on race, compassion and this community (and an ask for my patrons of color).
this post was originally shared on patreon.com/amandapalmer as a patron-only post, so that people could post thoughts within the community. that post remains locked to outsiders out of respect for the patrons who commented, who never consented to having their comments shared with the public. you can read the original post and the comments over here if you are signed into patreon: https://www.patreon.com/posts/on-race-and-this-31585951
hello dear ones.
greetings from a rainy london.
sorry not sorry, this is long. there’s a lot of long-reads lately, between the Althing and the Foreign Tour Correspondents piece about to go up, hopefully monday (that shit is LONGGGG.)
as a frame for this particular missive:
i would like it – of course – if everybody in the community reads this, but i’d like to request that only people of color (PoC) respond to this post.
i will respond to comments if people have questions or are asking for clarity or whatnot.
some stories and words.
a few days ago i interviewed masarat daud, my TED friend from india who lives in london and wears a burqa.
she told me about being on an outing with her relatives, including her little-girl niece, in a crowded park in london.
some crazy london pigeons swooped down towards the niece, who freaked out and shrieked an equivalent of “OH MY GOD!”, but since it included the word ALLAH, masarat felt the need to effectively clamp her niece’s mouth shut, and gave her a hardcore talking-to about making sure she never shouted that word in public.
because…. a little girl, and pigeons.
a week ago, i was taking ash to school.
we take the bus.
as we waited, i saw some graffiti written on the bus stop, next to ash’s head.
WE ARE BEING OVERTHROWN BY CHINESE
HOW CAN WE STOP THEM
ash can’t read yet.
soon he will be able to read.
i was at an after-show party the other night (it was after tim minchin’s show (which was amazing by the way).
neil and i were standing in a little circle of people, and there was this very famous (older, white, man) person that neil knows, and who knows me. he and neil were chatting about work and production companies. this man said, knowing full well who i am and where i’m from, said: “i literally won’t work with americans anymore. i can’t even stand the sound of their voices.”
then he laughed.
nobody said anything, and the conversation moved on.
the next night, sitting in a dark theater watching a play about 9/11, i found myself crying uncontrollably.
i have been composing this post in my head and in desk for a few weeks now, figuring out how to say what i want to say. as you know, i tend to think wide and write long, so forgive me – or don’t – if this is a bit of a five-dimensional and multi-directional ramble.
i want to kick this off by saying something very simple to patrons here who are people of color: i see you.
and i want to be able to see you without barriers, and i want to kick off a conversation here and now about how i – and this whole patron-community – might be able to do to see you better and help support you, given what is going on in the wider world. i’ve never made an explicit call or post like this, i suppose i felt it….unnecessary. i suppose i felt that these “sorts of things” are blanket-addressed and over-obvious given my stance on politics, progress, compassion, kindness, freedom, and all that.
and i suppose that, right now here at this exact point in 2019, i feel like it’s a good moment to do this, to try to open this wider conversation, and possibly make something bigger happen with this patron-community than i imagined when i began it.
to begin that, i want to explain from background on what happened a couple weeks ago, because it was a facebook-group-based explosion … and many of you here who are regular readers/patrons but not facebook-people may have missed it. there was a drama-rama.
when i played the paris show at bataclan (where a massive terrorist shooting had happened a few years before) i changed the setlist and played a set of songs that i wrote in the wake of the columbine school shootings (namely “guitar hero” and “strength through music”, both from “who killed amanda palmer”). i thought it would feel very powerful to play those songs, given the context. it was. the show was really…amazing, and moving. a lot of you were there. so far so good, but.
the song “guitar hero” has the n-word in it, as shouted by a fictional terrorist (“so: tie them up and feed them the sand!/ha! n***a! try to tell us using your hands!”). a good deal has changed in my (and dare i say, our) understanding of the context and meaning of a white singer shouting out that word – even in a theatrical, fictional context – since i wrote that tune in 2007.
