by Dirt Media Creative Director, Renee Marino
Mural art by Mario Jose Olvera
Dirt Media’s mission is to “Support All Artists” – this means all people, this means every body. Every person has the potential to create. However, as many of us are experiencing during this global pandemic, art is not something that happens when your basic needs aren't met, or when you're emotionally exhausted, or living in fear. To be able to create, we first must have our needs for safety, sustenance and sanitation met.
This is why it’s so important to us to support the un-housed community in Denver. We cannot have a beautiful art community, while people are refused basic human rights. Each of us will not feel safe until we are all ensured safety. We simply cannot have a flourishing community until we meet the needs of those most in need.
The Mayor and city of Denver have been sweeping people off of the streets during the pandemic, against CDC Guidelines.
Regarding this I reached out to Councilwoman Candi CdeBaca, who is know to be an ally to the unhoused community (thank you Lina for this tip). Candi's aide wrote back to me with the following:
"In order to bring the city in alignment with public health best practices, a proposal was put forward by the Colorado Village Collaborative and the Interfaith Alliance of Colorado for a designated camping space that would be staffed and monitored by street outreach providers, and would be fully supported with portable restrooms, handwashing stations, trash collection, and dumpsters. It would also serve as an entry point for health care services and mental health supports, as well as transitional and long-term housing connections.
In addition to Councilwoman CdeBaca, this proposal has the support of seven other City Councilmembers. If this is a proposal you would also support, we need your help: Please contact the Mayor’s Office, urging him to implement a designated safe outdoor space, by calling 720-865-9090 and emailing his office (firstname.lastname@example.org)."
If you agree that the homeless community of Denver deserves as much, please consider contacting the Mayor's office along with me. Please also Sign this Petition to protect Denver's un-housed folks per the CDC guidelines. Also, consider donating to Denver Homeless Out Loud who has been providing porto-potties and hand-washing stations (these cost $1,000 each a month).
Safety is a basic human right. Some of us are afforded safety, while others face violence. It is imperative that (especially) white, able folks speak up and address the inequalities that our country, state, and community’s foundations are built upon- those foundations that have allowed white, able bodies to live freely, create what they want, do what they want & access more and more power, while black people across the nation still fear for their lives, and their freedom on a daily basis.
We have seen the horrific treatment of black bodies over and over again- in large cities, small towns, and across the country. A disturbing juxtaposition occurs as black folks abide by CDC guidelines, wearing masks, and are still harassed, while white bodies protest and refuse to abide by those guidelines (and additionally, some even arm themselves while doing so), and fear no repercussions. The reason this continues without repair is that the violence of the state on black bodies is normalized, and has been since the beginning. Meanwhile, police hand out masks to privileged white folks congregating in parks. (Source: Chaya Crowder, The Grio)
I write this today, as a white/ white passing, quarter Japanese womxn, with a rich ancestral history (like all of us), of violence, oppression, strength, love, and many privileges, in the hopes that you have already seen this gap of privilege and power in the world, and that you too are tired of this continued systemic violence (bullshit). If we wish to dis-inherit, de-colonize, and heal, well, it is not going to be easy. I hope we can be willing to get uncomfortable with ourselves, and with our peers. We all do un-learning differently, at different speeds, with our own traumas and set-backs, and it takes time. It will take lifetimes. So, also be gentle and patient with yourself and your peers, while maintaining accountability.
I want to offer you some resources, or rather resourcefulness. Resources are in fact bountiful, and we can access them. Resources come from everyday people making the most of what is already there. Acts of mutual aid are creative in nature. Those who can create are able to help their communities. You can grow food, you can bake, you can sew, you can donate. There are many ways to support those who need it, and to advocate for human rights. Most importantly you must choose a way that aligns with your own way of being, so that it is sustainable for you. We must choose to act in the ways that we find empowering, and full of love. This way we will not burn out, we will sustain.
Our spiritual paths and our creative ones are continuous. Art and activism go hand in hand. Un-doing history is not easy, and neither is making good art. Dig into what isn't easy. Simultaneously, lean into relationships that support you, and your continued awareness of self, that hold you accountable, and that really hold you when you are confused and afraid. Relationships can be some of the most powerful resources.
To our detriment, we often prioritize information and access to technology over relationships. Technology can be a tool, as much as it can be a distraction from the truth. Many of us suffer from the 24-hour news cycle; from fear, and from apathy brought on by a dissociation from our reality due to an inundation of “news”. Sometimes after reading a single headline, I am overwhelmed, and unable to actually process all of the information being given in any meaningful way.
The way that most news is relayed to us is in a depersonalized or “un-bias” form. However, I believe that this journalistic style is often the least productive, least integrated way for us to process information. Dirt Media aims to do News differently. As a physical and emotional being, I understand best through real experiences and examples of people in my community (whether our experience is the same or not). Learning about people allows me to empathize with them. I learn best through stories; not numbers. It took me nearly a year to read the book, Pleasure Activism by adrienne maree brown. I process things slowwwww. Our minds may think fast (or think that they think fast), but our bodies truly need years of sustained, self-supported reminders and love to process, grow and heal.
This part is important. We all live under the same system of oppression and violence. State violence against black bodies is not at all separate from white bodies. In many ways, any and all state violence acts as a tool for enforcing obedience, enacting fear on all bodies. State violence in its many forms shows us that our bodies are not safe. Womxn and fem presenting, or non-binary bodies know this fear all too well. Rather than being publicized, the violence against these bodies, particularly black trans women’s bodies, and native womxn’s bodies are completely invisible in the media. This phenomenon makes me question whether invisible violence or hyper-visible violence is more harmful. There simply is no good answer. I say all of this to remind us that we must not be blind to the ways that oppression ultimately will seep into all of our lives (no matter our race or gender), if we continue to allow white supremacy's violence on black bodies.
Varied levels of violence are enacted upon all bodies in an effort to sustain the systems of white supremacy, the state and economy. In some of the most resourced communities I know, many of my comrades and family members were asked to keep working tirelessly; to pivot, to work harder, and now virtually. This is violence too in its own subdued way. There is a price to this demand for productivity during a time of collective trauma. The price is not only our own wellbeing, but also our ability to show up to support others, and to resist oppression and violence.
As leaders we need to ask our people to rest. Believe me, if you do, they will come back to you, ready to be their most creative, loving selves. They will be able to create more healing for those they are supposed to be helping, instead of showing up drained, with the bare minimum that it takes to keep the wheels of an economy moving.
Ultimately, we need to make sure our needs are met before we can even imagine helping others. The same system that threatens the un-housed, also threatens the at risk of being un-housed, and the housed. It is near impossible to stand up to an oppressor, when everyone is in fear, and under-resourced, and unable to come together or form consensus. This is how the cycle continues. We must learn how to break the cycle. We must know that we have the opportunity to lean on each other and address all of these topics with care. We must know that we can access the resources we need, and we must make moves, allied, as such.
Here are some final questions I'll offer, that I hope will help to integrate the heaviness of our collective responsibility at this time:
When the pandemic hit, did you have time to care for your body? Did you have time to rest? Do you take time each day to care for your physical and emotional needs? What steps can you take to make sure that you do this now? Is there someone you trust, who can hold you accountable for taking these steps?
Have you taken time to nourish your body, rest, and feel pleasure? Have you taken a day away from your computer/phone to feel and be without distractions? Have you taken a break from "the news" and instead tuned into what's actually coming up for you without directives from media?
I hope that you have answered some of these questions with "yes", and that you continue to take care of yourself, so you can also be a resource to those around you.
For further investigations I recommend tuning into Intersectionality Matters with Kimberle Crenshaw.