So, this post has been on top of my procrastination list for about 3 weeks, almost a month, which means I have to stop being lazy lol. Like journaling, this is my safe space, so I'm focused on making it less like "work" or "creating content" but more like free writing. All the homies that journal regularly know what i mean lol. Anyways, I had the opportunity to give my first public speaking seminar last month! i won't cap at all I was nervous as hell and had to idea what to expect lol but it went much better than I expected. Shout out to Ms. Melanie Carden-Jessen and the Missouri State's geography/planning/geoscience department for having the kid on campus! She showed me the utmost hospitality during my whole trip and everyone on the campus definitely made me feel welcomed so a lot of love to the staff out there.
I did decide to travel there and show up in person opposed to doing it virtually. I went back and forth on that decision for awhile just because I didn't want to put myself in an uncomfortable position or do the same to their students. But after a lot of thought I decided to go and be as safe as possible so it all worked out pretty well. I also got tested for COVID when I came back to Texas (after snowmagadeon 2021) so I'm not trying to be that reckless if I choose to travel lol. But uh, Missouri (Springfield to be exact) was cool, I had no idea what to expect so I spent more time gazing out the window than anything else lol. It's cold as SHIT there with mad disrespectful winds no lie! That was my first time seeing real life, real cold snow and experiencing a real winter - 0/10 would not recommend at all lol. Springfield definitely has a rural character to it once you get into the city where most of the "liveliness" is based around the university (Missouri State) and its amenities. I kind of reminded me of Denton, Texas with the "college town" feel but also enjoyed the walkability aspect of downtown with bars, restaurants, and just stuff lol.
I will say the environment felt totally different which may have been because of COVID or that we were primarily in the downtown core or because of the lack of Black bodies I visibly saw. Of course I'm used to seeing a handful of Black people even in some parts of Texas but I guess as an adult in this field I see/feel spaces differently as a Black person. Almost like I'm hyper-aware that there aren't too many other folks like me around so I'm watching my back twice as hard. Despite that, I did see more Black bodies on campus which was nice but still a little concerning on what the entirety of Black people in Springfield is really like. It gave me a lot to think about as I rode around and walked around campus during my time there. Nonetheless, the staff treated me with nothing but love and an uncanny amount of respect lol. An abundance of love to Ms. Melanie as she drove me around during my time there and hyped me up all week/weekend to the entire department lol. I can't say thank you enough.
I talked about the world's favorite word right now...equity. But I flipped the switch and focused my talk on how equity is more than bringing Black people to your orgs/firms/panels for insight rather it means VALUING what they have to say about their lived experiences. I was so nervous lol because there were more people than I'd anticipated. Granted it was probably 30 people in there max but unlike my sudden "following" on social media may suggest, I'm not very fond of public speaking or speaking of any manner lol. I felt so free and empowered being able to talk about equity in a way that isn't just pushing workshops or trainings on students more so I looped in hip hop/music, streetwear, Black culture, and of course, Nipsey Hussle in how I define/talk about equity. Man...it was dope to exist like that unapologetically I cannot deny. It's wild that people were interacting with me, asking questions, and wanting to understand my views lol. I'll never get used to being the center of attention at speaker things.
We talked about homelessness, the necessary conversations about race in everything we do, being an ally, planning at the butt of social justice issues in Black/communities of color, and more - I honestly wasn't prepared for it but feel like the conversation was great. They may not know it but I learned more from them in that 1.5 hour timeframe than they'll ever realize. Safe to say, I thoroughly enjoyed myself at the campus and definitely the students. Never in a million years did I think I'd be in this position... be headlining a seminar in ANOTHER state... be giving some sort of "advice" about existing unapologetically in this space... it really was all a dream at one point. To have students of color come to me after the seminar with a sigh of relief to see/hear a person of color talking in this space... man that still gives me chills to think about. Even more so to be stopped by students while I was out in the city and tell me the words I said were inspiring....the words that I was so nervous to say, the words I didn't even know how I was going to express them... that's wild to me seriously.
I'm humbled by it all. I'm grateful for the experience. And I'm hungrier than ever to do ths urban planning thing my own way. All the way down to the way I appear and express myself when I'm invited to speak (in-person or virtually). Here's some pictures I took while in the city. I got wrapped up in the seminar so I didn't take the best pictures or a lot of them lol.
It took me damn near a month to type this up but oddly enough finishing it now feels more genuine than it would've been a couple of weeks ago when I originally started this. Getting back to writing these as meditation and a coping mechanism instead of treating like work or "content creation". Just getting back to the basics and leveling up the intentions I put out into the universe. Big manifestation vibes ya know?
Thank you Missouri State geography, geoscience, and planning department! And definitely a lot of love to Ms. Melanie Carden-Jessen for reaching out to me last year for this opportunity along with the unmatched hospitality she showed me. The experience of seeing planning, talking about it with people from another perspective, and in another state was enlightening to say the least. Very grateful for the opportunity and the love - I'll definitely be back to Springfield w/blckspces to do some work!
Looking forward to having more of these opportunities.