A bonus email as promised last week.
(Screenshot/photo from the Chicago Tribune)
I’m part of a very tiny condo association. We live in a three-flat — a house divided into a basement unit, whose owner is never around, a first floor unit, and our upstairs unit. We rarely have meetings and we handle most property-related decisions with our downstairs neighbors via text and email. Recently I mentioned in an email to the group that my dad will be in town in April and he’d offered to do some planting out front, in the scraggly little strip between the sidewalk and the curb that we’ve neglected these past few years. “If it’s too early for planting when he visits, he said he could help with weeding and mulch and other prep,” I wrote.
Brad, the practical Iowan who lives below us, graciously replied: “We love the idea and would really like your dad’s help, but being ready by April sounds like wishful thinking. I would be happy if it just stopped snowing by then.”
I wrote back asking him not to dash my dreams, inserting crying face / steaming mug / sunshine emojis for good measure. But he’s right. It was negative two degrees when I woke up yesterday, wind chill minus 20. I managed to trudge to the coworking space and watched everyone trickle in with stunned, watery eyes and bright red noses.
Still, I’ve had the phrase “seed-planting season” stuck in my head since the morning after Chicago’s election last week.
(Quick aside for those based elsewhere: Your friends in Chicago just held our elections for mayor and city council, and though we saw some of our lowest turnout ever, there were some striking results: the final two candidates who will face off in April’s mayoral runoff are Black women [here’s an impassioned plea for one of them, from Native writer/organizer/photographer Kelly Hayes on Facebook] and whoever wins could face what the Chicago Tribune called an “emboldened, progressive City Council.”)
The day after the election, a wise and brave former coworker named Molly Abbatista posted on Facebook:
“Some of our losses are losses. But some of our losses are seeds.”
Molly spent some time over the past several months volunteering on the Colin Bird-Martinez campaign in the 31st Ward.
I also spent a (very) tiny bit of time volunteering at this office on election day, because my own incumbent alderman was running unopposed. The office was such a lovely, heartening space, from the first greeting — welcoming, energetic staff and volunteers eager to give this near-stranger an orientation, even just a few hours before the polls closed — to the kitchen tables overflowing with homemade Chicago food (think slow cookers bursting with stuffed cabbage, and crockpots full of meaty baked ziti) to this peppy sign on the door as I left:
Sadly, Colin Bird-Martinez did not win. This time. Molly’s post processes this and some of the other hard losses last Tuesday, concluding:
…And there is now a base of voters in the 31st Ward - 1640 of us, 26% of the total vote - who believe we could have an alderman who actually, for real puts Community First. This base did not exist before. Colin's vision for an independent progressive political organization in the 31st Ward predates his campaign, and hasn't gone anywhere just because he didn't win the election. So we build for the next four years and try again.
Understanding the seeds planted by Colin's campaign, by Tim Meegan's campaign [in 2015], and by others like them feels crucial…Where could we build a foothold now to flip a ward in 4 years, 8 years, 12 years? How do we cultivate the collective clarity and deep relationships we will need for this long-haul work?…What will it take to align the splintered left-progressive movement in Chicago around some kind of common strategy, One Chicago, for the People, Chicago for All?
Do you have answers to these questions?
Are you involved with local or larger movements that you think are doing this really well? (Today the Colin Bird-Martinez campaign Facebook page published an event this coming Saturday called “How to keep our next alderman accountable.”)
And/or are you planting a tiny seed just for yourself or your inner circle that you’re proud of and want to whisper or shout about to me? Feel free to hit reply and let me know. It could be anything!
Here are some little specks of possibility that help me to feel warm and hopeful in this frigid season:
🌾When we stock our kids’ and niblings’ bookshelves with thoughtful, fun books that center diverse characters, we plant the seeds for them to appreciate and respect difference as they grow older. (Places to browse: the Kids’ Books for a Better World Facebook group; the Bharat Babies website; the Books for Diversity Instagram account.)
🌳When we support podcasts like the forthcoming Self Evident (which will tackle “today’s toughest questions about identity, cultural change, and nationhood — by presenting reported narratives, community conversations, and personal stories by and about Asian Americans”) or the just-launched All My Relations, about Native peoples and their relationships to land, ancestors, and one another, we are planting seeds for ourselves to understand one another better.
🌷When I tell an organization “I can’t pass along your job description as widely as I would like because it doesn’t include a salary range” and pass them this NonprofitAF post (When You Don’t Disclose Salary Range on a Job Posting, a Unicorn Loses Its Wings), I hope I’m planting a seed for them to reflect on their org culture and practices and to be more transparent in the future.
☕When we quit or take extended breaks from social media, as my friends Mesha and Annie are both doing, we plant seeds for our own well being — for more phone calls with friends, for more introspection or art-making of our own, for more thoughtful relationships with the addictive devices in our pockets.
I’d love to hear any examples you have.
Maybe I’ll share them (with your permission, of course) in a future installment!
See you tomorrow,
p.s. Chicago folks, my head spins as I type this: there are just 28 days ‘til the runoff. Keep these words from Eve Ewing in mind and keep pushing!
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Images above: The campaign door photo is mine and the flowers gif is attributed to favim.com on Giphy.