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Sorry, but I actually have nothing to apologize for

by Ajaita Saini

“Sorry” has probably become one of the most common words in my dictionary. Despite the fact that I cringe every time I hear this word, I find myself saying it over and over again. The word has become a replacement for transitions in conversations, where we start off sentences with “sorry, but…” and it seems like it’s become an accepted way for girls to speak (and supposedly how we should speak). It’s habit to apologize after we say something too, like it doesn’t matter what we were saying, just the fact that we’re profusely apologizing should make up for hearing our voices.

I once apologized to a teacher because he submitted a blatantly incorrect grade in my report card. Obviously, it was a mistake on his part and not mine, and yet I was the one who ended up apologizing. Did I need to say sorry? Absolutely not. Yet it felt like it was my responsibility and be “courteous.”

Recently, a Pantene ad questioned why women say sorry more often than men. The ad showed many examples of women who say sorry, including when opening doors, speaking at the same time as her male friend, handing her husband a child, and even when a man knocks her elbow off an armrest.

Wondering how truthful the ad was, I decided to try counting how many times I said sorry the next day. At first, it didn’t seem like I would utter the word that often—I assumed that I would be able to control my impulse. But I realized that I was practically saying sorry every few seconds, whether it be when I raised my hand, asked for help, or when someone else bumped into me in the hall. And each time I said sorry, I felt like I was subconsciously training my brain to make the same mistake again. Eventually, I realized that I kept saying sorry because I was self conscious if I didn’t. I felt like a bad person by not doing so.

It’s frustrating hearing yourself make the same mistake over and over again, but not doing anything about it because it’s considered “polite.” Part of the reason women apologize more than men is because we’re expected to keep our opinions and identities as humble as possible. That two syllable word ends up detracting from the rest of what we’re saying, making it sound less valuable. Girls are accepted when we conform and defer, especially to men. Many times if we approach a situation in a different manner than is expected, not apologizing makes it seem like we’re rude, stupid, and moreover, bossy. Saying sorry acts as a way to disarm people before sharing our thoughts. It softens and blurs our statements, and we use it to justify an action, even one as simple as asking a question.

As idealistic as it sounds, the only way to stop this epidemic of “sorries” is by being confident in what you’re saying and understanding that your opinion is as equally valid as anyone else’s. Expressing your opinions and feelings isn’t wrong in any way, and absolutely nothing to apologize for. You don’t need to say sorry for every encounter you have with another human being.

Try counting how many times you say sorry in a day. It may surprise you, but chances are majority of the time the apology has no significance to the context. You won’t be bossy if you don’t say sorry. You won’t be considered rude, vain, or obnoxious. And even if it may feel that way at first, you’ll end off being more confident and more happy with who you are by eradicating this one word from your daily interactions.

Apologize if you mess up. But don’t apologize for having a voice.

Research Blog: Hallelujah! Feminist activism sets me free

by Jenn Chmielewski

Okay, so I’ll admit it. Post-Turkey day and just a couple weeks off from my family’s Christmas dinner (and my awesome candy cane cookies) I’ve started to think a little too much about how this holiday season might be putting a few pounds on me. When it’s just me with a mirror, sometimes I can be a little hard on myself, especially if I’ve had the inescapable pleasure of seeing…oh, any commercial really, or the covers of the magazines I always read while I wait in line to buy my Stephen Colbert Americone Dream ice cream from the little market across the street. Just yesterday it was Cosmopolitan’s headlines telling me how to have the best holiday sex ever, followed by tips on how to “find my sparkle” and lose weight for the holidays. As I sat munching away at my ice cream later that night, I grew more and more frustrated that I was left feeling guilty about the fact that I haven’t lost 20 pounds and that I most certainly will be enjoying my holiday meals for the next month without giving a thought to dieting. I was mad at the magazines for making me feel bad about how I looked, but I was also a little annoyed at myself for not figuring out a way to eat less of that delicious ice cream… What’s a girl to do?

photo by Sarah Bures

Well, what this girl did was talk to her friends for support and read a few feminist blogs online to snap back into reality. I found a feminist guide to surviving the holidays on Feministing and caught up on the latest SPARK blogs, which reminded me that I wasn’t alone in my frustrations with the world, and that enjoying ice cream is totally normal. Our SPARK research blogs have reported on research that shows how the objectification of women in the media is so bad for us, decreasing our self-esteem, ability to think, and making us believe our bodies are worth more than our brains and feelings. But we aren’t helpless against these vicious ideas and can actually fight back and change them, SPARK is a total testament to that. Not only is girl-inspired and created activism creating real change in the world and media, but I also feel good about myself when I am connected to other young women (online and in-person) who are passionate about these issues like I am. When I stop looking at myself in the mirror and start surrounding myself by the positive energy of other feminist activists, I remember all that I have to offer myself and other people.

