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Today I’m talking with artist and activist Kimberly Enjoli about the intersection of art and activism, how to support activist movements beyond being out in the streets, and why art is even more necessary in a deeply troubled world.
Guest: Kimberly Enjoli
Kimberly Enjoli is a prison abolitionist and the editor of Groundwork Zine, a love letter from NYC’s Black grassroots organizers to their communities. When she’s not strategizing, she’s binging junk television and reading up on all the good scams.
Here’s what we discussed on this episode:
- NYC Shut It Down: Twitter | Facebook
- Equality for Flatbush
- Peoples Power Assemblies
- Kimberly Enjoli: @groundwork_zine on Twitter | @sugarwaterartdept on Instagram
- Kat’s social presence: Instagram | Twitter
- HTBC Instagram
To support Ramsey Orta:
Sign the letter of support of Ramsey Orta’s release on parole
Send letters to Ramsey:
Ramsey Orta 16A4200
Collins Correctional Facility
Middle Road p.o. box 340
Collins, NY 14034
***Must include his din # and your whole name and address on the envelope, or it may be sent back***
Donate to Ramsey via PayPal at OfficialRamseyOrta@gmail.com (can also email with any questions)
You’re listening to How to Be Creative, a podcast about what it means to be creative across different disciplines, industries, life circumstances, and career structures. You’ll learn tips for fitting creativity into your daily life and hear from a bunch of different people about how being creative has helped them reach goals, open doors, and live a more rewarding–or at least more interesting–life. I’m your host, Kat O’Leary, and I’m excited to introduce you to some of my favorite creatives, as well as to the tools that help me get my most crucial work done.
Kat: So today I’m here with artist and activist Kimberly Enjoli. I’m so glad that you were able to join me today. Kimberly. Thanks so much!
Kimberly: Thank you!
Kat: So we’re both eating snacks and drinking seltzer. As we’re recording it’s July 20th, which in New York, you may recall, was the first of what we’re expecting to be two 100-degree days in a row at kind of the tail end of a really horrible heat wave. So we are somehow hanging in there and staying alive. But I brought Kimberly on because in addition to her like actual artist and activist credentials, we’ve been friends for over a decade now. We initially met in the comment section of Jezebel.com, back when I feel like Jezebel was a pretty different place from how it is right now.
But yeah, so we’ve actually known each other I think in-person for over a decade as well. So I think we’ll just kind of dive in. So before we started recording, Kimberly and I were just kind of hanging out and you had started to talk about what I thought was a really interesting idea of kind of you having this sense about yourself that you wanted to create, for lack of a better word, that you wanted to “do dumb stuff” in addition to your real, serious art.
Kat: So do you remember what you were talking about before? I was like, “Uh, can you just pause that so we can hit record? ‘Cause I don’t want to lose this.”
Kimberly: So it’s funny because I was talking about this last night to some other friends of mine who I met through visual art, which is something I only recently started doing. Um, like I’ve always been good at it, but I wasn’t actively, I’d stopped drawing for a long time or whatever. So I was talking to some visual artist friends of mine about how when I moved here, I wanted John C Reilly’s career.
Kat: Oh yeah. Oh, that’s a really, that’s an interesting analogy. Okay.
Kimberly: I love him because like, he’s in Stepbrothers. Wasn’t he in Talladega Nights, too?
Kat: Yes, he’s so good in Talladega nights. That’s what I think of when you’re like John C. Riley. I’m like Talladega nights.
Kimberly: Right. But also, he was also in The Hours. The first thing I saw him in was Chicago. Like, he’s clearly smart, but
Kat: he’s fantastic.
Kimberly: He’s– a lot of his work is dumb, but like, it still has value. And I love it. And like, that’s basically what I wanted.
Kat: Oh, I love that. And like, I don’t know to what degree you’re actually, I’m realizing, I don’t know to what degree you’re still involved in this, but for many years you were an actor, right?
Kimberly: I’m was, um, I was performing in the beginning, I was doing not enough. Um, admittedly, um, pretty early on I got kind of, I know nobody likes auditioning, but I was like, I hate auditioning. I don’t know why I’m doing it. If I am capable of writing. Like I rather just write my own stuff and be in that. Um, but I’m also a very slow writer so I haven’t given up on it. But until I’m done writing what I’m writing, it’s kind of on the back burner. Yeah. And so I turned to other art forms so that I still get the satisfaction of completing things in the meantime.
