Now is the time for self-care AND community care...

At this crucial point in history - one that demands we advocate for the amplification and honoring of marginalized voices and defend justice, equity, inclusion, and safety, resolutely - we at She/Folk want to inaugurate She/Lore with a collection of writings that promotes compassion, creativity, and perseverance.

We reached out to all those individuals that have made this collective possible: all those we have interviewed for our Creator Interviews Series, those artists formerly featured in our online gallery, contributors to our previous blog, and individuals who have helped to put on and partake in different She/Folk events over the years. We asked them to respond to the following prompt:

Taking into account the suffering and struggles of the past year, decade, century... and the potential of all the future holds - what does your plan for moving forward look like in terms of self-care? And in terms of community care?

Here’s what they had to say...


Attia Taylor

When my grandfather was still alive he would tell me stories about his life growing up. I was always particularly curious about moments in time that have shaped our nation in the last century through his eyes. He was born in the early twenties, lived through many senseless wars, jim crow laws, and had just managed to see the first black man become president before he passed away. Over those years he raised his children to be hard workers and to persevere above all else. He also raised me to do those things. 

One story he told me, towards the end of his life, is short but reminds me of what is happening now in our country. It so unexpectedly forebode how people of color have "responded" to a major blow to our heroic facade. I asked my grandfather, "what was it like during the great depression?". He responded simply, "It was just another day for us". His family, his neighbors, his extended family, and just about everyone he knew since he was born had always been poor. He never had faith in the system that enslaved generation after generation of our family. There was simply nothing to be held and lost because everything was snatched and stolen from us since we came to this country.

The day after Donald Trump was elected, I wept. The next day I wept more. I wept for the continuum. I cried over the black and brown bodies that will continue to be abused and mistreated in America. I wept because policies will continue to oppress us as they have every day since this country was stolen. However, these were not new tears.

In answering this question of moving forward: my self-care plans are to continue trying to survive. To live my life in resistance of everything that I'm told I need to do or be. I will make music and I will sleep longer because I'm exhausted. I will say the things that are on the tip of my tongue and I will set an example for those that will come after me. It will always be another day for me but in my resistance I will work hard and persevere above all else to be happy.


Lindsey Mills

The Overall Message

For much of my elementary school career, seldom a day passed when I wasn’t bedecked in overalls—short pairs, long pairs, denim, velvet, and corduroy, one strap buckled or two. A myriad of moods were expressed in this utilitarian unitard: sweet, sassy, silly or sloppy. Whatever the day called for, I could trust my overalls to carry me through it. My mother cherishes the image of me in front of the mirror each morning, hip cocked with attitude and accentuating my baby Buddha belly. I’d give a discerning head-to-toe scan before exclaiming, “I LOOK GREAT!” and swaggering out the door.

This is not to say I didn’t grapple with many of the common insecurities put upon young girls. I possessed a gap in my front teeth that earned me the creative nickname “Bugs Bunny”. I had freckles galore, and I was taller and chubbier than most of my class, boys included. I was teased starting at age 9 for the thickness of my armpit and leg hair. But thanks to their inherent comfort and secure construction, I always felt mystically protected by my overalls.

Now, in a cultural moment when a nominee for President of the United States of America can brag explicitly about sexual assault and get elected in spite of this, I am called to overalls all over again. The time is ripe to deliver the Overall Message:

To rock overalls is to love yourself all over. They are forgiving to a fluid body that changes from one day to the next, yet evoke the sensation that we are ever held upright by our own steadfast shoulders. They are sensible for womyn in all kinds of settings, from the barnyard to the disco. They empower us to practice radical consent, as these puppies are only coming off if I deign a person worthy of the ritual unbuckling, peeling, and unbuttoning.

Today, so much of our self-worth is entangled in the way we appear to others. Much of the media would have us believe that the only beautiful body is light-skinned, hairless, virginally pure and without spots or stripes, clad in whatever style men deem most appealing. When faced with such impossible expectations, let us lean into difference—right down to the genetic level, it is our diversity as a species that gives us strength. Let us endeavor to tip the scale and flood what media we control with our diverse images of beauty.

