Retreat update

This is something I have not been able to articulate yet. It’s something I’ve been grappling with internally almost my entire life. And because I wasn’t willing to recognize it and take accountability for it, I’ve hurt many people I trust, admire and truly love. I want to give y’all an update on the retreat within this context, as well as explain what’s going on with my business moving forward.

I know that Jews have been persecuted throughout history. We all know this. I know we are still persecuted today, with synagogue shootings and the rise of the proud and out neo-Nazi. I think for a long, long time, I have used that persecution as an excuse to avoid doing work within myself that I know needs to be done. I have used that persecution as an excuse to not acknowledge my own internalized racism and homophobia that exists within many of us. I have used Judaism as a way to other and marginalize myself when in fact, the vast majority of Jews are not marginalized. A lot of us are white. A lot of us hold positions of power in our society. A lot of us have immense privilege. Yes, people are discriminated against because they are Jewish, but that is not the same as being a BIPOC. There is no comparison, period (this pertains to white Jews). I’m not saying that I thought there was or think that now, but I am acknowledging that I have used my faith and identity as a Jew to victimize myself and my place in society. I think a lot of us Jews do, but I think a lot of us Jews know better and don’t.

In creating the BRK Retreat, I was hoping to use my privilege, my power and my standing in society to create a space in which the voices, bodies, work and minds of BIPOC and LBTQIA+ individuals could be empowered and celebrated. We rushed to get logistics into place so we could put all of the members in our planning committee together in one room and discuss our ideas and goals for this retreat. We went about this the wrong way. This could never have succeeded as something that was so rushed and unprepared. We needed to define our clear goals and build a foundation before asking the people of the committee to do so much unpaid labor for us, ESPECIALLY at a time when so much was already being asked of them. I was the wrong person to do this. I don’t think a white person, even with their queer and Jewish intersections, has a place in such an event in the way that I had envisioned it. I brought people into a space that turned out to be unsafe and harmful, and for that I will forever be sorry. It is not something I could have predicted, but with the proper vetting it’s something I could have prevented. This all happened to coincide with what is happening with Ravelry, with people sending personal information of BIPOC fiber artists to right-wing news outlets, with people being doxxed and safety/privacy in general on the decline. This is a scary time for so many people, and I feel awful to have added to the stress of this week, this month, this year—to all of fucking time!

We have disbanded the planning committee and will not be moving forward with the retreat as it was previously envisioned at this time. I think in the future, Tessa and I would like to work on a conference or gathering centered around queer representation in craft, something we both feel more equipped and confident to do as queer folk. That being said, we still have a lot of work and education to do within our company and ourselves to make sure that type of event is inclusive of BIPOC and can be a truly safe space. I am sorry for the hurt and disappointment I’ve caused. There have been many moments in the past couple of days where I have felt, possibly for the first time in my life, what the true meaning of being a fraud is. I feel that many white people in this community have celebrated me as an exemplary ally. I can tell you right now that is not the case. I can tell you right now I don’t think that can be said of anyone. As any “good” ally knows, this work is never done. Sitting with your biases and starring your own white supremacy in the face should be part of your everyday life. It should be a massive part of your existence on this planet-- to question yourself, your intentions and how you exist in this space. I need to take accountability for this in a way I’m not sure I’ve ever done before. I need to ruminate on why this happened and how I let it happen. I think finally articulating my thoughts on my identity as a Jew was a big and MUCH needed first step for me. I have such a long fucking way to go.

Today I found out that our nonprofit received it’s 501(c)(3) status. I didn’t know what to feel or think or say when holding that letter in my hands. I know I want to do something. I want to build something. I do not want to be complicit. But I can’t build something that I see as “good” or “right” without doing this work within myself first. 

That being said, we have emailed raffle donors and participants some refund options. The only money that was spent from our fundraising was the $275 need to cover the costs of filing, which will obviously be refunded to the nonprofit by myself/my own company. We want to ensure people that this nonprofit will, at some point in time, function again. I haven’t given up on the part of myself that wants this. I apologize to the people who donated that we were unable to achieve our goals and vision, that we went about doing so in entirely the wrong way, and that we have failed them and you. 

I understand this post may be viewed as centering. I wanted to write this down as I’ve always been transparent on this platform, and I see it as an exercise in that transparency as well as accountability. I am confused about my identity—as a Jew, as a queer woman and as an “established” designer in this field, but I know that I want to do better, I want to be better. I also want to make very clear I have not brought Judaism into this post as an excuse or explanation for behavior that deserves no form of forgiveness. I’ve included my thoughts on the Jewish identity in hopes that it can reach other Jewish folk and show that just because white supremacy exists (in part) to persecute us, it doesn’t mean we don’t also benefit from it. Because of COURSE we do. And acknowledging that and TRULY BELIEVING IT is the first step in a long road I am walking down to be the ally I want to become.

I have a lot of work to do within myself and I have trust to build and grow. I know that I have let a lot of people down, but I hope to foster that trust again and do something good with this platform. I have a lot of collaborations, workshops and patterns coming up throughout the rest of the year. I’ll be around, I’ll be signal boosting, I’ll be doing a lot of work. I hope to speak to you soon thank you for reading. - Rachel