King County Democrats Meeting 2/27/2018

In case you haven’t heard, King County Democrats Chair, Bailey Stober, has been accused of harassment, creating a hostile work environment, and misappropriation of funds. He is currently under investigation and refuses to acquiesce to demands that he resign.

You can read more about these accusations in The Stranger, Seattle Times, and The C is for Crank. Included in the C is for Crank article is a video posted by Stober on his personal Facebook page.

Last night there was a King County Democrats meeting. I attended, but was not allowed in the executive session, which is always closed to the public. From what I gathered from hallway gossip, most of the two or so hours we sat outside consisted of people inside asking questions they knew the answer to in order to make a point.

I enjoyed myself in the hallway, meeting other PCOs and learning about how things work at the county level. At some point some committee members who identified themselves as serjeants-at-arms were sent into the hallway to make sure no one was standing too close to the door, in case we were listening in. Of course, we were listening in, but we couldn’t actually make anything out and had begun chatting instead. They should have been more concerned that everyone inside the room had functioning cell phones (aka recording devices) on their persons.

Later, one of the same serjeants-at-arms came out to tell a PCO not to leak sensitive information to the press. This was a bizarre admonishment, because the PCO wasn’t in the meeting and didn’t have sensitive information to leak. He said as much. By now it was ten at night, and we were all slumping a little. Maybe this why I was so incredulous about the rest of the evening.

The serjeant-at-arms came out again and told the reporter that they needed to monitor interviews. The reporter did not like this and refused to be monitored. The most absurd moment in this utter circus was when the serjeant-at-arms said to a committee member (whose voting credential had fallen out of his pocket and onto the floor without him noticing) “Do you pinky-promise not to leak sensitive information to the press?” I think this serjeant-at-arms knew that what they were being as was absurd, yet there was a self-seriousness about everyone’s tone and demeanor, but none of the training or actual professionalism required to make it believable. I imagined that what was going on inside the meeting room was equally farcical and more upsetting.

Once executive session ended, we were allowed back in the room. A few things happened that I think are important. First, confidential materials had been distributed during executive session that needed to be returned. However, rather than ensuring that they had all been returned before opening the doors to the public, they attempted to do so afterward. The acting chair announced that two copies were still missing and that if any committee member was found to be in possession of one they would be risking a charge of misconduct.

Second, when a motion was set forth to further the investigation into Bailey’s actions, the acting chair announced that there were no rules of debate in the bylaws. That’s right. King County Dems have no established rules of debate.

Third, the body decided they needed to form a new investigation team—the vice chairs who had done the preliminary investigation had been deemed too biased. Unfortunately, no such team existed, and they had no formal process at hand to appoint one. Rather than, say, draw names out of a hat or go through a strikethrough process, they agreed that the vice chairs could appoint two investigators, that Bailey could appoint 2 investigators, and that those four investigators would come to consensus on the fifth investigator. I don’t know of any investigation where it is considered ethical for the person under investigation to be allowed to choose any of the people conducting the investigation. The conflicts of interest seem self-evident to me, and I was disappointed that no one stood up to cry foul.

Finally, an amendment was made to the motion which ultimately passed that called for the investigation to include discovering who leaked a confidential memo to the press. This is not a bad amendment per se. What was bad was the framing. I confess that I had to leave the room for a moment when this amendment came to the floor. Few things make me more angry than miscarriages of justice. The woman who introduced the amendment said that the worst thing about this entire conflict was the leaked confidential memo. She has been presented with everything that Bailey is accused of, sat in the same room as the victims, and decided that where the organization is most vulnerable is due to an as yet anonymous whistleblower and not the reason for the whistleblowing. Her proposed amendments was met with applause. As a sexual assault survivor, as someone who spent years being ignored on this subject, this was triggering. I left. I walked down the hall into a different room, closed the door, and for the first time since I was a child, I screamed. I breathed, and then I went back inside in time to see the amendment pass. I have never felt more helpless.

What all of this highlights is that a lack of process is dangerous. For the sake of expediency, the body just allowed the person being investigated to appoint his own investigators. I urge Legislative Districts and other counties to put processes into place about how to investigate your chairs or other leaders in your org. The #MeToo and #TimesUp movements have shown us that abusive men in power don’t get to stay in power anymore. While it is inconvenient, even painful, for the organizations that go through public accusations, it is made more inconvenient when you don’t have a way to sort through it. It’s painful for the victims most of all who, rather than feeling heard, safe, and affirmed, are part of a drawn out faux-trial. The longer this goes on, worse it is for everyone and the more likely it is that Bailey will continue to do harm. The best thing Bailey could have done was say “I’m sorry; what can I do to make it better?” and then gone and done those things.

