To my dearest neighbors,
This past year, The Laundromat Project has engaged in The Liberation Series, an ongoing event series embodying the visions and practices of liberation that strengthen collective power and cultural organizing for social change. Each event in The Liberation Series is a call to action. It is a response to our Bed-Stuy neighbors’ desires for a community free to gather and connect, empower and organize, and ground in legacies of place, memory, and history.
In service, I facilitated artmaking and community-building workshops exploring themes of Black American traditions, memories of home, rituals of care, land stewardship, gentrification & reclamation, and intergenerational resilience.
As the year comes to an end, and I reflect on my memories, my heart echoes back to our most recent program at Quincy Senior Residences in November. The Black & Asian Elders Neighborhood Roundtable allowed Black and Asian community members to meet, build solidarity, and converse with Elders in Bed-Stuy while gathered in a story circle.
Naturally, as the last event of the series, the Black & Asian Elders Neighborhood Roundtable quickly revealed itself to be the most intrinsically heartfelt and visceral gathering of the entire year. Elders and young adults came together to share stories from their lives and their hopes for what a cross-cultural and intergenerational community can look like when we take the time to listen, understand, and express unyielding love for one another in the face of our shared struggles.
Just imagine…a room filled with over thirty people from all walks of life seated in a circle as they share their deepest memories about where they grew up, who they’ve become, and how they’ve lived. Listen closely, and you’ll hear a room of spirited neighbors exchanging cries of joy and warm tears as though they were speaking with friends they had known their entire lives. Now, open your arms and picture the strong embrace of those dearest friends who know and unabashedly accept all of who you are. Imagine being loved. That was what the Black & Asian Elders Neighborhood Roundtable created and brought into reality—a loving community.
Amidst the many wonderful and heart-wrenching stories shared, one particular phrase stood out to me. As one community member shared a difficult story of loss and remembrance, another Elder in the room reassuringly said, “Tears are a form of prayer. You’re strong for that.”
It’s a phrase that has occupied my thoughts these last few weeks of the year. The strength to carry on in service of a community, as well as liberation, is perhaps best defined by our willingness to express love, whether as tears of remembrance or a voice calling for change.
In reflecting on the past year, what I have come to observe and experience can be summed up with a short phrase of my own.
“Liberation is the freedom to be. Liberation is with community. Liberation is being loved.”
Alexander Huaylinos, Programs Associate