the Arts, Cave Canem, the American Antiquarian Society and Bread Loaf. She is associate professor of Creative Writing at San Francisco State University. When did you begin writing? And is that separate from when you decided to pursue a career of writing and teaching poetry?
Yes, I’ve been writing my whole life. So I couldn’t tell you when I began. I made a conscious decision during college that I was going to become an English Major with a Creative Writing focus. And then I made a conscious decision at one point to do an MFA instead of a Ph.D., so there were several times along the way when I made decisions about focusing more deeply on it, but the writing has been there all along.
It’s just the decisions and opportunities to make it professional that keep confronting me. ...
Onesie available from LGBabyT
Ordinarily my least favorite part of the holiday season is the rampant consumerism, the so-called “spirit of giving” that has us running around like rabid animals showing more greed than giving as we fatten the pockets of the already-rich people who get to benefit from it all.
But I figure at least I can get into the spirit by finding gifts worth giving, to make the art of holiday shopping something that can be good for the world.
So here’s Maisha’s first pick for this year’s “Good for the World” holiday shopping: LGBabyT
LGBabyT sells queer-friendly and gender neutral baby clothes (and some for adults too!), perfect for any progressive-minded parent who would love to dress their baby in something like an “I (heart) Harvey Milk” onesie. More reasons to love LGBabyT:
- Their mission statement is “let babies be babies,” so that rather than using babies to push an identity or agenda forward, they have shirts with phrases like “When I grow up I want to be” and “I’m not flirting, I’m a baby.”
- Sustainability. According to their website: “We offer organic and recycled options and plan to one day work with solely recycled materials. We use Environmentally friendly products, water-based inks, energy conserving lights and try to find multiple uses for every scrap of paper or fabric we come across.”
- They’re doing good for the world, sending positive messages such as “Don’t raise bullies” on t-shirts are also available for adults. This message is especially relevant after the media coverage of the gay teen suicides this year. Also, LGBabyT donates 30% of its profits to organizations that support LGBT youth, education, and social equality for marginalized groups.
- They began with art, and an idea, and now they’re making the difference. I happen to personally know one of the women behind LGBabyT, and she’s fabulous, which is reason enough to support her, but she’s also inspirational, in the way that she’s taken a screen-printing hobby and turned it into something creative, sustainable and good for the world. Simply put, a world where kids wear these clothes makes for a better future.
So if you’re doing any holiday shopping, consider letting LGBabyT be part of your gift-giving. The world will be a better place for it.