And when we find it in ourselves to embrace our perfectly endless permutations, only to be met with damning discrimination, let us consider our grace—every time someone passes judgment, we are given a choice. We can either react resentfully and fuel their hate, or we can respond compassionately and recognize that a person lashing out in judgment merely resents our freedom of expression, wishing they too were liberated from the chains of an imagined ideal.


Malika Ali

I wrote the following (unpublished) open letter after discovering that at least three female rappers including Azealia Banks, Lil Kim, and South African based Mshoza have engaged in skin bleaching regimens to remove melanin or color from their faces and bodies. I'm offering this letter as an answer to your call for community-care.

An Open Letter To My Sister Who Has Bleached Her Skin

Beloved,

I wanted to let you know that I am here. Right here. In real life. The way Aunty was here when I went and told her I was ugly. She listened in shock and dismay. Then assured me of the impossibility of this line of thinking, “You are one of us,” she insisted. “We’ve never made an ugly child before, so why start with you?” So certain was she of the absurdity of the issue I had brought before her that I never again believed I was anything less than one of God’s finest. I am here… to clothe you in Aunty’s words because I know they are bullet proof. Her fabric, armor against the rounds that have been fired at you. I am here…not to ridicule or blame you for wanting light skin. I know that skin has been used as a perverse form of currency for colonial centuries. You are not crazy for seeing this. I am here…not to dismiss the years you were made to feel less than. I am here…to listen. The way Aunty did, when she sat me down and cloaked me in beauty.

With Love and the Utmost Respect,

Your Big Sister


Danielle Spires

THE MORE WE SAY NO, THE MORE DIFFICULT WE BECOME TO OPPRESS

Women in America have a deepening struggle ahead of them. The steps we’ve taken to dismantle the patriarchy, fight for equal pay, keep abortion legal and safe, push for equality of POC and LBGTQ and work towards an intersectional feminist future for our children came to the forefront during our recent election. We need to repair the slivered feminist movement to move forward and fight against the impending oppressive patriarchy that will soon try to destroy our advancements in civil rights. We cannot be silent as the country moves towards a more conservative direction for women. We will say no, we will put up boundaries and we will fight.

On a personal level, I’ve often struggled with the idea of setting boundaries. As a woman, I’ve been conditioned to apologize for what I want and need, and feel guilt for saying no. Collectively, women should be constantly asking themselves, “Am I comfortable with this?” Instead, we politely agree and become distraught at the idea of following through with whatever we’ve agreed to. I’ve decided to make a pointed effort to change this mindset. Being direct with my boundaries is essential for my path to happiness, especially saying no to unpaid, non-beneficial photography work and forcing doctors to respect my bodily autonomy and right to privacy.

Whether it’s on a micro or macro level, saying no and setting boundaries with what we are willing to deal with will be essential to self and community care. The more we say no, the more allies we find, the louder we are, the more difficult we become to oppress.


Kiran Gandhi

Artist/Activist Madame Gandhi’s 5 Ways of Self-Care

1) Spending one-on-one time with new people

2) Writing new music

3) Eating green foods

4) Reflecting on old memories

5) Imagining a future that is female


Marianne Mckey

You Can’t Picnic on the Battlefield

The night of the election was also my roommate’s birthday.  I cried at the bar where we were celebrating.  The whole town seemed to be there.  Everyone waiting to find out if reality was really real.

The dread we all felt.  The palpable, reluctant dread. It was all that was in the room. It reminded me of my high school history teacher telling us how at the battle of Bull Run, spectators had shown up.  They brought blankets and a picnic lunch.  Eager to prove that life was not changing. That things were not that serious.

We didn’t take to the streets that night in Florida. It wasn’t like how it was in New York. Or Portland.  We sat with our anger. With our fear. Sisters would check-in over glasses of wine, “How did you handle this election?”