Full disclosure, I think Bailey should resign immediately. He has said he wants due process, but if I learned anything last night, it’s that KC Dems don’t have one to offer, and it is partly Bailey’s fault as their chair. I fully believe the victims in this situation, but even if I didn’t, the accusations and the financial situation Bailey has put the organization in have reached critical mass. Bailey’s continued presence is a hindrance to fundraising efforts, fuel for our political opponents, and alienating to anyone who identifies as a victim of sexual harassment. Further, Bailey’s behavior since the accusations has been categorically unprofessional and childish.

My final anecdote from last night took place at the start of the meeting. Bailey, rather than opening the meeting by announcing his resignation, brought up the treasurer to give a financial report. She did so, painting a dire picture. KC Dems would be in the hole $3,000 if they paid all their outstanding bills. That doesn’t include pending litigation that is likely to result in a yet to be determined fine. A member of the Executive committee took this opportunity to pay his dues. Bailey also took the opportunity to perform a piece of theater. He handed over a check made out for $5,000 to the treasurer. He did not say where it had come from. This was met with applause. I cringed and rolled my eyes. Great. He is the reason they are in this financial situation to begin with, and $5K hardly addresses the $163K in funds he has depleted. In this moment Bailey proved his interests lie in himself over the wellbeing of the organization, that his is a politics of theater and not of substance.

Edit: The check for $5,000 has since been rescinded. It was the fulfillment of a 2017 pledge from Dow Constantine, according to the KCD treasurer.

They Wished

They wished to say I was an intellectual,
equipped with always a book and an idea,
and so many uncomprehended words.

They wished to say I was an evangelist,
a prayer or a verse uttered often
in places they said God doesn’t belong.

They wished to say I was poor,
unable to find a job, homeless,
in an unscalable wall of debt.

They wished to say I was dumb and easy,
investing in my wardrobe and loving fashion,
accepting and accentuating my curves.

They wished to say I was an artist,
pages of doodles and imaginings in stacks
and paint stained hands.

They wished to say I was a girl,
smaller and weaker,
with my long hair and dresses.

They wished to say I was a writer,
filling pages of one notebook after another,
forgetting my purpose, getting lost in a new couplet.

They wished to say I was a prude,
as I championed the memory-old code,
not letting their lips touch mine.

They wished to say I was secure,
unaware of my bank account,
seeing only skin and height and composure.

They wished to say I was a pagan,
loving and accepting science,
and dancing naked in the moonlight.

They wished to say I was an academic,
with my teaching tone and studies to prove,
and always dreaming of the Ph.D after my name.

They wished to say I couldn’t.
They wished to say I should.
They wished to be the experts.
They wished I would be just one thing or nothing at all.

They wished.

Open Letter to SPD Officer Couet

Dear SPD Officer Couet,

We’ve never met. That’s not exactly true, but during the 10 or so minutes I stood centimeters from you on Sunday, August 13, as you propelled me backward with your bike, we never really got formally introduced. I was standing on a public sidewalk, and someone, not you, someone you take orders from, decided I was in the way. I wasn’t the only one corralled off a sidewalk we pay significant sales taxes to freely walk down. In a very technical sense, I wasn’t even part of the extremely valid, anti-fascist, anti-racist, peaceful protest. My heart was with them, but you blocked my body. Indeed, had you and your compatriots not decided I was in the way, there would be no record of my participation in Sunday’s march, no further evidence of SPD’s continued and blatant use of excessive force. But now I have bruises up and down my thighs where you pushed your bike into my body. You were wearing body armor and dark sunglasses. Your name and badge number were written on a piece of duct-tape, stuck to your chest piece. I was wearing a pair of jeans and a crop top. I wasn’t really prepared for the protest. I have been recovering from mono, so I just wanted to be a body for 30 minutes, before I got too tired. I wanted to stand in solidarity and denounce the very same Nazism you protected on Sunday, not let my illness overcome my convictions. I knew my gesture would be small—the absolute least I could do. And considering the arrests and pepper spray that others endured at SPD hands on Sunday, considering the recent murder of Charleena Lyles, my gesture was small.

When you told us to move, I just knew, I wasn’t going to help you. I looked at my boyfriend in silence, and we both knew. We would practice non-compliance. I put my hands in my pockets and I faced you. Why did I do it? I just did it.