Kat: Yes. Um, I love that. And it’s funny cause I think I have the reverse. Um, well no, no, not really the reverse actually, but I don’t, so I still don’t really think of myself as like a visual artist. I definitely think of you as a visual artist. Um, but for me, when I write, I write long form fiction for the most part, but I’ve started kind of dabbling in like different aspects of visual arts. So for example, I’ve started doing these alcohol ink pieces that I can complete within like half an hour and then I’m done with something. I have a finished product and I, it feel I get this immediate sense of accomplishment. So like really understand that. Like, that makes a lot of sense to me. Um, but yeah, and like, so that’s kind of hard though when it’s like, oh, I want, I want to do this, but it’s gonna come later. Once I’ve actually like done, I’ve, I’m done writing the piece that I’m then going to perform.
Kimberly: Right. So more recently the things that I’ve been able to consistently finish are issues of azine that I collaborate on with other local activists. Um, I usually describe Groundwork Zine as a love note from New York City prison abolitionists to our communities.
Kat: I love that. I love that so much
Kimberly: Thanks. So something that’s been really important to me is even though I now think of it as my art, um, is that it is first and foremost, um, a community outreach tool. And I never want it to become, it was never not going to be artistic, just because I’m not capable of putting something out that I don’t think is pretty. I’m always going to give whatever I do that part matters. But it’s also something that needs to remain cheap to produce because the purpose was always for it to be something that I give out for free.
Um, the copies that people pay for are normally to like reimburse me for art supplies and to print more free copies. So lately I’ve been trying to get back into doing art projects that are not related to the movement, just because I never want that line to get blurred. Um, I think it’s really important for, I just think it’s really important for whatever movement work people do to remain principled and never become about like raising their own profile. Right. It’s like don’t want, you don’t want to tie things that you’re doing for the purpose of activism to capitalism. Right. Or even just, yeah. I just never want it to become something that is self-service. Yeah. Um, so lately I’ve been trying to make time to do other projects at the same time, which is tough because now I have all of these ideas that I usually end up pushing to the back burner to finish the zine. But yeah, that’s, that’s something that’s been really important to me lately, is getting back to making just silly sort of meaningless nonsense.
Kat: Um, that’s awesome. I love that. I mean, I think yeah, like having room to play without sort of a greater purpose behind it is really important to me as well. And I think additionally, when you are creating art that serves a movement and an important movement like prison abolition, I think creating art, and I know this term self care is like so overused and it’s used in a very, uh, it’s used in a very like take a bubble bath, like light a candle, whatever kind of way. But I do think like also when you think about like, like self care that’s actually valuable. And I believe there is, um, I think Audre Lord has done some writing on this that I, I’ve lived perfectly honest, I haven’t read yet. It’s been like, it’s a one of those things that’s on my list of things to read. But I think part of what she gets at is more like self-care as a means of sustaining yourself so that you can serve that greater purpose.
And apologies to Audre Lorde, cause I’m sure I completely just butchered what you were trying to get at. But yeah, no, I do think that’s so important. And then it actually made me think of another question, which is, so you and I both kind of do our artistic pursuits, like in the margins of like, we both have to work full time to like support ourselves in New York City. And so with that, like how do you, how do you carve out the time to like, do all these things that are important to you and how do you think about, and we touched on this a little bit, I know it’s really challenging and we can talk about it to whatever degree you want, but like how do you prioritize, like, within a life, like there are certain things that you just absolutely have to do. And some of those things are being in a specific location to earn money from someone else. Um, so how do you think about getting done the work that you need to get done within those, um, you know, kind of the, uh, constraints?
Kimberly: Mostly I do, I’m going to be honest in a way that I shouldn’t, as someone who is job hunting.
Kat: Totally fine.
Kimberly: I do a lot of it at work. Um, and my justification, right is like most people are not actually doing their job that entire time, right?
Kimberly: And so it’s like, it’s just as easy for me to whip out a notepad and draft the content for the next scene as it is for me to be on Twitter. Right? Like neither one of those things are what I’m supposed to be doing, but I might as well do the thing. Um, but then I has more value to me.
Kat: And I think most people will pick scrolling twitter, so, like, congratulations to you for actually having that discipline.
