My desk is a mess. There are printouts of articles, research for my RGV LGBTQIA+ timeline – and all of them written by Gabriel Sanchez, someone I am hoping to meet in the future. My bullet journal is open to today’s spread, indicated what needs working on and what can possibly wait. A legal pad with pencil-written notes on the Minnie Gilbert collection vies for my attention. Raphael Bob-Waksberg short story collection, Someone Who Will Love You In All Your Damaged Glory waits for me to pick it up.
But my mind is distracted. Not with the subject of queer botany a friend shared with me this morning. (Though, I will admit I did fall into that rabbit hole for a while.) Not with the ruckus caused by the visiting elementary or middle school students in the library lobby.
I’m distracted because one year ago I ventured into a new job. It wasn’t easy starting in a place of uncertainty, not knowing if I could handle it or learn new tricks. Or work in my old ones.
In the year, I have assisted in founding a bring-your-own-book-club for the university community, update our holdings for digital content, research local LGBTQIA+ history, pushed for inclusion of poetry, and learn quite a bit of local history in the process.
It’s been a long journey from storytime wizard to managing our digital content. It’s a journey worth its while, and I’m glad I took the opportunity.
Chrome made a mistake. It gave me the ability to mask just how many browser tabs I have open. These color-coded tab groups have chameleoned my digital-self into a well put together person. Someone who knows what he is looking for.
At the moment, I have five browser tab groups on my work computer. They are dedicated to the “core” items I use every day to assist out visitors, the “inventory” I manage, LGBTQIA+ resources for students who may need assistance, my audio websites for entertainment purposes, and my current body of research – the queer history of the Rio Grande Valley.
In an impromptu meeting, we discussed future exhibit plans. For June, we will be celebrating Pride within our lobby gallery. And while I can’t take credit for this idea, growing an RGV LGBTQIA+ collection has been my pet project for a while now and I want to think that I inspired this move.
I tasked myself with creating a timeline poster depicting a concise history of the movement in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Building off the research I made last year while working a hybrid schedule, I am piecing together a tapestry of important dates. From the establishment of the Valley AIDS Council, the first Coming Out Day celebration, the continuing growth of the RGV Pride celebrations, and everything in between.
A few names came appearing in the articles I printed out from Neta RGV and I hope to communicate with them in the future. My shared goal is to create an oral history collection in order to document the history through those who lived it.
One display case will remain empty as a way to symbolize how much work there is ahead for the archive and library community. The idea isn’t about getting it right the first time. It’s about getting it out there and learning on the way.
It’s dawning on my anniversary away from the public library. A year ago, I was in a bad place. I had traded in my mental health for an illusion of success. There were weekends when I worked because there were deadlines to meet. I spent vacation hours checking in to see if things were running smoothly without me. When I punched out for the day, I continued working and planning at home. It wasn’t until COVID swept the world that I had time to focus on what I was doing. The toll it had taken on my physically and emotionally.
But I’ve talked about all this before. This is about something different. Something new.
This blog has always been my personal, online journal. Where I wrote about my days, events that took place around, books I’ve read, movies I watched, poems I loved, and so on. I’ve shared stream on conscious writings, and I’ve shared the inner workings of my mind – in the form of conversations with god.
It’s time to do something new, while sticking to the old things. Quite frankly, however, I’m not sure what the something new is. Yet.
There are things I want to discuss, repeat, and rehash. Including why I left the local poetry scene when I did. But I also want to talk more about books. More about poetry outside of my National Poetry Month celebrations and random poetry breaks. I want to share pictures I took. I want to plan new writings projects and research new things.
I want this blog to be less about me, but also more about me.
Not all my posts will be insightful, and a lot of times it will be the doldrums of my day-to-day. Just not every day. I want to write longer posts that may take time, but I also want to write short posts about nothing. Most of all, I want to “show my work” on projects I’m working on. Just little updates.
And I want to share these moments with my son.
There is something that I’m already cooking up. Something less about writing, and more about giving back.
Ask me twenty years ago and I might have said something edgy, or something un-ironically unprofound such as, “I’m not a feminist, but I do believe in equality.” As if they were two separate beasts.
No man is without sin. That much is clear. I still don’t call myself a feminist; that’s a title earned, not self-proclaimed. And there’s still a lot of self-realization that I need to accomplish before I get there – in my opinion, anyway. And while I may not call myself a feminist, I do believe in feminism. And I do try to learn from my mistakes – both past and present – because I want to be that better person, more than just an ally. An accomplice. But it isn’t for me to decide when I become one.
When people accuse me of being a “good man,” I cringe. I’ve asked this to myself and to others around me: Am I a good person, or just a person who does good? Or even someone who tries to do good in this world.
