Prideful D.C.

Although D.C. Pride did not have the same uniquely perfect timing as the San Francisco and NYC (and others’) Pride weekends enjoyed – theirs inaugurated with the historical moment of marriage equality for all ushered into America last Friday – it nonetheless provided for a week of amazing Pride-ful presence across the nation’s capital. Granted, my experience of the Pride Week was undoubtedly enhanced by the fact that I work for an LGBTQ non-profit organization and thus was able to march in the parade, work a booth for the festival, and even visit two local schools to spread the good vibes and awareness to youth in D.C.

That week, I visited both Woodrow Wilson and Cardozo High School for their Pride Day Celebrations as a Trevor advocate – an experience that brought back warm memories of the various efforts and endeavors of the QSA (Queer Straight Alliance) from my own high school. The group was active and motivated when I was a student there – and hopefully still is – and my involvement in the QSA was paramount to the development of my interest in LGBTQ rights and advocacy, especially in relation to LGBTQ youth. Generating ideas among a group of inspired teenagers, all working towards the same common ground, can be such a rewarding experience. I saw that same enthusiasm and interest expressed in students today at the event as groups of friends made their way over to the Trevor table and asked us questions about how to get involved and best protect their peers and themselves against the risks of suicidality and mental health issues.

I really enjoy working in the advocacy and public policy sphere of the Trevor Project. The work keeps me involved and attached to current LGBTQ politics and issues, even though I am not responsible for working the lifeline resource itself. I have such admiration and respect for the Trevor volunteers who spend their time serving on the lifeline and providing that vital support to the youth that need it most – and I’m honestly not sure if I could serve in that position myself, day in and day out. The stories we hear from the lifeline can be utterly devastating. But this opportunity today was unique and heart-warming in that I gained firsthand exposure, even if just for a couple hours, to the population of youth that we seek to support – and so many of them seemed genuinely interested in and thankful for the work that we do. I hope the young people in this country continue to hold onto that drive and inspiration.

A Month Down: City Livin' and Workin' in the District of Columbia

Last spring, I applied for the Williamson Fellowship—a subset of the Davidson Impact Fellowship Program—and was awarded the opportunity to work with the Trevor Project in Washington D.C., the nation’s leading nonprofit organization that promotes mental health wellness and suicide prevention among the LGBTQ youth population of America. Due to a somewhat sudden shift in circumstances, with the departure of two key employees (one of whom had been appointed as my supervisor for the fellowship) from Trevor’s D.C. office, I was given the option to work out of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) office while still technically working as a Trevor employee. At first, I was a bit hesitant about the switch, but I am now so glad that I agreed to it.

the-trevor-project

 

My main project for the next twelve months is the development of a suicide prevention model policy for institutions of higher education across the nation—a mission that the Trevor Project is spearheading, with AFSP as a partner organization as well as the enlisted help of Active Minds and the Jed Foundation. Therefore, although I am working remotely for Trevor right now (which is subject to change in a couple of months once the D.C. office rehires the positions of the two employees that left), it is wonderful to have immediate, direct access to the partner organization for the project . The AFSP office in D.C. is small, intimate, and has a great vibe among its employees. I am nearing the four-week mark of my job, and I have really enjoyed it so far. Plus, my office has full-length windows and even my very own door: any new-to-the-workforce gal’s dream come true.

AFSP-Logo-Large

 

The transition of moving to a new city was hectic and a little hard at first; I’ve called North Carolina my home for 22 years, so it has been a big adjustment. I’ve always been fond of the city of Washington D.C., though—it was by no accident that I selected to work in the Trevor Project D.C. offi

ce (there are also offices in West Hollywood and NYC). It has most anything you’d want out of a fun, good-to-live-in city: interesting groups of people everywhere you turn, gorgeous architecture throughout the diverse neighborhoods, super clean metros, countless good brunch spots (people here are honestly obsessed with brunch, but I won’t complain).

Next blog post, I’m sure I’ll have more to report on the details of my job life, as my primary project picks up momentum. But so far, so good!

P.S. Today is World Suicide Prevention Day! Make sure to spread the word and your support. 🙂

suicide prev day

 

People, People, People

The holidays, especially Kwanzaa and New Year’s have reminded me to reflect. Recently, the topic of people and relationships has been on my mind a lot, professionally and personally. I enjoy a robust and diverse friend group and work in a field that focuses on people—and the connections between them.