The days after the election, I spiraled down a rabbit-hole of apocalyptic-death scenarios.  

They are easy to imagine.

The sea levels rise. The population condenses, overcrowds.  Disease breaks out, and the appendages of our government meant to help have all been gutted, disemboweled. People die and other people don’t care.  Etc etc etc. 

I thought about World War II.  The horrible factoids.  The testimonies of brutality.  The time the Gestapo came to a school of jewish children, mid-day, mid-week, and just took them away.  Put them on a bus and sent them to a camp.

I thought about Adnan Syed.  How one day he just never went back home again.

I thought about the immigrant detention centers out west.

I thought about the Japanese internment camps.

I thought about private prisons.

I thought about how much we had already allowed to happen.

How much humanity we’ve taken away from our brothers and sisters.

I forget that when the world ends, the world is actually going to be just fine.  The world will still be here when the sea levels rise ten feet.  The world will make it through a nuclear bomb. Nature will. Animals will. Things will be different and new and strange but it will live on regardless.  Life is happening regardless.

The struggle is nothing new.  The struggle has always been happening whether you’ve acknowledged it or not.  The fight has always been being fought.  Planned Parenthood, The ACLU, The Southern Poverty Law Center, The Innocence Project, Human Rights Campaign. They’ve all existed before this election.  They have been organizing, mobilizing, fighting in the streets and in the courts for decades.  They need help. Money. Voices. Interest. They want us. They understand our dread. The dread isn’t going to leave us. It shouldn’t.  We should put it in everything.  Our conversations. Our art. Our free time.  We must invest in the institutions we hold dear.  Show that we believe in something still.  That some things are sacred. 

I won’t be a picnic-er at a battlefield.


Cindy Hinant

Self-Care in the New Year

The recent election was a shock to many of my friends and loved ones.  Numerous people in my circle developed spontaneous twisted ankles, colds, migraines, and other physical ailments in the days following the news of a Trump presidency.  I woke up the day after the election without feelings in my legs and attempted to stage a “bed-in” à la Yoko Ono and John Lenon. 

I’ve since found solace in reading texts about ethics and community values.  Plato’s Republic is an attempt to define morality and imagines a community that would uphold those ideals.  Plato states that the health of a community can only be gauged by the health of the individual.  In that line, when we find ourselves in an environment that feels out of our control, the first step towards change is self-care.  We can only be a good friend or care-giver when we have first looked after ourselves. 

I’d like to promote a vision of self-care as an inward, anti-market activity, but hypocrisy may be unavoidable.  I’ve dedicated more than one body of work to exploring the language, branding, and ritual of cosmetic products, yet I still participate in the cosmetic industry by using expensive creams and powders that “detoxify,” “cleanse,” and “renew.”  That being said, my best advice for self-care is to focus on a quiet, centered self rather than purchasing products and experiences designed to simulate comfort.  Perhaps the Dove Promises chocolate candy wrapper that exclaims, “Spending time is a greater gift than spending money” best describes this sentiment. 

A new year can only bring optimism.  In 2017 let’s take care of ourselves and finally do those difficult things that we know are good for our bodies and minds.  Let's loose 10 pounds, quit smoking, meditate daily, get out of debt, and impeach Trump. 


Kendra Benson

Self-care is a challenge I take on gladly - it's practically a requirement for women making work in New York City.  The financial and physical demands of the city, frenzied pace, relentless competition, visual clutter and noise pollution force us to pause for self-care if we're to have any chance of making meaningful work and putting it out into the world.  We all have to fight for space in this city - space to work, to show our work, space that is peaceful, space to fail, financial space.

My work - making clothes and screen-printing fabric - these are physical crafts.  They require long hours standing or bent over, working on the floor, hauling things around the city, strain on the eyes.  Being mindful about how I treat my hands, feet, back, knees, and eyes - this is another way I keep myself strong and ready to create for the long haul, not just this moment.

