On Location: Meet Me at the Race Riot, Sexhibition, & OWS

Monday, November 21, 2011

You know when you're on hyperdrive and you just can't slow down even for a second? For me, that feeling pervaded the tail-end of this last week. This semester, I often feel more real working and attending these events than I do in the classroom. Now that's not to say that I'm going to gallavant off and never finish my degree, but sometimes the activist and creative work that I do really does satisfy me in a way that writing academic papers can never touch. Who says you can't take a break from it once in a while? Here are the highlights.

Meet Me at the Race Riot
I found myself extremely star-struck by the awesome panel of zinesters that I was asked to speak with. Mimi Nguyen (Evolution of a Race Riot), Osa Atoye (Shotgun Seamstress), Mariam Bastani (Maximum RockNRoll), Jamie Varriale Velez, and our fabulous moderator Daniela Capistrano (Bad Mexican) blew me away with their riveting thoughts on everything from being a person of color in the punk movement to zine culture and its impact on them as writers and creators of independent media. I was the first reader of this brilliant set of women, and though I was nervous, I was also energized by the amount of people that showed up to this amazing event. By the end, I just wanted to be friends with everyone in the audience and on the panel.

You can watch a video of the whole thing right here, since it was livestreamed as we were doing it (oh, the fancy technological era we live in...), and draw your own conclusions.

The next morning, Well Woman hosted a table at Take Back the Night's day of celebrating sex and providing safe sex materials to the campus. Sexhibition is a real hoot to me because we get all of these strange looks from the passerby in the Columbia student center, wondering why we have puzzles with pictures of vulvas on them and cookies in the shape of penises (you can frost your own!). As a health peer educator, we often get really dry questions about sex to avoid the awkwardness of talking about it with someone you don't know very well. Sexhibition is the one day that we get to break out, play silly games, and make the conversation as awkward as possible. I love it.

Occupy Wall Street
On a much more serious activist note, I went down to the student protest in solidarity with the Occupy CUNY schools on Friday. They held a protest in Union Square and then marched on Foley Square, where the Occupy Wall Street group met up with them. It was the first time I'd been to an unsanctioned protest, and I must tell you that it was tense. I felt a lot of emotions going into it - excitement, of course, but also fear of both police violence and rowdy crowds. And then there was the anger that gets mixed in with conviction. The feeling that what we are doing is only one small cog in the universe. The thrill of running through the NYC streets. And the guilt at seeing this as a once-in-a-lifetime experience and not an everyday struggle.

My mind was just as incoherent as the statements above. I believe that we have to take a very nuanced look at protests and activist demonstrations, but that doesn't meant that we should be removed in our academic outposts - we need to participate, but we also need to critique. It's a hard and fine line to straddle.

This weekend was a mix of all those things that I value the most out of my non-academic life. They put me in my place, but also show me what I can do to improve our situation. And they encourage me, most of all, to keep on doing all that I do for our communities.