On Sunday, 27 March 2022, rapper-turned-actor Will Smith approached comedian Chris Rock and slapped him on live television to the shock and awe of audiences across the globe. Rock, who mocked Jada Pinkett Smith’s shaved head, was rightfully put in his place. Jada’s “hairstyle” is a result of alopecia areata, a medical condition that causes hair loss.
This sparked an outrage on the social media-sphere. Several people (most of them white) called out Will Smith’s actions as violent, demanding he be punished. Discussions were had, comparisons were made. One woman on TikTok even went as far as comparing Will Smith to Russian tyrant, Vladimir Putin – a comparison that is more than just a stretch.
However, no one was holding Chris Rock accountable for mocking a medical condition. The very same people who thought Donald Trump was unfit for president when he mocked Serge Kovaleski, a reporter with arthrogryposis, were now ignoring how Chris Rock openly mocked someone with an autoimmune disease.
My Facebook feed was filled with local activists and poets who were also condemning Will Smith without holding Chris Rock accountable. A few thought there was no violence behind his words, at least not in the same manner as a slap. Arguments were made in the case against Will Smith, and anything that countered that was pushed aside.
Which is common when it comes to the discussion of violence against black women.
So I did what anyone should do in this case: I listened to black creators, most of them women.
While a time waste – for the most part – apps like TikTok has given marginalized people a platform. And I follow some amazing BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ creators. Most of whom have taught me more than I could ever hope for (see, how I brought this back to my introduction?). And they had something to say to nonblack individuals: Shut up and listen. (OK, I may have paraphrased that.)
It’s understandable to want to express your opinion on a particular subject. I’ve been there myself. However, it’s important that we step back and listen to who our opinion hurts. Intent doesn’t matter; it’s the impact that’s important. Your words can still be harmful even if you had the best intentions when expressing them.
Maybe what Will Smith did was violent. Maybe he should have handled it better than he did. Maybe he should have spoken out against ableism or violence against black women (verbal or physical). Because that is what he did that night, regardless of how you saw it. But you don’t have to condone it. That is in your right. But to excuse Chris Rock and not hold him accountable? That’s where your argument breaks apart.
Because how can you condemn one form a violence, while standing up for another?
So maybe it’s time we shut up and listen.
When I discussed this subject with a coworker, she told me that it doesn’t surprise her how many of us missed the point. We’re sheltered here in the Valley. Which is true. Most of our population is Latine/White, and black people make up a small percentage – 0.60% according to this site. It’s true that the Latine community experiences discrimination and violence, but are our experiences the same as those within the black community? And this is not to get into the wrongs committed against the Afrolatino members, because that is another post in of itself.
We all have the right to our opinion, and this is just mine. I may have gotten some things wrong, but the difference here is – I’m not about to declare it’s time for the healing to begin. Because we’re so far away from that until all violence is cured.
I volunteered to take over the department inventory. This led me to running between office spaces and jotting down what was kept in what room, what occupied which filing cabinets, and what was housed in which cubbies. At the end of it, I settled that things were too spread apart. Items went missing before I took over, falling between the proverbial cracks.
I printed the list of items we should have and just went at it. I counted single, loose items and jotted down the amount we had coupled with the amount still packaged. I reorganized the cubbies and shelves, making sure to compartmentalize the items within the columns.
“You’re good at that,” Evelin said.
“Let me walk you through,” I responded, dusting off my jeans. “In the first column here, we have repressed feelings. Secret affections on the top, followed by inner anger, pride, and sexuality. Right on the counter underneath that, we have, of course, fear of rejection that comes with each. As you can see, that’s way too much to shelve with the other items.”
“And what about these?” she asked, motioning to the pile I have laid out on the tables.
“The first table here contains the memories I don’t know what to do with,” I shrugged. “Minor things that hold no significance to the Host. Bits of trivia that aren’t conversation starters. Really don’t know where to file these away.”
Evelin assessed the cluttered and the organized and nodded. “Seems like you have a better knack at this than the last person. This job really drove them up the wall.”
“What can I say,” I said. “I’m a natural.”
I kept up with work, making sure to sort anger in the proper receptacle, labeling the serotonin and dopamine properly, filing away the important, life-changing memories in their proper storage bin. I cataloged conversations by subject and audience. Archived text messages and letters. And tucked away the sentimental value of objects in their proper exhibitions.
We have entered another year, but we’re still dealing with the same shit. As COVID rates are climbing up, resignation takes hold. COVID is seen more as an inevitability than something we can avoid. News coverage from last year’s insurrection increased around the anniversary. And quite frankly, I am tired of this shit. Though I am not ready to give up. Not ready to raise a white flag. Because I didn’t survive through this muck to lie down.
I don’t have any resolutions, but I haven’t made one in a while. But I do hope that this is the year we all become lightning. That we remember that we have more in common than we do differences. That in spite of what we’re told, we’re in this together.
It’s an ugly road toward enlightenment, but let us travel it together.