As I move forward with my work, I will also continue to unapologetically define my own "balance."  The notion of balance is put upon women - that somehow there is this ideal equation for each aspect of our womanhood - mother, wife, lover, friend, creator, beauty symbol, feminist, housekeeper, cook, breadwinner.  But female artists especially can't really live in that space of what contemporary society says balance should look like for women.  We have to fall into our work with the same gusto, abandon and focus that our male counterparts have been glorified for over centuries.

Self-care and self-compassion breeds empathy.  To me, community care starts with empathy - a trait we all must nurture in ourselves in order to make better work and better understand our place among artists and non-artists.  When we love and understand ourselves, we better understand each other, and can draw inspiration from a deeper well and make work for a larger audience.

I also feel that community care can be as simple as doing great work and sharing it with your community - even if that community is ten people.  And I feel that it is important to support other artists and people creating for a living, whether it be financially or simply by offering my presence at an opening, performance, or studio visit, which I know can be so encouraging.  As an introverted creative person, it can be tempting to put all of my time, energy and money into my own work, but giving back in this way can be incredibly rewarding.  Many of my first customers have been fellow artists or young entrepreneurs, and I will never forget them ... just as I will never forget all of the people who come to my shows, send me nice letters about my work, and offer to connect me with people to help move my work forward.


Q. Gibson

Taking into account all of the suffering and struggles of the past and the potential of the future, my plans for moving forward in terms of self-care includes writing as many stories, books, poems, I can that spark healing. Writing for me is freeing and lifts so much weight from the past and present. I believe I will continue to use it in many parts as self-care. Not to mention taking better care of my mind, body, and spirit through prayer, eating healthy, working out, spending times with the people I love while doing the things I love. That to me is self-care.

As far as community care I would like to continue serving the communities through my writing and books. I want to travel to read, share space, and gather with readers around the topics presented in my books from womanhood and trauma to mental health and healing. I believe the more I continue to walk and share in my purpose as a writer and creative, the better equipped I can become to serving the community and world by sparking conversations through literature.


Raychel Reimer

As much as we may feel like we are breaking down, we must continue to be strong, and sometimes being strong means being vulnerable. In the future, I strive to listen more deeply, love more vulnerably, and express myself more aggressively. I promise to allow myself to cry, and to be a shoulder when it’s someone else’s turn. I guess, overall, with all of the hurt in the world, I’m finding it more and more important to embrace and understand what’s going on inside. If we can’t directly and immediately change what’s happening on the exterior, we can at the very least, lend a genuine hand to those around us. Connection is important, let us strive to connect deeper.


Tau Lewis

I feel the need to stress the importance of building a community/assembling an active support system. I see so many women of colour in my city become reliant (emotionally) on social groups that don't actually support them. Seeking and building a community that actually uplifts and upholds you is painful and difficult, but necessary for survival.

I refuse to share space with people who diminish my voice or experience, or who fail to question the state of POC visibility in art spaces and social spaces, and I will no longer give my time or patience to people who use verbal tools and speak in pessimistic tones to de-legitimize my practice or existence in art spaces.

Saying no, denying access to people who do not deserve your time or mental energy must become a more fluid action towards self-preservation. Giving only to those who reciprocate, and value, and love you is the kind of selfishness that nurtures yourself, and builds your community.

I'm trying really hard right now to achieve a greater sense of freedom mentally, for the sake of my art practice. I'm doing the work internally to make sure I'm never holding myself back. It is crucial that anyone I surround myself with is garnering the same energy towards me, and towards themselves. I believe in something, and for that reason I don't need to be around skeptics.



