Saturday, February 7, 2015

The Raw Fiction Story, or Why the hard questions can't be answered with the intellect and Other tales from the universe

Raw Fiction 2015 is underway. The group has met twice, they're working on their vision and they're reading, writing and thinking critically. It's amazing.

I've also thrown an initial fundraiser - and I reached my fundraising goal. The event was beautiful and videos are up on my youtube channel. The photographs from the event are also beautiful and they are up on the website. Today, I registered my receipts from this year into an excel document. I'm organized and productive.

I love doing this and I love the positive feedback I get from just about everyone who hears about Raw Fiction or comes out and supports an event.

And now we come to impending questions: Should Raw Fiction continue and grow? If Raw Fiction continues does it inevitably have to grow? If I don't want Raw Fiction to grow then should I continue it? Am I obligated, as the originator of the vision, to see to it that Raw Fiction becomes a fixture in the community?

Raw Fiction was created in reaction to the rapid gentrification of Brooklyn, a frustration at my inability to get the kind of job I'd love, and a frustration that the kind of job I'd actually really love didn't even exist within non-profit structures. Raw Fiction became a vision that I latched onto as a way to evade the anxieties of existence in this hyper-developed world. Raw Fiction got me through a very rough patch in life and has become an enormous networking tool. I love meeting like minds, however, I resist the definition of networking as a form of ladder climbing.

Recently, I started an application with the end goal of becoming a social entrepreneur. On the one hand, I am thrilled by the possibility of turning Raw Fiction into my form of income. To do it full time, to live off the passion that sustains me … On the other hand, I am daunted by what a successful future could turn my unadulterated grassroots project into.

And then there's the even bigger question: How do I know what kind of autonomy I can maintain over language for grantors if I never even try? How can I resist an opportunity to turn a passion into a career?

Would I stay passionate about the passion if it became my career?

What about my literary pursuits - my own writing? My own desires to live abroad, study languages, flex my imagination into boundless unknowns…

Can Raw Fiction exist as a hobby? Can it be supported primarily by a reading series that brings in a couple of hundred dollars per event? Is that sustainable for me?

Is becoming a nonprofit director sustainable for me?

What is sustainability in this hyper-technological world?

I thought writing here would help me solve the conundrum: to establish or to remain grassroots. But I think this is a question for the universe.

The hard questions can't be answered with the intellect, we must leave the future to chance.

Monday, January 19, 2015

My Curriculum - A Handbook: How to start a community arts project and no other stories

So one of the purposes of this blog is to create a guide to starting a community project.

And I don't do that. I've mostly been contemplating events. But I think that's part of the process.

The Process:

Step 1: Go out and support your community. I volunteered at 826NYC. I attended events created by my colleagues. I read at events, I met people at events, I followed up with people. I've got a really reliable community of artists who support the work I'm doing and give me a lot of encouragement.

Step 2: Find someone with a lot more experience than you, who believes in your idea, (for me: Tanisha Christie, but you will have to find someone else). Let this person rip apart your first attempt at grant writing. Listen. Learn.

Step 3: Bring the community together and see what happens. Watch. Think. Learn.

Step 4: Don't forget to practice your art. Let the project slide if you've got other things to do and pick it up later. (Obviously don't drop good momentum, but you can do it non-consecutively -- in a way this can help build excitement, at least with Raw Fiction it seems to.)

Step 5: Don't get caught up in the suggestions of other people. Some advisors (and be sure to have several so you can get all sorts of angles and opinions) will ask the perfect questions and others will say confusing things; take it all in, it's all necessary. Figure out your answers for everything, so you can talk about your project in any setting and seem as though you know what you're talking about.

Step 6: Be open to different methodologies. Don't get stuck in a stagnant routine. As in, don't just teach the same stuff all the time. Have a pool of stories, poetry and essay (or a variety of genre for whatever art you're sharing - my focus is postcolonial and I'm flexible within/with that timeframe). Get to know your youth and give them things you think will be exciting specifically to them. Let me choose what they want to read from a bunch of options. And so on. Keep the curriculum full of potential.