You pushed me. You stepped on both my feet, causing me to momentarily lose a sandal. With each push, you yelled “Move Back,” and made sure your orders were followed. During those ten minutes, you never met my eyes. I looked, and I looked, silently, gazing. You were wearing sunglasses, but I could still catch the light off your irises, never looking me in the face. As you pushed and pushed, I thought to myself, even here, even now, you, officer Couet, are human. I will give you humanity by looking you in the eyes. Why did you never meet mine? You would not afford me the same courtesy I was affording you. Maybe you just haven’t read enough Levinas.

I want to be absolutely clear about one thing. What you did, if you had been anyone else, would be assault.

I said one thing while I stood across from you. A debate had begun between the officer to your right and the men to my left. The other officer tried to get out of being accused of upholding a racist system by saying that America is racist, so doesn’t that make us (the people being pushed) racist too? Of course, to him, being called racist is an insult, so he thought we’d be mad to hear him affirm the very reason we showed up in the first place. I have no delusions about how racist I am. Of course, you didn’t know that. You didn’t know that the only difference between my racism and yours is that I acknowledge and fight against mine. But you wouldn’t know that, because we’ve never really met.

I regret breaking my silence to speak. Not because I was wrong or unsteady. But because you weren’t hearing anything that was said. What I wish I had done was sing. I have a good voice. At my birthday parties, every year, my friends push me into singing “La Vie en Rose” by Edith Piaf. I did once on a boat on South Lake Union, so now they want me to do it every year. I kill at that song. But that’s not what I wish I had sung on Sunday. I wish I had sung “Down by the Riverside.” My boyfriend and I have been practicing. I heard a version of it that I loved at a church service in college, so when we started building a repertoire of protest songs, I added that one to the mix. Maybe you’re familiar with the lyrics, “I’m gonna lay down my sword and shield, down by the riverside and study war no more.” Of course, swords are really passé, and you didn’t have a shield. You had body armor and a bike. But you get the point. It would have felt really good to sing in the middle of being afraid that the officer behind you, strutting around with his pepper spray out and unpinned, was just itching to use it. It would have felt good to make something beautiful while you were using force, violence, and threats to prevent us from peacefully observing a protest. And you see what you did right? When you pushed. We stopped being the observers and became the protesters, separated from our march.

I want to say a few words about the people who have suffered (not just been pushed around) at the hands of SPD, those who have been pepper sprayed, unjustly arrested, murdered. Charleena Lyles, Che Taylor, John T. Williams. They are, more often than not, people of color. The people on the south side of the street on Sunday, the ones who were more vocal than me, the Black people, they knew that they were already risking so much more than me by being there. I didn’t get to hear from them whether your fellow officers pushed harder or used stronger threats. I know that I had an easier time for being white, that your final statement before you rode off on your bike so recently weaponized against me, “No hard feelings,” may not have been uttered but for the color of my skin. (Also, of course you had no hard feelings. You had all the power and all the protection. Why would you harbor hard feelings for us?). All of this is to say, I know that there are people risking more, people who stayed with the march longer, people whose trauma will outlive the tape I have on replay in my head of you pushing me backward. I know that what I do is little, that I’m opting in with my whiteness when I work toward anti-racism. I know I can leave when I get tired, go through most of the world as if it were made for me (yeah, we’ll a put pin in how you handled rape allegations against Sheriff John Urquhart, and how I can’t escape sexism). But I will keep putting my body on the line, even if it’s just to create a little breathing room between you and the people of color I’m showing up for.

This part isn’t for you, Officer Couet, but I hope you read it anyway.

I know I can write these things because of my whiteness. I know that the potential for white outrage is higher because of my whiteness. I hope anyone who reads this, who finds themselves angry about the idea of a white woman and her white boyfriend being pushed around by riot police infuriating, check yourself. How mad were you when you found out Charleena Lyles and her unborn child were killed? What are you doing to make it possible to prosecute a police officer in Washington state? How will you put your body on the line? Have you paid a Black woman today?

See you around, officer Couet. Next time, I hope I have the presence of mind to sing while you assault me.

-Claire

Fashion and Feminism

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Model: Lorna Foran for 2018 Resort Orla Kiely Collection

For anyone who has ever been confused about my combined interests in fashion and philosophy, please read this from Vogue’s Luke Leitch about the 2018 Resort Orla Kiely collection.

For anyone who has never been confused by the connection between these two interests, this will be an affirmation of all you believe to be true and good.