Dot Vile

I am one of ten children and have always been overly-aware of the fact that women have wombs. Older sisters were married (some with children) by my age of 26. I am often overly- aware of the fact that, unlike them, I am single, childless and have a college degree. I find myself split between fighting against what they have and feeling ashamed for wanting it. I am relieved when I find proof I am not alone, like when I flip on the radio amidst Jenny Lewis singing, “No matter how hard I try to be just one of the guys there's a little something inside that won't let me”. Much of my work has to do with that notion. What is the point of masculinity and femininity? What is innate and what is man-made? Furthermore, I somehow relate to those 1950/60s housewives Betty Friedan highlights in The Feminine Mystique as I try to pin-point my own “problem that has no name”. They asked, “Is this all?” while looking at their immaculate houses, husbands and children. I ask that same question with every accolade I add to my resume. Is there some unsatisfied universal longing that we all try to pin-point? Is fulfillment through a womb or an achievement? Many are disenchanted by the one thing that is the supposed plug to that empty void: God. I myself stand wedged between believing that answer is a grand coping mechanism invented by humans, or it is true, and I want to swallow it whole. I have been intentionally revisiting my Christian upbringing for the past few years. Some say Jesus was a feminist, unlike many of His contemporaries, prophets or followers today. Women “had never known a man like this Man — there never has been such another. A prophet and teacher who never nagged them, never flattered or coaxed or patronized; who never made arch jokes about them...who took their questions and arguments seriously; who never mapped out their sphere for them, never urged them to be feminine or jeered at them for being female; who had no axe to grind and no uneasy male dignity to defend; who took them as he found them and was completely un-self-conscious...nobody could possibly guess from the words and deeds of Jesus that there was anything 'funny' about woman’s nature.” (Dorothy Sayers, 1938, Are Women Human? / The Human-Not-Quite-Human). This past year, I became a member of a North Philly church with a mostly African-American congregation. Despite our drastically different backgrounds, one older woman there has become a mentor to me. After 40 years of being Muslim she became Christian, which somehow makes me listen to her answers more intently than others. When I first visited her apartment, a security guard asked if I was an aid visiting a patient. When I said I was visiting a friend they seemed surprised. That subtle reaction confirmed the fact that a friendship like ours is uncommon. I am experiencing how one-on-one relationships can be more potent and gutsy than speaking to the masses. In regard to caring for myself and my community, I will continue to befriend and stand alongside women who are vastly different than myself. I will allow myself to be vulnerable and lean into my questions, despite ridicule or deep, creeping doubt. 


Montana Simone

Meditate on trains and in bars.
Eat mostly dark greens.
Listen past the words and sounds. 
Investigate.
Create for its own sake.
Love for its own sake.
Prepare.
Work together.
Give.
Celebrate.

What does a foundation of self-care look like?

Going on adrenaline alone, I’ve done some lasting damage by challenging my body physically without the proper foundation or care – whether it’s doing construction in the cold or protesting in the streets for nights on end. Just a sip of tea or a whiff of essential oil can sometimes whip me back into the holistic picture, helping me to tune back into my body, reminding me to prepare for hard pushes, and to wind down from action. My foundation is plant medicine (including food) based in Chinese and Ayurvedic traditions, bodywork like shiatsu and yoga, and meditation, whether it’s in isolation or on a busy train. 

In times like these, and in combative environments generally, my mental health hinges on reflection and information. The time it takes to inform oneself is inversely proportional to the time it takes to use the information – whether with others in debate, or as a stepping-stone for deeper thought. Information means listening, to oneself and others, but mostly it means reading. Caring for one’s mind is the first step in civic participation, which in turn means caring for others – who will return the quality of your care in turn!

All this rests on self-trust. The structures of our social world seem to deny the basic truths that we know are self-evident: the people are hurting, the planet is hurting, love brings life, greed ruins it. In moments of doubt, retreats into nature and time with those less fortunate are a powerful reminder.

Considering the maelstrom that we’re currently in, it’s no surprise that the boil has popped in the pus-formed shape of Donald Trump. As per our modern democracy, he and his cabinet are the logical conclusion of an engorged, imperialist white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.

