This is The Give Back Experience

The madness of COVID: Being in NYC, having the boundary between my home and my workplace robbed from me, watching my beloved New York City and all its wonder shut down, having a place in our apartment called “Quarantine” for canned goods and perishable foods cuz we just didn’t know what was happening in those first two weeks, having an area of our apt called “Target” for our more-than-one-shelf-supply of masks, gloves, disinfectant, hand sanitizer, toilet paper, paper towels, Swiffers, Kleenex, and other household items.The only time I actually knew what time it was was when I heard the roars, cheers, and clapping at 7pm from my neighbors. And that was just March and April.

I had a strong start in May. The weather was getting warmer. I was running regularly. I had 1.5 months of stay at home behaviors under my belt. I discovered that I can spend hours outside chalking on a free and spacious canvas called my sidewalk. All the years I spent doodling in in high school and in the workplace [instead of taking notes] paid off. Not only can I draw a really good R2D2, I could also draw BB8 and even C3PO. Not only that, the famous person who happens to be my neighbor would post my drawings on her Instagram and I would have a few hours of social media fame where admittedly, my “delight” meter inside increased with every “like.” Ask Karen, when I saw the post on my IG feed, I ran to her and yelled, “HB I’m famous!” (She was in the bathroom…ooops).

I planned a staycation during Memorial Day week. The time off was just 2 weeks away. I would wander around my new NYC, walk a commuter-less Brooklyn Bridge, take pictures everywhere, stare at the early morning light, stare at shapes, lines, and shadows, I would be still and breathe in Spring. I would sit in Brooklyn Bridge Park, stare for hours at Lower Manhattan, my favorite view of the city, I would eat pizza at every piece place in DUMBO. I would ride my bicycle from my house to wherever I wanted to go. I would run regularly. I would write. I would do many things to center and prepare myself to do everything from home during the summer. I would celebrate a Life-Changing Milestone. I would get my 1 year coin and maybe even be the speaker at a meeting. I would finally rest and decompress from the madness of COVID.

And then on May 25, 2020, a police officer murdered a Black man named George Floyd in Minneapolis.

I notice some writers use the word “death” or “died” when they talk about “what happened” to George Floyd. Yes, this person died and I can leave it at that. But I refuse to because I don’t trust people who don’t let themselves feel the truth. George Floyd was murdered.

What happened in the days and weeks after George Floyd’s murder (I’m going to keep saying it until people really feel it), was life changing. The pain and anguish that I felt in the weeks following the murder spilled out of my heart and my mind. I finally started to write again. After all these years. I wrote freely, no thinking, no stopping, no getting stuck on a word, a sentence or a paragraph.

Instead, I wrote through my pain, my fear for this world, my worry for my Black friends – are they sleeping? Are they eating? Are they crying? Are they hurting? Do they know how much they are loved? Are they able to protect their children from this world? Does Nia know what it is happening? Is Tre okay? Yes, my dear, childhood friends from Spring Valley, NY of course I was thinking of you.

On June 1-2, I was struggling to focus at work. Unfortunately, I work with a lot of human-robots and the culture is such that the subject of George Floyd was AVOIDED at the exact moment that I needed To Be Seen. As such, I went into triage mode and did everything I needed to do to take care of myself. This came from years of training and it was time to turn everything I learned into action.

I reached out for help. I reached out to anyone who would respond. I needed to be acknowledged and seen. It’s the basic human need. It’s Ground Zero for me. To ask for help and to receive it. To be seen is the first step to feeling safe.

It is not a coincidence that the person who had the most impact on June 2nd and the weeks after is a seasoned teacher. Their instinct is to, in an instant, help. It’s what they do. Thank you, Stacey, for also diving in. A Facebook message on June 2nd…a sewing machine…”Have your ever written a play?”, a reading on Google Meetup, TP, a logo, a song, a road trip, a Timeline, a Believer, a Creative Spirit, a friendship I now adore.

I was not OK on June 2nd. I couldn’t breathe. I was scared. I felt like my brain was on fire. I felt the world around me exploding. I saw images of people in city after city after city expressing what I know is decades of systemic and socially constructed trauma.
Many people saw riots. I saw pain. Many people saw looting. I saw desperation. Many people saw fires. I saw cries for help.

So, on June 3rd, I got to work. I wrote. I wrote until I figured out what I wanted to do: Inspire, create and sustain change at a larger scale than just my circle of friends. I wanted and needed it to be bigger.

It’s been a work in progress but every week, I nurture it. In the early mornings and the quiet evenings after work, I sneak in an hour or two to write. I go places I don’t want to go. I feel things I don’t want to feel. During the weekends, I have a longer stretch to do things. If anyone is wondering how I am doing this, that’s how. It’s called doing the work that needs to be done.

The Give Back Experience has largely existed solely on Facebook, Instagram, and in private messages and calls, with our small but powerful network of friends. This week, we are preparing the runway to do further outreach and expand our efforts wider and deeper. The 501(c)(3) process unfortunately takes months not weeks so we’ve had to operate within that reality. But I was told to be patient, do the work, build the base first, don’t wait, go, do, articulate your mission, and most of all stay true to yourself: Believe

We are only getting started. We haven’t used our best weapons yet. We haven’t made the big asks yet. We are not operating at full capacity…on purpose. We are pacing ourselves. We are taking care of ourselves. We are allowing us to figure this out. We are here for each other. We are practicing. And we are getting stronger every day.

This is The Give Back Experience. xoxo

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