LESSONS FROM COMMUNITY

Beatriz Kaye Jones
January 27, 2020


I left Brooklyn in a hurry, without giving myself the chance to say a proper goodbye to a lot of people I care about in community. Truth be told, Bed Stuy holds equal parts victory and pain for me, but overall, the good outweighs the bad. The last few months, I’ve been drowning in self-criticism, but I finally came up for air, realizing I’m way too hard on myself. I wanted to make sure I expressed just how important Book Club has been for me, and how much of an impact your presence makes.

Looking back on what we shared together in Book Club, I finally feel ready to set down the (self-imposed) chains of hateration keeping me tied from my purpose. I look back and feel proud that I was able to be a part of something that brought light and positivity to the very blocks that housed my trauma. I thank all of you — every person who showed up to a meetup, writing workshop, hangout — who engaged with me IRL or online. This was such a transformative and fruitful experience for me, and I’m humbled to have been able to serve my community in this small way.

This project — like most of my work — was inspired by my grandmother, Leonila — a woman who pulled our family up from poverty because she believed wholeheartedly in our generational abundance. She was kind to any fellow Filipinxs who crossed her path, using the painful experiences in her own migration and family separation as seeds for positive community outreach. I’d like to think my Inay was in the room with us any time we held space for each other. I’m honored that I was able to share her energy with this community, and I hope to continue doing so by sharing more of my writing with you.

In the meantime, I’ve settled in the weird, sunny land of Los Angeles (any food, community, or nature recs are welcomed!). In the next few years, I will be embracing my nomadic intuition, and these are the lessons from community that I will proudly take with me on my travels:

1. Self-discovery is an intimate and joyous process.
Book Club was a pivotal part of my self-discovery — a time that truly allowed me to step into my power and do what I love to do. I’ve always said, in my usual jk-but-not-really-tone, “I love being the lube for great conversations,” and this project made that a reality. 
I used to hold onto my painful experiences, thinking that all the hurt was my crowning glory. Even though I was surrounded by a ton of people, a lot of work happened in the secrecy of my journals and weed-smoke-filled baths. When I reflect on the fact that I was invited to glmpses of y’all’s intimate self-discovery, I’m overwhelmed in gratitude. The generosity in these connections continue to humble me and fill me with joy. Thank you, thank you, thank you. <3

2. Intuition and empathy are our greatest collective superpowers.
My own femininity was built on a daily practice of denying my intuition to make the people around me feel more comfortable. Think of truth-telling as carrying heavy cargo from the basement of a 700-storey skyscraper to the very top. Surviving emotional and physical abuse is like carrying the truth strapped to your back up the stairs until you’re too exhausted to properly communicate. By the time you reach your destination, you barely recognize the truth because you’ve sacrificed pounds and pounds of it on the journey to make it to the top. Aligning mind, body and soul to speak truthfully from an intuitive and empathetic place is like taking a high-speed elevator straight to the top. Minimal effort and maximum joy: direct, honest communication. You stand firm in your truth at the top of the skyscraper, and you thank the sky for coming close enough to listen.
The support and kind words of the beautiful humans in this community helped me find the courage to say, “Fuck it” and honor my intuition. Empathy is the Vicks Vaporub to an intuition that’s been compromised by repeated trauma. I like to think that we created a space that soothed a wound within each of us. Thank you for sharing intuition, truth, and empathy with me so generously. Thank you for helping me reclaim my superpowers. <3

3. We need safe spaces to express and transmute rage.
In Soraya Chemaly’s Rage Becomes Her, she discusses anger as a forward-thinking emotion in comparison to stagnant resentment. We affirmed that we are not alone in bemoaning the ways that we’ve been erased and disrespected. In community, we made space for that which is dangerous to express in white, corporate spaces, and the collective release felt good as hell.
Transmutation is the power to transform energy into new forms to fulfill purpose. Anger asked us to use our brilliant imaginations to make actionable changes to the systems that keep us trapped. In the spaces we created, we took what was stagnant and transmuted it into a powerful new outlook.

4. Self-care isn’t enough. Community care is imperative.
First of all, getting off the damn screen is imperative. Keep an eye out for what you consume. Your woke faves (my old self included) sometimes post from a deep-seated need for validation and attention, rather than pure celebration of their being — the lines are very blurry. Attention-seekers drain your energy with stagnant thoughts of resentment. Truth-tellers push conversations forward with unapologetic expressions of emotions.
So many good things happen when you unhook your eyeballs from a screen and decide to share your experiences with another human being with sheer vulnerability. Double-tap-induced pleasure fades in an instant, but the lessons gathered from IRL connections with like-minded folks will bring a genuine awakening.
There are tons of scientific studies that investigate the effects of social rejection on the brain, but very little that discuss the effect of community care. For me, personally, I’ve experienced significantly decreased feelings of fear, shame, and guilt. I swear to God(ess), my brain began to subconsciously gravitate towards healthier diet and lifestyle from an increased excitement from being alive and fulfilling my purpose. (I’ve even turned down a chicken nugget or two, y’all, this is a big deal.) I began to think of my body as a conduit for good energy rather than a capitalist machine that’s made to withstand countless hours of work and overachieving. Community care is actual physical, mental and emotional healing. Don’t let your pride or fear of intimacy stop you from seeking what you really need.

5. We speak our realities into existence.
The first step to destroying a system that is not built for us is to believe wholeheartedly that it can be done. The colonized mind is bred for perpetual debt and scarcity. When we dwell on “I’m owed...” or “I don’t have...,” we speak those outcomes into reality, i.e., real ass student loan debt, credit card debt, alla that. We imagined new ways of holding space for one another, and I cherish that.

In this new chapter, I choose to speak highly of myself and my experiences, no matter what my material possessions may be. No more self-deprecating humor and competitive thinking. Each piece of writing I create is a commitment for a brigher future. Each word spoken aloud is a spell cast toward a higher truth.  


I can’t thank you enough for being a part of this journey with me. I’ve spent the last few months knee-deep in books, and I can’t wait to continue sharing these lessons with you through writing.

with love,
B
beatriz kaye jones los angeles