To the marvelous siblings of our bond,
I see your light! Each of you shines brighter than ever as the recent months of 2020 have yielded some dark times across our world. I count it an awesome privilege to greet and address you. Please hear my voice calling each of you by name; affirming that your place and purpose in the world are needed more than ever. The letters you wear as members of this organization are symbolic of the relationships and tools you’ve accessed as aid in serving your highest selves. Use them as fiercely as possible! I firmly urge you to make art, cultivate joy, pursue wellness, remain safe, listen for wisdom, and like a proud plant, grow the relationships that serve you best. Engage this platform and several others to defy injustice of every kind. Do whatever is in your power to thrive in the face of powers and systems that seek to diminish your visibility, gifts, worth, and right to live well.
Every June, our community bands together to celebrate Pride. Under rather perfect social conditions, we’d physically gather to party, march, and organize for proud displays to the world. However, I submit that this age of social distancing, protesting, rioting, and other public responses to mass disease, police brutality, and racial injustice invite us to a Sankofa* moment; an opportunity to reach back for people, places, and things that have formed our personal and collective pride. This recollection may often include a review of our struggles, setbacks, and losses amassed in our journey of progress. That is quite alright because our pride has a purpose, and we cannot go forward with pride in our vast identities without first healthfully honoring that which shaped them. Let’s take any day or time this month to reclaim our pride through reflection and reaffirmation of our purpose.
I offer you here some perspective on individual and community wellness. As mentioned in my opening words, I desire each of us to commit to living well. However, wellness is not without work. There is a weight (a responsibility) to wellness, and our pursuit of it must be intentional on every front. A healer in Toni Cade Bambara’s The Salt Eaters says it this way
Are you sure, sweetheart, that you want to be well?… Just so's you're sure, sweetheart, and ready to be healed, cause wholeness is no trifling matter. A lot of weight when you're well.
In this thought framework, there is no alternative to accountability along this course. And perhaps wellness, particularly for our community, invites us to uncomfortably examine internal and external contributions to our “injuries” and prolonged “illnesses.” Be clear — our findings won’t be pretty. Centuries of history reveal systemic and fear-based violence to our trans siblings, thoughtless and pointed attacks to the way we present/fashion our bodies to the world, and myriad iterations of racial injustice to our Black, Brown, and Indigenous siblings. All this, happening in real-time despite our levels of attention to it, are threats to our wellness.
We’re never without hope or a way forward because these examinations invite us to imagine, enact, and embody new ways to activate our wellness. Here are some of the standard questions I offer toward this point:
How do I define wellness/wholeness? How do I activate it in my life and how does it inform how proud I am of myself?
What are the ways in which I have decentered wellness/wholeness in my life? What are the ways in which I can center it again?
When injustice of any kind occurs in my community(ies), how can I speak to it? What are my tools to promote awareness? What are my actions to ensure justice/progress/change?
What does it look like for me to cultivate wellness/wholeness in my community(ies)? What does this community look like before/while/after doing their necessary work?
What does that “work” look like for me/us? How is the “weight” (responsibility) similar and different?
What am I giving up /holding onto/adding to in order to be well? Are these actions easily applied? If so/not, how can I engender personal accountability?
Of course, harder questions may surface as we take more intense inventory. Breathe and be gentle with yourself through each answer you get.
I’ll end this address with the way I began; I see your light! Your shades, sizes, fashions, passions, ideas, realities, and gifts are shining clearer than ever before. You must not tuck them away. In a sea of LGBTQ+ organizations, you make Beta shine in every direction; on water, from the sky, and on land. That light shines even brighter when we are all well. Be well in the face of police brutality. Be well in the rage of racism. Be well when you are confronted with the voice of shame. Be well when the unmitigated ignorance of bias and prejudice offers words that don’t speak to your worth or esteem. Be well when your magnificent shape is misunderstood by the misinformed. Dig and strike for your well of wellness and draw from it often. This, in part, is how you give your best to Beta. This is also how Beta gives its very best to you.
With eternal pride in each of you,
*Sankofa - a principle originated by the Akan people of Ghana, generally depicted as a bird with its head turned backward taking an egg from its back. It expresses the importance of reaching back to knowledge gained in the past and bringing it into the present in order to make positive progress.