And it turns out that now there’s some research to show that other girls feel the same way about their activism and feminist blogging. Researcher Jessalynn Marie Keller talked with eight teen girl feminist bloggers to find out about their experiences with feminist blogging and activism.[1] She asked these young writers questions about what feminism meant to them, how feminists support each other online, what kinds of blogging and activism they engaged in, and how they felt their engagement with feminism had influenced their perspectives of media representations of teenage girls.[2]

I’m sure you savvy SPARK readers won’t be surprised by what she found: participating in feminist blogging was really important for girls to build a sense of feminist community, identity, and empowerment. When we are young, it can be kind of difficult to connect to other feminists. So much seems to be geared towards adult women, and it feels like teens are being talked about but aren’t doing the talking. Keller found that online feminist blogging is a great way to create spaces where young feminists can write and connect to other teens and young women – it’s a new way to think about activism and what a feminist community can be. And the girls she interviewed talked about the importance of this community for a ton of reasons: forming friendships (very important!), getting and sharing information and education about politics and feminist issues, and feeling empowered by ‘talking back,’ expressing their ideas and having their voices heard.

So not only are the girls in the study working on massively cool feminist projects (just like the SPARK team and SPARK Action Squad) in a media world otherwise saturated with sexism, but they also developed empowered activist identities in the process of connecting with other girls online. Even though we are inundated everywhere we turn with the sexualization of girls and women in really messed up ways, we aren’t passive victims. I know, I know, it might sound really corny, but together, we really do have the power to change things and ourselves. If we can imagine a feminist world, we can create it together.

The moral of this story is that this holiday season, I am thankful to all of you. I am thankful to you for creating this space where we can learn, share, be angry at the injustices we see in the media, and come together to do something about it. So while I enjoy delicious food and ring in the New Year, I will have my laptop close by, ready to check in whenever I need some support. And ready to vent when I see those sexy Santa costumes that just won’t go away. *facepalm* Happy holidays!

 


[1] Keller, J. M. (2012). Virtual feminisms: Girls blogging communities, feminist activism, and         participatory politics. Information, Communication & Society, 15, 429-447.

[2] Keller, J. M. (2013). “Still alive and kicking”: Girl bloggers and feminist politics in a       postfeminist age. Unpublished dissertation, University of Texas, Austin

 

Girls and women don’t owe you our smiles

by Sam Holmes

I like to think that I share similarities with Malia and Sasha Obama. After all, the three of us are intelligent, fashionable, widely-loved girls of color, right? Okay, I’m exaggerating. I’m entirely unfamiliar with the burden of having an unbelievably powerful parent, dining with diplomats has never been an item on my agenda, and I do not have to worry about navigating my teenage years with a crew of Secret Service agents surveying my every move. Our lives are different. But I feel some solidarity with them this week after the media attacked them for their appearance during the Presidential turkey pardon. Their crime?  The two first daughters were guilty of hiding their pearly whites. They committed a grievous transgression by not being visibly enthusiastic as their father stood next to the chosen turkey. I can relate to the Obama daughters. I, too, have been guilty of NSWW (Not Smiling While Woman).

I noticed NSWW  early on. When I delivered a presentation in elementary school, my teacher’s largest critique was my lack of a smile. I was giving a presentation on the Civil Rights Movement and how segregation had affected the black community as a whole. And yet, I was still expected to be bubbly, enthusiastic, and approachable as I stood in front of my peers. I committed NSWW again last year, when I gave another presentation about gender equity and social movements. I described issues such as wage gaps, difference in confidence levels between genders, and society’s expectations for women. I was impassioned, but not necessarily excited as I led the audience through my observations of sexism. When the time arrived for the audience to ask questions, one man’s hand shot up and he said, “Let’s have a smile out of you!”