Not to be too hard on ourselves (see: popular vote, see: advances for minorities in the last 50 years), but we’ve settled for an abusive relationship with power in this country, and it’s time we stop accepting victimhood and take the tough steps into self-awareness as a community that shares more than the same passport, proximity and privilege. 

Taking responsibility and action is tough when you’re threatened, or already hurting. But shaking fists at the powerful and those it protects, from a position they’ve imposed, will not break the power imbalance, but strengthen it. We must shift from fits of outrage and scorn to solidarity and action. We must investigate the world, our history and ourselves - not to puzzle things together, to rationalize or normalize the signs we now see in hindsight, or to finger-point at demographics or demagogues. We must lay a strong base of health, unity and information to provide the strength to take action, sustainably for the long road ahead, over this last ugly bump. One thing is clear; self-care does not mean isolation, passivity, opting out. Our narratives and experiences are vastly diverse and the challenges seemingly overwhelming. We must take moments to tune out and replenish, but we cannot be the rolling stones of previous generations; we must gather – across gender, ethnicity, background, age, ability, and sexuality – and convene a new balance of power based in justice and equality.


Meryl Pataky

Self-care for 2017 - it's okay to say no.


Juli Elin

The last six months have been especially transformative. Since the election, Standing Rock, and then the fire in Oakland, I've been strict with myself and my son about not complaining. I don't mean we can't discuss our challenges in a productive way, but seriously we gotta stop whining. Like, "I'm soo tired, I'm bored of my clothes, my car is a pile of garbage, I don't like what's for dinner, the stupid cat shat on the floor again, I wish I was getting laid more, and why does SHE have so many followers on Instagram?..." The list of privileged bullshit griping goes on. People are dying and terrified and fighting for basic rights like WATER out there. Shut the fuck up about your crush not wanting you back. (Talking to myself.)

I'm 30. I'm a single mother, still emerging artist, and live technically below the poverty line, but every day I have been making an effort to catch myself when I start the complain game and to realize the abundance I have. I think that is truly self-care. Gratitude sometimes feels like a new age buzzword. I've secretly rolled my eyes at it when it comes up, but when your favorite friends decided not to go to the Ghostship party in Oakland and they respond, "Yeah I'm good" to your text inquiring if they are okay, it really changes your perspective on gratitude. It is real. It is important.

As far as community care my thing lately has been: DON'T DIVIDE. In the past I have been quick to judge and scoff and write people off who don't fit into my progressive cool kid club. Those days are ending. Humanize and try to understand the people who voted differently than you, who have different views on abortion and marriage equality or marijuana laws, and engage in meaningful dialogue rather than avoidance and anger. It is HARD. It doesn't mean you give up your stance, but it gives you a chance to connect rather than rant, and I think that's how change can slowly happen. There is no overnight solution to our shitstorm. Be thankful, and try to connect. A drop in the bucket, sure, but that's my tiny plan.


Krista White

I struggled to manage all of the personal and public tragedies that broke my heart in 2016. My family went through a huge transition, people close to me suddenly lost loved ones, and the whole earth cried out with suffering.  As a hypersensitive person, it is hard for me to stay politically engaged without feeling on the verge of shattering. At the same time, I feel so much pressure to act, whether through protest, activism, art, or some combination of the three.  But instead of succumbing to the darkness of guilt, I am focusing my sacred energy on doing what I can. I surround myself with tough, loving, radical women who inspire me. I take long candlelit baths. I give money to artistic endeavors when I have room in my budget. I read sappy romance novels. I lend heartfelt encouragement when I can find the words.  I go to hot yoga, and journal, and cry too much. I go to work, and feed myself wholesome food, and care for my little dog. I am building myself up so that I can be the tough, loving, radical woman I want to be. That is enough for now. 