Kimberly: Thank you. Um, so yet, uh, I get a lot of it done at work and I try to make it so that I’m trying to get better at devoting long trucks, chunks of time to doing things because I know that the amount of work I want to put out is going to require me to spend more time than I have in the past. But what I do is in the early stages of a project, I just snatch like 20 minutes here and there throughout my day to write sort of the first couple of drafts of something. And it’s really only once my idea about what I want something to look like is really clear to me that I’m like, okay, now I’m going to devote some time to this on these specific days to finish it. Yeah.
Um, it’s not quite a disciplined way of working. I mean it’s been working for me, um, but it’s very much more inconsistent with the, the working daily on something in the early stage. But honestly, at the end it’s more of a, now I have enough work and I’m tired of not being done with it. So this week, every day I’m going to the print shop and working on it until it’s finished.
Kimberly: Um, so that’s kind of my process for now.
Kat: I really like that. Um, especially because, so one of the things I’ve been thinking about a lot is this concept of balance, which I think is total bullshit. I don’t like balance. I don’t value balance. And yet for most of my adult life, I have felt like it’s something I’m supposed to strive for. And Nicole Antoinette, she’s the host of, um, the Real Talk Radio podcast, but she led this retreat that I attended a couple of weeks ago. And something that she says is like, you can have balance or strive for balance, but it should be, it’s not like every week or every day I do these three buckets and I devote the same percentages. It’s more like over a year you might have like, oh, there was that one, that two week period where I hammered out however many pages of a draft or there was that month where I was really focused on getting out the next issue of my zine or whatever it is. And I think like for me at least, that’s a healthier way to think about it. And it makes me feel less like I’m doing something wrong. When I do have, like, I have periods of extremely intense activity followed by like two or three months where I’m not doing anything. Um, and like the end at the end of the day, like you need those rest periods too. But also like, I produce some of my best stuff when I’m just like throwing out everything else in my life and just focusing on the one thing.
Kimberly: Yeah. That definitely resonates with me. One of the things I’ve been doing with the zine and at first this was an accident, right? Because and mostly plan the publishing schedule around actions, right? So I put one out in the spring that tends to just be whatever I’ve been thinking about. And then the summer–
Kat: What do you mean by actions? You mean like a specific protest–
Kimberly: Right, so in the summer, so in the spring I kind of put out just whatever general thing or it might be like the past couple of years it’s actually been the study guy too. Um, uprisings. Um, yeah, like slave rebellion. Cool. Yeah.
Kat: So you’ve done some really cool like history, like kind of edification type of zines that I feel like are really valuable because frankly our American education system is not teaching us about a lot of the most important things that have happened in the history of this country. Sorry to interrupt you.
Kimberly: Oh, you’re fine. Um, so yeah, the spring one tends to be kind of a freebie, but then the summer one is usually timed to come out the day of the Sandra Bland Demo, which is always she July13. Um, and then the fall when usually coincides with the African American Day parade in Harlem. And I usually take the winter off to go back to binge-watching television.
Kat: Yeah, hibernating —
Kimberly: And tweeting memes Yup. So, um, I’m trying to decide if I want to start using winter to work on the sort of joke zenes or if I want winter to continue to be my break. Yeah. And just figure out how to juggle more than one creative project at a time during the year.
Kat: I love that. That’s really interesting. Um, yeah, I think, I don’t, I never think kind of strategically about what one season is going to look like versus the next. It’s sort of more like, like, um, I’ll be like, oh, well, January I’ll, I’ll do something big. Or like this month I expected to be a lot more, um, productive, let’s say, than I have been. Um, that’s what I think I’ve been a little better about accepting that in myself. Um, but I’d never like, winter’s really hard for me. I get like terrible seasonal depression and like I got nothing done in the winter. Like January, I just killed it. And then February through probably April, I really, whatever the opposite of killed it is.
Okay. So one of the other things I wanted to talk about was, and we’ve touched a little bit on, um, sort of how your art intersects with your activist work. Um, and I love that. And kind of a related question is, why is art important? Why is art crucial and not frivolous and like really necessary in a world that looks how ours looks right now, which is, I mean I always say it’s on fire.
Kimberly: Yeah. Um, so what’s funny is my answer to that is not necessarily like the one I was thinking it was going to be. Um, for whatever reason just now I thought about a conversation that I had with a coworker of mine who’s also an artist. He’s a photographer. Um, and we were talking about how the way most of us are educated kind of has a lot of people feeling like– we were talking about how a lot of people don’t think that they understand abstract art. Right. And it sounds like I’m giving an off-topic answer, but I’ll get there eventually. We were talking about how a lot of people feel like they don’t understand abstract art or don’t understand experimental art. Um, and I was talking about a conversation that I had with a friend of mine who’s a really talented theater performer.