As I am sure Sasha and Malia could agree, there are times and places to smile. However, these smile-provoking situations are not the same for everyone. We may discover out pockets of happiness in different places. In the case of the Sasha and Malia Obama, their feelings of content did not occur on national television. The national media captured their NSWW moment, and unsolicited judges decided to contribute their unwarranted opinions. Some social media users made memes out of the duo, and others questioned whether their facial expressions signified a gaping lack of patriotism on their part. People threw labels at them like disrespectful or classless. Their father’s job title has given them heightened expectations to be effusive figureheads at every hour of the day. This expectation is neither fair, nor realistic.

But this issue extends beyond the Obama girls or myself. There is a culture of infallible friendliness in which women are forced to participate. Everyone from Beyoncé to countless friends of mine have expressed the pressure to be perpetually perky. This is a stark contrast to the criticism that women are too open with their emotions. We are deemed weak when we reveal our feelings, but we are also disparaged for not displaying enough excitement. Whether we are working, driving, studying, exercising, struggling, eating, or simply existing, we are not fulfilling our duties as females unless we seal it with a smile. These pressures are dehumanizing; as they dictate women feign a certain emotion in order to appease others. No matter how we are feeling, women are expected to be approachable. The needs of other people supersede our own as peers, colleagues, and even complete strangers want to feel as if they can always come up to us and strike up an entertaining conversation.

This expectation for women manifests itself in street harassment. There are countless accounts of women who have been told to smile by leering men as they go about their daily routines. While some people may try to downplay these interactions, I can attest to the fact that they can make women feel judged and unsafe. As women participate in a range of tasks, they are subjected to the opinion of others. The pressure to smile is not a burden that women should have to add to the list. Men are not expected to go through life with a smile plastered across their faces at all times. It is an unfair, unrealistic, and unyielding demand that impacts women from all walks of life. Women have a right to their feelings, whether they reveal excitement or discontent. If we smile it should be genuine, organic, and our own decision. Because, at the moment, these fake smiles aren’t making us happy.

Black Women Create: 7 films to watch for

by Joneka Percentie

It’s December, which means Oscar predictions are starting and there’s an unsettling and undeniable trend. Some top contenders include Wild (white woman in the wilderness), Exodus: God and Kings (white men and women as Egyptian royalty), Interstellar (white astronauts in space), Gone Girl (psycho white people), Birdman (white people in a play), and The Imitation Game (white people breaking codes), just to name a few.

Fortunately, not everywhere in the film world is quite so white. We were so excited when Dear White People, one of the most anticipated releases for the fall, had such a successful opening weekend in the box office–we knew it was a film to look out for when we chatted with producer Lena Waithe last year. Thankfully, there’s more where that came from. Here are seven films directed by  or starring Black women and girls to keep on your radar.

Beyond the Lights

Gina Prince-Bythewood, director of Love & Basketball and The Secret Life of Bees (thank you so much), presents the musical romance Beyond the Lights. Noni, played by Gugu Mbatha-Raw, who amazed us in Belle earlier this year, is an international popstar  struggling with the demands of the music industry when she meets police officer Kaz. Prince-Bythewood’s journey to make the film reveals just a glimpse of the obstacles that Black directors face when convincing studios to support their work. If you’re a sucker for romance films, especially ones with Black couples, definitely make your way to see Beyond the Lights, in theaters now.

Annie

Quevenzhané Wallis will continue to steal our hearts when she stars as the lead in Annie this winter. The story of Annie began as an 1885 poem turned comic strip, which was then adapted into a radio show, two feature films, and a musical. This winter’s reboot will have noticeable changes, with Wallis as Annie, Jamie Foxx as William Stacks, and lyric references to orphans and orphanages changed to foster children and foster homes. With a revamped version of the classic “Hard Knock Life” and production by Will and Jada Smith, Annie is sure to be a feel-good film for all ages. We only have to wait until Christmas to see Wallis as the lovable title role, and in the meantime, we can watch this adorable trailer over and over again.

Selma

Selma, a new Martin Luther King Jr. biopic directed by Ava DuVernay, could not be left off of the list. The film stars David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King Jr., Carmen Ejogo as Coretta Scott King, as well as Common, Andre Holland, Tessa Thompson, Tom Wilkinson, and Omar J. Dorsey and follows the height of tension in the civil rights movement of the 60’s.  Before culminating with the historic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama the film explores the relationships MLK Jr. had with the president, his wife, and friends. In light of recent events surrounding police brutality against Black lives in the United States, the trailer stirs up a lot of feelings and the film is sure to do the same. Selma premieres in NYC and LA on Christmas day, and nationwide January 9th.

