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Oct 9, 2020
Posted Under: COVID President's letter

We call these days “blursday.” They are endless and full, and one day bends and folds into liminal space. These are days where the virus has done more than bring isolation, death, and sorrow – it has revealed and exploited the deep inequities that already existed, and its wake only deepens our fears about each other and about the state of our nation.

In this “in-between time,” we hold our breath waiting for the next revelation  that we know will come, and we are never sure from which direction. Will it be in the new way we respond to our work with agility and speed that we didn’t even know we had? Or in the new life of teacher-parent-worker that we never thought was possible but yet is happening? Or will it be something equally large and fundamental that will have us in the streets or calling out in prayer? We have learned a new term for these times, too – “life quakes.” A new effort to quantify the unsettled uncertainty and unanticipated changes in our personal experience. An effort to explain to each other that some of us – many of us – are rocked to our core as we are during the earthquakes we know so well.

And yet, in all these life quakes and blurry days we are seeing light streaming through the cracks – illuminating possibilities and highlighting the incredible work we have already done since this pandemic began. It seems almost absurd to say that blursday has turned into six months. Really? Six months since we moved faster, and responded more, and dug deeper than any plan or any one person thought possible? Six months since we busted the ridiculous idea of doing more with less and did even more with even less? Six months since we closed our doors and opened up our programs in ways our old assumptions didn’t even know were possible? And yes, six months since we thought we knew what was most important, but really now we know so very differently. In this “in-between time” called blursday, we also call it six months.

Somedays, the best I can do is to resolve to move forward with hope of a more just time ahead. Today I heard such a powerful message and reminder: “We have what we need right now to bring equity, justice, and healing.”* Even in these “in-between times,” can you hear it? I can. It’s optimism – it’s truth.

Today I am holding onto this truth, and I am extending my hand to you. Today I am holding on to these rays of light that are rising from the blur – these truths – these moments of clarity that are coming out of my computer screen, that are coming from those I love and trust, and from those I have just met. I am holding on to these, and I hope you are, too. I hope you are looking for the glimmer and holding on and letting it anchor you.

As you think about what is holding you steady in this moment, or what you might grab on to as the quaking continues, I want to share a few things I can see across our sector. My hope is that it will offer a moment for your own reflection – a chance to take a true deep breath – a chance to pause and check-in with yourself. It is okay not to be okay. We are reminded every day that true leaders are supported leaders. It is okay to seek and receive support. Our sector is full of people who consider themselves givers of support, but what is tethering you right now in this time?

Here are some things I am seeing and hearing across our sector that are lighting our way forward:

  • We are hearing loud, proud, and collectively strong voices from those in our arts community who used to sing alone and now sing stronger and more powerfully together.
  • We are seeing younger leaders and older leaders and new leaders take this moment to reach out to learn and grow and shine throughout communities across Alaska. They were always with us but in this time they have activated their interest and voice in new and deeply personal ways.
  • We are holding space for new conversations that bust myths and explode assumptions between peer organizations about how the work really helps or hinders the true intention of their missions. They are having deeper conversations not just surface nods to collaboration within and outside the sector. While they could easily succumb to scarcity thinking, they are instead bursting with abundant thoughts, ideas, and action.
  • We are creating and reading and absorbing new research about our sector that is driving so many more to fight inequity and giving us courage to insist on new conversations and new ways of being both across our sector and beyond. We are leading the way, and it is inspiring to watch data become action overnight.
  • And even on our own team, we are finding that our model of sustainability is more than ever the right tool to guide us out of the chaos and blurriness of these days and into a new stability for each of our missions.

With every glimmer of light we must resolve to push forward. I could go on and on about the strength I see in our collective resolve to not “go back” but to push ourselves, our missions, and our communities forward. Going back is to let all of this go. To lose the gifts. To lessen the learning.

I know this time has been stressful beyond all of the new words. I need you to know that this will continue to be an incredibly difficult space to operate in. This is our collective “in-between time” when we must chart a new path forward even though we cannot yet see where it leads. What we have are glimmers of light. There are no perfect tools or any “best practice” for how to be right now. What we have in these blurry days is an opportunity to acknowledge each other. To share our glimmers of hope and stability. To hold out our hands to each other. To chart our way forward together.

*Quoted and inspired by Vanessa Daniel, Groundswell Fund