And he was like, I hate experimental art. I hate, you know, abstract stuff. I don’t get it. And it’s frustrating to not get it. And I was like, obviously I can’t tell you whether or not you’re getting something unless we’re looking at a specific piece. But I really think that most people who don’t think they understand abstract art do, but two things kind of make people feel insecure about the way they interpret art, right? One is the way that we’re taught in school and the way we come away from things feeling like, “Oh, if I can’t write a five paragraph essay demonstrating, you know, what this piece is about, then I don’t understand it.” And I also think that school teaches us to think of art simply as things that are pretty and fun and that make us feel good.
And so when we encounter art that’s not pretty, or it doesn’t make us feel good, we think that we don’t get it. But a lot of times that art is about something else, right? Like maybe a piece of art that makes you uncomfortable is supposed to, and if you’re uncomfortable with a piece of art that’s supposed to make you uncomfortable, then you do actually get it right. And the fact that you’re not able to write a paper on it doesn’t mean you don’t. Yeah. Oh, I love that. Oh my gosh, that’s so good. I’ve never heard anyone explain it quite like that. Yeah, thanks. That makes a lot of sense. Um, and so I think that the reason my mind went there to answer the question is I think that if we’re thinking of art as frivolous, then we’re really only thinking about art that’s pretty, and that, that’s not the only art that’s being made, right? So, art, if anything, might be more necessary now, because everything that we are trying to do, um, to make the world different is gonna require imagination. Right? And so art is where we use our imaginations both to hash out the problems of the current world and to envision, you know, what the future could look like.
Kat: That’s an amazing answer. Thanks. I was like, wow, that was incredible. Um, I feel like I just learned an incredible amount of stuff from you. So kind of connected to the intersection of art and activism. Um, so, and this is something that you and a few other of my creative friends came over for brunch a few months ago. Um, and we, uh, we had this conversation about kind of what activism looks like and, you know, one of my concerns is like, I don’t feel like I’m good at activism. So I’m good at volunteer work. I’m good at like going and making a difference in maybe one person’s life or a small group of people’s lives. I have attended protests, I’ve attended marches and participated in them. I don’t feel like I’m great at that work. And then I feel bad because I feel like it doesn’t feel like something that’s for me, but then I feel like I feel like I’m a terrible person for not participating in more. And not to make this about me and my, my feelings, because I’m trying to ask a question here, but one of the things we talked about and I felt like this is such a valuable conversation was ways that people who like me feel like they are bad at activism can nonetheless support activists in other ways that maybe aren’t necessarily like being out there every weekend marching or every week night or whatever it is.
Kimberly: Sure. Um, so what I would say to that is one, um, everyone has like a different role to play in movement work, right? And so like of course anytime we can get extra bodies in the street, it’s great, but at the end of the day, there’s so much that goes into what we do beyond marching. Um, so sitting out at a protest is totally fine because the other things that are involved are like, I know that raising awareness isn’t enough. And there are some people who like lean way too heavily on that as though it’s enough. But speaking as a grassroots person, there is something to be said for amplifying the work of people who don’t have advertising budgets. And this isn’t even me. You know, coming for any group ideologically, but it’s just, um, in a practical sense, right. Your local grassroots organizer does not have the name recognition of, like, the ACLU. You know what I mean?
Kat: That’s a great point.. And also probably those people, those organizations are, their knowledge is so, is probably a lot more specialized and therefore they are positioned to make a real impact on the issues that they focus on, but they lack the resources.
Kimberly: Right. And so like, and it can be hard, right, to figure out even who your local grassroots organizers are. That’s actually my next question. And it’s another reason we started the zine. Right. Um, the zine, I’m always like confused about how specific I want to be about things. In this case I’m going to be vague. Okay. Um, but Groundwork Zine started, um, because there was a protest that me and some friends went to, um, in the wake of a local person being murdered. And there was a clear ideological divide within the family, where half of the family was very radical and the other half of the family was being friendly to the police who had zip ties on their hips, ready to arrest people at a candlelight vigil.