i should have thought that one through, and it was a mistake to leave the word in the song. it easily could have been left out without changing the impact of the song’s message. it’s not a song about race. it’s a song about how dissociated people can become in order to do horrific things. (in fact: so was “strength through music”).
both of those songs were my way of trying to think my way inside the heads of people who were able - how? - to do unthinkable things.
a few days later, someone posted to the patron facebook group something along the lines of: did i hear amanda right? did she actually use that word?
i don’t defend the use of the n-word word in paris: i think it was the wrong thing to have done, it was an insensitive choice, and i’ll change or drop the lyric in the future. it’s my prerogative as a songwriter – against and in conversation with the landscape of the times – to decide what stays and what goes, and given the context: that one goes.
i talk about these things a lot with my comedian friends and my writer friends. neil and i talk about it a lot. we listen, we respond to the world, we try to adapt, change and grow. sometimes we dig our heels in, but this is not one of those times i would dig my heels in.
this moment became about so much more than just that word being left in that song.
and here’s where the larger conversation really begins.
if you don’t know much about my background, i grew up in a very white bubble. these conversations didn’t happen in my upbringing, and i am only just beginning to unpack a lot of my own lack of understanding and education around race. i think a ton of people in america are realizing this, right now.
i know so much more about race – and meaning, and context – in 2019 than i did in 1989 (barely anything), 1999 (very little, but getting there), 2009 (just starting to grasp it). part of the reason i have HAD to think about race is because the national conversation has turned towards there, for obvious and necessary reasons, and the things i read, the places i go, and the conversations i have had include these harder conversations about race and art and meaning.
i have used this patreon as a springboard to talk about all sorts of things, from feminism to abortion to trump to climate change….and i see no reason not to use this amanda-stage-stumble to open up a new conversational door we can all walk through, hand in hand, compassionately.
neil and i had a couple of really interesting chats about this while this facebook drama was going on. stick with me, here.
just as all this was happening – like, literally the same few days – neil was in the midst of updating and adapting a script from thirty years ago, and hit a wall with a difficult “i have to adapt this for 2019″ plot point/passage that touched on some sensitive topics having to do with sexuality.
then we went out to a dinner party with a few artists we hadn’t met before, including a woman who was black and trans.
she was a fellow theater-person and we had plenty in common to chat about. we were sitting next to each other, and we started a discussion about context and art and adaptation, and the conversation wound certain ways, and i asked if i could get her opinion on something sensitive around art and race. sure, she said. i told her about my n-word incident and neil’s adaptation, asking her take on both issues. she had plenty to say, and i listened. mostly, we wound up having a great and insightful conversation about what it means to censor, and why we should and shouldn’t do it.
i didn’t take her opinions as a reason to not change my song, but i did think it was interesting that of all days, i’d have this conversation with this person. so i told this story on the facebook group, and a few people got incredibly upset again. that i had dared to use a trans woman “as a prop”, that i was playing the “my one black friend says…” card.
for those of you not on facebook, this is the post i wrote:
thank you for all your comments and understanding. there’s a bunch of truly fantastic people in this group. having watched dozens of flare-ups like these over the years, i know they come and go. people come and go. this is not news. i also hate facebook more than i hate vegemite, it’s never been a secret, partly because of the way it rewards flaring and not gentler discussion.
i’m at a dinner thing right now so i’m just skipping away to write this without a ton of time: but i did want to clarify something about the “guitar hero” lyric and the n-word – since people are asking for an immediate answer about that. it’s something i would have preferred to sit down and do on a considered blog, not while in a bathroom on a phone but hey! i’ve done it before. bathroom blogging is the best.
i think it’s very important to impart to you that i get that the lyric is problematic. if and when needed – since it isn’t part of my current set – i’m going to find a good creative fix for that lyric, and i’m having a really interesting offline conversation with some of my activist friends of color with whom i have friendships where this stuff gets discussed. i’m lucky to be able to converse with people – here, there, everywhere – who teach me and talk to me compassionately about stuff.
