feature image AP Photo by John Minchillo
written and compiled by Gabby with contributions from members of The Speakeasy
Daniel Pantaleo is just another cop that doesn’t have to face any consequences for murdering an unarmed Black citizen. He’s one of many. There are thousands of people just like him: privileged, white, violent and protected. They can all sleep easy knowing that their crimes will never be punished. Impunity — the gift that keeps on giving, right?
I sat at home alone in the Bronx, writing. All I have in this world is my writing. I’d already been in the city. I felt guilty. Crowds give me hella anxiety. I’d protested for the non-indictment of Darren Wilson and needed a few days to recover. I wept, shook, shouted, and raised my hands for Black people, my people, our country. I felt so guilty for not jumping on the 2 train and heading into the city for Eric Garner. So many of my people did.
I wrote and wrote. I wondered, am I failing my community by not protesting every single day? How can I serve in another capacity?
I was glued to The Speakeasy, our Autostraddle QTPOC-only fb group. I’ve been checking it every morning since the Mike Brown story broke. In the last few weeks, many of our people have been protesting on a regular basis. We’re posting articles and asking why? Why is this happening to Black people still? Why? Why aren’t the murders of Black women, trans and cis, garnering this level of support and attention from the community at large? Why are white cops constantly getting a free pass to murder unarmed Black citizens? Why is it that white people can openly carry their firearms and not be shot dead in Wal-Mart? Why is it that little white kids can play with their toy guns and not get gunned down in the park?
Why is shit still so fucked up?
Anger. Rage. Frustration at how little progress has been made in the relationship between cops and citizens. Complete disgust for the false narrative woven into our understanding of the purpose of police offers. Serve and Protect? Whom? White power structures? White people and white property? Do you really expect Black people and People of Color to eat that up next to slices of apple fucking pie?
All of the rage. But rage can only burn consistently without a break for so long.
And then, the weariness settled in and more of the posts from Speakeasy members looked like this:
“I’m so tired. so, so tired. feeling very defeated. like, what’s the point of fucking living if justice cannot be served? reading the headlines of the news is exhausting me. part of me wants to take a break from all of this bullshit (in the sense of reading about it; I know well enough to know that you can’t really get a “break” as a marginalized person of color), so get back a sense of my sanity.”
“I observe other white friends of mine freely expressing their confusion, sadness, and opinions in a multitude of posts on social media this week. I want to scream at them to stop taking up so much space about something that is not targeting them. But I refrain, because I am afraid of alienating potential white allies.”
“My girlfriend is a compassionate white activist, yet it feels strange sharing my feelings with her. Feeling so very tired and isolated right now. I’m camping out in this group for now, until I manage to track down a queer POC community over here.”
“I am filled with rage and frustration right now. I am a black women who at first glance is often mistake for a man. I am of large stature which is often mistakenly intimidating but I wouldn’t hurt a fly unless warranted. I have a 13-year-old son who is 5’11” 200 pounds and size 12 shoe, yes big boy. I am scared for me, I am scared for him, I am scared for everyone. The police are on edge, people are on edge, what’s next?”
“I have so many white friends on Facebook writing about completely surface banal shit right now in the midst of the world burning down. It’s killing me and I’m not sure how to approach it without being rude.”
“Friends, I can’t breathe. I live a few blocks away from an NYPD precinct and I pass it everyday on my walk to the subway and it’s taking me everything to keep from throwing a brick through every window.”
My fucking heart. I take medicine for my heart because it beats too fast and no one knows why. Reading these entries from The Speakeasy gave me that feeling, like my heart was going to beat too fast and too hard and I’d have to go to the hospital or something.
I can’t handle all this pain. None of us can handle all of this pain all of the time. How are the people in Ferguson STILL DOING THIS? How are Black people in the United States still pushing forward?
With nothing else to give but my time, I offered The Speakeasy a Google Hangout to come together and lay out the feelings. A hangout so that even from far away we could look each other in the eyes and enter into community, mourn together, but also hopefully laugh together? As a [email protected], a non-Black POC, I worried if that would be ok. I thought, “Well if people need an all Black space, I can link everyone into the chat and then leave. Whatever our people need and/or want.”
I offered a time and many Speakeasy members jumped at the chance to connect.
11pm NYC time: Speakeasy Feelings Hangout
And connect we did. I think eleven of us made it into the chat. We represented mad corners of the globe —London to Spain to Vancouver to the Bronx to Boston and back.
WE OUTCHEA MI GENTE.
We introduced ourselves, gave our locations a shoutout, and literally just dove into the feelings. We covered topics from dealing with the insistence of some white-allies to make this an issue devoid of Blackness to how to recover from the emotional overload of constant streaming sadness and rage via Twitter, tumblr and Facebook. Each of us took a few minutes to share with the group where we were at emotionally and what we were experiencing in our communities.
There were educators working with youth of color to pick apart the complex issues at hand while also learning about the intense value and importance of protest and civil unrest. We heard from queers on the ground in activist circles and isolated queers in mostly white cities dealing with a never-ending amount of apathetic racist bs. The lone queers who wanted to keep protesting but were alone and afraid, and overwhelmed by the enormity of protesting in a big city without a buddy or group. And the Mom who was shocked that her kid was learning about Ferguson and Mike Brown in their fancy ass, mostly white school.
We hit so many worlds, y’all. The Speakeasy gave each other love, respect, and the time to tell our stories uninterrupted. And of course, we laughed about silly stuff like sex boots and the encyclodpedia brittanica.
No lie: It was as if we’d known each other forever.