Girlhood (Bandes de Filles)

French writer and director Celine Sciamma premiered Girlhood (Bandes de Filles), her third feature film, at Cannes Film Festival this spring. Girlhood follows 16 year-old Marieme and the girl-gang she joins in the banlieues of Paris. In the tough outer, ethnically mixed, and economically disadvantaged underclass suburbs, Marieme fights to find her identity through major points in her life until finally discovering herself and her own convictions. Girlhood was recently acquired by buyers in the U.K., Portugal, Sweden, Norway, picked up for US distribution, and we can’t wait until it’s in major cities around the world.

Home

Dreamwork is set to release Home, its first animation with a Black female lead, in March of 2015. Home is based on the 2007 book The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex. Oh is from the planet Boov, and Tip is a witty, no-nonsense girl that manages to avoid capture by the Boov when they decide to make Earth their new home. Together, Boov and Tip take a roadtrip of a lifetime as they flee from Boov enemies that are headed their way to Earth. Along with the voice role of Tip, singer Rihanna will release a concept album for the film, and if that doesn’t give you enough reason to see this movie, check out the trailer!

FREE CeCe

CeCe McDonald is a 25 year old transgender African-American woman that was sentenced to 19 months in a men’s prison after being attacked in 2011. Upon McDonald’s release this year, actress and transgender rights activist Laverne Cox has documented interviews with her along with investigation of the transmisogyny and violence against trans women of color in the criminal justice system. We can’t speak enough to the importance of highlighting the experiences of transgender women of color, and in regards to FREE CeCe, we are especially excited. The documentary is set for completion in 2016.

SOAR

Dancers, co-producers, and sisters Kiera Brinkley and Uriah Boyd, give much more than graceful dance performances in SOAR Documentary. Kiera, a quadruple amputee, and Uriah, born only a month after her older sister was diagnosed with pneumococcal sepsis, embody sisterhood, laughter, and a passion for dance in the film.

According to director and producer Susan Hess Logeais, SOAR “film celebrates the extraordinary ways that Kiera has learned to adapt—as a dancer, choreographer, medical assistant, and recently a driver.” The film also focuses on the sisters’ relationship, following the sibling pair in their home life, to rehearsals, and finally culminating in a collaborative dance concert for the community. The trailer alone is incredibly moving, and the final documentary will be released once it has funding for post-production and home video distribution.

Meet Kiera and Uriah – SOAR Documentary from Susan Hess Logeais on Vimeo.

Being a feminist face in an “un-feminist” space

by Julia Bluhm

I’ve been a feminist ever since I knew what a feminist was. Being a feminist seemed like common sense to me. I felt like, naturally, I was a feminist in everything I did. I’m a feminist as I work with a team of inspiring, motivated women in SPARK to create change. I’m a feminist when I write, to make my voice- the voice of a teenage girl- be heard and recognized as it should be. I’m a feminist when I wear skirts and bows in my hair, and I’m a feminist when I wear sweatpants or jeans. I’m still a feminist when I’m wearing a leotard and tights, tying the ribbons on my peach-colored pointe shoes, or being lifted in the air by my partner, the Nutcracker Prince. Ballet is just one example of a profession or activity that is often deemed “un-feminist” for countless reasons. I know that the ballet world is very flawed, and there are many aspects of it that make me really angry. I also know, however, that I’m not ever going to stop dancing. And similarly, I’m never going to stop identifying as a feminist. You can be a feminist in nearly any setting, job, or activity as long as you acknowledge the problems, support changes, and bring your empowerment with you wherever you go.

We all know that ignoring a problem won’t help it to disappear, but recognizing the problem could. This is why it’s important to talk about the issues you see in your field, and not get defensive when others talk about them as well. I’m often asked about my thoughts on body image in ballet, and the pressures to be thin. When I was younger, I’d always say “there is no pressure to be thin at my ballet school, I always take care of my body, my teachers and friends are really supportive,” etc. That’s all true, but does it stand true for the ballet world as a whole? No. If I was not recognizing the larger problems, that there is still pressure to be thin in the ballet world as a whole and that many ballet students experience disordered eating habits, how would these things ever change?

At the same time, many so-called “un-feminist” fields such as ballet, modeling, acting and fashion are taking beginning steps towards a positive change. There are ad campaigns that use models with a greater variety of colors and sizes, and movies that feature strong, female leads such as Brave and Frozen. Misty Copeland made waves with her “I Will What I Want” commercial and American Ballet Theatre recently launched “Project Plié” to increase racial and ethnic representation in ballet. As a feminist in one of these fields, it is important to celebrate these changes and share them in a positive light. If the beginnings of a change receive a good response, the change will probably continue.

