Here I am, sitting in my new place in the DMV (DC/MD/VA) thinking of how I got to this place after all these years. Six months ago I was in Puerto Rico living a life of struggle but trusting that the ancestors would give relief. And they did. I spent the latter part of the spring and most of the summer back in Austin recuperating from all I witnessed and experienced in la isla del encanto. I was disenchanted with many ways that things transpired over in that colony but so appreciative of the friends that were there to help me when I needed them most.
Housing insecurity has been something I have been coping with for the last few years and it is definitely not a big secret that many folks of color, especially queer and disabled folks of color, deal with this frequently. So- now I'm sitting in an apartment in the DMV grateful for shelter though largely disappointed in the management company hopefully is not preying upon low income folks by offering subpar housing to those of us who have no other choice because we don't have the best credit due to our economic insecurity. Our survival is of no consequence to many management companies. We are just a piece of another fat paycheck.
I'm sitting here freezing in my living room where the heat doesn't work and during late summer, the cold air wouldn't circulate. They just had to knock down a part of the wall to fix the piping that was leaking and had the wall rotting. And don't even get me into other aspects of this place. We spent the first month and a half of living here with maintenance in and out of our apartment for repairs that should have been done before we moved in. Lots of times management companies expect us to appreciate that because at least it is semi-affordable and they accept section 8 and guarantors. These are some of the only apartments that seem to have open doors to us low-income folks, so those of us without many choices must put up with it. I've been in conversations over the past month with different managers and higher ups and I will write about that soon- especially about the issue of my limited ability as a person with chemical sensitivities and an autoimmune disorder and their blatantly misleading residents to believe they are a smoke-free community. Disability injustice. (**update: though management says they sent out a notice to everyone about not smoking in common areas, we didn't receive one in our mailbox and there are no signs to indicate that there are smoke free areas or that this quadrant is smoke-free, which I discussed over a month ago with the manager).
Folks, be careful when you are apartment hunting and you find apartments that seem to be a steal. I will keep you updated on the saga and be looking out for an article on housing justice and the experiences of our community and similar situations in a few media sources.
In other news,
I have been writing a zine entitled Survival and Sustainability as required reading for the Food and Urban Change class at the University of Texas at Austin and I am really loving doing research for new essays. This weekend I am finishing up the last of the essays. One is entitled TransVisibility, Survival and Solidarity and speaks about economic insecurity and food insecurity within Queer and Trans communities. The other is entitled Sankofa, Survival and Sustainability and speaks mostly about the African diaspora, our agricultural legacy and white supremacy within the sustainability movement (especially the food justice movement). It has felt amazing to be writing again after so many months of struggling to survive. My job right now is pretty soul sucking but it is paying the bills and I have shelter which allows me to focus a bit more on writing about the injustices black and brown and QTPOC communities face. Being here so close to the capitol (and cradle of colonialism) just deepens my commitment to voicing the Truth about what we deal with day to day. Finding a job that sustains me here in this astronomically priced place has been sobering. I've been so close to being hired and I can't help but wonder if my trans identity, or my natural hair, or my blackness, or my resume with so many organizing jobs is what keeps me from having a paycheck that actually signifies my true worth. Or is it...here $11 an hour is what they think I'm worth?
I'm working at this job where I get misgendered and called by my birth name all day every day, which is violent. I'm being subjected to air fresheners and toxic cleaners even though I've said I have chemical sensitivities. I sit for sometimes 12 hours a day with no true breaks, though this is against labor laws and I have talked to my supervisor about my limited ability due to my lupus diagnosis. This is America folks. The marginalized have fewer choices every day. I could choose to be housing insecure again. I could choose to only write and do what I believe in...but that would also be choosing to struggle to pay for my life-sustaining medicine and to feed myself food that won't exacerbate my autoimmune disorder, like I had to do in Puerto Rico.
Every day I wonder if there is a better way. If I am doing something wrong. And every day, the answer is still the same...I was born brown and gender non-conforming in a white supremacist, homophobic and transphobic country. My ancestors were the first capital in this capitalistic nation. My marginalized life does not matter and my existence is inconsequential to the running of this country. Audre Lorde said that we were not meant to survive and every day that I had to eat only one meal or lived near a grocery store with food I couldn't afford or a clinic I didn't have access to, I felt her words. Every time I go for a job interview, I know the deal. I know what it means to not be a good "cultural fit" for these non-profits, and NGOs. I know there can only be one token and I'm tired of fighting other trans folks for the few trans jobs where I can be all of me. And they keep encouraging women and QTPOC to apply for these jobs, yet expecting all these years of experience and master's degrees or doctorates, even. It's a joke. They don't really want us. They want the thought of us so they can appear "progressive". They want our voice only if we are saying what they want us to say and if we can get our communities to nod their heads along to their agendas.
Caring about sustainability in the face of not being able to survive or exist- you have to laugh. I have so much more to say. So much more to get off my chest. But, be on the lookout for a few new zines over fall and winter for those words.
And check out Queering Herbalism and the Herbal Freedom Schools. I've got a few new volumes coming out soon.
Healing and Justice,
I spoke with some folks in management and admin. They came to our apartment and heard us out and promised to fix what needed to be repaired- starting with the AC unit. For the past few weeks they have repaired things little by little as we have had to coordinate schedules. It is unfortunate that we spent the first month dealing with repair after repair but we are glad that management has taken notice and this is being taken seriously. The heat is working (though the vents make a weird noise and my vent is still not fixed) and there are some seriously drafty windows in my room that, I kid you not, make it 10 degrees cooler in my room than the rest of the house. I have two quilts on my bed now to deal with it on the colder nights. We are waiting to hear back on scheduling the last of the repairs (a few not mentioned here) and on the rent situation. We haven't seemed to hear back on the latter, though we were told that the situation would be taken care of. I guess we need to wait for November's statement to confirm that they've kept their word on the decrease. I'll keep you posted. I hope to collect some feedback from a few residents. One of my lyft drives was lamenting about living here when he came to pick me up and my co-worker shook her head when I mentioned that I lived here...we had a long conversation about the experiences of her friends living in this complex.
Once again, a housing justice article has been in the works for a few online media sources!