This photo of a Romare Bearden piece (on exhibit at Columbia University's gallery through February, check it out) is for the sole purpose of false advertising the true intentions of this blog:

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Sci-Fi, the Surreal and an Afrofuture; or, How it came to be that "Real Life is the Fantasy I Choose to Imagine"

My stories have often been labelled "sic-fi." I've always found this amusing because I do not think they are science fiction at all and I've never actually been very interested in the genre (not to get into the confines of "genre" in this essay). My reticence to accept the label of science fiction is the science part of the term (those of you who balked at "genre" might be groaning about "label" but unlike the former which I have an aversion to, the latter I accept and permit people to cover me in). I could care less about creating a world with a different atmosphere and gravitational pull, I'm not overly concerned with why this planet turns, never mind do I attempt to conceive of a rotational force of an imagined planet in an imaginary universe.

However, I have personified insects and trees in my fiction. I am interested in the relationship between humans and their natural environment, particularly direct dealings between the two. How does the tree feel when a footpath is suddenly carved out right next to where it is rooted for the remainder of its days? How does the insect feel when its home is poison bombed and its either die or evacuate into the great unknown? I am not an absolute tree-hugger and bug lover; I do use this personification to playfully investigate the things humans do to each other. I am less interested in what motivates the oppressor than the attempt at survival, or the resistance of the oppressed.

My fiction puts a magnifying glass on issues so close up that the view is distorted, surreal. This is real, only the experience is queasy.

At least, that's my opinion.

I've been thinking about science fiction the past couple of days since my meeting with Christian Hawkey, the director of my MFA program and the faculty advisor on Raw Fiction this year. Together we're figuring out a curriculum. Or rather, I bring in half-hashed ideas and he adds his own and then I have to go home and articulate to myself why I don't want to focus on science fiction as a focal point for imagining new structures of freedom.

For one, I don't see the end point of all writing necessitating new structures of freedom. It's a nice idea, but it's not everyone's aesthetic. It's not mine that's for sure, my creative work grapples with the lives of the oppressed, insect tree and human, and does not result in happy endings or alternate utopias.

[A beat.]

I recently read my first Afrofuturist novel. "The Trial of Christopher Okigbo" by Ali A. Mazrui

Mazrui passed away in October. The news of his death on social media is how I came to discover his work. It is a shame when death is an introduction, perhaps. It can also be seen as a door opening to a new realm. For me that realm is Afrofuturism, perhaps not unlike what we call Magical Realism in Latin American literature. There is a quality of the fiction that is more surreal and less science. There is an opening between worlds and times that has a spiritual quality, not something that can be defined in the language of physics chemistry or mathematics. The present is the past is the future, the spectrum isn't linear. That is my reality.

The novel itself reads like a fast-paced detective story (not a "genre" I'm very familiar with but I think it gets the simile across) but in fact it is a deeply philosophical work. It is a contemplation on reality, religion, existence and politics in the framework of a plot-driven novel with strong characters, complex relationships, true love, high-art sex, and mob violence with heinous murders that felt honest, not gratuitous. When I realized I was only 10-pages away from the end I thought it would all come too quickly but in fact the last ten-pages worked effectively to leave me feeling satisfied, though not sheltered from the cruelty of reality, and with a better understanding of the world in which I exist. "The Trial of Christopher Okigbo" also concerned itself with survival and that is what resonated in the last few paragraphs. Survival after trauma. That is Africa. That is reality.

