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Trying to Holler at Me: a conversation between brown fed ups

Photo by Lu Gerdmann

I’m bumping TLC and there are four people in the room, one cat. Within the confines of our bodies and lived experiences, there are thousands of street harassment stories between us. Being followed, being threatened, these are all experiences we carry with us.

As a way to cope, I’ve been engaging in soft conversation with my dear friend and collaborator Khadija Siddiqui. A force of discovery, more spirit than skin, Khadija was one of the only people I was able to process the #MeToo movement with. It made sense then, that I could also process these harsh stories with them. We were discussing the pattern of white people stepping into our harassment situation, but only when the other people involved are men of color.

“It’s such a wild organism to witness to see a female bodied brown person be harassed by a brown or black man that could end quietly, and then an uninvited third party enters the altercation. They insert their whiteness and ignore the power dynamics between the other people in the circle.”

- Khadija Siddiqui

This situation mirrors the many ways that black and brown women and non-men in general are left out of popular feminist movements. From the conception of the colonies to the Women’s March, black and brown women are routinely erased from history books and popularized media, as white women are given access to resources and praise for similar work. At times, the work of white women is also radically less inclusive as opposed to work done by black and brown communities.

Through all of the grief I and other femmes of color have processed since the 2016 election, art has been a tool, a friend, and a giver of life. Khadija and I have had the opportunity to confront head on the problem of street harassment with our art and with our community. The Hi-Lake area is contentious for me, my memories here are loaded with harassment and perpetual reminders that my body is something that can be consumed. Khadija, having had similar problems around the area, has begun to gather community members in dialogue around the issue of street harassment and is currently calling on male allies to lead in the fight against street harassment. Last week, Ghandi Mahal hosted business owners and allies to discuss the ways they can influence their customers and staff to be aware of this issue. While the conversation was hopeful, it is clear that we have a lot of work to do.

After our meeting on the issue of street harassment, Khadija took me to the basement of the restaurant which houses the aquaponics system. Aquaponics is a system for growing food alongside aquatic animals. There are fish in a huge black bin and the water in the air grabs your attention. There is a tremendous green everywhere. Khadija says that they come down to rest, to work, and to think. I’m reminded about a dream I had where I heard “we are born with capacity to grow”.

The Hi-Lake area is contentious for me, but in the Hi-Lake area there is something growing.

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