Libby VanderPloeg

I spent the end of 2016 tied in knots. Like I could feel everything inside me contracting more and more each day, a trickling of tangled thoughts threading down through the rest of my body, winding me up into a seething mass of bitterness, hopelessness, and depression. Maybe I was listening to too much news. Staying informed became an addiction, even though it was kind of torture. I work alone. I listen to NPR all day. I feel isolated without the din of concerned voices whispering in my ears incessantly. But after consuming enough awful news to destroy any inkling of Midwestern Pollyanna left in me, I've decided that, moving forward, I need to be more mindful of what I consume and make a concerted effort to inject my ears with good vibes too. I need to bring art and music and movement back into my life. I need to allow myself to escape once in awhile. I need to foster my creativity, not just stoke my indignation. And yeah, of course I’ll keep checking in throughout the day, and stay ready to fight, to rally, to march, to send emails or make calls. But I need to be present here in my own body and mind too, and allow some health and happiness to enter in. I’ve been taking more walks lately to shake off the anxiety. I find walking to be one of the best ways to calm the mind and get unstuck. I put on my sneakers and headphones, turn on some feel-good songs and let myself go. The music becomes a security blanket or superhero cape or invisibility cloak or a whatever you need it to be to help you deal with the day’s challenges. I spent the holidays with my family in Michigan, kicking off my mornings with long walks through winding neighborhoods, just feeling the air and seeing the sky and stretching my arms and legs for what felt like the first time in ages. I listened to music that inspires me, like Toumani Diabaté and Kate Bush and Laura Veirs and Radiohead and Lady Gaga and Drake and Tina Turner and Kurt Vile and on and on and on. It started with a little spring in my step, occasionally turning to momentary bouts of skipping, until I was eventually doing what might be called dance-walking, looking over my shoulder from time to time before going full pirouette. Damn, it felt so good to unfurl, like taking the leash off a dog and letting her run. My goal this year is to stay unleashed, unfurled and energized. I will stay informed, but I will not binge on what will inevitably be a painful news year. I will remember to open my eyes, look out into the world, acknowledge what a gift it is to be alive, find clarity, and focus on what I can do to help my neighbors and make the world a little better.


Rachel Knox

My grandmother was the oldest of ten children born into poverty in rural America.  She cooked, cleaned and cared for her nine younger siblings while her parents, tobacco sharecroppers, struggled to put food on their table.  She married my grandfather, who grew up in Mena, Arkansas, when she was just 19.  My grandfather belonged to a migrant farmer family during the Dust Bowl.  He told me that they were so poor that at times the only food he had in an entire day was a single boiled potato.  Shortly after they married my grandfather joined the Air Force, hoping that the benefits would help to provide for their children.  He fought in the Korean War and came back a different man, affected with what we would now diagnose as PTSD.  He coped by drinking heavily and leaving most of the responsibilities of raising their five children to my grandmother.

One of those children was my mother.  My grandmother taught her how to stretch one scrawny ham from the military commissary into food for a week; how to make the perfect biscuit (the secret: ice-cold butter); and most importantly, and how to survive when every available resource has failed you.  My mother grew up into a strong, independent woman who passed that fortitude and self-reliance on to me.  I am grateful today to have had role models for the kind of woman I have become - the kind of woman I see reflected in the faces of those who work alongside me, pushing boundaries in a male-dominated field.  Every person in a position of authority at the company that employs me is a woman, and I'm so proud of that.

The most important thing my grandmother and mother taught me was to stand up for myself and for the rights of others.  Working in the business of food comes with its own pleasures and frustrations. The restaurant and hospitality industry, especially in New York City, provides jobs for scores of undocumented immigrants.  Being employed at a fair wage is giving them a chance to provide for their families and pursue their version of an American dream. I am lucky to work under women who have made it their goal to provide a positive work environment where non-English speaking employees feel comfortable, valued and appreciated. Moving forward into a decidedly anti-immigration administration, we have our work cut out for us in protecting the rights of these people. I have no plans to stop.