So while I understand the importance of science fiction as a space for imagining a better reality, a better future, as an escape for those young people who are completely ostracized by the reality in which they must live every day, I am not so drawn to it on a personal level. In literature, I am interested in the investigation of the immediate politics of the day and how the imagination can be used to simultaneously distort and reveal how that machinery effects the individual, and how absurd it all really is. It is in my conscious actions (for I do not see my relationship to reading or writing as entirely conscious) where I strive to etch out something a bit more hopeful than the norm, and that is where Raw Fiction comes into play. That is why I can say, real life is the fantasy I choose to imagine.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

WWOC: The Women Writers of Color Who Inspire Me (for Mahogany Browne)

I was introduced to the work of novelist and activist Edwidge Danticat when I was about 15 years old. I'll never forget the first story in Krik? Krak! It documents the correspondence between a young refugee on a boat who writes to his girlfriend in Haiti, and her letters to him that document the atrocities of the Duvalier regime. They write, even if there is no place to send the letters. They write with the hope that one day there will be a place to send the letters to and from. The story does not end with a note of hope and for that reason it was the first thing I sought out after reading Baldwin's "Going to Meet the Man." Paralyzed by all the emotion and horror wedged inside me, I reached for "Children of the Sea" and cried myself to sleep.

Based on my scenario, one role of the woman writer is to document that which is real and dreadful in a way that releases the pent up emotion. And once that emotion is released, we walk forward stronger, more mindful.

Over 15 years later, Danticat remains one of my most cherished inspirations. Her fiction pulls you right into the lives of complex characters who live under the dictatorships of Trujillo and Duvalier, or in the United States, often degraded immigrants - not to simplify their worlds into a couple of words but to offer the vast complexity of the Haitian situation. Danticat is more than a conscious writer who provokes a sense of empathy in her reader and shines light on a history of oppression, she is an advocate for her people.

As the director of a youth literary arts project that promotes social engagement and grassroots action for stronger communities, I often turn to Danticat for reference. In her 2010 collection of essay-memoir, Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work, she reflects on historical and contemporary issues that have shaped her and the world she lives in. She is a successful writer, a household name, who will never forget where she comes from and all the work that there is to do.

Danticat says: “Create dangerously, for people who read dangerously. This is what I’ve always thought it meant to be a writer. Writing, knowing in part that no matter how trivial your words may seem, someday, somewhere, someone may risk his or her life to read them.”

There is bravery in women warriors, writers, storytellers, truth tellers.

A couple of years ago I was wandering through the stacks of Housing Works Bookstore. My Life as a Traitor by Zarah Ghahramani is the memoir of a woman who shares my first name and was born the year before I was, who was made to disappear in Iran as a 20-year-old college student. Taken to Evin prison. It is an account of torture and the complexities of dictatorships and the whim of those with power. A whim that spared her life, and she left and she spoke out.

As an educator, I feel the presence of the women who have come before me. I am inspired by the necessity of sharing women's stories from the perspective of women writers.

To teach I call on Bessie Head, Botswana's South African woman of prose. I call Arundhati Roy, if you don’t know, go know, that’s Arundhati Roy. I call Leslie Marmon Silko of the Lacona nation. I call Isabel Allende, who taught me the talents of the women's sex and horrors of men's politics before I was old enough to know that the world is full of mass graves. I call on Toni Morrison.

I recently listened to a speech by Michelle Alexander on 'Race and Caste in America' she calls for an end to mass incarceration, reparations for the war on drugs, and rehabilitation instead of punishment. She spoke of truth, of being able to see the truth in a system that hasn't changed since Jim Crow: we just use different words now. As an educator, I look to the bravery and wisdom of women warrior writers to inform my worldview.

And to inform my lifestyle. The Bengali writer and activist Mahasweta Devi (whose stories are translated by the postcolonial scholar Gayatri Spivak) was not a simple voyeur into the lives of tribals, she cast off her middle class lifestyle and went to live in the mountains with the people most oppressed in India and from that vantage point she shared their stories. I quote from the description on the back of Imaginary Maps: "Whether she is writing about ecological catastrophe, the connections between local elites and international capitalism, gender and resistance, or tribal agony, . . . Devi always links the specific fate of tribals in India to that of marginalized peoples everywhere."

This is a message shared with the resistance against police brutality in Ferguson, MO. It is not an isolated issue. The murder of Mike Brown is connected to the oppression of black men across the country and the history that made it possible. His murder is connected to the capitalist system in the United States, a country built on slavery, a country stolen in righteous annihilation of the indigenous people living on the land, a country that continues a Big Stick policy not just in Latin America and the Caribbean but across the globe. And we see women resisting men's wars. A line of women in Oakland, on Friday, November 28, chained themselves to the Bart Transportation and stopped the trains for over an hour. On the ground in Ferguson young women comprise many bodies on the front lines of the resistance.

