When it comes to reflecting on the first year of Hello Barkada, I'm mindful to keep things measured. To avoid comparing What Is to What If. To balance sharing what went right with acknowledging what it's taken to get here. No one is served by an idyllic meditation. Transparency is necessary, especially when I hope others also consider starting up something that pursues equity.
Hello Barkada centers and raises up artists, writers, and creatives who are also BIWPOC, and/or LGBTQ+, and/or disabled. It aims to validate creators and audiences alike, now and in the future. Some people I've encountered have suggested that what I'm doing hasn't been done before. When they do, I remind them that Hello Barkada is by no means a first, an only, or a best. Cyphers have been written for us to pick up and learn from, with the hopes that we improve on what they model and teach. Look up the DuSable Black History Museum and Education Center in Chicago, The Schomburg in New York, The Latinx Comics Arts Festival, Women in Comics Collective International, Thumbprint Gallery, The Hill Street Country Club, Red Planet Books N Comics, Libélula Books & Co, Virtuous Con, and on and on. Hello Barkada joins this existing collection of organizations to help expand and cultivate spaces already centering our experiences, works, and ideas.
FUNDING WHAT COUNTS
How I execute this mission requires tempering because I'm not someone rolling in excess coins like Scrooge McDuck. I'm a parent, freelance writer, and digital content producer who works from home, married to a software engineer who left the corporate world before the pandemic started for the freedom of contract work. My husband and I are financially secure, sharing the cost of property taxes, health insurance, food, and standard monthly expenses associated to our home. But Hello Barkada is my project.
I operate this organization on a tight budget seeded by a couple thousand dollars from my personal savings. Because Hello Barkada is a single-member LLC and not a nonprofit, I annually pay the Franchise Tax Board on top of estimated taxes. I use what is free or low-cost so that I'm able to put funds collected from Hello Barkada's gracious supporters where it counts most—paying artists and writers a fair freelance rate for works to publish on Hello Barkada.
That's why there are lulls and sprints in content. Why Allowed and The Call Out each take place monthly rather than weekly, and are produced in Instagram Live instead of something like Zoom, Crowdcast, or StreamYard. Outside of earning an income and getting better at being present with my son and spouse, I also spend time on Hello Barkada's administrative side—accounting, doing outreach, setting up interviews, researching revenue streams, developing products, and planning editorial content and marketing.
It's also the reason behind seeing my byline all over this website. Until I can afford to commission more people, it's more financially sound for me to build Hello Barkada off of skills I've either honed over a decade or can learn on my own fairly quickly. It's pragmatic for me to conduct daily operations as a team of one for now so that Hello Barkada continues many years beyond 2022.
Honestly, I'm okay with that because this pace, model, and platform has still made it possible to:
Publish seven original comics by Maxi Rodriguez, Angel Trazo, Tatum Begay, Breena Nuñez, Lawrence Lindell, Hab Oh, and Nicky Rodriguez; an original review by Jonita Davis of a movie that deserves appreciation; and a coloring sheet featuring an original illustration by Karen Alleluia.
Host conversations featuring Barbara Brandon-Croft, Bianca Xunise, Steenz, Trinidad Escobar, Jamila Rowser, Robyn Smith, Nicky Rodriguez, Starr Rocque, Jeandra LeBeauf, Jonita Davis, Breena Nuñez, Lawrence Lindell, Sharon Lee De La Cruz, Regine Sawyer, Jessica Tseang, Amber Padilla, Amy Chu, Dr. Shamika A. Mitchell, Deb Aoki, Laura Neuzeth, and Lacey Vorrasi-Banis.
Launch The Call Out with Jonita Davis to further think through the concept of colonizer criticism, a phenomenon of cultural criticism that she coined.
Profile the Lanehas, Trinidad Escobar, Sharon Lee De La Cruz, Wednesday Tran, and Mary Jhun, and talk about the impact of works like Arrive In My Hands, City of Ghosts, Gentefied, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, Flamer, Giovanni's Room, Whale Rider, and so many more.
This was a year of planting. It has shown me that a lot is possible on a little when there is support, for which I'm immensely grateful.
THANK YOU FOR YOUR COMMUNITY
Year One has also been a sober reminder that burnout lurks in the brightest of spots and the coolest of shades. To preserve my energy, I'm learning to only say "yes" to opportunities that align with Hello Barkada's mission and appropriately compensate me for my skill and my time.
As I stand at the start of Year Two, I'm soothed by the community I've found. I'm more hand-in-hand with joy than doubt, especially when I remember what I let go of to get here. I'm grateful to everyone over the past year who has backed this work in progress, clicked through, shared, bookmarked, liked, read, commented, watched, and joined.
I hope you all continue to find value and validation in Hello Barkada, as I do. Now, cue the playlist!