We need to extend humanity to ourselves.
I sat in a Zoom room with 30 other people—most, I didn’t know, and all, I had never actually met in-person. It was our first weekend of LEX—APIENC’s API Queer Justice Leadership Exchange—and I felt a mix of anxiety and excitement. Just over a year ago, I first joined APIENC. At the time, the COVID-19 quarantine had just started, and between events on the global stage and in my personal corners, I needed action and community. I joined APIENC’s fundraising committee, and became inspired by the radical, more just approach to raising money. Realizing how much there was for me to learn, I found myself filled with worry. Worried that I was too on the outside, worried that I had never met anyone outside of Zoom, worried that I didn’t have enough value to add to the organization, and that I would only take up space.
The LEX workshops series I attended were a catalyst that allowed me to reflect on the roots of these worries, and push myself out of my own head. Every week, a new workshop connected me with an incredible community, and encouraged me to grow as a person and an organizer. By reflecting on the history of our movements together and learning to create spaces that encourage vulnerability and authenticity, the work we embarked on was inspiring and affirming. Personally, one of the most powerful workshops focused on conflict resolution and boundaries. This workshop helped me realize that instead of worrying about failing, not fitting in, or appearing less than, organizing brings me opportunities to build authentic connections with my community, grow my skills as an ally and leader, and understand that conflict is vital to any movement. Any change our communities can imagine will require us to deal with conflict—with those who work against us, those who work with us, and of course, within ourselves.
Ultimately, the LEX workshops helped me realize I need to extend the same humanity to myself that I was working to extend to others. LEX created spaces where we were allowed to be honest, vulnerable, and make mistakes. As participants, we were encouraged to discuss difficult topics while creating a community that remained compassionate, tolerant and inspiring. In that space, I realized that when we don’t extend that same humanity to ourselves, we cannot authentically extend it to others. Every week, my LEX peers inspired me by sharing moments of vulnerability, being honest about their insecurities, and owning up to their challenges. Over the course of LEX, we partnered with another participant who we would share 1-on-1 time with at the beginning and end of each session. My partner Theresa’s honesty and kindness during our chats always encouraged me to push deeper, both in sharing my own stories and in listening to others’. Witnessing our collective growth reminded me that I was participating in something bigger than myself, and made tangible the intersection of the personal and the political.
At the end of the Princess Diaries, when Amelia Mignonette Grimaldi Thermopolis Renaldo finally accepts her title as Princess of Genovia, she says, “And then I realized how many [silly] times a day I used the word ‘I’…but then I thought, if I cared about the other 7 billion out there instead of me, that’s probably a much better use of my time.” The participants and facilitators of LEX affirmed for me that there will always be more to learn, and more opportunities to grow as a person and an organizer. The only thing that my original worries could offer was centering my concerns and my inaction. Through LEX I found a community, and gained the tools to take my organizing skills and passions to the next level. LEX offered an opportunity to push past the passivity of doubt and embrace the endeavor of solidarity, change and hope.
Nisha (she/her) is a member of APIENC’s Fundraising Committee, and a member of the 2021 LEX cohort. Originally from Los Angeles, Nisha has been in the Bay Area for five years. She’s a second generation Indian American who works in higher education. Her experiences working with students and various campuses has taught her the power of organizing, and the importance of supporting groups that work with and represent marginalized communities. She has loved working with APIENC and looks forward to growing her relationship with the organization! She currently lives in Oakland with her two cats – Cleo and Willow.