There is my inspiration.

But it is equally important to remember the women that have touched my life directly. The women that helped me figure out what Raw Fiction is all about.

Spring 2012: I was taking a course in postcolonial literature at Hunter College as a non matriculated grad student, trying to figure out my life and planning Raw Fiction as a one-off project. My professor, Sonali Perera, author of "No Country: Working Class Writing in the Age of Globalization," impressed and inspired me to no end with her meticulously developed coursework and postcolonial passion. And then there is Tanisha Christie, director of "Walk With Me" a documentary that highlights three women-artist-activists, who heard about Raw Fiction and held on to me and put up with me and pointed me in the right direction time and time again.

So while there are so many great women writers and activists who I have mentioned as inspiration and models, those that touch our lives directly are the ones we can't live without.

And Mahogany Browne, my classmate, a new friend and necessary inspiration. Thank you for your work and your writing.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Recruitment in these times

I was walking my dog tonight and I saw this on the ground:



This weekend was coined Ferguson October by Hands Up United the group that has organized around the August shooting of African American teenager, Mike Brown. I can only assume the Sean Bell memory is in solidarity.

The national attention Ferguson is receiving is inspiring and the relentless passion of the protesters on the ground - many young people who have grown up under the constant harassment of Missouri police - makes me believe change is inevitable. I am also scared. I am scared for the people putting their bodies on line. I am also scared that some concessions will be made, that some weak words on documents will be composed and offered as a resolution, and things will return to the way they were. To the way they have always been.

I don't know that Raw Fiction offers an alternative. Personally, I am not a front-line activist. I used to think it would be my lifestyle, but I became another cog in the machine, more or less. At least Raw Fiction offers an alternative to status quo youth programming. And some brightness in my life.

I'm not certain what I'm getting at today, tonight, in this entry.

I am so beyond my threshold with all of the stories of police brutality and the deaths of young black men, women and children. And I am disgusted by all the layperson vigilantes. The crazy racists who call the police and the psychopaths who take it upon themselves to shoot children.

Tonight, I am writing to make my stand clear. I stand with the protesters in Ferguson. I stand against police brutality and all the mechanisms of the racist infrastructures that contain us while silencing the most crucial voices.

That is why I am writing tonight. For Abner Louima and Amadou Diallo and Patrick Dorismund and Assata Shakur and Mumia and my uncle. For all of those whose lives have been taken and ruined, whether they were simply living in it or actively fighting against it, by the system that profits, continues to profit and has only ever profited on the exploitation and oppression of human bodies, the land, the air, animals, and, in the words of Kurt Vonnegut: and so on.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The White Rabbit's Search for a Narrative

"All in the golden afternoon
Full leisurely we glide;
For both our oars, with little skill,
By little arms are plied,
While little hands make vain pretense
Our wanderings to guide."

Somehow today has ended in nonsense. Or Lewis Carroll. The day has ended in Lewis Carroll and I am developing a philosophy. I am pondering a Raw curriculum. So I write. With you as my witness.

I had a meeting to attend in Chelsea this afternoon and shortly before I headed out I noticed a Pratt professor had an event, a panel, this evening, in Chelsea. It was an interesting topic so I decided I'd hang out in the 'hood of Chelsea and go to the Kitchen. I think I've been there before. Circa 1998. As a youth. A witness to avant-garde theatre. A shaping, or offering, of a preferred reality. It made sense to me. The avant-garde. If it was indeed at the Kitchen.

So there's this event on Narrative. We'll get to it.

First, I was reading Jose Munoz. I didn't get very far into Part II of Disidentifications but I was most moved by this concept of hybridity. "The postcolonial hybrid is a subject whose identity practices are structured around an ambivalent relationship to the signs of empire and the signs of the 'native,' a subject who occupies a space between the West and the rest." He warns, of course, of the convergence of all hybrid experience into one, but the point is well made and taken.