Kimberly: And that was horrifying. Um, and so those of us who were there as radical organizers were like, it would be nice to have a way to stay in touch with the people who are here who are the more radical element because they want it to march and part of the family talk them out of doing it. And we were like, if we had something to give them, it would be a completely non-confrontational way of like saying, Hey, we hear what you’re talking about. We’re not here to tell you what to do at all, but if want to get in touch with us, here’s our info. So that’s one thing that’s important on our end is organizers. And this can be hard, which ties into like one of my answers to the question, right. But as organizers, one thing that is important is to have materials and you know, and that can be hard, right?
You need access to practical things like a copier. You need like the actual time to draft something. But if we have info, when we have an action, having people spread that to helps. So if you do like go to a march or you know, see people doing outreach or tabling or anything, um, grabbing their info and blasting it out helps, I’m following them on social media so that you know, the real scoop on what’s happening and not just what you hear on the local news, right?
Kimberly: And that’s important because, okay, here’s an example of what I mean by that, right? Because a lot of times when you say that people kind of roll their eyes cause they’re like, oh here we go with the conspiracy theories, but–
Kimberly: But it’s really not right. We’re inundated with spin and like also, and a lot of like well intentioned–.
Kat: PR is an industry like hello. I mean, it wouldn’t be an industry of, people weren’t trying to tell a different story from one the facts tell.
Kimberly: And even well intentioned people like accidentally spread it. Right. And to give an example of that. Right. So we just came off of the five year anniversary of Eric Garner’s murder and the DOJ like the statute of limitations on filing the federal charges is five years. So they let that run out.
Kat: Yeah, of course they did.
Kimberly: Even well intentioned people who are on our side are like, he shouldn’t have been killed for selling on text cigarettes. Okay. This cigarettes thing was the pretext for the cop stopping him on that day. But on that particular day, right. Eric Garner actually didn’t have any cigarettes. He had just broken up a fight.
Kat: Hmm. Um, and you, yeah, and the, the story you hear and it, the story you hear, as you were saying, from well-intentioned people who are like on the correct side of the issue, all you hear about is he was selling loose cigarettes. Right. Really, I mean, until right now, I had never heard this other version of this story that is apparently, you know, the, the real version that no one’s hearing.
Kimberly: Right. And the only ones who really talk about it are grassroots organizers who like sat in on that trial who like write Ramsey or die in prison all the time. That’s another horrible story. Right? Yeah. Um, and so as much as it is important to make sure that we’re not treating, raising awareness, like it’s the only work, it is work and it still needs to get done. So anytime that you can amplify, um, info coming from people without the media budget of, you know, anyone else, including, you know, the police, obviously you have, you know, the journalists that they can feed their version of the story too unchecked. Um, amplifying those voices is always going to be important. Um, looping back to the question of, you know, organizers needing to have materials, if you can donate to local grassroots organizers, one of the things that the money that you give does, is help them pay to print materials.
Kimberly: Um, another thing that you can do is if you have design skills and no one in the group does, like lending your design skills to helping them with logos, shirts, stickers, posters, flyers. Um, another thing I mentioned Ramsey Orta, right? So another thing that really–
Kat: I was gonna I was gonna stop you just in case anyone listening is not familiar in the details. So Ramsey Orta, um, is in jail for filming the murder of Eric Garner and what you might, you probably know a lot more about this than I do cause I don’t understand how it’s possible that he has been in prisoned on that does not seem like a violation to me.
Kimberly: Well, they nailed him for something else, right?
Kat: But that’s really why the cops paid attention to him.
Kat: So yeah, the only person who’s gone to jail for anything connected to Eric Garner is the man who filmed it.
Kimberly: The person who supplied evidence. Um, so writing Ramsey Orta putting money on his commissary, which he does need.
Kat: Actually if you, if I can get that information from you, I will put that in a, I’ll put that in the show notes for sure. Um, I love that. That’s great. That’s something I never would’ve thought of that I will happily sit down and, and write him something and, um, and also share information so others can do the same and yeah. Ideally give money as well.
Kimberly: So that one’s important. Um, speaking of local activists, right. Um, if you live in New York, you’re probably familiar with the Swipe it Forward campaign. Um, if you’re not, I’ll still give you some background. Right. So definitely fair hikes.
Kat: I mean, I think it’s a good example of like the role of creativity and resourcefulness in activism, right? Regardless. And it might, it might even for people not in New York, I feel like it could spur other ideas.
