Making This Conversation Count …

Even if you’re marginally active on social media I’m almost certain that you’ve heard about, in some way, shape or form, the talks of inclusion, exclusion, privilege, marginalization, white supremacy and racism in our “lalaland” crafty bubble. Before I say anything else, our “lalaland” was a myth and I dare you to tell me it isn’t or wasn’t. I’ve been saying from the beginning of the conversation and will continue to say this until my last breath — inclusion, exclusion, privilege, marginalization, white supremacy and racism exists in our world.  If our crafting community is a microcosm of that world, how in the name of anything logical can we think that these things don’t exist there? How? Clearly they do and have always been there based on some of the responses to the conversation.

I’m for the most part a “be about it” person, even when I choose not to talk about whatever “it” is. What does that have to do with this conversation? Let me tell you. People have been contacting me (and others) on Ravelry and Instagram to discuss, question, vent, state their positions, all of that. I work in HR so inclusion, exclusion, diversity (or lack thereof), privilege, marginalization, white supremacy and racism are staples in my EVERY day professional life. Add that to the burden of having to live this every day as a human being … let’s say continuous conversation with no measurable action gets tiring really quickly.

I don’t expect instant change, but there are things each of us can do immediately and consistently. Measurable steps we can take instead of talking then putting the conversation back on the shelf when we’ve had enough so we can “go back to knitting instead of discussing this depressing topic”. Yes … that is a real quote from a privileged person who’s over this conversation. I’m not going to lie, I feel the fatigue and I know others who have been doing some serious emotional lifting for the past few weeks feel it too. But we can’t stop, this is too important. So for those who are committed to real change, are a few practical tips for us:

  • Try approaching the conversation from the perspective of examining exclusion: inclusion is tricky. Well intended folks many times end up making marginalized folks feel like a pet project or tokens and not an equal in their over-zealous attempts to include. Part of the foundation of inclusion is the aspect of letting the non-marginalized determine if the marginalized is “good enough” for them to include.  Examining the way we all exclude opens up the dialogue from a different perspective. We each get to examine the ways in which we consciously or unconsciously do so.  So instead of “I’m a good person, so I’m going to let you in my sphere” the narrative is changed to “what have I done or what shouldn’t I do to make x,y,z person feel as if he/she/gender neutral individual can’t/shouldn’t be part of my sphere and how do I change that?” See the difference? The work shifts from the marginalized having to prove that he/she is “good enough” to the non-marginalized looking at how he/she benefits from privilege and supremacy and how those relate to interactions with the marginalized. It’s self-examination then action vs “saviorism” or tokenism.
  • BIPoC are, before color or stereotype, human: #truestory – I showed up to my first job in the U.S, a new immigrant, happy that finding a job in NYC took weeks rather than the months it took in Florida, ready to embrace all my new life had to offer.  Introductions were made and some of my co-workers caught an accent.  They asked me where I’m from, I said Brooklyn.  Then came “no, where are you really from?” I responded with general details. The followup to my response from my male, privileged, white co-workers was — “so, if I give you money, can you get me some good weed from Brooklyn?” Then, “if you don’t want to get it, you’re black and a Caribbean, you must know all the good spots to find good weed, just tell us where to go.”  Firstly, there’s no such description as “a Caribbean” where I come from — you’re either West Indian or national to whichever island you were born in (or migrated to).  Secondly, that incident happened 19 years ago and I still remember how stereotypical and dehumanizing that conversation felt. I’ve never smoked weed, sold weed, bought weed for others, done any type of illegal drugs. I’ve never even smoked a cigarette (a cigar yes, but that is childhood story I’ll share another time). Even if I did, the conversation as an opener was clearly inappropriate. If I apply the first tip to this story, my start at that job could have gone like this:
      • “nice to meet you Nicky. Welcome to the team” OR
      • “nice to meet you Nicky, do you know this area of the city at all? Wanna go out to grab lunch? I can show you some of my favorite food spots around here” OR
      • “nice to meet you Nicky, let me know if you need help getting settled” OR
      • “nice to meet you Nicky, let me know if you need anything for your desk and I can show you where the supply cabinet is”.