“Around the time she started incubating the colors, shapes, and ideas for this third edition of the capsule collection, L’Orla, produced alongside Orla Kiely, stylist Leith Clark was transfixed by the Women’s March on Washington. This, Clark said in Kiely’s London showroom, made her connect the dots between the fixedly nostalgic filter through which Kiely envisions her world and the radicalism of second-wave feminism that emerged from the 1960s counterculture. ‘I was thinking about the way that women chose to stand up for peace: outside the Miss America pageant, or when Sacheen Littlefeather refused Marlon Brando’s Oscar,’ Clark said.

As Kiely watched, Clark expounded on her theme and Lorna Foran modeled the pieces. A black velvet and guipure-trimmed dress of a weight Clark had specified she wanted to swoosh ‘in slow motion,’ some micro-corduroy bell-bottoms with matching trucker jacket in soft pink, and a synthetic-shot organza smocked check dress were some retro-woke calling cards. A complementary embellished and piped corduroy weekend bag was perfect for packing those marching outfits.

Kiely’s brand of embellishment-rich retro-femininity predates the recent surge in demonstrative resistance to mainstream misogyny. There are lots of thorny questions to ponder when it comes to contemplating the relationship between fashion and feminism; without real thought and soul and consideration, you run the risk of careless Kendall Jenner/Pepsi–style crassness. This felt true through a subjective reflection of the fourth wave cast in a mirror customarily bent to reflect a time that coincided with the second.”

This is the second designer I’ve come across in the last two days explicitly referencing our current political climate as their inspiration. For one designer, it was naming her dresses after powerful women in government. It’s important to me that the clothes we wear are not disembodied from our experiences. Often, fashion designers are accused of being too insular, referencing only their own industry.

Some History for You

Coco Chanel basically hid out in the Ritz Hotel during WWII and was lover to a Nazi spy. It has also been argued that she even spied for the Nazis herself. She had made a name for herself in fashion and perfume, so much so that when Americans liberated Paris, GIs lined up outside her shop to buy Chanel No. 5 for their wives and girlfriends. So, no one really cared that she was an anti-Semite who cozied up to the enemy. Other women were publicly punished for their relationships with Nazis when the occupation ended, but not Coco. She became even more famous with her tweed suits, empowering women the world over. I do not begrudge anyone their admiration of Coco Chanel. I cannot help but appreciate her maxims and her role in doing away with the corset. However, I think her complicity in one of the century’s greatest evils is a powerful contrast to the example I present today.

A Little More History

When the housing bubble burst in 2008, and there was talk of the worst economic fallout since the Great Depression, I took the opportunity to design clothes based on the Dust Bowl. During the actual Dust Bowl, designers took the stock market crash as an opportunity to make movie stars more glitzy and glammy than ever. Sequins galore! I understand that impulse, the one where we hide from the mess we made with the glamorous lives of actors and the fictions they portray. Of course, my Dust Bowl inspired burlap skirt was in the minority. In mainstream fashion, sequins and beading took center stage, as we saw dozens of red carpet looks harrowing back to the golden age of cinema and the starlet. In 2012, The Artist, a silent film about the rise of the talkie, took home the Oscar for Best Picture, and I felt the empty void of a culture who refused to reckon with its failures.

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This collection is unarguably feminine and strong. Note the poses and facial expressions Foran is captured in. It is a manifesto, In Defense of Beauty: the Fundamental Strength of Culturally Prescribed Feminine Characteristics.

Clothing as Revolution

It is also valuable for me to address stereotypes. It is often believed that people in the fashion industry are vapid and dumb. It’s easy to believe that when the craft is presented as fundamentally shallow: a mere presentation of our outward appearance. I contend that it is not. We can read dozens of emotions on a person’s face, whether they are wearing makeup or not. Likewise, we can read a great deal from a person’s apparel, whether they are wearing it or designing it. We expect our artists to be able to make statements about the nature of the world. Art and philosophy go hand in hand throughout history and medium. I often think about the protest music ignited by the Vietnam war and the Civil Rights Movement. There is no ambiguity about the importance of these songs and we accept them both as art and political commentary. Maybe it is because as a society we are so far removed from the production process of our clothing, but every third teenager at summer camp can play a little guitar. Whatever the reason, we put less value on the fact that in the former USSR, wearing blue jeans was an act of sedition, or that in the French Revolution, the revolutionaries were known by their attire, shunning the breeches of the aristocracy for the trouser of the working man. In other words, clothes matter in a political sense.

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In the final shot of this collection, Foran is captured wearing a dress with the same pattern as the backdrop, as if to say that tenets of the 2nd wave feminism blend into the broader context in which they were formed. It remains to be seen whether it is the feminism or the context which originated these patterns.