as we type – it’s very interesting that neil is actually in the middle of an audio adaptation of sandman right now. the comic is from the 1980s, and one of the episodes features a serial killer – at a convention for serial killers – called “the connoisseur”, who only had 8 kills compared to the other serial killers who had hundreds. his victims were all pre-op trans people. neil and i chatted yesterday about how that’s got to be updated and re-formatted for 2019 … we came up with the idea that the serial killer only kills macarthur genius grant recipients.
neil also told me about a teacher who was just ousted from her teaching position (she’s being defended by PEN) for teaching james baldwin in her class and using the n-word in the context of his work. this is all really hard stuff to grapple with. there are really important conversations to be had about race and power and language and power.
artists like me and neil – and many others, on the daily – try to wade through all this and figure out how to update and re-create.
language is powerful. there and here. i just read some of the threads and i have to say a lot of the language made me head and heartsick.
some people are are being downright brutal and hypocritical. you cannot call for progress and yell fuck you with figurative guns waving in the manner that some people are doing.
this community is not the place to be yelling Fuck You at people. there just isn’t progress in that and we all know it.
while i consider how to grapple with the problems of art and language – as a lot of artists are doing – do everyone here the courtesy of not making the undertaking harder by using painful, bullying, cruel language. it’s just nuts.
and esp to the PoC here – thank you for enduring this moment. i’m really sorry that people in this community – perhaps even including me – are making things hard.
*edit, 3 hours later*
i went to the bathroom to write this and wound up heading back to dinner and had to add this because it was so perfectly relevant. i wound up seated at a dinner tonight next to a black trans actor from new york (she/her). i asked if i could pick her brain about these topics – my lyric, neil’s serial killer – and she had a mouthful to say about the policing of language and how neil and i shouldn’t censor our art to please people. “even the trans serial killer?” i asked, somewhat shocked. “amanda”, she said, “a serial killer killing trans people means something really different than a serial killer killing macarthur genius grant recipients”. “i see your point.”
we talked about this for a while – over food, not over facebook comments – and found ourselves coming back to the same themes again and again over the course of our conversation: more kindness is necessary, not less. more risk is necessary, not less. more art. more listening. more context. more context instead of less tolerance from the hard right and the the hard left. less reduction into black/white good/bad. reductive can be lethal.
that’s not the word of god. that’s the opinion of two women; one white 43 cis-bi one and one old black 35 year old trans one, over one dinner on one night in america, 2019.
cheers from the bathroom.
fuckin love y’all.
as far as i could see, it had been a really enlightening and even funny conversation between two grown-up artists at dinner. we could have just…talked about the weather. or the salad.
but this conversation as viewed by the internet also gave me a lot to think about, especially as i read more and more comments from people of color on the facebook group saying that they were just fucking exhausted of having to explain everything all the time to white people, and that a lot of people in our community, including me, were coming across as tone-deaf.
this “having to explain”…..THIS, i can relate to.
i cannot relate to the experience of being a black woman, or a black trans woman. i haven’t been one. i can relate to being a woman. i can relate to being a target. i can relate to being very very very fucking tired of explaining over and over – to men, to the press, to people in the music industry, who are almost always men – exactly what it is that they are not understanding, and why they don’t get it, again and again and again and again. and again.
i can relate to the feeling that people are looking at me in an exhausted and patronizing way even as i explain to them what they have asked.
i can relate to that.
the blow-up about my dinner conversation really underlines to me one of the biggest problems, (on the internet especially) i sense right now.
which is this:
it is easier – or can appear easier – to say nothing than to say something.
especially with cancel culture on the rise: it is becoming easier to say nothing than to say the wrong thing and risk angering people or risk getting canceled or yelled at.
it is easier to talk about the salad.
i do not want to talk about the salad.
i just do not.
i’d rather try, again and again. and i’d rather get it wrong than talk about the salad.
i want to be in conversation with my community and with the world, even if those conversations are uncomfortable, messy, hard.
you all know me pretty well, and you’ve seen me stumble into learning for ages.
