Toughing It Out

What I did this weekend — April 12, 2017

What I did this weekend

I spoke at the 31st annual CLPP conference at Hampshire college this past weekend and I was on several panels speaking through the lens of incarcerated sex workers.  I worked with another colleague on 2 workshops and then spent the Monday and Tuesday with another activist of legendary proportions meeting and greeting people who were accomplishing amazing things in her community.  But one always stands out.


Mama Dread and her Mission of Love impacted me in a way I hadn’t ever felt before and I want to tell you about her.

Mama Dread was once homeless and – while homeless – she started a community based organization called Mama Dreads Mission of Love and she worked to feed other people in the community who were also homeless.  She developed a following and almost everybody knows her.  Including the commissioner, city council folks and – of course – the police know her pretty well too. They harass her and her crew when they are going around town feeding people and helping them access safe resources, and they threaten her on such a regular basis, she carries around a card in her pocket that has the Homeless Bill of Rights on it.  She’s tried to get a regular place to let her cook and serve her homeless community but the churches and the politicians?  Well they just put up more barriers.

She even won an award for being the BEST COMMUNITY SERVICE PROVIDER TO THE HOMELESS in her town and that award came with a $500 prize.  But the folks who gave her the award told her they couldn’t give her the check because she wasn’t a licensed service provider with a 501c3 non-profit.

Mama Dread and her crew of about 20 other people weren’t swayed by this AT ALL!  They just kept doing what they do, however they can, and you can find them at almost every civil rights action meeting, working to change policies that affect not only them – but their community.  She partners with PRYSM and DARE and Coyote RI as well as many others – and she attends city council meetings and shes in the room with politicians and council members and law enforcement folks every chance she gets – and she is everything we admire in grassroots social justice movements.

Mama Dreads Mission of Love got some unexpected support yesterday from a pretty surprising source and I’m gonna come back and tell you how you can support her activation and her work.  In the meantime – you can follow her activity on Facebook and I think you’ll see why I want to see her work grow.

Love ya Mama Dread.  You all that!

Dear Diana Hemingway — December 22, 2016

Dear Diana Hemingway

Dear Diana,

When I received the news of your passing yesterday morning, I was sad.  Selfishly, I was sad for me.  You not being here means I will not be able to enjoy your deep wisdom and your sarcastic wit.  I will miss your honest assessments of ideas I “ran past you” – even the one where you laughed and said “That’s a horrible idea!”  I loved the way you allowed me to be who I was even though you probably thought I was silly and entitled.  I respected the gentle way you would guide me to be a better activist without demeaning me and how you instructed me how to be a better ally without condemning me.  I am grateful that you allowed me to share my emotional pain over a difficult personal circumstance without judging me for my choice or giving me advise that was inappropriate.  You were a champion of personal autonomy – in fact you were the one who told me what that was and you explained it in a way that made me understand how important it was to respect another persons choice even when you might disagree with them.

When I received the news of your passing yesterday morning, I was not surprised.  I knew that you were in both physical and emotional pain and I wish that I had more to offer you than solidarity.  I know you found true love this past year and that you were experiencing joy on the highest level that was possible at the time.  I know you faced uncertainty in the future.  I know that you protected your love and your community by the way that you lived your life on your own terms and I respect that you chose this path…also on your own terms.

You will be missed.  You will be remembered.  You will be honored. And your life will be celebrated as one that made a difference.