Making things with my own hands and keeping the traditions of my family alive feel like one small, pure thing I have control of in an increasingly stressful world. Going to work every day and feeding people makes me happy, and I plan to keep doing it as long as I can. My point: women have always been strongest under pressure.  This year, I'm excited to see what we can do.


Elisa Garcia De La Huerta

Moving forward is always about listening to your inner self - evaluate and clarify what is no longer serving you to reset goals and with self acceptance and compassion move from WITHIN.

Last summer I broke up from a long intense invested and addictive relationship, I was drained and overload with work got overwhelm about emails, my full google calendar and social media. I HIT MY ROCK BOTTOM and needed a rest, no matter how OCD and healthy I was eating or following a ‘healthy routine” I felt I was SUCKING MY SOUL, so some of the things that brought me back to balance can probably speak to you in terms of self-care and I think after that things just align like you DON’T HAVE TO TRY SO HARD, but yes YOU GOT TO START FROM WITHIN, no matter how much yoga, the perfect ayurvedic or vegan diet if your mind is agitated, all becomes incredibly exhausting, and you can become a slave of a depression/anxiety rollercoaster hamster wheel, so at times you have to reset and align with your deeper purpose, reconnect and gently ask what is it that you actually want to put out into the world?, and move from your HEART without JUDGEMENT, FEARS AND SHAMES.

I run away into deep nature, laid on rocks, observed mushrooms and weeds, came back to journaling and drawing to move away from the social media escape mechanism. I realized I was avoiding being inward by replacing old patterns of addiction and always being focused on my external gaze, my projections and self image, so YES I left my phone AWAY from me and set out lots of mindfulness around developing a healthier relationship with it. I took a break from instant impulsive people pleasing behavior, chose not to feed my FEARS anymore and put myself FIRST, did a 30 day mantra challenge from youtube that helped me a lot, wrote, breathed, TOOK PLENTYYY OF NAPS, listened to binaural beats and more than anything did a lot of MEDITATION.

This was my 5 month inward death period of creative exorcism. Heal and transform through making art. Speak from a place of honesty. Do it for your self without expectation and slowly it starts to shape itself, it seeds from subconscious. Drop into the present and it becomes like a portal, where you finally are able to shoot your mind off and feel and be beyond your brain where you can read an inspirational book with all your senses as you feel your inner landscape, sensations and energy flows, and understand that pain and pleasure are so closely connected and all is TEMPORARY, so you just observe and let this duality disintegrate inside, then it will slowly affect your outward perception so you can see the beauty and perfection of all, as you connect with THE SOURCE.

And YES the hard part is to integrate all this when you come back to the matrix, and need to make money and don’t have time to cook, and want to show up to your friends’ shows, etc, etc...or whatever your reality is. So patience, acceptance and compassion is where at least I AM AT, finding balance between ways we can make our life more meaningfully sustainable, consciously less and less materialistic, SLOW DOWN, and REACH out and nurture your relationships letting yourself be vulnerable and being okay with UNCERTAINTY I think are my current mantras, besides listening to a lot of music, purging my frustrations about being in a bubble, recycling my anxiety and urgency about the world and how insignificant we can be dancing to techno, letting yourself operate and explore other forms of communication and dimension - body travels and feeling loved in my queer community, Brooklyn has allowed me to slowly find my FAMILY as I move into my MOST AUTHENTIC SELF - it’s what gives me a sense of connection to find the courage to keep doing the work, believing in myself, embracing that I AM A WORK IN PROGRESS and already PERFECT AS IMPERFECT as I am.

PRACTICE either yoga, meditation, dance, art, music or whatever DEEPLY NURTURES YOUR SOUL, MIND, BODY, HEART. I think it’s our only way to change CULTURE from within and elevate consciousness. TEACH but even more, observe and LEARN from our future generations – KIDS - or the family your are raising, be real and listen to your neighbor, acknowledge your infinite PRIVILEGE every moment to appreciate all that you are, your LIGHTS AND SHADOWS, your potential and responsibility in this critical time in human evolution.