It’s what healing looks like when it’s focused on the community and the self.
Reaching out to each other is HUGE. We’re part of so many online groups with different ways to chat and send messages but holy mother, seeing each other’s faces and hearing each other laugh, that’s on a different level.
After the hour and a half of conversing, chilling, it was time for me to log off. I felt this incredible sense of calm and it just felt so good, like in some way it helped.
And I know it’s filled with its own privileges: access to internet, the fact that not all of us in the group are experiencing our literal neighborhoods burnt to the ground, just to name a few.
We still need to support each other and protect each other’s hearts.
Here are a few feelings from other members of The Speakeasy who were apart of the hangout:
The sound of hella QPOCs giggling helplessly from all over the world turns out to be more than just delightful, it’s a balm for rough and heavy hearts. So much of the despondence, frustration and anger I’ve felt for weeks melted away after one-and-a-half glorious hours of meeting with the others; enough to fall asleep soundly, to awaken into something other than a sense of dread, to take it all back on again, restored.
It’s so important to do what makes you feel centered and strong again as a QTPOC trying to deal with this country right now, and it would have taken Herculean levels of self-care to come close to what one Speakeasy kickback did for me last night.
The laughter, the letting go, the smiling faces and community that spanned thousands of miles was beyond words. So grateful for last night.
What you organized last night is totally community care. It’s this idea that self care is great, but can also be isolating and intimidating. For many of us in social justice, doing and participating in social justice things is our self care. So how do we get support around that…well, we have to lean on each other and be open to each other.
Even though I didn’t talk much, I felt a million times better after the google hangout last night. Because we didn’t have to have an agenda. We didn’t have to put social justice talk on the shelf. We just had to be together and laugh and give each other permission to have anger and guilt and fear — and that’s community care.
It was comforting to feel lost with other people and know that it is ok to feel at a loss in these situations. Another thing that stuck out to me was that even though everything is very complicated and there is color and gender and sexuality all tangled into all of these politics, there are also many good minds moving this forward and with the internet we are able to say ok, this is important, but we can’t ignore black trans women either and we can’t ignore the sexism within the black community either and we can’t ignore that white allies can also do harm and on and on and on.
Speakeasy Self-Care Tips
We then asked The Speakeasy to share self-care practices and here’s what they said:
Fanfiction. The only reason there’s no body count in my life.
Meditation session for practitioners who are LGBTQA at 7-8:30 on 12/12. Open to beginners (like me!) 331 Broadway in Cambridge, MA. Closest T is Central Sq.
Disengaging with the world for periods of time. Shutting off my phone and wi-fi connection and burying myself in cheese-centred snacks whilst reading under layers of blankets until I feel ready to face the world again.
I’ve been letting myself feel sad when I feel sad and angry when I feel angry, I don’t try to taper or reign in my emotions as much anymore. Getting away from the internet helps. Treating myself to yummy comfort things like a good meal or time in front of a fire.
Oh yeah! Listening to music by WOC/PoC also is major self care.
(Start here with The Speakeasy playlist)
Like 森園亜樹 having a POC sangha has been a crucial place of refuge and healing. (Sharing for any Bay area folks: East Bay Meditation Center in Oakland has a POC session on Thursdays and a LGBTQI session on Tuesdays.)
The other night I totally drank half a bottle of wine (am I allowed to also say smoked a j or nah?) and did yoga to John Legend Radio by candlelight and didn’t touch any other media, and it was kind of heavenly.
I’ve also been watching this video on a loop.
Making comics is an amazing outlet for emotions. It also helps distill chaotic feelings into concise thoughts.
Hi, speakeasy! Need some levity? Need some light? Last night I came home and cried for a zillion reasons and Eli made it a lot better because unlike pretty much anyone minus my boo, he has the ability to change me into someone who can deal with and face the world. It might be banal, it might be unrelated, it might be that you like cats, but here’s some pictures of Eli to make things better for the next 60-300 seconds.
This Google doc is being passed around my FB food. It was created by Adaku Utah, a Queer Black Feminist who is one of the primary folks holding down healing justice at Ferguson and beyond. It’s a list of places where activists, organizers, and POC can receive healing, community care and connect to organizations involved in action and organized protests.
Also, please check out Healing Justice for Black Lives Matter on December 18. Healers and Organizers across the US are coming together to bring community care to the masses. Events organized by Adaku Utah, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, and many others.
Healer and Organizer, Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha on Healing Justice Action:
“I got the idea out of my disabled femme of color body. I was thinking about what kind of action I could do to support Black Lives Matters as a disabled non Black POC, when marching for hours in the cold is not accessible for me, and I realized, I’m a healer. I can donate a day’s pay from my intuitive counseling practice, and because I do it in my room at my desk and altar, that is accessible for me.”
None of this is meant to be a distraction from the severity of what’s happening all over the US right now. None of this is meant to take away from the murders and injustice. All of this is meant to aid in the recharge and refuel of energy to continue fighting and protesting and engaging each other in conversation, policy change, and the dismantling of a system that wasn’t built for Black People or People of Color or Queer People or Trans People. THIS SHIT AIN’T HERE FOR US, Y’ALL.
But we are here for each other. Bring your art, music, laughter, and selves to the table. Please share with us other ways that you’re engaged in community and self care. Leave links and videos and anything that you feel will add to our collective healing.
Autostraddle’s QTPOC Speakeasy was born at this year’s A-Camp in the interest of providing a safe, closed space for queer people of color. It quickly became clear that the group would continue to thrive offsite and online. We are The Speakeasy. We are queer people of color. We are Autostraddle.