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June Meetup Recap: Parade Your Pride

The June Meetup became a virtual parade as our community gathered in our most celebrated garb and brought to the space all that makes us proud. While amid a very active Pride Month and Juneteenth on the horizon, TMS founder Lili Stiefel noted why we chose parades as a theme for the meetup by saying, “While these events are celebratory in the most beautiful way, they all also stem from a fight for freedom.” We were reminded of the history our collective diasporas experienced to rise from oppression. Two days before the meetup was Loving Day: the anniversary of a historic court decision to legalize interracial marriage. It is difficult to imagine how the very love that made our mixed-identity existences possible was illegal in the United States. While much work is ahead, we are finally in an era where we can reflect on the tribulations while freely celebrating our duality and multiplicity.

Lili asked the community: What's unique about parades? Why do Parades feel so expressive? Not only do we celebrate parades to bring the community together but to generate the energy to make communities feel seen and free to express themselves. TMS created a virtual space where you will always feel free no matter where you are in the world.

TMS’s co-host and meetup coordinator Mike Avila started the night with an icebreaker game as members began to enter the Zoom room. In forty-five seconds, we were asked to find a decorative item, a piece of symbolic memorabilia, an accessory for your outfit that makes you proud and happy, and an item that helps take care of yourself in this space. It was a great experience seeing what everyone brought to their Zoom screens.
Before the meetup, we asked audience members to bring an item that made them proud. Whether it's an item from the past that helps root them or a cultural piece that strengthens their sense of belonging, the community shared various stories about culture, childhood, family, travel, and many experiences that have built the persons they are today. The TMS team started with their items. Co-founder Ariel Bastida wore a traditional Indigenous-Mexican Huipil and shared how it reminds her of her grandmother and continues to keep her grounded. Mike Avila shared a handmade Mayan wall rug he’s had since his twenties. Having bought it from a women's collective in Oaxaca, Mexico, it reminds him of his time with the Zapatista community in Chiapas. It also serves as a reminder of the significant negative impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement on the Mayan and Mexican communities' way of life. Describing it as a death sentence, Mike poignantly shared the continued fight for the Mayan community’s land back against the Mexican government.

Community members began to share their items of pride. Aaron Douglas Keller brought to the space their newly completed book, Marginal Eyes, and talked about how the process of writing helped them better understand themselves. “I focused on my racial identity,” they said, “ but when I got through the book, at the end of it, my gender identity hit me as well.” Another community member, Keirsha Thompson, brought in a book she’s read about her Indigenous Diné roots, City of Dispossessions by Kyle T. Mays, and a sandpainting she won at a Pow-Wow. And community member Phoenix showed pride in her gorgeous Black hair bringing her pick comb to the space, and explaining the importance of comb quality when caring for black hair.

After returning from our breakout rooms, we closed the night with our community whiteboard session and a brief guided meditation to help ground ourselves into the history of who we are and feel what holds us up. It’s easy to lose grip of our identity and purpose. Sometimes it takes a community–and a little bit of a parade– to remind us who we are.

Transcript & Chat Gems:

“wooo, social workers unite!! 💗”

“Culture will define what’s considered fancy.”

“I just navigate through society as an Indigenous Two-Spirit human being, and to me, that's worth celebrating.”

“I'm 35 and still wear [cat ears], and that's okay.”

“I wanted to add that [I’m] someone who's an in-betweener somewhere on the spectrum of sexuality. It's not that I want to keep separating us as a community into different factions. But unfortunately, there's also this issue of people who are on the end of the spectrum, fully straight or fully gay, and then binary trans versus non-binary Trans…There can be discrimination from both sides, and it can feel really, really isolating.”
Community Recommendations:
Events, Organizations, & Websites:

Books:

Marginal Eyes: A Mixed American's Struggle for Identity in a Nation of Black and White by Aaron Douglas Keller https://marginaleyesbook.com/

City of Dispossessions: Indigenous Peoples, African Americans, and the Creation of Modern Detroit by Kyle T. Mays https://www.degruyter.com/document/doi/10.9783/9780812298543/html?lang=en