i like to think (emphasis on the subjective there) that i have changed and grown into a more sensitive and compassionate person over the years. i don’t always learn fast. sometimes (often) i get defensive. sometimes i disagree with the consensus, and i mean it.
but i try to grow.
i really do think i made a mistake in paris, but the fall-out was a lot bigger than just amanda-having-a-moment after being gently called out by someone her community. and to be clear: the person who made the original comment was, indeed, very gentle about it. there was no screaming or nasty pointing of fingers.
it was what came after.
it was the flames that erupted in the REST of the community. this was the hard part, for me, and for the team.
one thing led to another and the moment on the facebook group devolved (as community discussions often can) into a really gnarly war of shouty opinions and yellings and a sort of micro of the macro: people getting their fists out, people leaving, people very angry at me, people very angry at each other, people very angry at the system, people using SERIOUSLY FUCKING FUCK FUCK FUCK YOU language all over the place.
the biggest, and think the most tragic fallout from this, is that some of the comments in the discussion group were so offensive to people of color – and the whole exercise just so offensive, apparently – that they just threw their hands up and left the community.
i don’t know if any PoC left the actual patreon, but they may have, and for sure, a few left the facebook group out of disgust, anger and frustration.
that made me despair for my community.
i was in the midst of a tour blitz at the time with my time tightly scheduled from waking til sleep.
i tried my best to follow what was going on. the moderators of the facebook group (alex, in particular) were literally losing sleep and ready to throw their computers out the window because they just did not know how to handle the situation and the amount of rancor.
i felt a kind of terror. i few times i went onto the facebook page and saw things that really did revolt me.
i couldn’t believe that people in “my” community were saying certain things….people saying, on the one hand, things like RACISM DOESN’T EXIST AND IS A CONSTRUCT and other people saying things like ALL WHITE CIS MEN SHOULD SHUT THE FUCK UP FOREVER AND DIE.
it was just gross, on both sides.
i didn’t know what to do.
and, of course, as usual, the vast majority of people (like, 98% of them) were not posting offensive, extreme things, but were simply trying to have a good, sane, progressive conversation. a lot of the extremity was drowning out the quieter conversation. this is very usual on the internet, and it’s very hard to manage.
i posted a post not unlike this one to the facebook page, asking that PoC be the only commenters, and the 150+ comments that came in were so enlightening, touching, and important. i learned a lot. i asked that thread if it wouldn’t be a bad idea to port the same idea over to the patreon itself.
and people said yes. and this is why i am doing this post.
if you are part of the facebook group, i’d like to recommend reading that original thread, it’s here:
the overarching theme seems to be this:
this comment stood out to me. i asked rebecca brisbin (who performs by the name zebrana bastard)’s permission to re-print it here.
I am a woman of mixed races, American is my nationality. When the sun shines it’s rays I get darker and look native American or Creole, and in the winter I’m more pale. To be honest, my skin tone and heritage are not that important to me. They do not dictate my friendships or my choices, it’s just the pigment of my skin.
Over the course of the last few weeks, every thread that comes into play reminds me of Patti Smith’s “Rock n Roll N***r” [edit mine – AFP] a song that I love, yet bothers my very white husband.
My favorite lyrics from the song…
“Outside of society, that’s where I want to be
Outside of society, they’re waitin’ for me
I was lost in a valley of pleasure
I was lost in the infinite sea
I was lost, and measure for measure
Love spewed from the heart of me
I was lost, and the cost
And the cost didn’t matter to me
I was lost, and the cost
Was to be outside society”
With that said, I have always been on the outside, alone in so many ways due to my thoughts and opinions on life. I’m okay with it and have made peace with it. Art is art and continues to be defined by what we create. When I was a performance artist, I believed in no boundaries of self expression, so long as I was not inflicting physical pain on a person who wasn’t willing. When I performed, I got out the same rage and aggression as I did when participating in mosh pits during my youth.
I have never felt as connected as I did, sitting at your last Seattle show, to anyone. I couldn’t relate to everything you said, as I’ve never been pregnant, but I do understand loss and the absence of choice and I fought to get my tubal ligation at 21.
