Author: Elizabeth Kasumi

Service with Self-Enlightenment

Today was probably one of my favorite days of service so far. We started off at Haven discussing intersexuality, privilege, gender based violence, and gender stereotypes. My favorite activity of the day was the gender stereotype list. We listed off stereotypical aspects of being a man or being a woman. We asked questions along the line of “what is a typical profession for a man/woman? What do men/woman usually drink? What sorts of hobbies do men/women enjoy? How are men/women supposed to act? What are the worst things you can call a man/woman?”

The two boards filled up within seconds of impulsive shouts from my team members. Whether we felt the need to speak or not, we all knew that these things were true to some extent–for everyone.

The past few days have been pretty rough on me emotionally (shout out to Jocelyn and Alex for cheering me up.) because I keep thinking of the greatness of the weight of the problem my group and I are trying to tackle. The mere fact that we were able to shout out these male/female stereotypes without even thinking really made me realize that this problem of sexual assault and how we perceive how men and women are supposed to be like. It’s incredibly easy to be afraid of the immensity of it all.

Another great part of our day today was talking about privilege. We talked about how every single person has some sort of sense of privilege, no matter how small the factor may be. We also talked about how it is the responsibility of those that do have more privilege than others to unpack notions of racism and other “isms” to other people. There is usefulness in meeting people where they’re at in terms of knowledge. I admit, I have had the tendency to not forwardly address people when they say generally awful things to/about others and myself (this stems from other more personal issues that are very prevalent in my life, I promise..haha.) I realize that passiveness and thoughts such as “What is the point in calling someone out? Obviously if they’re saying these hateful things they’re not intellectual enough to wrap their minds around what is right. Why even waste my breath and try to educate them?” are SERIOUSLY detrimental to this cause. Stopping gendered expectations–which then lead to rape culture and assault–begin with cutting the problem at the root–by taking the time to stand up and give a little lesson on why rape jokes aren’t funny. By being prepared to have a conversation. By challenging yourself as well as others. By just trying to say the right thing.

If there is one thing I learned on this trip, is that staying silent and thinking or watching from afar on my own comfy metaphorical little high horse won’t help anyone or any cause.

We ended our education session with a list of all the things we could possibly do to be proactive in the cause against sexual assault, rape culture, as well as gendered norms. We made a comprehensive list of things we could do at an individual scale, in our communities, for our government, as well as systemically/globally. We ended up with a pretty awesome list of things..as you can see. Through this list and through my incredibly passionate and wonderful peers, I felt genuine solace in our confidence of the enormity of the possible.

Stay tuned for more Haven updates.

Thanks to everyone on this trip for being awesome.

-Elizabeth

not made of atoms but of tiny stories.

Yesterday was the last day of the ‘Pards On Wheels service trip, due to the impending snow storm. Following the same routine as always, (group breakfast, subway riding, getting instructions for the deliveries of the day) my partner Chris (AKA the deceitful cop—yes, I’m still livid over this) and I headed out of St. Malachy’s Church and walked toward 62nd street where we began our journey for the day.

Chris and I are also notorious for being the last ones to get back to the church. Hopefully this blog post will explain why.

We delivered meals to two women that really made an impact on our lives. The first was named Danielle. She invited us in, introduced us to her cat named Louis and told us about her amazing life. She studied theater at Carnegie Mellon and was a big advocate for the African American Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. She showed us modeling photos from when she was our age, and boy, she was absolutely gorgeous. She looked at the photos with a hint of melancholic nostalgia in her eyes and told us, “Ah, I remember this girl. She was very pretty but very, very insecure.” Danielle showed us a ton of trinkets she had in her apartment from around the world, ranging from Japanese art to African hand carved wooden ornaments. I checked the time and discovered that we had been talking to Danielle for at least 45 minutes. We were both really upset that we had to leave, but I decided to ask her one piece of life advice she could give us.

She replied, “Never forget to stick up for yourself. You deserve it. Never feel like you don’t.”

She gave us a hug and as we said our goodbyes, her voice shook. I could hear in her voice the sound of tears that were about to surface as we left.

IMG_9313

Interacting with the second woman was quite the experience. Her name was Clara. She had an aid and both only knew a few words in English. She invited us in as well! Chris communicated with Clara with broken, high school level Spanish, while I managed to use my knowledge of the Italian language (and Google translate as well, who am I kidding) to communicate. Before we knew it we were talking with Clara and her aid for well over 45 minutes. We knew we were running late on time so Chris and I tried to leave to deliver our remaining meals, however, they had cooked food and literally would not let us leave until we had some. As Clara pushed food onto our plates (even when we were full), she told us of her life in Argentina and her strained relationship with her daughter whom she had not talked to in over 15 years. We learned that all of her family doesn’t visit her because it is too expensive and they dislike New York. This really made me upset; I can’t even begin to fathom how that must make her feel. I checked the time and noticed it was 2PM (sorry, POW members) and told them we really had to leave. We hugged goodbye and were off delivering our last meals of the day. We literally sprinted through the streets of New York and made it back to the church by 2:12PM (on the dot!)

IMG_9327

A beautiful thing about being human are the tiny, individual stories that comprise each and every one of us. This ASB trip was not only an opportunity to help those in need, but also an opportunity to hear and appreciate these stories from people who have already done it all. Thank you, Danielle and Clara for sharing your stories with us. I also want to give a big thank you to Matt for organizing this experience and always having a smile on your face. Last but not least, thank you to my wonderful teammates that really made this trip quite the experience. (The distance we walked on this trip was so great it could be comparable to Jupiter’s circumference, and the weather was not at all Lukewarm.) <3

I also want to give a shout out to Chris! Thanks for being my resilient partner and not crying even when all of our bags dropped in the middle of NYC traffic. Thank you for sharing your stories with me as well.

-Elizabeth (sorry this was so long lol)

© 2018

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