Yesterday I made a big deal out of sitting on a bench for a half hour and eating marshmallows.
I created an elaborate Facebook Event page, and invited over a 100 people with no other information than, “I’m going to be sitting at the parklet on 22nd St. eating marshmallows. You should come.”
When I announced MARSHMALLOWS at the end of my dance class that morning, people asked, “Why? Why are you doing this?” I said, “It’s just happening.” To others I said, “Why does anyone do anything at all?”
The idea came to me when I was visiting my friends Sydney and Jake in Chicago. They took me to the Museum of Contemporary Art, where we saw several powerful exhibits, including meditations on violence and identity by Doris Salcedo and Faheem Majeed. I was inspired by their bravado, the way they found meaning in the mundane, and how they engaged their community through their art. For some reason, it made me want to do something really random. Something a mystery even to myself.
Since December, when Darren Wilson was not indicted for the murder of Michael Brown, I have been engaged in fervent action for racial justice. I have been talking and writing about race for a long time, but all of a sudden I had so many more people willing to talk to me about it, and to act with me in the community for racial justice. We had a vigil at our church, initiated conversations about how to be anti-white-supremecist instead of just “diverse” with my child’s school, and even organized a Black Lives Matter march for families in our neighborhood.
Throughout those and many more actions, I have not known how to write about it. So I have not been blogging. All that has really been going for me is anti-racist action, but writing about it just felt like patting myself on the back, when really, it is the very least I can do, as a person of privilege in this country. Didn’t that last paragraph seem a little “Yay Me I’m Such a Good Liberal Ally?” Yeah, that’s how it felt. And that’s not how it felt when I did those actions. They were bumpy. They were hard-won. They involved a lot of private and public soul-searching, a lot of fumbles and disappointments.
The actions I have been doing have not made me feel absolved of my complicity in the white heteronormative patriarchy. They have made me realize just how much more work needs to be done.
So while I gear up for that, while I process the latest round of microaggressions against my family, while I read Claudia Rankine’s Citizen and listen to Heems’ new album Eat Pray Thug, I wanted to “organize” something I didn’t need to explain, because there wasn’t much of a subtext. Hence MARSHMALLOWS on a park bench.
Some folks were genuinely sad that they couldn’t make the event, which was a little bit funny to me because it really was just gelatinous sugar treats in a public space. Doing it did teach me about my place in the community. It was mostly people with kids or people who work with kids that came. Those are my people. It also made me reflect on what access I allow people to have to me. I am notoriously over-scheduled, and these past few months that has been worse than ever. “I never see you anymore!” is a common refrain I hear. I’m here, I’m just hustling. I started 2 new jobs in January, on top of all the racial justice work I’ve been doing. The idea of having a public half hour where people could just find me is a sort of vulnerable one, but it also feels necessary. One participant called it “neighborhood office hours.” It turned into a dance party, like most things in my life do.
There will be other events. They will be just as odd. I will give very little warning or explanation.
There will also be other community events geared toward racial justice. They will be just as explained, belabored, and group facilitated.
I really need both approaches.