Pandemic or not – the world is not slowing down.
According to covidtracking.com, “COVID-19 is affecting Black, Indigenous, Latinx, and other people of color the most.” 34,137 Black Americans have died from COVID related deaths making up 22% of all deaths on record. Discrimination in health care, housing, occupations, education, and wellness resources exacerbate the obstacles for Black people in America during the pandemic. With 2020 bringing less resources for Black folk, there has been varied community efforts to help Black Americans get through these unprecedented times.
Take our home city for example, San Antonio. Activist organizations like Black Futures Collective are hosting a series of fundraisers, events, and protests as a means to get the 210 radicalized! Local San Antonio artists like Kimiya, Thomas, Celeste, Kai, Wildhoneypot, and Madison create events, fundraisers, and merch to strengthen, empower, and prepare their communities for whatever may come their way. From Rooftop rallies, car protest parades, community art projects, online forums, IG Live conversations, and Zoom support groups – San Antonio is getting it done. So how will CRC PGH work to do the same?
“But still, like dust, I’ll rise.” – Elder Maya Angelou
In recent weeks, the generational mistreatment of Black people across the globe has once again become the center of global news cycles subsequently causing a surge of attention to be directed at Black organizers and activists. Despite the fact that it is not the job of the marginalized to teach those in power about their oppression – Black folk do the work. Crowd sourcing funds, disseminating information on colorful flyers via social media, delivering food, organizing panels, all while redistributing unemployment checks and stimulus packages. With so many folks relying on Black labor and not nearly enough of them actively #openyourpurse it makes it virtually impossible to find space in community (aka amongst just niggas) to rest, feel joy – play.
With funding from New Voices Social Justice Fund we decided to offer a space for play, connection, and rejuvenation for Black Queer artists, activits, and creatives in the PGH area. Next, a quick kiki with the gwurls and gays helped conceptualize the idea of a day in the park. Party by Beyonce on the speakers, blowing bubbles in the grass, sharing some snacks and conversation. There was the additional bonus of the park being one of the areas everyone can socially distance safely. After developing a general idea, the series title, Random Acts of Niggatry, came into my head. But now, what we finna do?
I was lost. I have experience with playing ice breakers for Undergraduate Orientation, teaching 4-8 year old Black girls, running a camp group – but what do grown Black folk want to play? I didn’t want to assume anyone’s capabilities, or what typical ‘day in park’ games would be – so I went to the experts.
ATL Parent Like A Boss is an organization ran by an intergenerational group of Black women with diverse experiences in community-based education that care deeply about preserving the cultural legacies and traditions that joyfully sustain Black families. At ATL Parent Like A Boss they believe that “Through play we are celebrating and promoting opportunities for Black cultural expression.” They agreed to make our agenda for the day including activities and discussion points. When speaking to Ms. Brazier (Mom) and Ari we had discussed playing games and doing activities that centered Blackness, creativity, and queerness. We got on the topic of children’s books naming off classics like Boom Chika Boom Boom, The Rainbow Fish, and A Bad Case of the Stripes. Even to this day so many of us still feel the impact of those books never realizing exactly how much we stand to learn from them. That’s when I was introduced to Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love.
“Every Saturday morning, Julián and his abuela go swimming. But the day Julián spies three women on the subway, everything changes. He is entranced by their beautiful hair, their swishy, shimmering mermaid gowns, and their total confidence. When Julián gets home, all he can think of is becoming a mermaid himself. But What will Abuela think? Utterly mesmerizing and full oy heart, Jessica Love’s author-illustrator debut is a radiant celebration of individuality and a triumphant win for unconditional love.”
APLAB (ATL Parent Like A Boss) created some guiding questions for the participants to sit and think over as we entered, played and mingled, and as we left. The team made sure the space allowed for free conversation and connection while also suggesting participants interrogate parts of themselves. Some of these questions were:
- Are mermaids real? If not, what makes them unreal?
- How do they communicate? What do they communicate about?
- What characteristics would you use to describe a mermaid? [Ex: fluid, beautiful, exotic, unusual, powerful]
- Would you use any of these characteristics to describe yourself? Why?
In addition to creating guiding questions, they also made all of the activities for the day. We played games like Sharks and Minnows, Crab Tag, Ships and Sailors, High Water Low Water, and Deadfish all with accessibility modifications. Everyone went home with a playkit – a waterbottle, spray on chalk, fidget games, copies of the Play Handout, and digital copies of Julian is a Mermaid. It was a Black ass afternoon filled with fun and rest.
Despite everything stacked against us – #ChangeRapeCulture remains dedicated to change the sentiment in which the world talks about rape in Texas then Pittsburgh and then the world.
While total domination is imminent CRC PGH has so much in store to start to get involved in bringing the Queer people of PGH together in the continued struggle to #ChangeRapeCulture. Stay in touch – you won’t want to miss what is up next.
All photos courtesy of Visionary Media.