Before the evening's panel, I happened upon an art gallery on W21st. The photos in the storefront window caught my attention. War: with a human perspective. Something stating Syria and Ukraine caught my eye so I locked up my bicycle and entered.

A few of the photos provided images of a lot to think about. This one, however, was incredibly provocative. There is a French football flag hanging in the quarters of this space occupied by a radical Islamist.

In this day and age we're all hybrids. Osama bin Laden was a hybrid. My uncle Jimmy was a hybrid. I am a hybrid. James Baldwin was a hybrid. Of technology or imperialism. To me they are one in the same. But how we manifest this duality or duplicity is the line between artist and terrorist. Raw Fiction is about creating artists.

Tonight, one of the panelists said, and I misquote, "Dead bodies; with worms coming out. Each worm, its own little narrative." Out of context it is the personification of the history of literature. Is it simply that we need new worms, or do we need a whole new dead body on which to feed?

According to this Art and Narrative panel, art is hybrid. So that's a fact and interesting . . . and to be contested. Perhaps, not contested in theory but in newness of theory. Is narrative not ever-present everywhere always? One of tonight's panelists was talking about abstraction and that to interpret narrative in such splotchy works is evidence of lack of imagination . . .  impossible. That is the foundation of imagination, I'd say.

And should I be delving into artistic theory with my Raw Fiction youth? What is narrative? What is writing? These are contemporary historical questions.

I'm thinking about the hybridity of art, as in medium, and the hybridity of self, as in imperialism, and I'm wondering where the separation of conversation is. The literary world is still (I'm not going to pretend to make an original thought, as the artists on the panel are not going to pretend to make an "original" work): art is separate from cultural and racial imperialism. Even in its hybridity.

There was a Polish woman on the panel. Genius. She created a film project exploring characters who had been cut from the final version of a movie - what would the narrative have been, what did the narrative become, etc? Fascinating. She did also mention the very real imaginary narrative for Eastern Europeans. In that the end of Communism, for everyone, was the fall of the Berlin Wall.

So education is not just bad in the United States.

Our very own Pratt professor also pushed past a western Euro-centric view. "What if the narrative is dominant, what is our safe word?" A penetrating question. A historical problem. A sexualizing of literature and the dominance of power and the dominance of European aesthetics, and terminology, as Anna Moschovakis articulated at a later point in the discussion.

Word meanings are so ripe.


Whose narrative? Who's the narrator? What defines the narrative/narrator. "What gender? -- choose your own." Moschovakis.

So how do I convey these concepts to youth?

The Bucket Method.

I just invented a new technology for teaching.
(And I want to stage an intervention. On the brilliant flutist (and I know a good flutist when I hear one, this one was special), but what she said about technology. The conversation between good and evil. Technology, irregardless of what it does to communication and humanity as a whole, can be nothing but evil if you think about it in terms of environment (and I, hypocrite, [impossibly/unfortunately] not other, write this on my Mac) but hello, children in Sierra Leone mining the bits of metal to make your iPhone work? Fuck ebola, now the new iPhone is indefinitely delayed.

Fuck the cost of black/brown skinned humans.

I angry.

It ought to be allowed.)

Anyway, the Bucket Method. So basically, I internalize all this theory and pour it over the heads of my youth and let it sink in, without pressure. They have no idea a whole bucket of theory has doused them, and I don't have to deal with the side effects.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

The Provocative Power of Discomfortable Invitations Toward Imagination

One of the most stimulating aspects of Pratt's MFA in Writing program is the emphasis on Engaged and Collaborative Writing Practices (I capitalize since that's the name of a core course). It's interesting because this idea of community engagement and collaborative writing practices are simultaneously why I most wanted to attend Pratt and where I felt the most resistance about entering. Creation has always been solitary - or with ghosts, rather. I've never been good at making with others. However, Raw Fiction begs to differ. Obviously, I'm very passionate about co-creation. Perhaps it's where I draw the line between community and self that I find resistance. That line is beginning to shift or fade.

