by Rachel Rudi, Youth & Family Services Coordinator, Circle
For the past few weeks, I’ve trudged home from meetings around eight in the evening, eaten something from a box and fallen asleep by 8:35. Sunlight is scarce. Work has not been easy. My body is achey and aggravated and I am impatient, but a large part of me loves those stretches of time that push your limits and force you to be your own friend. Knowing this is not a permanent schedule, where do our minds go when personal growth and community are put on the back burner? Are we comfortable with that inwardness?
In order to invigorate and sooth myself, I’ve been turning to the videos of StyleLikeU, a mother-and-daughter team who seek out the stories which inform individuals’ style and fashion choices. Dozens of people, largely women and queer folks, spend ten minutes connecting their body to their pain, resistance, and self-possession, slowly removing articles of clothing and getting deeper into why we present to the world as we do. Not only are these testimonies phenomenal educational tools for young people, and not only are they an interesting presence in the fashion world, but they give me enormous hope. Something about the process is so beautifully transcendent and connecting. I am reminded to spend time learning my story, reminded of the ways our lives weave in and out of cultural and historical narratives, reminded that we are encouraged to classify violences and thus isolate ourselves, and our anti-violence work, from the liberation. That is the inwardness I love about this season: the meditations.
I first learned of StyleLikeU from following DarkMatter, a duo of south asian trans poets
Alok Vaid-Menon and Janani Balasubramanian. The two have brilliant politics that cut into the truth of identities, languages, and colonialist cisheteropatriarchy. Do yourself a favor and dig into their work. One of my favorite pieces of media is Alok’s interview with StyleLikeU, essentially a prose poem, combining the urgency of art, compassion, new bodies and visions. I listen again and again. My favorite passage goes along with this season of scaling-back:
When do you feel most vulnerable?
“When I’m writing poetry. I started writing poetry after my suicide attempt. Art is the space we go when language fails us. Yes, go get therapy if you need to have therapy, but how can our friendships be that therapy? How can we really love each other hard enough where we don’t have to outsource our trauma? Where we don’t have to leave where we’re at to deal with shit?”
Between the boxed dinner and dreaming, I try to light a candle on the sill. I light a candle and check that I have not become too tired or sad to remember that we are trying to get free, nonprofit industrial complex be damned. That I work with young people to work on new language that can uplift any identity and name any subtlety of colonization. I go easy on myself in these darker months, but I take time to look at the flame and the night through the window, and remember to do the work.
It is our duty to fight.
It is our duty to win.
We must love and support each other.
We have nothing to lose but our chains.
– Assata Shakur