In my honest opinion, the heart of every matter all stems from fear. Fear that someone will lose something that matters to them in some way. Fear of what’s different, fear of success, fear of failure. Whatever…if you dig deep enough, fear feeds the beasts that separates us all.
Most people are so terrified of being who they really are and showing that outwardly for a multitude of reasons.
When I saw you in Seattle, I saw a woman willing to move past fear and share her stories so openly and unapologetically.
If you feel that whatever lyric you write serves a purpose, then stand by it. If the context changed and no longer fits then do it for you, because it’s what felt right to you and not because a bunch of people got pissed off. You will NEVER please everyone. And I know this isn’t about your lyric.
I didn’t sign up for Patreon after Seattle because I’m a fan. I signed up because you reminded me of the woman I was before divorce crippled me. I will never get your face tattooed on me or collect every scrap of merch you sell, but I will cry everytime I listen to “The Ride”, and I will support what you’re doing by being a Patreon because the most important thing you can do and be is living the life of Amanda Palmer. That’s something no one else can do and will always be the one, single handed thing that you do best.
I wanted to remember what it was like to be myself 100% all of the time, so I came here seeking art and inspiration because it has been a long, hard road out of my own personal hell. I can’t get that here in the land of dirt and construction where I work. This job is sucking my soul and most of my time. Your posts and the posts of many others in here are reminding me what it’s like to give myself to my passions and one day soon I will grow the strength and confidence to be myself fully once more.
Whatever you do, however you do it, even if the world says you’re wrong, please don’t ever stop being you, whomever you dictate that to be. Please keep being your own woman. Please keep growing and learning. Please leave your mark on this world as a woman who stubbornly lived by her passions because despite what words we use or what we choose to agree or disagree on, living by our own convictions is what the world needs most of.
Fuck skin color and every other petty difference people choose to tear each other down for.
We’re all human beings looking for a way to get the most we can out of this short time we have to be alive.
I hate being asked what my race is and I hate that so much focus is put on it when it really doesn’t matter.
At least not to me and I have felt the ugliness of racism on all sides for all of my life.
The world is a big box of crayons and they are all beautiful.
i have a deep belief in the goodness of this community.
an unshakeable one.
i know and have gotten to know so many of you. i have met thousands of you at shows, online, at events.
i know this community is capable of the kind of compassion and empathy in conversation that is often lacking in an online space.
this is why the facebook group kerfuffle really rankled me.
this community is its own world, its own beast, its own incredibly unique 15,000-headed hydra: it’s a powerful community.
15,000 people. that’s larger than many towns.
our potential for collective action, and how we act, treat each other, how we speak, and what we decide to collectively do, it’s not insignificant.
after talking to patrons, my community, and my team, i heard everyone, understood what it all meant, and i wrote a longer post, pasted below, for those of you not on facebook:
this may be news to some of you so i’ll try to make it brief.
the other night in paris, i played the song “guitar hero”, and the use of the n-word in the song (relatively short story/context if you’re not familiar with the song: it’s a slur spewed by a fictional mass-shooting terrorist) brought up a really important discussion from members of the community.
i’ve posted a few things about it over here on different threads but so it’s crystal clear:
i made a mistake using the word, and i’m sorry. it’ll be changed in future iterations of the song when i play it live. to what, who knows. that’ll be a puzzle. hearing from and listening to the people of color in this group is especially important to me as we we evolve as a community that is about music but obviously so much more.
as usual, this community is incredible and i appreciate all the discussion that came up and around it. progress is always a crooked line and i’m always learning.
there is plenty to discuss later and forever. how we discuss is the key.
for now: please, please be kind to each other when we discuss….anything. i’ve seen a lot of unnecessary nastiness over in the discussion group and it’s heartbreaking. this community means a lot to me – everything to me, as you well know.
compassion, please. for all.
so you know, i have been working for YEARS to try to find an alternative to using facebook as a discussion forum for patrons. i think facebook blows, for so many reasons – don’t get me started. i think it amplifies anger, i think it rewards pettiness, and i think it can drag down subtle progress and hard conversations.
