Hello everyone. I’m Diana Medina, Program Director at The Practice Space. This post discusses the events that took place on January 6, 2021. As a storyteller and poet the events of this day challenged me to consider how I use my voice, how I support others to use their voice, and what my role in the world should be moving forward. I hope it provides you some wisdom and insights as you do your own processing.
The events of January 6, 2021 and the news coverage that has followed since have left me shaken, outraged, and determined to figure out what my role is in supporting and holding space for others. The day started like any other with added joy from the late night news that Georgia’s runoffs had resulted in the state turning blue. I was elated for my friends and colleagues who worked tirelessly organizing and mobilizing that community. That joy quickly dimmed when I got a text message from a friend: “Are you watching the craziness happening in the capitol right now?” I had no idea what she was talking about until I turned on the news.
I saw footage of the mob overtaking the capitol, legislators ducking in fear, angry faces scared of our country evolving before their eyes. These were faces of a movement emboldened by the outgoing president to fight with fury instead of concede with grace. The white privilege was so pervasive that it made it hard to see the humanity in these individuals. The white supremacist views they champion have harmed BIPOC communities for far too long. These are the views that I and many of my peers are working hard to dismantle in our schools, work places, and communities through social justice movements, nonprofit work, community organizing, poetry, and public speaking.
I watched these events and the news coverage. I thought of the Black Lives Matter protests of this summer. I remembered how much pain was being expressed and the militant police response to quell this group of social justice warriors. I thought of Hillary Clinton, how close she came to being the first female president, and how close we came to this moment not being our reality. I thought of my parents who came to this country to give me access to opportunities that didn’t exist in their homeland. I thought of my 22 nieces and nephews and all the kids their ages who must be watching these events with confusion. What must they all be thinking watching all of this? I thought of everything except my work.
I had a meeting with two colleagues at 10AM that morning. The somber energy we were all holding was palpable even through Zoom. The three of us tried to get on task but were clearly too disturbed and distracted. I asked candidly if today was not a good day to meet given all that is happening. I shared how heavy I felt and how I was struggling to focus on work. The look on my colleagues faces was one of relief and gratitude. They expressed how they were feeling the same. Our meeting quickly moved from talking tasks to processing what we were seeing and how it was making us feel. We talked about our fears, our disappointments, our experiences dealing with white supremacy in different moments in our lives, and the heaviness of it all.
I listened and watched the news coverage the rest of the day wondering: what is my role in all of this? What is the role of The Practice Space? What should I do? How can I help at this moment? I checked on friends and other colleagues; the ones working in white spaces, the BIPOC parents in mostly white school districts, and my family members. My heart got heavier as their reactions of rage, disappointment, anger, confusion, and fear came through my cell phone. My mind and fingers were itching for a way to channel all I was seeing, feeling, hearing into something useful, productive, or inspiring.
At 2AM, I found myself rereading old poems and journal entries, feeling the words of my past self resonating with my current feelings. I asked myself: Are you a poet? Are you a leader? A poet would do something. A leader would say something. A poet would know a moment like today is grounds for speaking raw, scathing, humorous, and rage-filled truths. A leader would not stay quiet. I ended up posting a video of myself reading a political poem in my pajamas on Instagram as my inner imposter reminded me of my insecurities. Things like: you aren’t camera ready, this piece is not perfect, and who are you to even say anything? I felt relief afterward, though it wasn’t a big act. Perhaps someone in the ether of the internet might stumble across it and feel solidarity with a stranger. Don’t we all need a little more of that right now? Afterwards, I spent time brainstorming what I would do at work the next day.
Productivity and speaking up in the midst of such chaos and continued widespread uncertainty will look different for us all. I know that in a climate like this one, my work as a poet and team member of the Practice Space will be more important than ever. The events of January 6th forced me to lean deeper into my identities as a writer, poet, nonprofit worker bee, and vulnerable, angry human of color feeling pain and outrage alongside my community. Leaning into those identities made me ask myself: in light of all these identities being a piece of who I am, how then will I use my voice to respond to this moment? What words can I say to the next generation who will likely have to clean up the mess our current politicians keep making? What can I do now to help repair the harms our communities keep feeling? At 2AM on January 7th, after the day I had, posting a poem felt like the best way to respond. In the coming weeks, I am sure other responses will come.