Over the holidays, I caught my family members up on my experiences with my new co-workers. Working at a theatre means that you are guaranteed some big, quirky personalities. It can be one of the greatest parts of the work environment.

Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this group?!

Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this group?!

 

The Theater Offensive exists in the space where theatre and activism intersect, which requires a revealing honesty about who we are and where we come from. It also provides a family structure of support that challenges and nurtures us.

I visited my home, Raleigh, NC over the holidays and had an impromptu high school reunion. I admire and enjoy the company of a large number of my high school friends. It seemed like a lot of my peers shared that feeling, because with less than 48 hours notice, we had a group of over 60 alumni (almost 10% of our class) get together.

 

My mother’s sage advice to “keep in touch with good friends. You never know how much they will mean to you” resonated in my mind as I had conversations with these now young adults. Their occupations ran the gamut from doctors and plumbers, teachers to and grad school students. Some were starting families or traveling and others were moving back home. With many of my theatre friends from high school, I cannot help but fantasize that some of us will come together and start a social justice theatre company one day—perhaps in our hometown.

Reunion: William G. Enloe Class of ’09

Reunion: William G. Enloe Class of ’09

Either way, these exchanges led me to thoughts about the future and unique career challenges I might face. For the majority of my baby boomer parents’ telecommunications career, they have worked in jobs that did not exist when they entered college. I believe this phenomenon will hold true across sectors for many in Generation Y. Most of us have graduated thinking that the decade ahead may bring with it five or more distinct job titles. We must think in terms of a winding path rather than one that is straight, stable and narrow.

The realities of job instability, insecurity and innovation seem to m to hold true or even be magnified in the field of theatre.

So I ask myself “what does that mean for me, a social justice theatre practitioner-to-be?”

At a Davidson career services session, I heard the statistic that “only 30% of all arts and entertainment jobs are posted anywhere.” (After all, my current job was not posted.) How will I find my next job?

We have all heard the saying “people give money to people, not programs.” Will I chase grant money to fund my work?

I have finally started to understand first hand why networking is so important. When I say networking, I do not mean a soulless exchange of fancy business cards over martinis, I mean connecting with individuals you admire or who share your vision in order to find ways to support each other, your contacts or your cause.

Who will I meet this year that will impact my future?
With whom from my past will I cross paths?
For whom can I help pave the way?

What part do I play in this world of people, people and more people?

Coming OUT as an Ally

When asked during my interview what motivates me to do this work in LGBT advocacy specifically, I responded that I was interested in the power of theatre to cohere and uplift marginalized communities. I gave examples of the oppression that LGBT communities face.

I told my boss-to-be that I hoped a year spent working for The Theater Offensive could help make me the best ally I can be.

The Theater Offensive’s mission is to present the diversity of LGBT lives in art so bold it breaks through personal isolation, challenges the status quo, and builds thriving communities.

In the four neighborhoods where TTO focuses, we work to inspire OUTness through OUT In Your Neighborhood programming.

OUTness – being honest about one’s sexuality and gender and then choosing to share this with others – is our community’s greatest cultural contribution to society. While the term OUT is most often associated with the LGBT movement, the concept of OUTness resonates far beyond it. OUTness is the way in which people’s personal identity can contribute to a movement. Identifying society’s privilege systems and compelling activists to be more honest about our relationships in those systems can contribute to the dismantling of racism, sexism, classism, and other institutional oppressions.

The courage and specificity in that statement continually blows me away. Perhaps it is because I am from the south and we do not always say things directly. Perhaps it is because I—like many others—have become far too comfortable classifying the variety of institutional oppressions as different fights.
At any rate, this declaration of OUTness has offered me plenty of food for reflection in my first three months. This definition pushes beyond tolerance, acceptance, towards something more like solidarity.

At some point in my life, I have been called an “honorary” Asian, Jew, lesbian, Afro-Latina, first generation college student and Indian. None of these identities actually correspond to ones I hold, but rather reflect groups that I have felt affinity towards. This “honorary” label is problematic for a couple of reasons: first, it allows the other person to forget my identity and think of me as an “exception to the rule” rather than part of a diverse community of black, straight, cisgender, or non-religious people. On the other hand, it is problematic, because it lets me forget what my relationship is to the system that makes each of those groups an “other” in some way.

