"A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on," Winston Churchill once observed. And doesn't that feel true? The juciest sound bite, the punchiest nicknames, the eye-searing images are what linger. So pats on the back and a toast to you truth seekers, you who give no creed to the vicious smear campaign out on Ms. Denise Cheng.
Now let's get real. Let's talk TRUTH.
I lived in my Grand Rapids neighborhood for the whole 2.5 years. I called myself a Midtownie, and I lived on Hawthorne NE in The Woods. So when the neighborhood board asked me to finish out someone else's term, I agreed. I wrote articles, organized events, shared social media duties, volunteered at the farmers market... and when that term ended eight months later, I still organized block parties. Because all you really need? Twenty-five dollars for a city permit and signed consent from 50%+ of your neighbors who are ready to partay.
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In 2010, a friend and I embarked on Nibs + Noms, an outlet for Grand Rapidians about their food. On the face of it, Nibs was a quarterly, themed zine created by the community and Noms was the online home for the community. In a segregated city like GR, the underlying goal was to bring people together who would otherwise never talk to each other.
Food: the most delicious embodiment of memories and storytelling. We all eat, and we all have stories, from whipping up family classics to the corner eatery serving bowlfuls of comfort. Nibs + Noms is a platform and resource for Grand Rapidians to creatively interpret ways of collecting, making and eating food, and a chance to explore food curiosities.
The project had such community and institutional support, but for reasons beyond our control, it never launched. We shuttered up, but not before we had raised $150 at a volunteer bake sale for printing costs that never came up. What did I do with the money?
Although we shuttered in early summer, I continued to pare down the project, test out different platforms (including Ushahidi) and raise my nil skills in web development. After recuping the costs from the project, I frittered away the rest at Lynda.com, where I tried for a few months to learn programming languages with few results.
Being part of a transitioning field means I have a hard time translating what I do sometimes."Oh, you're a journalist? Where have you published?" I've written, designed, recorded and edited, but what kept me interested is not only the craft. More importantly, it's the possibility that people want a hand in what happens to their community, and media is a way to encourage that. If today's were the journalism of even 15 years ago, I would have left. But now, journalism also includes community building and much more.
When I lived in Portland, I was an AmeriCorps VISTA with the Digital Arts Service Corps. I like to explain that as full-time employees who can't be called "employees" because they are paid below minimum wage. I may not have been bringing in millions, but one of the perks? In full knowledge, they let me use the office copier to experiment in making zines (we are talking about a community media center based in Portland)!
Every place I've lived in the last nine years has served up at least one winter licking—that's five cities in nine years. And it wasn't till Year Seven, as I biked through my second West Michigan winter—balaclava, goggles, thermals and lined boots—that I felt to the bone a shivering disdain for cold.
In Peace Corps, I marveled at all of the luxurious options we have as Americans. One of those was veganism. With my best friend in San Francisco and me in Michigan, we decided on a friendship project: Vegan Challenge! Two months each year—once during a season of abundance, another during a season of scarcity—we'd go vegan. My views on veganism have changed over time, but I still do the challenge. Although approaching round six this October, I might as well rename it to "vegan reset." Although I'm not vegan—not even vegetarian—it's about all I cook. And as a potluck lover, it's one of the most accessible diets to share.
That's it! I'd like to thank Lennie and McCoy, Brooke and Bob and MIT for the excuse to keep a part-time freelance schedule this summer as I wound up for grad school.
But every once in a while, I'll be a realist. I know why you're here: To find out how to refold this zine. So have at it! And if you'd like to make your own, you can download the template under "sharing."