i am not blaming facebook; trolling and abuse and racism and bullshit can happen anywhere.
but i do miss the days of the shadowbox, our old forum, where there were threaded conversations, and things had an easier sorting and discussion system.
so, if it wasn’t already top of my list….i have doubled down on my efforts to find a new discussion forum solution for the spring, when i plan on unveiling an entirely new amandapalmer.net. i would really like to have a better place to have these chats.
i want all patrons to be in a better space, and i want you to not have to log into facebook to connect with one another.
if you’re a PoC (or anyone. really) who left the facebook group in disgust, i will not try to lure you back, but i can promise you that, hopefully, a better place to talk is in our future.
if you love the facebook group, do not worry. it has been a place of abundant love and positivity, too, i know. it can easily remain what it is for everybody as we port new discussions to a different place. it will not be shut down (unless it really devolves into a cesspool, which i hope wouldn’t happen, but at which point i would have no problem shutting it off completely.)
in addition, hayley, alex, and the facebook group moderators, all who are volunteers, have added a new mod to the group, updated the group’s guideline rules, and have been implementing more of facebook’s features to continue to moderator the group transparently and carefully so that we can always keep the space safe from abuse and stupidity.
we have already added one more mod, and we plan on adding more.
because this whole thing extended beyond me, it affected the community and my team, i want you to hear from the team, who are on the front lines interacting with all of you in so many ways….at the shows, over email, here on patreon and so on.
here are some words from the team that they also shared in the facebook group at the time this was going on (reprinted with their blessing):
Hey folks, I just wanted to pop in and add that this community as a whole means a lot to me, and i want us to address issues that are making people feel uncomfortable or unwelcome. I know that when I was a weird lonely 14 year old, Amanda’s music spoke to me, and the fans that I met online gave me some of the dearest friends and strongest friendships. I want everybody to have that experience, and to know that they can find that solace within our community. It genuinely upsets me to think that this community is in any way closed off, or that people don’t feel welcome here, so I am also going to be listening, reading, and learning here, so that we can do better, and make sure everyone feels comfortable talking their seat at our table of assorted weirdos and outcasts.
I rarely post personal things, but I thought that now would be a good time to share a little more insight from my perspective, as Amanda has opened the door here in mentioning the team.
For those of you who don’t know me, hi, I’m Hayley, I’m an administrator of this group and member of Team AFP. I’ve been part of Amanda’s fan community for about 15 years now, entering as a fan of The Dresden Dolls and as an avid poster on The Shadowbox. In 2009, just over 10 years ago, Amanda hired me as an intern to liaise to her community in her then manager’s office, and then took me along the ride and hired me full time when she dove into her independent career after leaving her record label (and that manager). I have worked for Amanda in different capacities since then, full time, part time, taking a break for awhile to work somewhere else, and then re-joining as a full time staff member in 2016 when I began helping her manage her Patreon and this very community. My little break in the middle of this wasn’t an easy one, and it took lots of heartfelt and honest conversations to get me back on the team three years ago.
In all my time working with Amanda, I’ve literally been on the front facing lines of her fan channels. This means I’ve often seen up front all sorts of beautiful and wonderful things people have to share about her and to her on the internet, and I’ve seen all sorts of shit spewed at her during any and all of the internet kerfuffles that have happened in the last decade (including really nasty rape and death threats).
My work also has me proofreading Amanda’s long form writing in her blogs, in her books and so on, and that brings up opportunities for me to ask her questions about her word choice, make revisions where necessary, and have conversations with her about our world and her community.
Through the years, I’ve had hard conversations with Amanda, and members of the team when appropriate. I’ve asked Amanda to do better when I felt it was necessary, I’ve explained why I didn’t find jokes funny, or pointed to things that I felt were, or could be, misunderstood. I’ve advocated for her fan community through it all, I’ve talked to her about things that may be hurtful, wrong, misunderstood, outdated or misguided. I’ve spoken to her candidly as a friend, as an employee, and as a fan all with the intention to maintain our place on the internet as a welcoming space, and hoping to raise the standard for all of us to do the best we can.
