In the wake of the November election, people across the country have seen fear and anger and exclusion become part of a national public conversation. Many people are sharing the experience of feeling that they do not belong in their familiar places. I’ve written about that feeling here. It’s called othering — making someone feel pushed to the edges, unwanted or different. It can happen in daily meetings and conversations, at work, at school, even at home. In answer, the Greylock Glass and I are offering a Standing Together podcast.
You can listen to it there, on the Greylock Glass website.
In the Berkshires, movements are growing in response, art and lectures and performances and rallies, to explain what othering means and what it looks like — and to draw people together instead.
For this show, I’ve talked with MASS MoCA curator Denise Markonish about Nick Cave’s installation, Until, and with Rabbi Rachel Barenblat, the spiritual leader of Congregation Beth Israel in North Adams, and Rabbi David Markus, her co-chair of Aleph, the central organization of the international Jewish Renewal movement. Four WordxWord poets have shared work with me performed as part of “Othering,” a month-long show curated by the Berkshire Art Association at the Lichtenstein Center for the Arts.
And Asma Abbas, Associate Professor of Politics and Philosophy at Bard College of Simon’s Rock, invited Moustafa Bayoumi, American Book Award–winning writer and professor of English at Brooklyn College — who wrote one of the most re-tweeted tweets of the 2016 USA presidential debates, according to Twitter — to speak about Muslim American experiences in the last 15 years.
In other words, December was an amazing month.
I wrote, as I worked on this show … People are saying in different ways, I feel threatened. I feel alone. And people are saying that hate is not mine. I want to stand with you. I want to live in a country where we can all live and love and work, pray or not, speak and play music. People are saying we need to talk to each other.
If there is a response to that feeling, this is it. Finding ways to reach out and get to know the people. In the short days of the year, the movement and conection of a good conversation is real and direct. Podcasting is a new adventure for me. This is the second project Jason Velazguez at the Greylock Glass and I have worked on together. (The first one, on the annual Made in the Berkshires festival, aired in November.) It’s a new form of media for me, a new kind of storytelling. It’s rich in new ways. And it’s needed.
Right now, more than ever, it matters that the people who have talked with me can speak with you.