With May Day coming up on May 1, it’s a great time for us all to be re-inspired byLucy Parsons, a #BlackIndian Latina resistance leader. She taught us how to resist, as she helped organize the first May Day march of 1886, setting up modern protest as we know it today. If it weren’t for Lucy, we might all be working 16 hours a day in factories from childhood on. She was an intersectional feminist and mother of the sit-down strike (sit-ins in the 1960s and Occupy most recently).
The Lucy Parsons Center in Boston and Lucy Parsons Labs in Chicago still carry her name. They advocate for our civil liberties and research police brutality patterns, respectively.
Lucy Gonzales Parsons is the reason we have certain protest tactics and direct action that are still used now. She’s widely known for not backing down and standing up for those in need. There are those out there who carry on her legacy.
Stay tuned here and watch the tag #LucyLives to find out who they are.
This week, we bring you Sabrae Danielle
Tell us about your background and how you got started with your calling in life.
I was born right here in Los Angeles, to two incredibly hard-working, traditional parents. My father was a police officer for 30-ish years, my mother’s worked in middle management positions; they’ve both dabbled in creating a handful of small businesses. I grew up in a very strict, multicultural Christian household. All of these things have been major influencers in both my personal and professional development (much to the chagrin of my lovely parents, not in the way they so desperately hoped).
Growing up, I was involved in the arts as a performer: my younger brother and I almost never turned down a chance to grin in front of a camera and my mother took that as a sign that we should be entertainers! That was all relatively short-lived; by the time I entered middle school, I was much more concerned with starting to dredge through the existential dread that is this life through writing and creating visual art.
As an adult, I’ve started to couple this very personal, and at times narcissistic, calling with acts of service. I’ve spent the last 2-3 years working with other local artists to produce a handle of shows with some specific outreach initiatives, working as a child caretaker, and now, studying to become a full-spectrum doula.
How do you identify with Lucy Parsons?
On a personal level, being a mixed-race female-identifying person and growing up in a world that continuously devalues your existence on every level, one is often left with an insatiable thirst for role models. I hadn’t heard of Lucy Parsons until I became an adult, but her story instills in me an ever-growing pride.
I’m particularly interested in more consciously integrating some of Parson’s ideologies in my own activism; I consider myself to be a product of the working-middle class, and I see the need for more specific deconstruction and aid for those of us who do not have the luxury of following the white feminist manifesto. Women of color, the poor and ever-diminishing middle class, queer and trans women, need and deserve more than pussy hats, safety pins and Facebook posts.
What are your proudest moments?
I’m really only beginning my journey, and the work I am doing (through both art and care work) is mostly of the quiet, in-home variety. But I am particularly proud of myself for distancing from what I believe to be the toxic rigidity of activism through the academic class.
A seemingly small act, insignificant to most (and altogether looked down upon by most), propelled me into a destined journey where I not only have freedom of expression but am available to experiencing a much more full spectrum of life! I originally went to school in hopes of becoming a psychologist; but under the academic model, who would I be helping? A very specific demographic; one that I did not identify with. Leaving school opened my eyes to whole new world – one where I didn’t have to follow.
Some other small proud moments (which, I believe are really the great things that keep us going):
Having more than 5 people show up to an event I co-produced last January
Participating in more than two art shows in 2016
Learning the alphabet in sign language to teach to a nonverbal client
What have your biggest challenges been and what do you anticipate in the future?
Taking an alternative approach to education has been a struggle; trying to learn independently and turn all of that acquired knowledge into a creative advocacy practice has been really difficult even to visualize, and I don’t see that getting any less challenging anytime soon. But I welcome the challenge; it’s been a thrill thus far, juggling between not having control, yet at the same time having all control over how I design my life and work.
How are you using your voice and how are you helping others do the same?
I’m primarily concerned with the roles of caretakers, both professional and nonprofessionals: how we stand up for our communities, how we create and sustain family life, how our experiences within a family (the nuclear family as well as our local and global communities) shape us and everything around us. My creative work is about unpacking damage done; I write stories and poetry about the microcosmic aspects of this life in an effort to give voice to what plagues us and I create visual art that is both celebratory and soothing to those ails. I use my voice through my care work in a much more active way. It’s in this simple yet profound placement of self in service, that I know how to create a ripple of change. I don’t know if my work is helping others do the same yet. I hope the few people out there watching and listening, understand that I do what I do out of love for humanity, and I do hope they’re inspired by what I see as seedlings of a creative advocacy practice.
What do you want to change about the world? And how will you do it?
I want to see more selflessness. That’s really what it all comes down to. Radical change in areas of race relations, gender relations, economic inequities, environmental damage – every issue has a common denominator, and that is that each issue has grown from an act of selfishness.
And the only way I know how to do that is to engage in work that is selfless, with a mind that is open and a heart that is selfless.
What’s next for you?
I’ve been taking a break from showcasing visual work this year to give myself time to move beyond portrait work, create more intricate pieces and learn some new technical skills. I’d love to be more of a craftswoman, creating some functional art that offers something other than a message, transferable through only sight.
Also in the works for this year, I’m organizing an event with some lovely creative peers in June which will be a specific event to create safe space for the LGBTQIA community. And, if all goes according to plan, I’ll be taking on some new clients as a postpartum doula in April!
You can follow Sabrae Danielle on Twitter here! If you feel Lucy Parsons’ spirit of resistance lives in you, get in touch! We’d love to hear about you and your activism.