I recognize that my mere existence in this group, as a member of TEAM AFP makes me an official voice for Amanda and the team, so I’m conscious of what I write here, on my personal social media channels, and what I say in public. I always want to lift up this community, and never tear it down. We all have shitty days at work, but there’s a big distinction when your boss is notable, when your boss and your very work creates magic for many, many people – I never want to vent and complain and tear down the very world I am so honored to help build. So with that, I don’t share my personal views often about my work online or in public spaces, but I don’t drink the kool-aid either. I talk with Michael, my colleague in the trenches in NYC, and I talk to the rest of the team and I talk to Amanda herself, when appropriate, about the challenges, the ups, the downs, the things that need improvement, the things that could go better, the things that are wonderful. My point here, is that I feel good to be supported by a small team that creates space for me to vent, but to also be constructive in how we all can do better and be better and keep this business afloat, while helping new art be made and shared with all of you.
This week has been hard on me, as it has been on many of you. It hurts me to see so many people, within our walls here, hurt. I haven’t said much publicly, but privately, I’ve had serious conversations with Amanda, the team, and the moderators of this group to address all the questions that have been raised – within the community, and within my own inquisition. To make sure that the concerns of our community were heard by the very people who have the ability to change things, to make things better, to move forward. I called Amanda out through private channels, I asked her to respond to the group in a timely manner, I asked her for an apology all while respecting her as an artist, as a boss, as my employer. I told her with respect that I’d never ask her to explain herself or her art to me, but let her know the gravity of the concerns within our community about “Guitar Hero”. I advocated for the community, and I advocated for my own peace of mind. She heard me, and she engaged with me in the discussion, and thereby, she heard you. She supported me, as I supported her, and she made it clear that she appreciated the openness and willingness to have the discussions we were having.
It’s important to be a good ally, it’s important to be a good liaison in any community manager position. These are values that I hold firmly, and I am not shy to stand up for what’s important, and have the conversations that need to be had. And I am thankful that Amanda has always made time to listen to me, and actually hear me, whether that has inspired action on her behalf or not, she’s always engaged in a dialogue, even when I’ve asked her hard questions.
I don’t post much on this or any group on Facebook that much, so many of you might not know who I am, but I have been working as Amanda’s Personal Assistant for two and a half years now. I generally keep to myself and stay in the background making sure that things get done, but with the recent posts I did want to speak out as a member of Team AFP. I want to state that what I say here I say for myself and myself alone. I am not here to judge, or guide, or tone police, or point fingers. That’s not how I roll. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, their emotions, and how they chose to express them and they are all valid. Here is mine.
First and foremost, I want to clearly state that I was not ok with Amanda using the word that she used in Paris. Full Stop.
I wasn’t there when it happened, so I didn’t know about it until this became an issue on this thread. When I learned about it, Amanda and I had a very frank albeit brief discussion about what she said and what was happening on this Facebook Group. I clearly told her that it was not ok and that she had to apologize for the use of the word and she very clearly agreed, and then did exactly that. You can go read the statement she posted on earlier threads for yourselves if you haven’t done so already. I didn’t share the fact that I had these discussions with her anywhere or take screen shots of text messages to defend Amanda or jump into any of the discussions on the pages because it was, in my personal opinion, not my place to do so.
I didn’t speak about our conversation regarding her use of that word publicly, I won’t comment on anyone working with or for Amanda or her team, nor will I speak publicly about what kind of hairspray Amanda likes, or how Neil cooks his salmon, or what secret Ash whispered in my ear. Not just because Amanda is my boss, but because again, I only speak for myself. I afford the same courtesy to Hayley, Jordan, Alex, my partners, my son, etc.
