How we live

Justice and Joy for Black Lives outside my Brooklyn window

“Black Lives Matter” echoed outside my window afternoon into dusk every day this summer. My view overlooked Flatbush Avenue on Bergen and Dean sharing blocks with the Barclay Center and Police Precinct 78th in Brooklyn. It was the initial epicenter of the peaceful protests in New York and my second year in NYC.

Before the George Floyd was brutally killed on May 25, 2020, streets were in a silent war with Coronavirus.

Silent streets, erupted

Busy avenues were uncomfortably desolate during lockdown. I wouldn’t leave my studio for days or weeks at a time. We didn’t know the virus was airborne and washing groceries was futile. All I heard was the echo of the Bergen Street Subway underground and ambulances speeding to overwhelmed hospitals to with COVID-19 patients.

Then, like whiplash the streets filled and virus was secondary.

Days after George Floyd’s murder, before protest in New York I was on a stressful visit to my bodega that allowed for 2-feet of distance at most. With shock and whiplash, I found hoards of people in protest against police at the Barclay Center. I positioned myself between two police cars, where I could get some amount of social distance to have an internal conversation with myself about what cause was worth risking Coronavirus. Black Lives Matters, yes, of course.

New to New York City, my personal comfort with the NYPD waned. I came home and was horrified I was only feet away from horrific brutality:

Much later, we did learn peaceful, masked, protesting did not significantly contribute to the spread of Coronavirus. But wih the nation on fire, I could not leave my apartment without facing 30+ unmasked Police and having to show ID to enter my block. Seeing police actively step on the gas, into pedestrians with my own eyes shifted something deeper inside me.

The protests continued. The virus continued. Living on Flatbush, continued.

Every single peaceful protest was needed and warranted. But in my studio apartment, during a performance review or design critique, I really wished I too had a cabin upstate or an easy way to escape to the suburbs. Just some quiet and relief for my nervous system. Every visit to the grocery store or walking call with my therapist was also a short march in a protest.

Only later could I appreciate the front seat and ease to participate in history in the making.

As autumn turned and friends returned to New York City, they questioned why I would stay here all summer. And now, I cannot imagine having been anywhere else. The city too, came alive, together.

Summer of Joy and Community

I believe Black Trans Lives matter and I know Black Trans Lives are a central community and arts in New York City.

“It was so big, it was impossible to tell from the ground what we had created” – @SarahMilstein, a friend and leader I look up to.

I was comforted, relieved, and felt connected to see people from my music world out marching. And especially Fran Tirado, who I got to know with when he visited Mailchimp in Atlanta, a keynote speaker at the Black Trans Lives Matter march, and collaborator on underground music events I attend in Bushwick.

Summer of Music and Justice

There was so, much, dancing this summer. I went from prancing around my studio to Honey Dijon in my apartment with visiting-cat Jeffy, to in the streets of Clinton Hill with my now neighbors.

After so many months of lockdown, we felt our bodies come alive. I was afraid I forgot how to hug, kiss, move, and play. But at the first sound of a bass, my body knew what to do and I met new and old friends again on the stoops and dance floor.

And lest you not forget Black Trans queens were voguing long before Madonna. Disco, that influenced house, influenced something you dance to, also started with Black Trans artists as tastemakers at the center. Many, who we lost from AIDS, from the biggest epidemic in American history.

We were in it

I waited to write this post.

New York City was like a cinematic sonic boom. Silent and then fully erupted.

We never got justice for the endless souls who were and will be innocently murdered for being Black. We might never. I feel the progress was incremental as best. And we’re still in it. Children hundreds of years from now will read a line in a text book, maybe a paragraph, about this summer and hopefully find our whole way of being, disorientingly archaic and backwards.

I waited to write this post because my voice was not the most important, then. It wasn’t safe to share where I lived. And I was in it. As I pack my Konmari books and gorgeous framed photo of Indya Moore, I am enthusiastic to sign a new lease in New York City. A place that has made it so easy to call home, especially this summer, and especially because of the people who stayed.

How we live

This normal isolation

Note: This post was written on May 8, 2020 and published unedited on July 31, 2020. In the spirit of charting the course of this crisis for my personal records, I’m posting it anyway. It’s incompleteness somehow captures the sentiment of these times.

First, we were wishing to go back to normal, then protested that going back wasn’t possible. But here we are in it, waiting for the other side to know what the end looks like. I’m writing this post to chart personal, tactical, tangible change that will continue stay when we’re together again and close.

A liveable studio

My office, bedroom, kitchen, yoga, studio, art space, and living room is one big box with a hallway and bathroom. It’s tight but fine tuning the details every day is leading me to fall in love with my home and this city in new ways.

Night Pool 1, acrylic and oil on canvas

I recently collected a Night Pool print from Robert Bingham. This print took an already used wall space in the bathroom by other pieces. When those former pieces were hung in my entry way, I saw new possibility to turn my entry way into a yoga studio and place to take casual calls.

I deal with stress and loss of control by tidying and organizing. So needless to say, less important drawers and shelves are in tight shape giving me an overall sense of ease and order. After the isolation, I will be looking at new art and moving through the space differently.

The waking working life

The people I work with on a daily basis recently shifted, unrelated to COVID. Considering we spend the majority of our waking hours at work, the bulk of my day is look quite different than sixty days ago. Of course folks at HQ have much more empathy for being on Zoom every day, I hope that stays if we ever go back to offices.

Reading the cards

I’m taking a Tarot 101 class with Catland Books every Sunday in May with my friend Amy. I was looking for something playful, creative, and low pressure. Sure, it’s helping me tune into visual interpretation and my personal intuition. This is a new skill Amy and I are developing together, that did not exist months before lock down.

Loneliness

Exactly 57 days was the last time I made physical contact with another human. This two month hiatus

How we live

Face Mask Required signs

As our stores, restaurants, and cities are opening, we must also take more precaution on our streets. In my neighborhood, some shop owners expressed a hesitancy to enforce wearing masks without a rule posted anywhere, especially with the NYPD. I made these signs for my bodega guys and for anyone else who needs it. I’m hopeful a sign helps create a policy backed by the business owner to create safety for my local community.

Download Face Masks Required signs

Relatedly, I politely queued outside my local deli while awaiting unmasked police officers to exit. When some new unmasked police were entering, I mentioned I had been waiting awhile for a safe time to enter and kindly requested they wear masks. The response from one NYPD member was:

“I don’t have a mask. My body, my choice.”

– NYPD, June 8, 2020