Was it self-preservation that lead Chanel to hide out in the Ritz and seek the companionship of a Nazi? Perhaps. Certainly, the stakes are lower for Leith Clark at Orla Kiely, but her philosophy remains potent. She is using her collection to look at the stages of feminism and the implications intentionally blending the visual cues of the 60s and it’s 2nd wave feminism with today’s increasingly progressive ideals.  It is an undeniably retrospective collection. And so maybe the revolution is not so overt. However, it is introspective as well, in a way that Leitch argues we really need as a culture.

Of course, my question will always be, “does it have pockets, though?” Because for all the visual philosophy, unless we end the pocket gap, it’s just lip service. More on that later.

 

 

 


I confess that these clothes do not resonate with my personal design aesthetic. As many people have commented, I tend to pull more from the 1920s-1940s for my inspiration. But I recognize it as good design, what’s more, as substantive design. There a plenty of moments when our clothes can and even should be frivolous. This is a moment in history where frivolity feels too much like perpetuating injustice, too much like going on a twitter rant, too much like being a 2-year-old in a man’s body, too much like the facade of glitz and glam that have exhausted their appeal for the last decade.

Inspiration

Here is what happens when I look at good fashion.

My heart beats faster. No really. My heart rate increases. I can feel it.

My mind starts to extrapolate new designs based on what I am seeing. This is sometimes immediate, sometimes delayed. Certainly, for the next handful of days, I will imagine and literally dream a variety of new designs, pine after the fabrics, and doodle in the margins of notebooks.

I experience a physical and emotional sense of desire. It’s just behind my rib cage. It makes me breathe a little differently, lean forward in my seat. I consume the image before me, details, composition, styling, silhouettes, fabric choice, colors, accessories. All of this happens in an instant, but the feeling slowly spreads throughout my body and mingles with satisfaction. I am both full and hungry.

If this sounds like sex or getting high or falling in love, maybe it is. I can see some similarities there. Maybe that’s why so many artists’ muses have been their lovers. Just remember that when I say that I love clothing, I am not being hyperbolic.

No One’s Dream Job is Fighting for Basic Human Rights

When I was little, I planned on being a fashion designer. I designed clothes, imagined my runway collections, and plotted how I would ethically run my business. I sewed. I read books on design. I thought about other careers, but mostly I wanted to create.

You’ll notice, if you look at my facebook profile,  that I am not in a creative field. I am a facilities administrator. I won’t bore you with those vagaries, though. If you pay attention to how I spend my free time, you’ll notice it is mostly activism-based. I volunteer.

Right now I am planning two fundraisers for my all-time favorite nonprofit, Puentes. I’ve joined the Democratic Party and attend monthly meetings in my legislative district. I am an acting PCO (precinct committee officer). I have joined European Dissent, Neighborhood Action Coalition, and Indivisible since November, all of which have regular meetings and calls to action. I’m learning protest songs. I’m teaching Somali refugees how to sew.

None of these things are things I was doing before November. None of these things are things I imagined for myself as a child. I still have all my usual commitments involving work, church, a boyfriend, friends, and doctor’s appointments. Before you ask, yes, I am tired.

I’m sitting at my computer, and I need to make a plan about the fundraiser in May (which I hope you can come to). But my brain keeps wandering. See, I love to plan parties. And fundraisers are sort of like parties. Ideas start streaming when I’m in my creative zone. Am I thinking about the best way to get people excited for my event? Am I planning speakers or food or centerpieces? Nope. Tonight, all I want to do is plan ways to get the attractive, single men in my life to meet my best friend and flirt with her (because she’s wonderful), tell her she writes the best poetry (because she does), and make out with her on a back porch at a party where everyone is wearing their best clothes or no clothes at all (I’ve heard they have parties like that in New York). It’s frivolous, unnecessary, and it’s all I want to plan. Not a fundraiser. Not 2 fundraisers. Instead of a fundraiser for undocumented immigrants, what if I could hold a celebration?

It’s not so different for other activists. Most of the activists I know are women of color. I saw a post from one the other day saying that once she doesn’t have to fight for basic human rights any more, she plans to get caught up on mediocre romantic comedies. Another activist friend says to me sometimes how she’d like to own a fabric store. She takes me to Seattle gems and picks out fabric for pillows she doesn’t have time to make. Instead of creating, though, we are all doing the work. We show up and do the work. We’re there because we have enough time, resources, or skills to contribute and because our consciences dictate it. To be honest, I feel like I sacrifice relatively little. After all, I have the mental energy to luxuriate in the possibility of setting my friend up with men she is far superior to in wit and beauty and hope they can keep up for long enough to be a break in the cycle of singleness she both loves and hates. I can step away from this work at any time and have a relatively safe, happy, successful life. That is not true of all the activists I’ve met. Some are inextricably members of demographics targeted by policies that disproportionately disrupt and damage their lives. They cannot step away, or simply stop following someone on facebook because they disagree. It is important to understand that injustice isn’t invented by the victims or by the activists; It is created by broken systems and the people who perpetuate those systems.