Kimberly: Yeah. For sure. Like, I want to say that, um, DC organizers were doing something similar based on that. But, um, the fare hikes, um, that had been happening in New York, as the service gets crappier and crappier has made the subway increasingly unaffordable for a lot of people. Um, of course people try to get around that by hopping the turnstile. Um, people of, you know, asked first for swipes, which can also get them in trouble with the police. So a lot of grassroots organizers, a few years ago, a few years ago, got together and came up with the swipe it forward campaign, which is, you know, other regular working class, New Yorkers pooling their money to do these actions in the subway where, you know, for a set amount of time, they swipe people coming into the subway for free while informing them, you know, of why if you have an unlimited card, you should swipe people in on the way out. Um, and you should look for people who need swipes and volunteer it so that they don’t get in trouble for asking.
Kat: So that’s interesting. So I will do it if I see someone. Um, but often I know often the person will, they might not ask verbally, but they’ll, you know, make kind of the sweeping motion with their hands. So is it illegal to ask for a swipe but it’s not illegal to share your swipe. So that’s wow, that’s a great law, she says sarcastically. Um, yeah. So I didn’t realize that. I actually didn’t realize it was still illegal to ask. I knew it was legal for me to give them a swipe. That’s, so, that’s great. Knowing to look what to look for I think is really important. Cause if someone asks me, I’ll of course do it.
Kimberly: But yeah, if you can, if you can beat them to even having to ask that, then they know. Yeah.
Kat: Then there’s no chance they get in trouble.
Kimberly: Yeah. Um, so the swipe it forward campaign swipes people into the subway for free while raising awareness of the way fare beating is used to funnel people into, you know, the criminal system. Right. Um, the, the fare is what, $3 now and a ticket for fair beating is $100. If you don’t have the $3? You definitely don’t have a hundred days. Another.
Kat: It’s basically just another great example of how we punish people for being poor. Right. And then make them even poorer and then, and then put them in prison. And then, um, is this the type of violation where you can end up in jail without a way out?
Kimberly: Yeah. Like, yeah.
Kat: So this basically just like filter really does truly get someone into the prison system for the crime quote unquote of not being able to afford a $3 swipe.
Kimberly: Right. And if you’re undocumented, it can like actually out you as well, which is terrifying. Um, so anytime you see local grassroots organizers organizing a swipe campaign, donating to groups, like why accountability, um, will help you know, some of that money go towards those campaigns to help people out. Um, and to raise awareness about that and try and shift the culture so that more and more people are calling for not only for people not to be criminalized in our subway system, but also there’s a radical push going on right now for like free, accessible transportation for all. Um, yeah, so like joining that push is a good way to get involved. Um, for people who are familiar with NYC Shut it Down. Who shortly after Eric Garner’s murder became the longest running resistance action in New York City. Every Monday they would take to the streets and do an unpermitted march for someone who had been killed by the state. Um, they recently, after five years, which is really good, pivoted to the Feed the People program, which takes place in East Harlem and in the Bronx. So if you follow NYC Shut it Down on Facebook or Twitter.
Kat: I’ll add that in the show notes as well.
Kimberly: Um, you can get info on how you can either donate money to Shut it Down, that goes to helping them make the food for the food serves that they do. Or you can let them know that you have gently used clothes and blankets and other things to give away or like tampons, pads, school supplies, whatever they’re collecting. Um, they coordinate pickup. So you can just drop them a line and say, hey, I have some stuff and they’ll figure out how to get it.
Kat: Um, and I think actually that’s kind of a, that’s sort of a “safe” way for some people to, to participate in activism that still has tangible impact. Exactly. That’s great. Yeah. Cause I suspect there are a lot of people out there for whom like, they might not feel quite ready to even join a protest at all. Right. Um, but yeah, and I think, I dunno, the more kind of incremental baby steps people can take toward becoming more aware and getting involved, I think the better.
Kimberly: Supporting local tenant organizers is also good. Um, supporting a group like Equality for Flatbush, which is a local or that supports the dollar-van drivers, the street vendors. Um, the local businesses who are at risk of being, you know, having their rents jacked up and being pushed out of Flatbush, um, supporting people who are standing up against their landlords–that’s a good local org to support. So yeah, just like funding, funding things or donating skills if you don’t really cash.
