My Mama used to say to me, on days when I was especially high energy and bouncy, "Who put a quarter in you?"
Friday, if you'd walked into my office, you'd have thought that someone took an entire roll of quarters and had started plugging any staff they could find until their pupils came up dollar signs. The energy in our office was out of control.
At one point, during staff meeting, my colleague JT and I were being sassy with each other (ahhhhh sweet repository of intense tension), when Doyin and Reina push back from the table where Doyin starts to rock and Reina starts summoning up a safe zone to envelope him. We all fall out laughing, and in unison, Doyin and Reina spin around in their wheely chairs and pull back up to the table. They are basically those two crotchety old Muppets that are always talking smack during the Muppet Show.
Things calmed down a bit while we all shoved Cuban food into our faces like a bunch of wild hogs at a slop trough.
And then more volunteers descended on the space, including the indomitable Yejin Lee from the Anti-Violence Project, to begin prepping meals for QEJ's vigil in honor of our member, Yvonne McNeil, who was murdered by the police in early October. All that manic energy translated into packing sixty lunches in a time that would have made the winner of the NY City Marathon blush and clap. It was organized chaos with a PB&J heart.
With the office mostly empty, JT, Amber, and I were sitting waiting to catch any last minute folks that straggled in before leaving for the site of the vigil. At one point, we were all sitting near each other, and we had a Lefty Confessional and Rite of Absolution with Amber, and then we all headed across the island to a small park near New Providence Shelter.
The vigil was powerful. It was silent, and it was comprised largely of folks that work in the queer community and around issues of violence. At the last minute, residents of five different shelters decided not to attend the vigil. It was not unexpected. It's one thing to want to honor one of your own that has fallen to violence from the system, and it is another to face the reality of that violence and understand that it could have been anyone, including yourself. Therefore but by the Grace of God go all of us.
So, those of us that have the privilege to live outside of the shelter system, along with a few residents of New Providence, showed up to honor the memory of Yvonne McNeil. As Amber Hollibaugh, my colleague and friend, said, "Not a single one of us, including our homeless, will go unremembered." There are times when we show up because others simply can't. That's revolutionary and love.
The Audre Lorde Project showed up in force to act as our allies and our security for the vigil as did folks from the Sylvia River Law Project. And it was lovely to have lawyerly support from Streetwise and Safe! I can't say enough how much it meant to me and the rest of us at QEJ to see how our people show up for each other in a time of need. That, too, is revolutionary.
That night, I hung out with JT and his sister, and it was wonderful to sort of let some of the sadness go and enjoy time out and about in the world celebrating life in the face of violence. In fact, I think when we celebrate the ways in which we continue to grow despite the reality of living in a police state, we are doing the work of defiance and healing. And we can't heal alone...no matter what the wound. In fact, the systems that be would have us believe that isolation is the way to heal are in fact trying to keep us hurting...isolation is simply another way to keep us wounded and bleeding...slowly. I will gather my loves around me. That's good medicine.
This weekend has been about celebration, healing, getting back to self, cooking, reading, playing, loving, and being brave in the face of hurt and hope. Actually, I believe being brave in the face of hope is infinitely harder than just about any other act of courage....to believe that your hurt can be less than your healing and that the love that is offered and present is greater than your loss, is terrifying. But leaps of faith have always been the greatest and most frightening acts we have undertaken. And the greatest human achievements have always come from those that have opened their eyes wide and jumped. I believe I will be caught...I have been every time I have ever had the courage to leap.