“Always take Fountain.” – Bette Davis
I grew up a very long way from Los Angeles and, to be honest, the city has always been overwhelming for me. But leave it to the Chromatica Tour and our incredible Kindness in Communities Fund recipients to show me that beneath the good, the bad, and the traffic of Los Angeles is a heartbeat of kindness, bravery, support, compassion, and love. The Born This Way Foundation team and I headed to SoCal from San Francisco and were met with back-to-back-to-back reminders of why we do this work.
First, we visited ProjectQ, a salon and community center on Fountain Ave. (proving that Bette Davis is still correct after all these years).
ProjectQ almost defies description – yes, it’s a salon, yes, it’s a community meeting space, but it’s also an internship program, store for curly hair products, food pantry, binder fitting store, gender-affirming clothing shop, library, bookstore, clinic, therapists’ office, coworking space, job training program, and even with that list, it is oh-so-much more.
Their team met us at the door and immediately made us feel at home, like they do for every LGBTQIA+ young person of color that they work with. We learned not just about their programs – from free gender-affirming haircuts to multi-year internship and development programs – but also about their values – including that mental health is central to wellbeing and that “hair and self-empowerment is a form of social justice.” We left inspired, rededicated to this work, committed to supporting ProjectQ, and overwhelmed with gratitude for their incredible team (and their amazing curl cream too!).
The team also visited our other Kindness in Communities Fund recipient, Miry’s List. I had heard that Miry, the founder of the organization, was welcoming but I didn’t expect she’d actually invite us to her home, where we had the privilege of assembling Welcome Kits and writing Welcome Notes for families who have newly arrived to the United States as refugees from their home countries including Afghanistan, Ukraine, Syria, Iraq, Iran, and others.
Miry was called to this work by a chance meeting with a family who had a baby the same age as hers and a need to make sure they had a safe space for their child to live in and grow. From this calling, she has now assisted over 1,000 families in their transition to the US and has expanded her reach each year. She taught us about the systemic and policy reasons behind the difficulties of life in the US for refugees and invited us all to do an act of kindness for the dozens of families she welcomes to this country every month. Miry and her team inspired each of us with their consistent dedication to saying “yes” when they see an act of kindness that needs to be done. We were so grateful to see “kindness is action” personified and to be in community with them.
As if that was not enough, Los Angeles also brought the opportunity to reconnect, to dance, to listen to poetry, to talk about mental health, to breathe deeply, to smile, and to meet new people – all at the same event. We co-hosted our second Re.Mixer with our friends at Eventbrite to combat social isolation by bringing us all together in-person in Los Angeles, and wow, was it fun. The Executive Directors of ProjectQ and Miry’s List joined us for a panel about mental health moderated by our own Shadille Estepan, as well as our longtime friend and forever-inspiration, Khloe from KhloeKares. The event was joyful, meaningful, and rejuvenating – a wonderful reminder that connecting in-person can make all the difference and that wellness and community are inextricably linked. What a joy to get that reminder in the form of a choreographed catwalk with new friends!
Now on to Houston!