In recent weeks I have been varying degrees of outraged when I read about yet another republican who is not holding a town hall because of the volume of adverse phone calls and emails they have received. Often, these elected representatives cite the anticipated presence of paid activists as their reason for not doing their job, which includes being accessible to constituents. I truly wish that I could pay all the activists for the work they do, but most of us are underpaid or unpaid completely. We are not doing this because it pays well. The very notion flies in the face of every piece of traditional wisdom which says that if you want to make a lot of money you should get a degree in finance, business, medicine, or law. What degree do you get to be an activist?

We would rather be doing something besides fighting for basic human rights. We would rather that everyone’s rights were recognized and protected. We would rather there was no need for our activism.

There is, though. There is an urgent need. So expect more marches, more phone calls, more office visits. We won’t stop until you protect human rights or we find someone who will.

________________________________

In more immediate terms, I think the solution to my problem is not to set my friend up with handsome, single men, but to ask her to read poetry at my fundraiser.

________________________________

 

An Ostrich Act

We’re doing it again. We’re pretending not to know racism when we see it. It’s the hallmark of white America. Liberals rebrand, and conservatives outright deny. But it’s all an ostrich act.

The litany of ways we deny people of color their personhood continues into our modern era. Before it was outright, bodily rejection that black and brown bodies could be people. Defenses were made and laws were passed. And in every stage of the struggle, black bodies paid for it. And as we have progressed, after being forced into making concessions, white America redraws the lines, and finds a more nuanced way of clinging to its history, entrenched in white superiority, in segregationism. White people are stuck in a perpetual reticence to acknowledge themselves or other white people as perpetrators of racism. We have never thrown up our hands, knelt before those whose bodies have borne the brunt of our prejudices, and cried out for forgiveness. We have never collectively propelled forward any actionable policy in which we become the listeners, we become the obedient. We have never asked, “What do we do to make this right?” listened, and acted accordingly. Instead, we hedge. I don’t see color. But reparations cost too much. If you’re in jail, it must be for something. If you obey the police, you won’t get shot. Is he a racist, or has he just said some things that sounded racist? We bend the rules as they apply to the humanity of others so that we don’t have to see the ways in which we have violated brown and black bodies. We say this isn’t what racism is, it’s just unconscious bias, and the more we hedge, the easier it is for us to ignore the reality that our president elect was endorsed by the most prominent hate group in America, that hate crimes have skyrocketed since the election, that more than one man appointed to a cabinet position is an outright white supremacist.  And it’s because we’ve been so busy plugging our ears and chanting that all lives matter, instead of listening to the men and women of color begging to please not be killed in the streets by police officers. Just because we’ve done away with the official stance that people of color do not matter, does not rid us of the quiet and insipid policies that disproportionately do harm to them.

Nothing reeks of this trespass more than the news media’s coverage over the last two weeks. There has been an enormous amount of focus on whether various pundits were proponents of the monster, created it, or whether they were simply comfortable breathing the same air. These are not real distinctions, merely obfuscations, meant to normalize that which ought never to have existed.

Our moral well-being, the state of our souls, the content of our character is rotting from our own deceit, and once again, black bodies bear the burden of it.

So we need to say it together, believe it together, act like it together:

Black Lives Matter.

Black Lives Matter.

Black Lives  Matter.

I try to find threads of hope and kindness to bring into my posts, no matter how dark they are. This is to honor my own sense of goodness and beauty as well as a reflection of the title of this blog: an indomitable grace. Part of me wants to tell you about the conversation I had with a friend last night where we told stories of the powerful and gracious black women we know—women who are simultaneously deconstructing and holding together the universe everywhere they go. We are in awe of them and deeply grateful for their presence in our lives. I am worried that these tender thoughts may only encourage the sense of safety that comes with sticking your head in the sand. So, I am going to leave you with a challenge, an accusation, a mediation, a proverb from black twitter:

“America, [we] racist AF.”

