Sunday, August 23, 2009

Azaleas & Fishing Poles

The first time I recall ever seeing an Azalea bush and learning what it was, I was sitting in the center-seat of a Ryder moving truck, about to pull away from our house in Mississippi, when just as my dad released the emergency break, our landlord’s car squealed into the driveway and blocked us in. As I tried to ignore the argument in front of the truck, I looked to my left – a line of Azalea bushes that I had never noticed before. “What type of flowers are those,” I asked my mom. “Azaleas,” she said. The next thing I remember, I was waking up in Maryland as we pulled into the driveway of the house of my paternal grandparents, whom I had never met. Three months later, with nowhere to go, they kicked us out of their house.

Last week was a typical week. I worked, I skated, I worked a whole lot more, and then I skated some more. In between all the work and skating, I was especially disturbed each time I read the news or turned on the television. The top story here in Baltimore last week was the assault of a local black fisherman by a self-proclaimed white supremacist and two juveniles while his wife looked on. After work and before practice or after practice and before work the next morning, my boyfriend and I had the same discussion each time we heard about the incident again on the local news: if we had been there, what would we have done? Would we have said something? Stepped in? We knew we hoped that if we’d been there we’d have done something to stop the horror of what happened.

On Thursday I was talking with my coworker about her need for more regular exercise. I offered to take her to my gym the following morning, and (gasp!) my ass actually made it up and there by 6am, a feat I haven’t accomplished in quite some time. As I was running on the treadmill, listening to my new workout mix and reading the captioning on the array of televisions ahead of me, I again saw the news story and I again became utterly disgusted. “I wish I could do something for that family,” I thought. Only this time that thought was followed by an idea: “I think I CAN do something for that family!”

As soon as I showered and got to the office I typed up an email to our league and posted a poll: Do you approve of donating 5% beer sales from tomorrow’s bout and giving a $150 gift card to the victims of the recent hate crime? Do you approve of collecting donations at the bout? And it began.

Emails flooded back replying to my post. In a matter of minutes we were preparing radio copy and emailing the Baltimore Sun reporter who broke the story. Within two hours we were writing a press release, designing a PayPal donation button to place on our website, and making plans to make DIY spray-painted ERACISM tees to give away at the bout. Three hours later we got a call from the mayor’s office who wanted to present us with a community service recognition award, and they weren’t even on the press-release list. It was a good thing I had planned to take off work Friday at noon, because almost immediately there was a lot to do!

Facebook posts, emails, phone calls, and a shit-ton of art supplies consumed Friday night. I could hardly sleep. I was so nervous that we wouldn’t raise a respectable amount of money to donate to the family, and I really wanted us to be able to make a difference. That, and I was so overwhelmed by pride for my league and the amount of support and hard work that so many ladies put into making this fundraiser happen, and happen successfully. It still blows my mind, thinking about what we pulled off in only a matter of hours. The next day, the bout.

The next morning I almost forgot I would be skating against Philly’s Liberty Belles that night, because I was so worried about making the fundraiser “perfect”. When I realized this was happening, I asked myself why this fundraiser had become all consuming. We’ve done fundraisers for charitable organizations before, but somehow this was different. Maybe it’s because the need was tangible – because I’d seen the couple who was assaulted on the news twice a day for the last 3 days – I don’t know. I do know we all became incredibly driven like we’ve never been before, and it paid off.

Last night we raised $2,000 for the Privott family. We’ll be leaving the PayPal button up on our website through this coming Friday, and we’re hoping to raise another $1,000 by the time we close donations. Our goal? To show this family more love this week than they had seen hate. Love can’t be measured in dollars, but I hope the dollars will help.

There’s something else that’s been on my mind throughout this whole ordeal: I really hope Mr. Privott is able to continue fishing. On Friday when I proposed the fundraiser to our league, I posed the question: Can you imagine packing up your skates and pads after practice, only to be attacked with a sledgehammer because of what you looked like?

I believe sports are important – not just for children or rollergirls, but for everyone who has a passion for a sport – even a man in his 70s, and I really don’t want a fishing pole and tackle box to be Mr. Privott’s Azalea bush. I want him to be able to continue to do the thing that he loves, even though for a while I’m sure it will be a symbol of pain. I can only hope that negative association will fade with time.

When I was 11-years-old and briefly without a home, I was amazed that this community that we’d been a part of for only 3 short months would be so kind to provide small things that made all the difference in our day-to-day life, like toiletries and food. And most of the people who helped us out, I’ll never know. I hope my small contribution in response to this recent horrific event can make the Privott family feel the same love I also felt from this Baltimore community at a very low point in my young life.

I made a decision when I was 11: I would never be homeless again. Sixteen years later, I purchased an old house in Baltimore. Each day when I arrive back home, I look at my house, my front porch, and my Azalea bush, and I can’t help but fell full of love. What doesn’t kill us makes us stronger, and with time horrible memories do fade. But the good memories – even those that we experience in dark times – they become clearer.

If you’d like to help offset Mr. Privott’s medical expenses, please click here to make an online donation. Thank you.

1 comment:

PENALTYna said...

Best Line EVER!!!!

Our goal? To show this family more love this week than they had seen hate.

When I heard you say this line last night to a crowd of 1,500 derby fans who ALL helped & contributed in bring love to the Privott Family... i thought, WOW... Human Kindness Thrives in Baltimore... Amazing!!!

I'm soooo proud of CCRG & our fellow Baltimorans!!!

(Mr.Privott, if ur reading this, sending you LOTS of derby Healing LOVE!)