More than a Little Worrying

The library is still determining if there’s an effective way we can support families this fall; we’ll know more after tomorrow night’s board meeting, fyi.

I admit, it is more than a little worrying to me, that we might be deliberately choosing to bring people together in the library building(s) — but the alternative right now seems to be abandoning low-income parents who MUST leave the home to work to a patchwork of ad hoc childcare that will likely put their families at even more risk. All the choices are bad, and the failure of our federal government is stomach-churning.

But wanted to share this, at least, so parents knew some of their options. I don’t have any info on it beyond what’s in the graphic, so look at the Park District website for hopefully more info.

Anti-racist Training with the Library Board

Last night we had a Zoom library board special meeting to do anti-racist training. It’s funny — I do think and read and even teach about this stuff a lot, but still, I think I learned some things about myself last night. Setting aside time to work through issues and language as a group, with a knowledgeable facilitator, is so helpful — honestly, I suspect we could all use much more of this in our workplaces, community orgs, and just generally.

Reesheda Graham Washington compassionately but firmly led us through a self-examination and strategy process, which should help the board support our library in improving our anti-racist practices moving forward, helping to dismantle the structures of white supremacy that poison so much of the very air we breathe.

(Among other things, last night I got a little more comfortable just saying ‘anti-racist’ and ‘white supremacy.’ It’s sort of startling how even now, I still have internal resistance to using that kind of language. What if it makes people mad? Um, maybe we should be making people mad…)

Thank you to library director David J. Seleb and library board president Matt Fruth for being such strong supporters of this work, and to our entire board for participating in challenging work with vulnerability, strength, and whole-heartedness.

(Pic from the previous board meeting, where Reesheda was giving us the results of her study of the library. Back in the olden days, when we still met in person…)

A project that crystallized last week

So, I think I’m ready to talk a little about this new project that crystallized last week. (Photo of dragonfruit chocolate bars ‘crystallized’ for inspiration.)

 

There are multiple elements coming together in this, things I’ve been working on and thinking about for a long time. I’m still not positive of what the final shape will be.

• the memoir: I’ve been working for a while on a project titled _Domestic Resistance_, a meditation on how we stay sane while under siege in the Trump presidency, how handwork and reclamation of heritage skills, appreciation of culture and diversity, celebration of community and the joys of making all came together to sustain me (as I worked on my Sri Lankan cookbook in the last few years) through intense work, deep political frustration, and occasional flailings of despair. Asking how we can work for change without exhausting ourselves.

• the makerspace: we may have found a place in Forest Park for the first stage of the writing / textile arts / tech makerspace that we started planning two years ago. Our hope is that it allows the community to share their knowledge, help each other over the initial humps of uncertainty and anxiety, finding our way to new skills and approaches that make our lives better in a host of ways. I have some legal and financial details to work out still, and then there’ll be a Kickstarter to help get us off the ground (looking for around $25K in initial funding, I think), but I hope we’ll be up and running soon, possibly by May.

(NOTE: the space won’t be wheelchair accessible, unfortunately; you’ll need to be able to navigate a flight of stairs to access it. My plan is that if people who can’t access it want to sign up for a class, we’ll find an alternate accessible location for that class. And then long-term, we’ll continue looking for accessible spaces in the area. Ideally, I’d eventually like to grow into a constellation of spaces in Forest Park, Oak Park, Austin, etc.)

• the magazine: this is the newest bit, and still a bit inchoate. For my memoir, I was already thinking that I wasn’t sure I wanted to write a traditional book — I was wondering what it might look like as a quarterly magazine, sort of a cross between Martha Stewart Living and Granta. Glossy, beautiful photos, a year in the life, combining running for office, the tail end of cancer treatment, the house and garden and parenting and engaging in local politics, and of course, cooking.

Last week, I realized that it would be SO GREAT to extend that into a broader publication. I’ve been increasingly frustrated by how balkanized communications media are becoming, and at least locally, we’re really splitting demographically, with some people reading the print Wednesday Journal, some people mostly on FB groups (often very private ones), some people mostly auditory listeners, and the kids are on TikTok and SnapChat doing god knows what…

If we had a publication that showcased progressive voices and conversations, in a variety of areas (garden, food, schools, etc.) and if we could push it out in multiple media (a print version, an online version, a podcast, TikToks, etc.), maybe we’d have a chance at actually talking to each other, actually listening.

So often when I was running for office, I found that with something as simple as getting rid of fines at the library, people I talked to were initially resistant, but all they needed was for someone to actually present the argument to them, and then they realized that yes, doing this would actually align with their values. And we could afford it too.

*****

That’s where my head is right now. I have a lot more specifics, but I think the next stage is a whole host of conversations. I’m going to want to shape this very carefully, if it’s to do what I hope it’ll do, and I’m going to need a lot of community input.

But I think my own memoir would be interesting in conversation with a broader community magazine, and the magazine would be in conversation with what we do at the makerspace, and as Serendib Press develops, Stephanie and Heather and Darius and Emmanuel and Julia are learning more and more about the publication process, so we’re getting into a better position to do this well.

So that’s where I am right now. I’m about to go out of town, and much of March is super-absorbed with travel and Feast launch events. But I’m going to be talking to people, local and otherwise, about all of this. We’ll see where it takes us.

(We’re going to need a name.)

My heart hurts for this country

I have West Wing going in the background a lot of the time while I’m watering the plants, doing laundry, etc. I find it comforting. But I happen to be at the point where Republican Vinick is running for president, and he is honest and principled and answers every question put to him, thinking as hard as he can, and even though I don’t agree with him on much of anything, it just makes my heart hurt for this country.

If I were a Republican today, or a moderate conservative generally, I’d be SO ANGRY at what the party has become.

Vote your heart in the primaries, folks

Early voting is opening here in Illinois, and in many other states — this is a reminder to vote your heart in the primaries, folks. Strategic voting in the general is a question for another day.

I’ll be voting for Warren; I have the most confidence that she’ll be able to accomplish the things she’s setting out to do.

I’m actually somewhat more in sympathy with Sanders in terms of overall policy, and think he has done SO MUCH to move the Overton window leftwards in America; I will be forever grateful to him and his campaigns for that (and to the Occupy movement as well).

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all [people] are created equal, that they are endowed…with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

There is no reason, in the world as it is now, that Americans shouldn’t have a baseline decent level of healthcare, education, food, and housing — all of which are essential to really being able to pursue life, liberty, and happiness. We can afford it, we really can. Taxing the billionaires would be a very good start.

In the end, I care a lot about effective action, and at this point, I have more trust that Liz will be able to actually enact some of the reforms they’re both pushing for. I love a girl with a plan, and the research to back it up. Data-based governance, please.

I’ll be thrilled if she gets the nomination; I’ll also be very happy if Sanders does. I am way less enthusiastic about the other nominees, and Bloomberg is a trash fire.

Go vote.

#serendibpolitics

[photo courtesy Boston Globe]

Kudos to those who do this work

Really good anti-racism training for the library board this morning, brilliantly and compassionately (yet uncompromisingly) led by Reesheda Graham Washington. (Wish I’d gotten a better photo of her, but when she was animatedly talking, I was very busy listening.)

Will write more about it soon, but I have to say, it’s also exhausting, being present that intensely for this kind of thing. I am going to probably spend most of the rest of the day puttering and organizing things in the basement, mostly alone, to recuperate myself.

Kudos to those who do this work on a regular basis. You are warriors and heroes, and we should help you more. At the very least, we should have your backs.