I know ballet does not seem particularly empowering for women. Ballerinas are known for being graceful and soft, and for dancing on the tips of their toes, while male dancers are known for powerful lifting, jumps and turns. Ballet is much more than that, however. For me, dancing is one of the most empowering things I’ve ever done. I feel incredibly powerful in that I can use my body to do remarkable things, to create art that, in a way, defies human nature. And when I dance with a partner I don’t feel weak or any less powerful than him. We are a team, and we help each other. As feminists, we all find empowerment in different ways, even if that empowerment doesn’t initially make sense to everyone else. We should bring our feminism wherever we go, whether that is at the United Nations, watching the Superbowl, or dancing onstage in a delicate tutu.

‘Everything is practice’: an interview with Patricia Alvarado

by Brenda Guesnet

For this month’s SPARKArtists we talked to Patricia Alvarado, a 22-year old visual artist from Chicago finishing up art school at the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. Although Patricia is mainly a performance artist, she uses a variety of mediums, including video and photography. Her work draws on personal experience as well as research to explore the violence and the absurdity of white patriarchal standards and how they affect  us, especially women of color.

Do you have something you’re working on right now that you can tell me about?

A: I’m working on a few different things; right now I’m working on my senior project because I’m graduating in December.[One is] a performance piece where I take small, innocent “compliments” or things that people have said to me, and then deconstruct them to show the [racist] complexities within them. [So it’s] kind of like a “think tree” where you have the point and then stems coming off of it, kind of like a brainstorm. It’s taking something small that maybe someone didn’t really mean as super offensive, and then mapping out and branching off of that to explain the complexities within those statements and why we need to be careful of what we’re saying. It’s me writing this on the wall, and it branches out really big and it’s something that can go on for a really long time if needed and given the time opportunity. I’ll be contrasting that with these objects that describe how exhausting that is – because that’s my whole life on a daily basis, hearing these things, and because I have the knowledge and the experiences that I do, my brain is constantly doing this [mapping] and it’s exhausting. So [I’ll be] contrasting this big mind map with objects that kind of are more easily enterable. As a viewer if you see so much text it’s hard to process it at first, so the objects serve as an entering point for someone who isn’t easily going to be like “oh yeah, racism.”

 

And it’s going to be a performance?

Yeah, it’s a live performance so the objects will be there, but I will be present writing on the wall so people can interact with me if they want. I actually don’t know how that’s going to work out yet, if I’m going to be talking to people or not while I’m doing this.

Looking at the work you have up on your website, I noticed how you come back a lot to the theme of body hair.

Yeah, that’s something that I worked on when I was just starting to get into making political art. I used to be a photo major and then I studied in NY for six months for a residency. At that time I was feeling really unfulfilled by my photo work. I was reading a lot of theory on photography, and it wasn’t matching up with my practice and so I was freaking out, I was like “what am I doing, this doesn’t make any sense, I don’t like the work I’m making, it’s stupid. And I was thinking a lot about feminism at the time as well, reading about feminism on Tumblr, and I was like “yeah, these are really important things”. And when I was in NY was when I started talking to my friend who is also an artist, Amaryllis [DeJesus Moleski], and she is a queer woman of color. We had a lot of conversations about what it’s like to be a queer woman of color, especially in art school and academia. That’s when my work really switched and I was able to start making the work I’m making now. Body hair was kind of an easy start, because it was something that was just present and I was thinking about and reading about, so I started making work about it.

I feel like you are always super present in your own works, also as a performance artist, your body is literally in the work. Is that something that comes natural to you or is it also really confronting to expose yourself so much?

I would say both. I feel like I’m always really present in my work because most of my work is about my experiences. It’s also really important to me to create some kind of visual representation for other brown women. Not that I ever think that I can speak to everyone’s experiences, because I can’t, I can only speak to mine. But I hope that people can relate and feel like I’m speaking to them because I am. I’m here for people to relate to, I’m here to talk about things that I’ve been through, so that other people can feel like they’re not alone. I’ve gone through these things too and I want to talk about them. My practice is a lot about creating dialogue and facilitating discussion. It’s weird to be so present in so much of my work, like every time I hang a show I feel like it’s just like a hallway of me [laughs]. But I think it’s helpful for me to process things that I go through and to learn more about myself.

