on being inVISIBLE

these past couple of months have been some of the most productive times of my life and yet, i still can’t help but feel like i’m just barely able to keep up or keep making things. the studio has been pretty quiet lately. plenty of psychic power has shifted in my life in this short amount of time. i’m taking care of myself (now i go to the gym and do daily tarot readings and smoke less weed and no longer eat a full-size wawa hoagie twice a week), i’m taking care of my family, i’m putting money in the bank, i feel to my core that the people in my life now are the ones i need, love seems like something i’m capable of handling better than before, and i should have all of the ideas in the world. and i do have a few, but putting them into fruition has been a tall ask.

my tarot has been telling me this whole week that collaboration and community building is something that i’m going to need in order to get my practice back into motion. and it’s funny, because i did had a little assignment i’ve been working on outside of my personal projects, and – for the record, i did not absolutely hate doing it, but – the “needing to deal with other people” aspect of it has been the sneaky thing that’s caused my painting to all but stop lately. being on such a small team with such a seemingly-inconceivable task of your own creation makes you doubt if the effort is even going to be worth it, because who’s going to look at this random thing that may be a resource to them but they just don’t know it yet? but now, i’m starting to see the benefits and viewing all of the labor in a more positive light.

inVISIBLE is an idea that started with one of my best friends from undergrad, julia luz betancourt – a brilliant young investigative journalist, poet, and fellow mutual aid pioneer. what began as a platform to self-publish her long-form piece about the hidden truths of the food insecurity epidemic on st. john’s university’s campus eventually turned into a concept for a zine where marginalized students and victims of the higher ed industrial complex could have a platform to speak about the oppression they faced as they were simply trying to get a decent education. she posted an open call. i volunteered myself to do all of the layout design and a large portion of the interior artwork. in no time, we created about eight months worth of work for ourselves. we talked about wanting to do something like this so often, and to think, we actually did it, and in the past 24 hours i have heard nothing but praise for the mission we set out to accomplish.

without further ado, here it is, free to read in full digitally.

there are too many great moments in this 72 page long behemoth of a debut for me to even list; you simply have to read these people’s voices for yourself. but among the works i’m biased towards, my kid sister denise (a favorite at gallery aferro functions) pens a scathing screenplay about their high school film project getting its premiere cancelled due to the faculty’s homophobic bias:

and our dear friend (and southeast queens’ absolute powerhouse of a community organizer) farudh majid writes a very personal letter reflecting on how he has slowly put in the effort and rebuilt himself from the trauma these past few years have dealt him:

an old piece i wrote and illustrated for a different zine project, a prose inspired by a normal afternoon i spent with one of my dearest friends, someone who was among the few who made me feel safe and secure in my identity when i first came out at age 19. it’s also named after my favorite album of all time, because of course:

a series of photographs from a lower manhattan food desert, shot by another newark creative, isaiah gill:

but most of all, the piece that was the source of this project’s fruition in the first place – julia’s research, presented as direct and individual testimonies from students and professors that shine a light on the massive issue that st. john’s chose to ignore the whole time we were there, and continues to willingly not engage with:

now that the work is done, we can take a breath. we bit off more than we could chew, and even if it’s great, it is still exhausting. it’s time to rest, recharge, think about new pursuits, and with time, return to this concept and turn it into an even realer thing. our end goal is to crowdfund and find enough sponsorship and grant opportunities to be able to distribute these in print format for free, focusing on the cities and communities who could learn from and resonate with this issue the most. the more hands on it, the more hands involved in the publishing process, the more impact we can have, and the more we can shake schools to their core until their happy facades break down.

if you are interested in a print copy for yourself (or, if you would be so kind as to distribute some through your community, OR EVEN BETTER, if you wish to monetarily contribute to our printing costs), stay tuned for more details in the months to come. and if you are an educator – as i know some of you are – please share this link far and wide with your students. when another open call comes, urge them to submit. the youth are sharing some of our society’s most important pieces of knowledge, and yet they are still the most overlooked. they’re not just complaining to be brats; they’re speaking truth. we never want to lose touch with our young organizers even as the years since our graduation continue to increase. we need to ensure that platforms like this never die.

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