The Monologue

In which I attempted to write something funny and sort of did

I wrote a meta-monologue

a monologue about monologues

and it’s really funny

well, it’s sort of funny

I wrote a meta-monologue that’s sort of funny

and I’m sorry

You can tell I was an existential mess but trying to be cheerful about it

Spotlight. Center stage. One person, female, opens the scene, introducing the story, the characters yet unseen by the audience, who, at first, listens intently. But she goes on and on, and they begin to slump in their seats. She continues, bravely, with a wistful glance here and there, a hand reaching out as though she is talking to someone we can all see. Yes. It is The Monologue. I wonder, as she drones on, is she lonely? I would know, for my life is, as God can see, nothing but a monologue; my own running commentary on my life as I see it. I care not to include the actions or voices of others, and even if I did, no one would join in. Of course it is a lonely place: All eyes on you, but none with you. The stage, the world empty, save one, lonely being, me. And on and on I drone; conjuring up images in my mind like phantoms. The audience grows weary, as do I. I know that a dialogue is much more dynamic, but I cannot find anyone to take the part. I have spent my life alone on center stage, hoping that there would arrive someone to share the stage and bring more life to what I so singly do represent. On and on, the lights don’t fade, but I do. But do not give up hope. The longer I speak the more time he has to realize that it is his cue and arrive. Light would flood the stage, not only me. Scenery and props would come alive to create a world of vibrant life, be it comedy or tragedy the story would be told with passion and conviction. But there is nothing more pathetic than a single monologue.

To the men catcalling me on 3rd Ave between Pine and Pike:

I’m sorry
should I stop what I’m doing,
where I’m going,
my conversation,
my life
to give you my un-
divided attention?
I hear your hey babies, your how you doin’?s
and I wonder,
what could you possibly hope to achieve?
Do you want a smile?
Do you want me to stop?
You think you’re gonna get a date that way?
Obviously that hasn’t really been working out for you
because you’re still standing on the street corner
asking for my name.

You think you’re cool?
You think you’re powerful
‘cause you can stand in the anonymity of faceless crowds
and say all the same words I’ve heard five times today,
before I even got to you?
But I’ve got news for you: I’m the one in charge here.
I’ve got a bus to catch when
at 7:45 am, late for work, and focused on my destination
you think it’s your turn for my attention,
I’ve got a song to listen to,
a bent nail to inspect,
so the most you’ll get is my frustration.
And I’ve got friends to meet,
or an apartment to clean
or dishes to do
at 5:15 when I hear your self-indulging voices again.

And I hear the mumbles, sometimes said too loudly,
of “skinny white bitch”
as I walk away,
unconcerned with you or the rest of your day,
because your tactless efforts have shown
that you’ve got absolutely no game.

Fool.
I don’t think I’m better than you.
I’ve just got things I’ve gotta do,
and they do not involve acknowledging you.

 

Shadows

In which I share something that I wrote more than 7 years ago and feel slightly embarrassed about it
(but less embarrassed than I ought to)
I have Randy Dean, pastor of a small, rural church in Wisconsin, author, and all around bad ass for the inspiration of this short sketch. This was deep in my earnest phase as a person and a writer. You can feel the drama and the rhythm of my words leading to the gloriously hopeful end after every person has bared at least three very personal reasons for grief. So, you’ll also notice this was still in the midst of my emotionally-manipulate-an-audience-to-illicit-the-appropriate-Church-service-response-phase. I had a lot of real angst to manage through during this writing. You see, I had dated exactly one boy in my life, and he wasn’t that into it, so he called things off. In the summer of my abyss, I wrote this.
This is not good writing. I’m not telling a story, even the snippets are just meant to create the strongest emotional response, remind you of your worst trauma, or of somebody’s trauma, and then immediately go “there, there; you’ve got this.” You might cry, even, if you saw this performed on stage with the appropriate music accompanying it.
On the other hand, I have to give to my past self. I was fiercely committed to hope, a trait I like to think I’ve passed on to my present self. In fact, bad writing aside, I find this quite comforting. For one thing, sometimes, like right now, the darkness feels as oppressive as I person 8 says it does while crossing to center stage. How dark is this darkness? How long is four years? And despite its lack of context, the little Biblical text that I borrow from Isaiah 9:2, “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light…the light will shine on them,” well that’s just downright comforting.
And finally, I love how meticulous my stage directions are. This sketch was never staged, yet I wrote down in detail each moment of the staged experience as if it had.
Shadows
Claire Burkitt
8 person cast, 6 of 8 actors triple up on roles. Persons 1 and 8 are the only roles each of the two actors take. For persons 2-7 each line is a new character and should be portrayed as such with different voice inflection and tone qualities. The lines should be delivered with a great deal of emotion because we only get a glimpse of each person’s story and it is at the climax of each. It may be helpful for the actors to expand each of their characters’ stories on their own, so as to have a better understanding of what they are trying to tell the audience in a single line. The end of the skit is triumphant and defiant. There should be no doubt about the victory that is coming. The stage should be dimly lit, so that we can make out the actors faces and little else. Person 1 is played by either a man or a woman. Person 2 is a woman. Person 3 is a woman. Person 4 is played by a man or woman. Person 5 is a man. Person 6 is played by a man or a woman. Person 7 is a man. Person 8 is played by a man or a woman. For the actors’ (persons 2-7) final lines they should pick

