Helping Judy and her Son

Judith Hawkins’ family needs help, so please join me in supporting them in this time of crisis. See the crowdfunding page here, or just give in the gizmo below.

As is sadly typical, I’m coming to write about this a bit late, and it looks like the campaign is well on its way to meet its goal — but whatever, this goal is fit for passing. Let’s help Judy’s family heal.


Here’s some backstory for those who don’t have the privilege of knowing her:

While I was responsible for communications at Bread for the City, I was on the lookout for any media made by members of the communities we were serving. For the most part, the local blogs in Southeast D.C., for example, were written by newcomers who were championing the spirit of their neighborhoods. I knew and liked some of them, and learned a lot from reading their blogs, but also knew that they were generally telling stories that heralded the march of gentrification. Judy and her partner Valencia were two of the only voices I heard telling other stories — in their entirely self-produced mobile talk show, ‘It is What it Is’, which is often playful but also often looks directly at the sense of anger and adandonment and the attendant ills facing people who do not stand to benefit from the progress happening all around them.

It took a while but eventually I found the opportunity to recruit Judy to work on community media and mutual aid projects in the Bread for the City community. I count this as one of the biggest wins of my time there. Wherever she goes, Judy brings both a sharp critical eye and a whole lotta fun. From what little I’ve been able to see of her work in recent years, the ethic of mutual support she brings to Bread for the City southeast — from computer classes to media production to sewing circles — demonstrates an incredibly potent contrast between the dogged work of helping people solve problems on one hand while on the other offering them the time and space and confidence to learn new things and work together. (I think community organizations at their best should promote both, but have rarely seen it happen outside of Bread for the City.)

Fundraising-wise, I’m afraid it’s not super effective for me to be pondering the paradoxes inherent in the process of building solidarity across lines of race, class, etc. The struggle to bridge divergent cultures is real. (Judy made sure, for instance, that us kale-lovers took seriously the vital role of meat in community meals — yet she knows I will never fuck with those vienna sausages.) Even among those who would be allies, the interlocking mechanisms of power around us make it very difficult to engage in things that are pretty basic to building powerful relationships among us, such as speaking with candor. In my experience, those people who are motivated to try anyway are rare and vital. And yet even in those instances, all that ‘is what it is’ still very much is, claws ever out — chaos more readily erupting under foot, and with more cascading devastation.

We have an expanding ability to take actions like this, right here — to call for help beyond the block, across a world. It is one of the few reasons I have hope for the world. And yet beneath that hope, I yearn (and I hope you do too) for something quite different: a world where people’s security won’t hinge upon spontaneous appeals for individualized acts of kindness. That world may not be near to this one, but we can beckon for it. We can entice each other towards it.

19. September 2015 by
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