I have really been attempting to stay true to the inspiration. Meaning, when I get an idea for a blog, I write it down/text or e-mail it to myself and then add it to the long list of "topics" I want to discuss, at some point in time. I have been trying to stay true in keeping the order in which things come to me. For the first time, I am breaking order and I am going to write about an experience I had last night.
I am really nervous about writing this blog, as it is almost like holding up a mirror to myself and seeing things that I really do not like that really make me nervous and honestly make me quite embarrassed.
I was lucky enough to attend a free Salt-N-Pepa concert last night in Brooklyn. My Hip Hop teacher Kevin "Tech" has been dancing and touring with them going on 4 years and he was able to hook us up with guest list privileges for the show. As a huge music fan and a girl who grew up in the 80's and 90's I was super excited to get to see them live. I wasn't quite sure how well all of their songs had stuck with me until showtime, but regardless, I was super excited. I also need to mention that Salt-N-Pepa were opening up for Public Enemy. I was so excited to hear they would both be performing together. While I knew I knew every word of Salt-N-Pepa, I also knew how legendary Public Enemy was, and I was excited to get to see them live.
My initial hesitation was with the traveling. Living in Manhattan, sometimes other boroughs appear to be like foreign lands, the challenge appears daunting and the excuses are ever-flowing. When my friend Sam initially asked me, there was definitely some hesitation about the travel to .....ugh...Brooklyn. It isn't that I don't love and appreciate Brooklyn, it is just further away and more complicated than my normal daily travels. My second hesitation was because, lets face it, I am not the spring chicken I use to be. This was a concert starting at 7:30, on a Monday night, in Brooklyn (about an hr to get to)--not getting home until after midnight, for sure. I kept finding new excuses to not go. The hesitation that honestly almost prevented me from going was my social anxiety.
Social anxiety is something that is relatively new for me. When I say "new," I mean maybe in the past few years. I think a lot of it was triggered by personal traumatic events, and the rest came about due to my daily subway travels and my comfort level in my little apartment. I suffer in silence with this mostly. Up until now, and perhaps alluding to it in a few prior blog posts, I try and just soldier on. Sometimes I feel like talking about my anxiety brings about anxiety, so I really try to use the techniques I have found most helpful (meditating, listening to pod casts, deep breathing, reading, etc) to get through the toughest of times. I also have crutches of water and almonds. Freud would love the oral fixation nature of my anxiety techniques, I am sure.
So, here I was, knowing I was going to a location I had never been to before, Wingate Field in Brooklyn, with thousands of other people at night to a concert. The anxiety was pumping before I even left work. Looking back on it, I am proud I ended up going. I have found with my anxiety, that acknowledging each good and positive experience I have following a bought of anxiety, is the best thing I can do. It is like each positive experience makes me more confident to deal with my next battle. Now, I luckily didn't have a full-on panic attack, and I was well prepared with water and gluten free snack bars, but I was def. feeling the anxiety.
The elephant in the room of this entire experience was knowing that my friends and I would be in a huge minority. Now, this is where I feel like I have to tread lightly and explain carefully. I feel like whenever race is talked about, people are always put on the defensive. I am just trying to be open and honest here about the experience that I had and am always looking for honest feedback from others.
I think it is important to note that I would likely have had social anxiety going to a Dave Matthews concert today. So, I guess I am trying to acknowledge the fact that I am a new person today and remind myself that I sometimes get anxiety in my apartment, sometimes when I am with Greg, sometimes when I am with my family and sometimes when I am with close friends and even sometimes at work. It is triggered by different things at different times. I am not trying to say my minority status was the trigger (the number of people alone could have been the trigger), I am just saying that because of this new anxiety world I live in, I became highly aware of it.
One of my favorite things about living in NYC is the diversity. Every day I feel honored and grateful to live, be friends with and work alongside so many different races, cultures and religions. I love all of the diversity, I love all of the different colors in the palate that is NYC.