 

It’s so much about representation, and whose life experience is represented in the art that is shown to us.

Yeah, my friend Amaryllis who I mentioned, we all had our own studios in this residency that we did, but before mid-semester critique, I really [hadn’t seen] any of the work she was making. I walked into her studio, and she was making these giant drawings and paintings of queer women of color, and I looked at these drawings and I literally just started crying. I was like, I’ve never seen this kind of beautiful representation before, and I was like holy shit, this is what people are lacking, because I had never seen this before. So this is what I want, and this is what I want to communicate to anyone who is looking at my work too, is that I’m out here, struggling, just like everybody else, and I want to create this space for people to feel like I’m talking to them.

Right, and I think often the art world reproduces this lack of representation so violently by pretending that it’s this separate space that has nothing to do with structures of sexism and racism. Do you experience that as well in art school? How do you fight back?

Yeah, I experience this a lot. I go to school in the Midwest so the majority of people at my school are white, and it’s really hard all the time. I would say that 90% of my critiques are me defending things that I think are really simple, like that racism exists. It gets really tiring but I try to view it as practice, because I know I’m going to have to deal with this for the rest of my life – dealing with really simple-minded questions and defending things that I believe in. But it’s really hard, we don’t have a lot of people of color as teachers, so I’ve had to work really hard to find people to talk to about my work. Critiques are always really awkward, and it’s gotten to the point where I have to go into critiques on the defensive because I can pretty much anticipate the conversation, which is really sad. And not to completely knock my school, because I’ve learned a lot, everything I know is because of my education. But it’s hard to find good conversation and I guess it’s made me really tired, which is why I’m making the work that I’m making right now, because I’m honestly exhausted from all of this. Every critique is a toll, and every work I make is a toll on me. Even when I’m in class and someone says something and I’m like “hold up” and I go off about patriarchy or racism or whatever, and I can see people [thinking] “oh my god, here’s Patricia, she never shuts up about this.” Which is fine, because the thing for me is that if I don’t say anything, there is a very real tangible possibility that white people in the room can go for their entire lives without acknowledging [racism]. That’s real to me, that people can really just go through their lives and not think about this. And I have to go through my life and think about this literally like every moment of my day. I just feel a moral responsibility to be that person, and if people don’t like me for it, it’s fine with me at this point. It’s a struggle all the time but I’ve found good support systems, which has been really helpful. I’m just always trying to do the right thing and defend brown and black people as much as I can, and try to keep pushing through it.

Do you feel nervous about the future because of what you’re facing at art school now?

I feel okay about it. I’ve gotten so many opportunities to show my work and to talk about these things, especially this year. This year has been really amazing. I’ve shown a few different times and I’ve done interviews, which is really nice because it gives me an opportunity to be like “I’m out here, talking about these things, and making art with a political stance.” So I feel nervous about it, but I feel sort of well prepared, kind of like because of the things I’m dealing with at my school, like I said, I view these things as practice. So I feel relatively prepared. It’s never easy, but I feel more and more ready to deal with it. It’s just practice, everything is practice. Just like unlearning internalized racism is a daily thing, me learning to deal with critiques, etc, is also a daily thing. It’s given me a thick skin.

Who or what are your inspirations?

So my friend Amaryllis is a huge inspiration to me, just because she really is the one who got me starting to think about these things and to look at my life in a more critical way. Props to her, she’s just an amazing human being and a great artist. Then, other women of color who are out here fighting for representation, Fabiola [Ching], who runs the Coalition Zine is a huge inspiration to me because she’s probably one of the most driven people I have ever come across. She’s out here fighting every day, she’s super strong and I love what she does. Also just having discussions is really helpful for me, just talking to other people and having that space to relate, or to feel like I don’t have to explain myself so much. And my family is super supportive of me. Generally just brown and black people who are out here fighting, that’s what drives me the most.

What are your dreams for the future?

I feel like I’ve been asked this so much recently! So I’m planning on staying in Minneapolis for a few years after I graduate; I just want to apply for grants and apply for residencies and stuff. Otherwise I want to go to grad school but I don’t know where yet, so where I move will depend on that. I would love to live in California, but I’ve also lived in New York, so I’d love to go back there too. As far as big plans or dreams go, I would love to teach one day. I don’t know if it would be a studio class or a liberal kind of class? I don’t know, I feel like I could teach something though… And I want to write a book one day. I just want to share positivity and representation, and just continue sharing stuff with people, and reach out to people.