Kat: That’s great. Yeah. And so it’s now the, now you’re more on the side of helping amplify, um, you know, get the word out, getting the word out about organizations, grassroots organizations that people might know now know about. Ehen you were first starting out, like how did you learn about some of these organizations?
Kimberly: Totally by accident.
Kat: Yeah. Okay. So it’s, I feel like it’s often that way. I was wondering if it’s like a push or pull thing.
Kimberly: No, I think it’s by accident. I think that’s why like the, as much as we can, like pushing whoever we do know is the only way this stuff really goes viral. Um, I found, so I’m kind of just a general member now, but I used to be active in a group called People’s Power Assembly NYC. Um, and New York’s not the only place with People’s Power Assembly. It’s in other cities too, but that’s the first group I got involved with and I’ve found them because in the beginning, when I first started protesting, I would always go by myself and I wasn’t always available at the beginning of a protest. So like I would miss whenever they were giving out flyers anyway because I got off work at seven and a lot of things were called for six. Yeah. So I kind of just had to figure out where protests were. So what I would do is I would just guess based off, while I know this is a major thoroughfare.
Kat: Yeah. So it’s going to go through there. Yeah.
Kimberly: So I will just wait there until I see cop cars and then whichever direction I see the cop cars going, I know that must be where the protest is. Wow. So I would do that for a while. Um, and so that’s how I made it to protests, but I still hadn’t met anyone yet. And so then I got kind of frustrated that I was having such a hard time meeting people. So I put up a Facebook page, I’m looking for other people who were having trouble, um, figuring out how to connect to protests.
Kat: Sorry if you can hear that music. I’m on a busy avenue in Brooklyn and some sounds sometimes pass by while I’m recording. So yeah,
Kimberly: So I put that up and not a lot of people could come because since I wasn’t connected to any other groups, I didn’t know that there was another event happening that day that everybody would be at. Um, but one of the people who came, um, is one of the people who went on to become one of the architects of swipe it forward. Shannon, from why accountability. But she came because she was like, there is an event today, but I’m coming to this anyway because, you know, I, I felt like doing something other than marching on today. Um, and she was like, I have a group, but we’re in the Bronx and you live in Brooklyn. There’s an organization I think would be a great fit for you. It’s called People’s power assembly. And then I started going to meetings.
And that’s why when I did join the group, they had fliers. But that is why more flyers was always my car, you know, because that is the only way people are really going to know how to find us. Like right in the fire. They follow you on Facebook or Twitter and then like you can stay in touch with them. Yeah,
Kat: it’s great. And I feel like, yeah, when you’re finding, when, when people are likely to find out about you by accident, the best thing you can do a lot of the time is just, just give them more opportunities to, you know, kind of stumble upon, uh, upon your work and your message. Right. That’s great. Um, wow, that’s really, really helpful. Um, okay, so shifting gears a little bit, um, unless there’s anything else that we haven’t talked about that you feel like we should touch on with regard to activism?
Kimberly: Not necessarily. No.
Kat: Okay. So you had tweeted a while back, I guess right before I sent you an email and was like, hey, do you want to do this? Um, about not letting other people change your weather? And I really loved that concept and I was wondering if you would mind talking a little bit about that and kind of how it guides your interactions with people and sort of how you manage sort of unpleasantries that we all have to deal with. Um, just as a function of being human on planet earth. Yeah.
Kimberly: So I am really dramatic and
Kat: Oh my God, no one believe. Okay. No one listening to this is going to believe that cause you’re like, you just like, I don’t know, just like this entire interview I’ve been thinking about how you think so much more linearly than I do. I am like crazy all over the place. Like I interrupt myself to make points other than the one I was making. I don’t think anyone who doesn’t know you, who’s listening so far is going to believe that you’re dramatic but continue.
Kimberly: Um, so I used to be very, like, anytime anything would happen, yeah, my day is ruined.
Kat: Oh, okay. Yup.
Kimberly: Um, and I guess that like the shifts started a few years ago when I worked a job that was like, I would work from like six to one, um, and then have the rest of the day to myself, you know, and at the job, right, things would happen and I’d be like, this is horrible. I hate my life today. So that, you know, and then I would get off work and I would go do something. And by the end of the day, I almost forgotten that the first part of the day was horrible.
