Zines, Racial Tension in the South, + Honoring Craft

It seemed tone deaf to send a newsletter or post anything yesterday given recent events in the southern U.S., just a few hours from where I sit right now.

Here are some images from a Girls Rock NC zine workshop that I helped with on Wednesday. They have buoyed me through the latter half of this week. Images of creativity and joy and making. Small hands, big hearts, all smiles. Dozens of them, all caught up in the making for a few minutes.

My friend Kelly is a librarian at the Sallie Bingham Center at Duke (click on the link to see the suffragette flag they just acquired!) and has been doing rad workshops with these campers for almost a decade. The center has a super rad zine library, which you should totally check out, too! She teaches them about zines and during their workshop they make their own page for a zine that eventually includes all the zine pages from all the campers.

Girls Rock page

Live Life GRNC

Girls Rock Camp Rules

And then a day later, as if to further punctuate the ugliest side of the south, ignorance and hate walked into a church and pulled back the curtain a little bit more. To live in the south is to know a tension, one I felt free of when I lived in NYC and England.

It’s a tension that has seeped into the ground since slavery began. We like to think that it doesn’t exist, that time has washed it all away, but it never quite has. It’s almost always there.

And there is no forgetting, as the acts of a pathetic excuse for a human (who doesn’t deserve to be named, thus giving him further press) reminded us this week. But I like to think that with each hug, each open conversation, and each smile, we keep working towards washing away cruel histories. Even though it can never be forgotten, it can be remembered as why we need to work towards understanding and kindness over everything else.

Mike Press shared this clip of Jon Stewart talking about the incident on Twitter this morning. It perfect incapsulates my feelings, my sadness, and what many of us are feeling here in the U.S. The Washington Post made this map of the racial divide in Washington, DC. Having lived in the DC suburbs (to the right of Bailey’s Crossroads) for 5 years, I can tell you that it’s not north enough to not feel the swampiness of racial tension that lives in the south. However, it’s more divided geographically there so that it’s easy to avoid if you wish.

And where does craft and craftivism fit in all of this? Today, I honestly don’t know when I start to think about products and things to concretely make, which leaves me questioning everything. But, that’s when I remember that craft is about more than product.

It’s also about process. And process gives us time to reflect and share and talk openly because we are working with our hands and thus can more easily have conversations that ebb and flow and break as we work.

The process opens an activist space with which we can use, whether we’re by ourselves or with others. We can put down the worry of not being busy, as we’re making something and our hands aren’t idle. We can let our thoughts get lost in the stitches and rows. We can listen. We can vent. We can share.

We can work towards finding groups of others to work with who are not like ourselves, and then use the space craft gives us to foment dialogue. Or if that seems too big, we can use the time craft gives us to work through difficult dialogues with those close to us or with ourselves.

We can give the process meaning by using it to better ourselves. We can bring craftivism into the mix by using the time to better settle into ourselves and wrestle with difficult dialogues. Like the ones that settle in our soil. The ones that never quite wash away.

Because when they don’t wash away, they grip our hearts and bind us, whether it’s personal trauma or systemic trauma, prejudices, differences. They hold us down. And craft gives us time to work through these things, time to untangle knots both in our thread and in our minds.

It gives us time to take back our hearts and fully own them vs. letting them be tainted by cultural untruths, microaggressions, the thoughts we tell ourselves.

Since opening up difficult dialogues can be trying, we need to chip away at the guards over our own hearts first. We need to use the space craft gives us to free ourselves from body hatred, anger at the self, and childhood misbeliefs.

We need to honor the time that craft gives us by putting us into the flow state that Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi so kindly defined for us and put it to use to become our best selves. Flow is that point in time where time passes, but we’re not really aware of it. Where you’re knitting or stitching and find that hours have passed, when it seemed like only minutes. Time we can use to scan our brains and bodies and see where we’re holding on to past histories and hurts and grievances.

Because that is the first step to becoming whole and the first step towards being able to fully participate and give to others. I never fully realized this until recently when I looked back at all the untangling I did from my own trauma. And tackling the moments of shenpa (thank you Pema Chodron, as she beautifully works us through in Don’t Bite The Hook), has been one of the most enlightening journeys of my life.

By catching the moments where I’m stuck and giving them the time and attention to unstick, by really listening to them and letting them unfold, and then by letting them go, I am further freeing my heart. And giving it more room to open up. Craft gives us this space with which to work on things.

Yes, we can try and tackle the big problems from the getgo, but I think we need to start at the parts of our selves that haven’t washed away first. As doing so will free us up to better create dialogue with others. We need to create space with craft in order to move forward.

We can do that whenever we feel like it or can spare a few minutes or we can go to our craft when we feel angry or less than kind and work it out in the space it gives us. We can use the space has a conduit by fully honoring the craft.

We can honor craft by letting it soothe us and guide us. We can ask our ancestors who crafted for guidance, we can look within ourselves, we can work out what’s making our hearts stuck.

We can use craft in its infinite wisdom.

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