one of their characters to deliver the line as. This is not strictly the case, for example “He is not here” would be best spoken as an angel.

Person 1: (Situated CS) And again, shadows fill my vision.
Person 2: “This isn’t going to work out between us,” he said.
Person 3: …yelling, “You’re not my daughter.”
Person 4: …waving his fists wildly and stumbling toward me
Person 5: She said, “I can’t do this.”
Person 6: And she’s coughing and shaking. She doesn’t even realize it’s me.
Person 7: “Why are you even here homo?” they called laughing at how clever they are.
Person 1: And again, shadows fill my vision.
Person 4: “I hate you!” (yelled very loudly)
Person 5: (wincing at each “again” as if seeing the blows
in front of him) And he hit her–again–and again.
Person 3: He said he’d be on time for supper, but he wasn’t.
Person 2: All I remember is a ripping sound. I still can
‘t tell if it was his hands on my dress, or the universe tearing.
Person 6: He told me, “Don’t tell anyone, or-or else–” (stops short unable to disclose the details)
Person 1: And again, shadows fill my vision. (Enter person 8)
Person 8: (Person 8 moves across the stage, is very animated and ends this brief monologue CS, Person 1 stepping aside) And how dark is this darkness, how penetrating and deep. From judging whispers, to accusing shouts, to snide glares. Darkness. Nothingness. Pain, by comparison, is better than the nothingness that follows. So here is why we fear death, yet cannot escape its grasp every single day. Oh, I would give anything for a light, anything for a piece of life to cling to, but how dark is this darkness.
Person 1: And again, shadows fill my vision.
Person 8: (quietly) Shadows, you will not define me.
Person 7: …and then they took the house…
Person 3: Why him? (Desperation in voice) Why war?! He was too young!
Person 2: Sobbing and crying she said, “I don’t have enough food to feed my own children!”
Person 5: …sleeping in cardboard boxes…
Person 4: (hands held up to ears to shut out noise)…so
much yelling…
Person 8: (a little louder and firmer) Shadows, you will not define me.
Person 1: (quieter) And again, shadows fill my vision.
Person 6: He was wearing a seat belt that day, to hold up his pants.
(crying) He was only seventeen!
Person 3: He said he still wanted to be friends.
Person 5: It hadn’t been a problem for the last year, but…
Person 8: (still louder) Shadows, you will not define me.
(All characters shift to hope, joy, and peace. There is laughter and smiling as these lines are given with a sense of gaining momentum and triumph. Lights progressively get brighter, with spot CS on Person 8)
Person 2: Remember that one time…
Person 8: Shadows, you will not define me (exit Person 1)!
I will never surrender to the shadowmaker!
Person 7: I will never leave you.
Person 4: There will be no end to the increase of peace.
Person 3: Do not be afraid.
Person 5: And out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind shall see.
Person 6: …to proclaim liberty to the captives and set the prisoners free.
Person 8: Shadows, you will not define me!
Person 2: They know not what they do.
Person 4: …kept me alive.
Person 5: He is not here. He is Risen.
Person 3: The hope of glory
Person 6: Life more abundantly!
Person 7: The people who walk in darkness will see a great light…the light will shine on them.
Person 8: (As loud as possible, with defiance and victory) Shadows! You will NOT define me!
I have to confess how difficult it was not to edit this to make it more suitable to my tastes today. I really had to restrain myself not to compromise the integrity of this piece. If I wrote this piece today (aside from demonstrating that I had not grown at all as person or a writer), I might include snippets of different kinds of people’s lives–like people of color interacting with law enforcement, undocumented folks, trans folks. Maybe I would shoot for just one laugh before whiplashing you back into all your feels in which one of the actors has to portray the trials and tribulations of a house cat: and she thinks I LIKE chasing orange feathers on the end of a string!