September 5, 2023  •  By Christine Pasalo Norland

On Turning Two

Reflecting on the past year of Hello Barkada started with an unforced error: I reviewed what I wrote about Hello Barkada's first anniversary. Unsurprisingly, the toxic internal dialogue switched on.

"Beat that!"

"Does it even matter?"

"You could have done much more." 

I realize that's not me. It's the voice of critics I've long left behind but whose words still cling. Demons, some call them. 

I have to let them go.

As I do, I picture myself in a lush field, the knee-high grasses swaying in a gentle breeze. I walk towards an old tree in the distance that offers shade from a sun shining through puffed, meandering white clouds. Once under the leaves and boughs, I sit cross-legged, close my eyes, draw in a deep breath, and exhale—to center, to ground, to sense.

Over the past year, I've acquired enough nonprofit clients and contributed enough times to Popverse to bring in a steady annual income, a portion of which supports Hello Barkada's mission. To avoid burn out, I recalibrated what and how much Hello Barkada produced between September 2022 and the end of August 2023. In practice, this meant:

At the end of 2022, Laneha House honored me with a Kinnard Award for Community Inclusion. When I consider this recognition alongside Hello Barkada's growing community of returning and new collaborators, the followers we've kept and gained, comments from people who've attended or tuned into our programming, and the kind words from artists, writers, and fellow program coordinators, I'm convinced that Hello Barkada is on course.

Hello Barkada is regarded as another community of care that expands the positive impact of past and existing like-minded organizations. That's very reassuring, particularly when it's evident that artists and storytellers who are BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, disabled, and intersectional continue to experience aggression on many levels and sides. Book bans are on the rise. O'Shae Sibley was killed for vogueing at a gas station. Masking mandates and courtesy have largely lapsed. High-level DEI directors at media companies who were hired in the wake of the BLM marches and corporate platitudes of 2020 have either understandably resigned or were unceremoniously dismissed. Social media platforms are updating Terms & Conditions to lay claim on art shared on it and to claim the right to use it to teach AI. AMPTP is AMPTPing. 

What brings hope is that each incident has been met with collective actions of resistance. There are sustained organized efforts to track, challenge, and undermine book bans. New Yorkers gathered for a public ball to remember Sibley and to reaffirm their pride and right to thrive. A few indie conventions and zine fests are requiring those in attendance to mask out of care for the community and to make the event equitably accessible. Consumers are recognizing and calling out performative acts of corporate allyship, as well as raising alarms to change how and what you post on social media to protect ideas and art. Workers in more segments of the arts are unionizing and voting to authorize strikes. WGA writers and SAG-AFTRA actors are striking for deals that are fair for the largest percentage of their membership.

Every act of joyful resistance counts and reaffirms why Hello Barkada exists. This is an organization and platform that strives to be as bell hooks wrote, "a site of creativity and power, that inclusive space, where we recover ourselves, where we move in solidarity to erase the category colonized/colonizer. Marginality as site of resistance."

I look forward to seeing what Year Three brings, collectively.

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White text says, "Join us on IG Live on Thursday, September 14, at 4:00 p.m. PT when we chat with Bay area cartoonist and multidisciplinary artist Lawrence Lindell about his upcoming graphic novel Blackward and what it means and takes to create communities of care." Text on a darkened profile photo of Lindell.
White text says, "Collectively 2023. The second annual, month-long celebration of artists, writers, and creatives from historically marginalized communities is hosted throughout September, Hello Barkada's anniversary month, and features free online and in-person events, and the release of new content." Text on a darkened graphic of the tan Collectively logo repeated on a slight diagonal down a brown background.