OUTness can be uncomfortable, but deep examination of my place in these systems that adversely affect communities I care deeply about will make me open to criticism and help—open to hearing the “oops” and the “ouch”.

In the end, I feel empowered by this notion.

I can affect change as a self-loving, feminist African descendent. I can inspire and support White allies to support People of Color. I can also use my privilege as a cisgender, straight ally to affect change.

I find this reality check refreshing! I can be OUT about my journey as I grow into the ally that I hope to be. I don’t have to get it all right from the start.

I encourage anyone who reads this post to consider….are you OUT? Will you take the #allychallenge?

Four Roommates After Davidson

amelia 1

Amelia (3rd in line) with her senior roommates.

We say life at Davidson happens in a bubble. Well, for the class of 2013, that bubble has burst and we have been sent floating or crashing into the real world. Maybe it is not that dramatic. We certainly all have different journeys.

In this post, I will fill you in about the paths my roommates and I have taken post-Davidson. Thanks to Davidson’s expert roommate pairing, we stayed together all four years and became as close as sisters despite not having met before becoming Wildcats. Our journeys reveal great diversity of experience and perhaps some surprising similarities.

After graduating with a Theatre major and Arabic minor, I spent the summer abroad in Mexico working for a non-profit organization called Amigos de las Américas. I worked around the clock in very tight quarters with my co-workers. My co-workers and collaborators were passionate, Spanish-speaking youth leaders. I supervised high school volunteers, most of whom were U.S. born.

Now, I am in Boston, a new city for me, and am happy to report that at The Theater Offensive I am once again part of a driven, passionate, hard-working cohort committed to making the change we want t

o see in the world. The Theater Offensive, or TTO for short, is a theatre committed to its mission ‘to form and present the diverse realities of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) lives in art so bold it breaks through personal isolation and political orthodoxy to help build a more honest, progressive community.’ A Davidson Impact Fellowship endowed though the Williamson Trust afforded me this opportunity.

In both jobs, the mission-driven work has fulfilled my need for connection to the communities in which I live and work. Nonetheless, no job has everything. This summer, I suffered from artistic withdrawal. Now, I see multiple performances every week. Amen. Still, the one thing I miss most from my summer is speaking Spanish everyday.

Each of my roommates has work experiences tethered in some was to my own and to their Davidson course of study.

My roommate in Atlanta, who studied English and Theatre, began working soon after graduation in a new city close to home.  She researches and produces articles and infographics for publications that inform regional utility companies about industry trends. Like me, she spends most of her day at the computer. While she found a job with the types of tasks she was looking for ie. writing, editing, layout, she did not find an organization whose mission fulfilled her.  I compromised on the tasks in favor of the mission.

amelia map

Map of the roommates’ current destinations.

My roommate in Charlotte, who studied English and Economics, is in a new city close to our Davidson home. After talking the summer to rest, she began working in consulting. Her work hours are comparable to my hectic summer schedule, especially Mondays through Thursdays when she cranks out work in an Ohio hotel with her co-workers. Like both of my work environments, hers is composed of mostly young people with shared goals. Though the structures of her organization are driven by competition, she has found ways to make sincere connections with her co-workers. A few weeks ago, she learned that another analysts’ grandparents speak the same Chinese dialect as her own grandparents.

The last, but not least of our group, who studied Psychology and French, returned to France to teach elementary school English after spending a summer lifeguarding and saving money in her home town. This year, she will wear the many hats of teacher, explorer, tutor, babysitter and grad school applicant as she takes full advantage of this gap year of adventures.

 

Three emerges as a special number for commonalities in our post-Davidson lives.

Three of us speak a language other than the one we speak at home in either our current or summer work.  Three of us spend most of our time in front of the computer. Three of us are keeping personal blogs. Three of us have more free time than we did at Davidson.

Three of us are paying off student loans. Economically, we have landed all over that map. The roommate in France and I are living somewhat comfortably rather than scraping by due to the generosity of our parents and relatives. The flip side of this is that the expectations set for us in terms of quality of professional dress and overall expectation to be fancy are low. The inverse is true for my other roommates.

Three of our jobs have a proposed end date and although all of us are working toward general goals for the future, I’m not sure any one of us could tell you exactly where we plan to be in five years.  I mean to say where in the geographical sense as much as in the sense of where we might be on these “paths”.

 

For now, we are all grateful to be employed using skills we developed as Wildcats. That makes any day a great day.

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