That’s not to say that I don’t want to engage in conversation, in fact, I do so often on many difficult and uncomfortable topics with both friends and strangers, just generally not here on the internet. I call out oppression when I see it (recognizing that I am sometimes blinded by my privilege), I hold my friends to a very high standard of behavior (understanding that everyone is fighting their own fight that is not mine to know), and when I find that I can no longer engage meaningfully with someone through either their faults or mine, I take a breath, I step away, I try to see where I went wrong (there’s almost always something I can improve on or change), and I either try to come back later with a fresh perspective if the other person is willing, or I let them go in hopes that they find whatever it is they are looking for. Again, this is not me passing judgement on anyone, only speaking for my own personal process.
As with any important issue (race, gender, sexual orientation, class, environment, reproductive rights, religion, etc, etc, etc) there is no path forward without honest discussion, active listening, sitting in uncomfortable situations, and learning. All of us here at Team AFP are committed to this truth and while we ALL fail at them from time to time, we all hold each other accountable and trust each other to not only speak up when necessary, but also to act with respect and compassion.
I hope that we can, as a community, be better listeners, practice compassion when possible, and more than anything, breathe. Whether it’s a calming breath to center yourself, or to take in a lot of air to raise your voice loudly is entirely up to you, and I respect your decision. I know that in the coming weeks Amanda, Hayley, Alex, Jordan, and I will continue to have many conversations, listen to your comments, and respond when necessary, just like today. I hope that you stay with us and help us learn and listen and grow. If not, I do hope that you find a community where you feel loved and supported and heard like I do here.
Many hugs if you ever want them,
i love my team, so much.
i love that we all go through this stuff together, and we grapple, and we learn, and we are forced to feel new things and figure them out.
i have been in this music business for twenty years and i have NEVER had such a smart, loving, sensitive, and compassionate team of people around me. i TREASURE these people as family, as i treasure you, and i take none of it for granted.
have i changed in the last month, with all this happening?
yes. really, yes.
all this happening it has made me think more deeply than ever about what i, and this community as a collective, can do.
don’t forget what i’ve been doing every night. i have been on stage, doing a four hour show about radical compassion, for fuck’s sake.
and doing this show against the landscape of the very real racism all around me in london, and knowing what’s going on back home in america…and this all feels very fucking urgent, and very real.
i have been thinking about race and our community for a long time, but a lot more since trump got into office. i look around at my shows. most of the audience in white. but not all of it. i rejoice when i see more people of color showing up to be part of this group.
this has always been the stated mission of the dresden dolls, and me, at shows: we are an all-inclusive fucking space. everybody means EVERYBODY.
everybody is welcome, and everybody takes care of everybody else in the community.
even if it feels strange, even if it feels hard. that is what a good community DOES. without rancor, without aggression, with an open mind, with room to mess up, with room to talk, with room to love.
a few weeks ago, i found myself gazing at a well-known crowdfsurfing photo from my epic solo show coachella in 2008. taken by lindsey byrnes.
a photo that i love so much that i used it in my TED talk and u’ve used it as a banner for the very facebook group where this explosion happened.
i am being held up – literally held up – by my community.
but it occurred to me for the first time in ten years that almost every hand in that picture is white.
simple awareness is always the beginning.
it is still always tempting to talk about the salad.
so now…..i have an ask.
if you are my patron out there and you’re also a PoC reading this, i would like to ask you to use this post to talk to us, to me, to each other.
even if you never comment here, please use this as a space to talk to this group. (and if you want, just go cut and paste what you wrote on the FB group page thread and re-post it here).
i want to hear what you have to say at this moment in time.
about anything. about what you’re working on. about what’s going on. about your family. your jobs. your loves. about racism. about sexism. about feminism. about politics. about food. about problems.
seriously? about salad. fucking go for it.
about ANYTHING. ask, wonder, tell, rant, teach, complain to me about this post….whatever you want.
all i ask is that the comments on this post remain limited to PoC.
i am here, we are here, and reading.
may this community grow closer and more compassionate with this exercise.
and i thank you.
and i love you all, deeply.
all. of. you.
pigeons, bus stops & progress,