Kimberly: Um, and so at first it became, uh, okay, I’m gonna make a resolution to not say that I’m having a bad day anymore. Um, I’ll say like, oh, I’m having a bad morning, or I had a bad afternoon. But like, I learned that like something horrible happening in the morning doesn’t necessarily have to ruin my day, you know, depending on what it was and whether it has any lasting consequences. Um, so that was first. And then, um, more recently I’ve just started to feel like a lot of the things that I was writing off as like ruining my day were things that ultimately didn’t have any like, other ramifications. Right. They might’ve been frustrating experiences, but like they weren’t going to have any lasting effect.
Kimberly: Or whoever did it, like wasn’t in a position to get me fired or like anything like that. So I was like, I shouldn’t, you know, now my qualification for like, what constitutes like ruining my morning or whatever is right. If it doesn’t have like any effects beyond the moment itself, then like, I should not get so mad, you know? So I started doing that and what it felt like for me was exactly that. Right? Like it felt like, okay, the weather around me doesn’t have to be shitty because one person is really annoying even if they’re awful. Right. Um, and it’s not even a, it’s not like I became this enlightened person who doesn’t engage in pettiness, but it’s a like, be petty back in that moment and then move on from it. Um, if it doesn’t have any real weight.
Kat: Yeah. And just let it go. Right. It can be really hard to do and it’s, it’s definitely a process of retraining your brain so that it works that way versus the way of, I guess, I think in a lot of cases like your mind wants to attach to those little petty grievances, right. And hold onto them and like kind of build an identity around them. And then it’s like you’re spending the entire day in this. And at least for me, it often manifests as like this victim mindset where like, oh, I spilled my coffee and then, um, I didn’t get a seat on the subway or I got on a car that wasn’t air conditioned, like rose. All these like in the grand scheme of things, very tiny, inconsequential things. But then you let them turn into this idea of like, the world hates me or, yeah.
And I, I kind of had a similar, um, like change of mindset over the past few years where I definitely used to let really small things just destroy everything else. Um, and, and I think one thing that’s helped me is like, um, one, I have this idea that I think I stole from, um, this author Byron Katie, which is like about not arguing with reality. Like you can’t change the fact that, you know, your customer was a jerk this morning or, um, you know, your, uh, someone almost hit you while you were in the crosswalk because drivers are terrible. Um, but, um, you can control like you can, you can kind of put that in a container where it doesn’t pervade everything else about your life. And in doing so, like you’re just kind of accept like it’s a, it’s really acceptance, right? It’s like, oh, this shitty thing happened and it was shitty.
And then I just sort of like observe like, all right, well how did that, how do I feel about that? And then it’s like, all right, well, I can continue feeling bitter about it. That doesn’t change that it happened. And it also in most cases won’t impact whether it happens again or not, especially when it’s something that’s out of your control. So I really, I really love that. And I think it’s, I think that it can be tempting to think like, oh, well that’s just like growing up and whatever. But I know a lot of people our age who like really have not mastered this remotely. Like there are a lot of people who let these petty grievances really just take over everything. And, um, I, I feel like yes, there are certain things about my life that have changed tangibly in the last few years, but I think the, my life is a lot better now than it used to be.
And I would say the biggest reason for that is because I’ve had this mindset shift where I just don’t let shit like that bother me on the level that it used to. So I really, really related to that. And I, I love the concept of, of weather. So I feel like I’ve learned so much from you in this short conversation, even having known you for a relatively long period of time, um, and following your work. Um, so I will put a lot of stuff in the show notes for people who want to follow up on some of the things that you’ve talked about. Um, where can people find you on social media if they want to follow you? Um, where’s the best place?
Kimberly: So, um, my horrible tweets, no, I’m actually not recommend my horror. Okay. Good. Good tweets. Okay. Groundwork Zine. I’m on Twitter. Great. Cool. It won’t be hard to figure out how to find my horrible tweet. Yeah. And then on Instagram, @sugarwaterartdept, which is kind of the umbrella for like all of my art projects. Awesome. That’s great.
Kat: So hopefully people will have a chance to check both of those out, um, along with some of the other things that I drop into the show notes. But Kimberly, thank you so much. I feel like this, I expected this conversation to be incredible and illuminating and I feel like it’s nonetheless like surpassed my expectations and, um, I just feel really inspired right now, so thank you. I’m so glad you were able to join me today.
So that’s this week’s episode of How to Be Creative. As always, you can find show notes, including a complete episode transcript and links to everything discussed at howtobecreative.org.