Part of the Invisible Diaries series.
Week 10 / Day 2
In times of great duress and unrest, it’s easy to get wrapped up in responding to the immediate. It’s easy to get lost, as we may veer off course trying to get in where we fit. Our questions center on the now: what can be done to be of most service now?
Now I’m three weeks out of the routine of grad school classes and tasked with structuring my days and nights. Somehow, I entered 2020 without a planner – and that irony weighs deeply on me as I make coffee and attempt to make a list. It’s not necessarily my to-do list, but it does indeed hold tasks, disparate thoughts, and names. In attempting to put physical pencil to actual paper, I’ve found some relief in mild planning and musing in the morning.
One of my projects is on a hiatus; the other has doubled in responsibility (read: hours). Never have I ever been laboring on something that feels so vital, so hard, and so urgent. I still have qualms in labeling myself an activist, even though the majority of my work strives towards equity and social justice.
Though I struggle to set my daily routine, The Hoodoisie is a welcome constant. This self-proclaimed “radical block-optic” Chicago news show streams weekly from Zoom to Facebook with a series called “Pandemic Issues.” For the past three years, before the pandemic, this was a live monthly event; think basement party meets daily show. With an audience in the hundreds and local music artists, it became a community news staple.
As Editorial Producer, my weeks have a rhythm as we hustle to produce online shows that amplify the labor of folks on the ground with issues that don’t receive fair or robust coverage in other media outlets. Mondays are my research days. And this week’s episode is the sobering Locked-Up During Lockdown, pt. 2: Kids in Cages.
This functions as a comment both on the detainment of brown youth and the incarceration of Black youth in the United States. At this point in the pandemic, we are painfully aware of the disparities and inequalities that have been exacerbated by lack of government aid, record unemployment, and the shut-down of crucial social services. For the past eight weeks that we’ve been in the mode of sheltering-in-place, I’ve been tasked with researching what it means across housing, environmentalism, education, local politics, and incarceration.
We always start with the people. Who are our guests, and what are they working towards? Here I’ve found many goals, all centering on some sort of liberation – from poverty, from prison, from paychecks. Though these topics are heavy, I’m heartened by the sheer determination and drive of activists, organizers, artists and educators just doing what needs to be done. I wish for moments of rest – for me and for them – but it seems we’re still figuring out how to balance that with the growing needs of our various communities.
My work today is in prep for our Tuesday Editorial Meeting, where we plot the show with our guests. In moving from my paper list to my laptop, coffee now gone, I plug into a different mode and the hours fly.
But I work in fits and starts. I’m still learning how to balance the heavy with the light. Music helps. And I’m no longer ashamed that I’ve embraced Harry Styles as a major part of this lightness. I toggle between Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. My sister sends me TikToks. My feeds are dominated by #BlackLivesMatter, mutual-aid endeavors, direct actions, call-ins/call-outs of theaters doing the bare minimum. I wonder if the understanding of abolition will get co-opted like that of intersectionality, watered down in the face of well-meaning folks doing little work to self-educate and take action.
And still, I see good change happening bit by bit. I try to hold fast to the big picture (and the big tasks). Getting in where I fit in means utilizing the skills I have for this good change. And taking it day by day, with or without a list.
Yasmin Zacaria Mikhaiel (she/they) is a Chicago/Austin-based dramaturg, journalist, and oral hxstorian. Their multi-disciplinary work as a queer, fat, brown, femme endeavours to amplify and archive stories that go lost/stolen/forgotten. Select bylines include essays and arts criticism with American Theatre, Chicago Reader, Windy City Times, Rescripted, The Austin Chronicle, and Sightlines. They are currently pursuing an MA in Performance as Public Practice at the University of Texas at Austin.
Learn more at www.yasminzacaria.com and follow them on Twitter/IG @yasminzacaria.
Photography is courtesy of the author.