You are Perfect

Reading at the 2019 LA Time Festival of Books: The story of how I fell in love years ago at Stanford Law School

This past weekend I was lucky enough to participate in the LA Times Festival of Books. I was part of this amazing program put together by a dear friend, Brittany Ballard. With Hanna Bowens, she has put together this exercise in bravery and openness called Unsent. Like a modern day and even more revealing, Post Secret (I’m dating myself), Unsent is a live show where brave souls get on the mic and share that email, letter, or text message they’ve kept to themselves.

It was thrilling to get the piece off my chest. I followed it up by hoping on a plane and heading to the American Planning Association’s (APA)National Planning Conference in San Francisco.

The conference had a huge emphasis on diversity, equity, and inclusion. I was even there to moderate an equity focused panel. Yet, I was in many sessions where I saw people of color, and specifically women of color, and specifically black women, get up and talk about the doubt they felt in the space. The space was supposed to be open, welcoming, diverse and inclusive. Instead, they talked about the contradictory feelings they felt in the space. They talked about how no one spoke to them, except other people of color. They talked about how people assumed they were students or nonprofit organizers, not members of APA. They talked about being skipped in line when people just simply went past them to help the white people all around them.

This feeling of being invisible is the exact opposite of what I felt when I was onstage in Los Angeles the day before. Unfortunately, it’s a feeling that many people feel way too often. Being in white centered professions, spaces, and institutions means constantly struggling to be seen. Sometimes it means struggling with self-doubt. Sometimes it means struggling to feel loved or appreciated.

The juxtaposition of these two experiences made me want to share about a time in my life where I saw someone and loved her. The video is linked above. The words are pasted below. This isn’t the final piece as I threw it together in 20 mins before going on stage. I’ll keep work-shopping it, but just in case it helps any of the folks out there struggling to be seen or loved or appreciated, I wanted to share.

Read more and watch the video on Medium

Tamika Butler