All this being said, there are obviously areas of the city that have more (or less) struggles with violence, police, drugs, etc. We are all human, but unfortunately there are external forces that lead to much of the struggles some neighborhoods have. Many of these neighborhoods are stereotypically struggling, personally and financially. They may not always have the best access to all the resources that make it easier to make it in today's world. This topic deserves so much more attention and should touch upon inequality, education, stigmas and stereotypes, financial wars, etc. For now, I am just trying to set-up my personal experience. A blog really getting into this needs to be written by someone with more knowledge and personal insight than myself.
So, I was headed to an area of Brooklyn I didn't know much about, with some friends, knowing I was going to be in the minority. I have to acknowledge that I made one large assumption here, that the crowd at a Salt-N-Pepa and Public Enemy show would predominately not look like me. I started feeling guilty immediately. Why was I anxious about this. Why was I more anxious about this than going to an outdoor Dave Matthews Concert, or Aerosmith Concert, or Howie Day or Matt Nathanson. I have been to outdoor concerts for all of these artists, yet, I was never really worried about my experience before. Granted, my anxiety wasn't really around back in the days of these other outdoor concerts, but it really made me angry at myself.
I know why I was worried and it made me a little sick to know why I was worried. I was worried because I was going to an area of Brooklyn I didn't know much about and I knew I was going to be in the minority. I wasn't sure how I was going to be received. Why were all of these things suddenly coming up for me? Why was I suddenly so aware of my race and who I was and what I looked like. Why did I feel like I needed to prove myself worthy of being at this concert. Like I needed to stand the entire time, dance my ass off and know all the lyrics. Why did I feel like this?
It didn't help when the group of us showed up a bit later than the start of the concert and were given yellow wristbands--thanks again Tech! We were marched to the front, all the way to the front and given pretty decent seats. Why in this moment, was I so aware of my whiteness. Marching all the way up to the front.
I really hate myself for the feelings I had and I am honestly quite disappointed in myself. I have so many people (friends and co-workers)I have met along the way that were represented in that crowd. Wonderful, amazing, intelligent, kind and caring individuals. Why wasn't I able to just picture them in that crowd and think I was going to a concert with them, why did this become a thing?
All of the feelings I was experiencing made me wonder if other people feel this way. If you ever catch yourself in the moment of placing a stereotype on someone. How do you handle it, do you challenge yourself and think past it. Or, do you just carry on with that stereotype and make no attempt to disprove it.
As the concert went along, and person after person got up and talked about the importance of stopping gun violence and putting their guns down, the challenges some communities deal with became extremely raw and real to me. I felt myself getting choked up. I felt myself being uncomfortable in my own skin. I felt myself listening to politicians, neighborhood volunteers and parents who had all lost family to gun violence. They were all suffering every day, every weekend. We were reminded to stop "killing our kids" and told to say no to guns and yes to peace. It was a surreal experience, it was a real experience and in some ways I was ashamed of myself again.
There were thousands of people struggling, being challenged in their neighborhoods, wanting nothing but a better life for themselves and their kids. They were in their neighborhoods, it made them who they were. I was a visitor in their neighborhood and I would shortly be returning to my neighborhood, which is stereotypically a bit different. I really did not know how to feel about all of this.
In some ways it made me feel like my anxiety was founded in some realities that are unfortunately (whether or not I want them to be) true. It made me realize I have been so worried about offending or admitting that I do not know that I stopped asking questions, I was afraid to have the conversation.
My savior of the entire night, in the face of anxiety, was truly Salt-N-Pepa's set. I was immediately whisked back to like 8th grade. I was a dancing fool and I stood up the entire night and sang every word. I danced and stood because I felt the music, not because I felt like I needed to justify my presence. I sang every word to every song, not because I felt like I had to, but because I was having the time of my life and enjoying every second of it. I was truly grateful in that moment for the amazing opportunities that music affords us. It really can bring people together in important ways. During that hour, my anxiety went away. I felt like I belonged, I felt comfortable. If nothing else we provided wonderful entertainment for the row in front of us. They kept looking at us and smiling and laughing. There was one gentleman there with his daughter. He actually pointed all of us out and commented on our singing and dancing. We were just having a grand ole' time.
