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.
4 thoughts on “A mask dropping night…a recap”
Thank you Shay, and all the participants for last night. All that was shared is still reverberating throughout my mind, body, and soul. Normally when one takes off a mask you see who is behind the mask. It’s quite a phenomena when one has become so lost from the mask, when taken off, identity is still lost,… so much so, that even the one wearing it doesn’t know who they are anymore for having to wear it, become it, for so long.
This is a quote from my favorite author: “People pay for what they do, and still more for what they have allowed themselves to become, and they pay for it, very simply, by the lives they lead.”
Baldwin, James. No Name in the Street. 1972.
Last night made me realize the cost my mask has taken on me.
Incidentally, after the long drive home, two minutes from my house I was stopped.
How ironic, poetic, fitting, in an odd sort of way, or maybe not so odd!
I am so grateful for the opportunity to join you last night. What a profoundly important discussion. I was honored by the courage of others in sharing and surprised by how much i learned about myself. I’ve been thinking about the conversation all day and finding it hard to describe the complexity, intensity and loving nature of the experience. Thank you seems not quite adequate.
Congrats Shay and I am so disappointed I missed your talk. Our community will miss you but we understand your need to spread your wings. Carla
I am glad it went so well. Congratulations on your new job. And you are still close to your friends in Maine.
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