Last night I had the honor of holding space with a group of people and having the type of mask dropping conversation that happens all too infrequently for many of us. It is hard enough to talk about the implications of race and class in the United States with people who we know and love much less with a group of people who we have never met before. Yet a group of readers came out last night to a blue collar, working class city in Maine to do just that. They ranged in age from 16-70 and believe it or not I was not the only person of color in the room.
What was shared last night brought me to tears and I am still processing many of the words that were shared. We weren’t going to change the world in a two hour session, nor was I interested in leading a kumbaya love fest where we ended the night with a rousing rendition of We are the World.
In reflecting on the words that I heard last night, I am stuck on how often it is that the very masks that we wear in public and even in private often get in the way of our ability to truly see one another. Black, white, gay, straight, Jewish, working class, wealthy and so on. These labels say so much, yet they say nothing. Too many times these descriptors are simply labels to better sort which silo we will eventually land in.
Many have have asked if I would be providing a recap of the event and I guess that you can say that this is it. When people take a chance and lower their own masks in a shared space, to paraphrase the old Vegas slogan what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas. Thank you for sharing yourselves with me and giving me a chance to come out of my own thought silo. It is rarely discussed publicly but even people of color have our own biases and silos, so thank you.
Looking ahead, I am not sure if time will allow in the coming months to repeat this experience since as I get ready to prepare to head to my new agency at the beginning of the year, my dance card will be quite full. Also because I am a glutton for punishment and a recovering type A, I am trying to complete my yoga teacher training before I start in January. Speaking of the new job, I can officially name the agency; Community Change Inc. (CCI) will be my new professional home. After a decade of writing and talking race, I am excited to land at an agency with a rich history in the field of anti-racism work. Make no mistake, I will be rolling up my sleeves and working hard but after years in professional limbo wondering if it was even possible to bring my skills and interests together under one professional roof, it is exciting to chart a new course.