Where are you from?
How do you spend your time?
I'm the director of Restorative Justice work in Chicago Public Schools through Umoja Student Development Corporation (basically, non punitive conflict resolution/disciplinary systems shifts with an aim toward disrupting structural and racial inequities that exist in our current system). I spend a lot of time with my work—supporting students and teachers on the ground, supporting RJ practitioners doing their work.
In my freetime, I create art, play with my dog, read, spend time with my partner and family. I'm pregnant with my first child (a boy) and actively caring for my father who is dying of stage 4 kidney cancer--some real heavy cycle of life ish at the moment. (That's been taking up most of my time as of late.)
What’s your story?
I grew up in a super religious (evangelical) family as the youngest of three, and the only girl. Without understanding what was happening as a girl, I was ushered into young adulthood by being told how creative I was, how pretty my ____was. I have no memories of my parents telling me I was smart, but many memories of my brothers being lauded for their intelligence. I grew up believing I was lesser in my family, a trope that was reinforced by an educational experience that values boys' voices and contributions seemingly so much more than mine. Although this was definitely discouraging, it made me angry, determined, stubborn. The gendered expectations I'd been conditioned to live up to and the deep anger and pain they'd caused made my transition away from them, away from the church, away from the limited possibilities my parents had envisioned for me so much easier. Feeling marginalized amplified my voice and strengthened my convictions. I value the sad/angry experiences from my youth--I learned from them. I carry them with me as living legacies of the things I don't want to be as professional, as a friend, as a partner, as a citizen, as a parent to this child growing in me--as lessons that I want to be sure to teach my son about.
What’s your feminist story?
I was seven. We had a block party and there were all of these gendered activities set up for kids. Girls were decorating cookies, adorning bikes with streamers and stickers. Boys were wrestling, tossing balls around. One of my neighbors announced a competition for all kids to partake in, and proceeded to rally up boys only. He'd set out blocks of wood and had displayed a gaggle of hammers. On each block, there was a single nail: the competition was to see who could nail the nail straightest into the block (dumb AF by the way, but I was confident I could win that shit). My dad was a pretty disconnected father—"great" on the disciplinary front, almost non-existent on the relational front. The one thing that seemed to bring us together when I was a child was me taking interest in his handy work--building things, fixing shit, putting up drywall—none of it was particularly interesting to me, but I'd volunteer to help every time knowing that that would be the most quality interacting I'd get from him. So a nail in a fucking block of wood—I had that on lock. I remember walking over to the competition to enroll. My neighbor stood and laughed at me, asked me if I wanted to go get my face painted instead. In my little seven year old body, I felt such deep disdain for him and said, "no, I think I'll just win this instead." This led to him laughing harder, pointing me out to other men in the area, them laughing. If he'd known how irate I was at all that humiliating laughter, he'd likely not have handed me that hammer—but he did. And I fucking nailed it—literally and figuratively. Outshined all the boys (fat chance they had the same kind of desperate drive for connection with their dads to fuel their cursory carpentry skills!). This motherfucking neighbor called in other dads to examine the angle of my nail, compared it to the other lopsided, fucked up looking attempts that my competitors had produced. Reluctantly, and with some reaaaaaal diminishing linguistic flare, I was declared the winner and offered my prize. I don't remember what it was or if I'd given a single fuck about it. What I do remember is watching the look of disbelief and disapproval on the faces of all the man-boys around me as I rolled my eyes and said, "keep it" and walked away. That was a seminal moment for me. That silly little block party game was the birth of something tangible and real for me. I'm sure I'd had a series of moments that led up to this, but this one was so clear. I was capable in ways that would be met with disbelief before praise—because I was a girl. I would be ridiculed and humiliated for wanting to try, because I was a girl. I would be questioned and over-analyzed when I succeeded, in ways that my male peers would not—because I was a girl. I would fucking fight back every time, because I was so fucking proud to be a girl.
What is feminism?
The belief that people who identify as female have the same rights to success, happiness, humanity, intelligence, life as any person who identified as a man. Feminism is ideological, structural, spiritual, societal, political, global
What does "Feminist as Fuck" mean?
Telling my stories. Listening to others' stories. Challenging harmful beliefs—even when it's "awkward to" or "unprofessional." Living out feminism in my language, my actions, my deeds. Teaching youth—of any gender identity—about the fundamental need for gender equality. Living through a lens of Ubuntu—knowing that I am, because we are—and our interconnectedness matters so damn much.
What feminist topics are most important to you?
Education. Criminal justice. Workplace equality. Being mindful of how feminism (and the ways in which society receives/responds to feminist activism) looks so different depending on ones race, social class, level of education—and the fact that ALL of our experiences matter independently of each others', but cannot be equated to each others' (structural inequality impacts us is so many ways). Language and messaging—through the media, through the ways we teach history, through the ways we value female contributions. As of late—motherhood and expectations for women within family systems (both within a family unit, and societally).