I know that people don’t really want to talk about trauma. Trauma in whatever form can be disheartening, scary and sometimes just plain sad. Lately it’s been different, though. These days, I find myself talking more and more about sociocultural trauma - trauma caused by implicit and explicit bias (e.g. racism, sexism, ableism).
The HEARTS team met folks from Californians for Safety and Justice (CSJ) in April last year when they contacted us about AB2701, a bill that sought to create a state-wide grant program for providers of school-based trauma services using the HEARTS program approach as a model. Dr. Dorado and I worked with the team just before it was presented and I was excited to testify at a hearing about the bill. I went to Sacramento day before to see another hearing taking place and spent hours talking with members of the team about my testimony.
I was so nervous that morning that I was sweating even in the freezing cold courtroom. When it was finally my turn to talk, I literally had less than 60 seconds. For those of you who have seen me speak, you know that limiting my talk time was something like torture for me.
I felt like I was doing fine at first, and then the Committee Chair, Reginald B. Jones-Sawyer, Sr., smiled at me. I was thinking, “Yes! He’s totally interested in what I’m saying!” Then he made a little circle with his index finger in the time-honored sign for “wrap it up.” My last line was less than eloquent. In June we found out that the bill was held in the assembly appropriations committee, which meant that it wouldn’t move forward in that legislative session.
Last week we heard from the team at CSJ again, and I met them to talk about Assembly Bill 258. This is a bill that they are working on that would increase in-school support services to pupils in order to break down barriers to academic success. I’m excited to work with this amazing group of people again and hopeful about the supports that might come of this work.
A couple of years ago, I was listening to an interview with author Jeff Chang (Can’t Stop Won’t Stop, Who We Be, We Gon’ Be Alright) when he said something that startled me so much I tried to rewind the radio. He said that after he signed on his new book the person who signed him retired, effectively cutting the number of Asians in publishing in half.
Half! Meaning there were only TWO to start with.
When we say representation matters, we aren’t only saying we need more authors of color. It is also true that we need more people of color in the business of doing the publishing and producing (if you read Can’t Stop Won’t Stop you’ve already seen how that representation shapes the world of music/hip hop).
I wanted right away to be able to do something about this ridiculous news. The feeling of the world bearing down on me is frequent and fierce, and finding some kind of agency in that mess helps me hold hope. I thought about what one person can do for a long time.
My answer, in the short term, has been to read, purchase and recommend books written by people of color (almost) exclusively. Whenever I have a choice, I have opted for books written by and about people of color. Mostly this means fiction (because of the lack of representation in my professional field), but I have read some great non-fiction too.
What are you reading these days? I’d love to get recommendations.