After Salt-N-Pepa's set, we had more community activists get up and address the crowd. It really felt like a bit of a take back our neighborhood event. It was inspirational, moving and thought-provoking. I really felt honored to be a part of it.
Public Enemy closed out the show. Everyone knows Flava Flav, how can you forget him and his notorious clock. While I always knew Chuck D, I had never heard his messages outside of their ground-breaking and historical lyrics. It was amazing to also hear him speak, hear him address the crowd. There was definitely a theme throughout the evening that empowerment, success and happiness do not need to involve guns and violence. The message of thinking and love and looking out for your neighbors was woven in quite nicely.
I also enjoyed myself during Public Enemy and really found myself at home. While I was unable to bust out lyrics as I did with Salt-N-Pepa, this didn't bother me. I really enjoyed myself and was grateful to be there.
As I was grooving, all of a sudden I saw a huge swarm of security and NYPD officers rush from the front of the stage out into the crowd. I immediately had all worse case scenarios flash before me. I also texted Greg in a brief moment of an anxiety spike. I decided to wait it out. Crowds always make me nervous. Ever since the awful nightclub fire in RI a few years back, I always worry about mass hysteria. I was immediately coming up with a plan. If gun fire should occur, I would hit the deck and crawl towards the entrance. If fighting should break out, I would get out of the way, quickly and quietly. If all else failed, I would just sit on the ground in a ball and cry.
A few minutes passed and then all of a sudden I saw the cops starting to walk back towards the stage. This made me feel like whatever had been going on, must have been resolved. I saw the audience clapping and patting the Police Officers on the back as they walked back to the stage. I kept my eyes closely on the line of returning officers to get a view of the culprit.
I am not sure how to set this up more perfectly than to just come out and say it.
I saw a bunch of police officers and security guards, all shapes, sizes and colors and in the middle of the line I saw one man with long dreads. Ok, lets just say it (apologize for the stereotype), it was a white hippie. At the Salt-N-Pepa and Public Enemy concert, the one person I saw cause any problems was a white hippie (probably having a bad trip or something--he was running around crazy before they got him). I immediately looked up at the universe and said "thank you." I then laughed out loud. I have said again and again that I try really hard to learn from the universe and experiences that I have.
This is not to say there were no any other "instances". Heck, I have been to enough concerts, sporting events and festivals to know there are always "instances". I am just grateful for the "instance" I witnessed first-hand.
In the end, I am so glad that I fought through my travel laziness, Monday night excuse and social anxiety to go. I had a wonderful time!
I can only hope that I continue to find myself not accepting stereotypes, even if it may be easier, mentally. It is alot easier to believe what you hear and even feel than to put the time, energy, and effort into thinking and doing your own research and coming to your own conclusions. I can only hope this country, at some point, finds a way to have an honest conversation about race and an honest conversation about guns. While these may be two of the most awkward and uncomfortable conversations we could have, I find them to be imperative to our ability to live up to our human potential.
Imagine if every child was awarded with their full human potential and nothing was able to get in the way. Imagine if things were on equal ground and the game wasn't already fixed from the beginning. Imagine if everyone realized, finally, that you have no control over where you were born. People are born every day in different countries, religions, races, social economic statuses, to different types of families. Just because you were dealt one certain scenario doesn't mean you should be able to turn an eye and an ear to the rest of the human race. People need to stop feeling entitled and owed and need to start feeling like they aren't doing enough to help and make a difference--myself included.
As I find myself saying often, this is all just about my personal experience and my personal reality. This blog is really an exercise for me to continue to learn and grow. I have disappointed myself and had to admit that I too carry stereotypes, I was unaware of, and need to continue to fight against.
Coming up next:
What 5 year olds teach me
Morals and ethics in an ever-polarized world
And that's all she wrote...