That said, I've been documenting random or deliberate acts/arts of participation wherever I go these days. For example, I was in Chatham yesterday and saw this:

The sign reads: "please speak slowly and clearly into the pipe"

I was with family and we were playing with the pipe, as the sign invites. It is outside of a storefront, a family owned grocery and cafe. A little boy came out and informed us that his mother put that sign there, the pipe doesn't actually do anything. His tone implied he was both amused by his mother and the general public's willingness to engage but he personally did not see the point in it. Since it didn't do anything. 

But it does so much. It invites play. It provokes imagination. People want to speak but they don't know what to say. It's a wonderful, simple initiative with endless potential to inform future acts of creation and participation. I didn't say this to the boy, I imagine he'll figure it out for himself one day.

Christian Hawkey, my faculty mentor for Raw Fiction this academic year, has been trying to impress on me the idea of participatory walks for the youth, as designed by faculty member Todd Shalom. Shalom is the founder of Elastic City, an org that  "intends to make its audience active participants in an ongoing poetic exchange with the places we live in and visit." Elastic City is a very open idea and involves numerous artists whose interpretative style/personal passions will direct the project in numerous ways as well as leaving a lot of room for participant engagement to dictate the outcome. As a couple of audience members noted, the prompt, or assignment, can be seen as an invitation as opposed to an imposition.

I just mentioned an audience and you're probably thinking: "What audience?" I went to Elastic City Talks today. The day is part of the Elastic Walks Festival running from September 26 - October 7 in various locations in New York City, including participation in the Brooklyn Museum's new "Crossing Brooklyn" exhibit opening to the public on Oct 3. The series includes four panels: A Genealogy of the Participatory Walk, Politics of the Walk, The Participatory Walk as a New Performative Framework, Impossibility in Participatory Performance.

As I type the titles I regret I will not be there for the last panel which starts in ten minutes. I was only able to attend the second panel, Politics of the Walk, moderated by Christian Hawkey with panelists including Rachel Levitsky (my professor in collaborative and engaged writing practices).

I wanted to engage with this idea Christian thinks will work so well with Raw Fiction.

I get it now.

It (the endless possibility of "it"being walks, participation, Elastic City, etc.) actually reminds me of an assignment I gave to my youth in Raw Fiction 1.0, as Amber (former participant) would call it. Probably inspired by my former professor, Lydia Davis, as most of my prompts were whether directly or subconsciously stored, I asked my youth to go somewhere, a cafe or such (since it was winter), and sit for half an hour writing all thoughts, observations-- a piece inspired by one's surroundings. The assignment kind of fell flat, as none of the other ones did. (Usually I gave them assignments to write in a manner influenced by the readings provided; except for Baldwin, which I thought a tall order, so I asked them to underline some powerful lines in Going to Meet the Man.) Firstly, they didn't really try to engage with their surroundings for a full half hour, that much was obvious, and secondly I don't think they really knew how to. Perhaps I was asking them to speak in a foreign language - which is a course that Pratt will offer its MFA cohort next semester.

The provocative power of discomfortable invitations toward imagination.

The guided walk could be a way to immerse a young participant in observing their surroundings and thinking about them in artistic and political ways. Therefore initiating a sense of engagement with community, its structures, limitations and possibilities to transcend barriers: imagined and tangible.

At the end of the panel, when I approached Rachel and Christian after the discussion (which also included panelists Eve Mosher and Ryan Tracy) to thank them for the ideas, Rachel suggested a finale walk. Obviously, I cannot determine the final event of a youth-driven project. But as a suggestion for the youth. A finale outside in shared space. Public space. Youth leading a poetic tour of sorts. Tickles my imagination.

And it reminds me that Raw Fiction was never supposed to be in an enclosed space. Well, maybe not never. But I'd decided at some point that we'd just use the library's common space for our project. So other youth could witness, engage or join if they so wished. That idea ended up not working out since the group decided to meet in Manhattan so I confirmed space with the Science, Information and Business Library (SIBL) in mid-town where all the youth from all the boroughs could meet.

