Thursday, March 09, 2017

Pondering happiness and joy in times of struggle…

I recently attended the Rockwood Leadership Institute’s Art of Leadership training. This year I’m honored to be a Rockwood Reproductive Health, Rights, and Justice fellow (yay!), so odds are I’ll be sharing some of my experiences along the way.

Anyhoo, the Art of Leadership training was amazing and I got a lot out of it. As I listened to leaders from various progressive movements share their vision for the future, I was struck by how amazing the world will be when they accomplish their goals.  These leaders are building the kind of world I long to live in! 

That got me thinking about movement history, how all too often activists neglect to share our vision for the future, and that it’s important to infuse happiness and joy into our work along the way.

Shall we?

Longtime readers know that I’m a huge fan of the civil rights documentary Eyes on the Prize. I watch it often, and my favorite segment covers the Montgomery Bus Boycott. I love listening to regular folk, many of them women, discuss how they organized the logistics of helping people navigate their daily lives for over a year without using public transportation.

I’ve always been amazed by footage from the many mass meetings that took place at churches throughout the campaign. People sang songs, encouraged each other…after a long day of work, folk would go to the mass meetings and get fired up, y’all.

Tis easy to focus on the daily act of boycotting public transportation…on the harsh backlash from employers, politicians, and the police…but the emotional fuel for that work came from joyful mass meetings.

Which brings me to the present…to our current national, state, and local nightmares…and why we need happiness and joy now more than ever.

I went to bed stressed about the move by politicians to essentially dismantle Medicaid through block grants, a move that will put a lot of people’s healthcare access at risk.

I woke up this morning to news that Trump has instructed his minions to slash billions from Housing and Urban Development funding…a move that threatens access to affordable housing for millions of seniors, poor families, and people with disabilities.   

Activists must now face down a powerful political force intent on using government as a weapon against the most vulnerable in our communities.

I’m worried about how these budget cuts will impact my older relatives…and I’m beyond anxious about how these cuts will impact my older brother’s quality of life and level of care. My brother has autism and, like millions of people with disabilities, relies on Medicaid and food assistance and housing assistance. 

The margin between making it all work and absolute chaos is very thin for my family.


This is going to suck. This fight is personal and important, and it is going to be hard. 

Now, more than ever, I intend to prioritize happiness and joy.

I’m taking more walks. St. Louis is beautiful right now, with flowers blooming and happy dogs getting their canine on in parks.

I’m making space to spend quality time with my brother and sister. We do dinner on Sundays…something yummy, soda pop, a KitKat bar or cookies or both, followed by a quick walk down the street where by brother lives.

Ah, there it is!

Happiness radiating from my brother’s face as he signs KitKat with us, as he hums some song that sounds very Stevie Wonderish, as he pauses mid-walk to exclaim his joy over the soda pop in his hand.

That's my fuel.
So, let’s dance before we march.

Shit, let's dance while we march!

Let’s sing and hug and make art and enjoy the good people who we get to take action with.

I wish you happiness and joy...

...and hugs and laughter and something yummy too.

Happy Thursday.


dinthebeast said...

That's what Molly Ivins and her fellow freedom-fighter John Henry Faulk used to say: Don't forget to have fun while you're fighting for freedom, because you don't always win and you might need it to make it through.
But make it through we must, and most of us will, and we do need to remember that this is our life, and as precarious as it is, we need to enjoy and appreciate it while we're here.
I hope your brother will be OK, and I hope I will be OK, and I hope you will be OK, and even if we're not, we'll probably make it through like all the times before when we made it through, and some day soon we'll all look back on that time the country went crazy and let Trump and the Republicans run everything for a while.

-Doug in Oakland

Yankee, Transferred said...

I don't believe I could love this more.

DesertRose said...

Thank you. I needed to hear this today.

Pets to Zelda, if she likes such things.

Peterr said...

No activist ever succeeded without prioritizing happiness and joy.

Stevie Wonder exclaiming his joy over the soda pop in his hand is truly an image of happiness.

So is a Blues win on a goal in the last minute, as the Blues fight to keep the final playoff spot.

And if you really want a glimpse of happiness, I give you Vladimir Tarasenko and Arianna Dougan. As Deadspin's Barry Petchesky noted at the top of his post about them, "The world is a toilet fire, so you are going to watch this uplifting video, do you hear me? You are going to watch every last second, so help me god, and you and I are going to feel good about something for once, even if it fucking kills us."

Click through for the video.

Maven said...

This is precisely why you see me posting photos of food I've made, and or enjoyed, to focus on something joyful and enjoyable.

And while on the topic of the bus boycott, I was thinking of doing something similar--boycotting businesses or entities that are related directly or indirectly to DJT--and well, that right there is an undertaking--seems he and his minions have their fingers in a lot of pots!

Which brings me back to... I might be baking some Banoffee Blondies later this week.

Gentleman Farmer said...

It is a stressful time! Love the blog! I find writing helps, does your blog help you blow of steam too? Reading helps too, but not news, reading more fiction novels now escape the news that's out their all the time. Ms. Coco and I both find that our weekly posts are an outlet for us. Please let us know what you think.

Clearly Claire said...

You're starting to blog again, which makes me so very happy. I am sad that in these post election days there is so damned much to blog about, but having you here makes it somewhat easier to bear. Thanks for being there, from one angry Black bitch, to another.

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