See where I’m going with these follow-ups? A conversation that’s not overly friendly, not dismissive, not racist or stereotypical would have been the way to go. A gentle ease into a new workplace as opposed to being categorized as a black West Indian drug dealer within the first hour of being there. Although they would tell you they were being “down” and inclusive, they weren’t. They were sexist, stereotypical and racist. I wouldn’t tell you what my response was but I will say that they never asked me those questions again for the 4 years I worked at that job.

  • Show up for all the marginalized in every way possible: not just for BIPoC but for every marginalized group – the disabled, LGBTQ and gender neutral individuals, immigrants, refugees, migrants, the mentally ill, the aged, the under-served, folks of differing religious beliefs as well as folks of differing political beliefs, the incarcerated and their families and those of lower socioeconomic backgrounds than ourselves. Syracuse University Counseling Center describes marginalization as “the process of pushing a particular group or groups of people to the edge of society by not allowing them an active voice, identity, or place in it. Through both direct and indirect processes, marginalized groups may be relegated to a secondary position or made to feel as if they are less important than those who hold more power or privilege in society.”

How does this apply to us in the crafting community? Other than the obvious – examining how we exclude – we can show up with our voices and our dollars. Marginalized designers/crafters have been under-represented in our craft communities for so long and not because of a lack of talent. One small but powerfully tangible way we can change this is to look at our #makenine2019 collage – no matter our craft.  Are marginalized designers represented anywhere in the patterns we choose to promote in 2019? If you’re participating in this challenge, or even if you’re not, would you look at your list of makes this year? Can I challenge you to take the time to find and make a pattern from a BIPoC/marginalized designer or two?  I changed my entire grid because even as a BIPoC, I too needed to put my money where my mouth is.  So here are nine to get us started …

From left to right, top to bottom:

Are you with me?

*BIPoC: Black Indigenous People of Color


Just One Will Do …

We all love getting snail mail.  Packages, handwritten letters, cards, surprises from our loved ones, so why not give someone else the opportunity to experience that same pleasure?  Someone who by all accounts may not get any packages, at any time.   What am I talking about you ask?  I’m talking about Foster Care To Success and their Red Scarf Project.

You’re probably getting tired of hearing me talk about the news, but I can’t help it.  More and more as it unfolds, we hear of the under-funding and de-funding of social/human services, arts and humanities, science driven programs, lunch programs and it breaks my heart.  As someone who has worked in the social services industry for the last 15 years and understands how much these vital services mean to those who utilize them, it pains me to see that the new government administration thinks so little of the services, the providers and most importantly, those who need them.   I’m not rich, so I can’t provide any kind of endowment, but I have sticks, hooks, yarn and caring in my arsenal and I know you do too.  So what does this have to do with the Red Scarf Project?  Let me tell you.

The project is aimed at providing red scarves for young adults in foster care who instead of just aging out of the system  have decided to go to college.  These scarves are part of their Valentine’s day care package.  If you have sticks, hooks, a loom and red yarn (or some shade of red yarn), you’re already equipped to help.  All that’s required is that you make a scarf 60 inches long, 5 to 8 inches wide.  That’s it!  Cards of encouragement, gift cards, other little tokens are appreciated but totally optional.   According to the website, in the first year of the project, they sent out 25,000 scarves.  That means 25,000 foster care students received a care package in the mail.  That’s a whole lot of scarves and a whole lot of love but we need to keep it going.

The details of the project are here including where to mail the scarves to.  They are to be sent in between Sept 1 and December 15, so crafters, we have a few months to get some done with the same determination and precision we got those p&ssy hats done.

I’m usually very cautious in recommending charity organizations publicly because some of them are poorly run with some non profit execs being just as unscrupulous as the corporate ones.  However the stats, especially regarding spending and transparency of Foster Care To Success on Charity Navigator makes my non-profit loving heart happy.

I’m not asking you to do a whole lot of scarves, all you need to do is just one.  ❤

Are you in?!!!!