More from the Panel on the Politics of the Walk:
There are the very tangible politics of walking while black, as in the case of Michael Brown, the teenager in Ferguson, MO, who was murdered by police officers as he was walking home with a friend. The delineated spheres defining public and private space, protected and shared and trespass-able. And who can trespass, the police, in the case of Michael Brown were trespassing in residential space, but the laws of trespassing, as in law enforcement officials' ability to trespass in homes and stairways and rooftops to murder young men (women, the elderly, the disabled, a seven-year-old asleep in her bed) are relative. Are biased. Are unfair. Are corrupt. So the politics of the walk can go there.

The politics of the walk can also be less particular and more theoretical. Eve Mosher discussed the idea of authorship in her opening comments. I can insert Raw Fiction into this context, too. An artist or activist can envision an action or creation, but it is up to the players and participators to interpret it and produce it in their own vision with their own perspective influencing the end product.

Also, the concept of the impact that you make on others as you move came up. Something very simple. An action most of us make every day. Walking down the street. Do we walk gentle. Do we notice those around us. Do we attempt to engage our fellow humans in positive, if not subtle, ways?

Rachel Levitsky took these simple ideas and complicated them in her poetic essay presentation. She questioned the politics of presence. A body that is perceived to look in a certain way, and therefore, perhaps, perceived to be a certain kind of person, a threat to the community's survival. Perceived or real. Race issues are always present in the body. The white person who moves in a black neighborhood holds a host of meanings; as the black body who moves in the white neighborhood. Who is at risk? I diverge from her point a bit. Her thoughts were on the self. She, a Jewish woman, a daughter of a German refugee, a white woman with a good job living in Crown Heights, could easily be interpreted as a threat to the neighborhood. She, a lesbian, woman, a writer and an activist is constantly critiquing racist institutions and oppressive structures. Her body in a space may always be misinterpreted just as Will Smith's body in a space may be misinterpreted (to keep things light), for example he was arrested in an episode of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air for being a black man in a white neighborhood who'd lost his car keys. Thus seen as criminal. Reverse. Thus seen as colonizer. The big fail in this comparison I'm making is the power dynamic. The misinterpreted colonizer isn't going to be arrested. But then, even I (light-skinned as I am) have been taunted for my whiteness in black neighborhoods where I am perceived as threat, they not knowing who I was, how I think. Me not correcting them as it wouldn't have solved the root of the issue. I was taunted, but understand taunting can become violent or initiated as violent. And white bodies in black neighborhoods should not bear the brunt of racism and fear as black bodies in white neighborhoods should not bear the brunt of racism and fear.

Moving to Q&A, I don't remember the question, but Eve Mosher's response brought me back to Raw Fiction. "Empowerment." One of Raw Fiction's goals is to think critically about youth organizations and a lot of the imperialistic language around them. Empowerment is a word I've avoid instinctively but perhaps not knowing why. Perhaps it has even accidentally inserted itself before being deleted again, for no consciously investigated reason. Eve gave me the reason. It's this idea of providing tools to the public so they can take power. That's exactly what Raw Fiction is about. I am not trying to empower anyone, I am trying to provide a space in which a young person can acquire tools and thus take the power for themselves, as defined by themselves.

Last question of the panel was concerned with self-indulgence over actually doing anything. Okay, the questioner puts it, I enjoy the walk, the participation but then what good does that do? "All moments inform something else," Eve says, completely rejecting the idea that forms of active, engaged participation could do anything but inspire positive vibrations in future endeavors.

Christian concluded in his signature way, so I listened closely and took notes with extra intention to not get lost in his voice and manner of speaking that invite thought tangents to the highest mountaintops, he said: and I misquote/abbreviate: "radical self-indulgence as resistance to ideology that clings to the concept of the impossibility to change anything anyway." He understood the questioner's concern for self-indulgence in play but took her idea of self-indulgence and made it radical and therefore dedicated to change and resistance against commonly held beliefs of self-indulgence being inherently selfish or apathetic. I think Raw Fiction can stand by that, too. We're here to have fun and make the world a better place while we're at it.