Erin Sharkey (She/Her/Hers) is a writer and cultural producer based in Minneapolis. She is the co-founder, with Junauda Petrus, of an experimental arts production company called Free Black Dirt. Erin was a Bell Museum Artist-in-Residence, Loft Mentor Series mentee, VONA fellow, Jerome Travel and Study grantee, and Givens Foundation fellow. Her work as appeared in Brooklyn Quarterly, Paper Darts and Walker Sightlines and Primer Magazines and is editing a forthcoming publication on Milkweed Editions. In 2019, She was awarded the Minnesota State Arts Board Artist Initiative grant, and is currently producing, Sweetness of Wild, an episodic web film project, and teaching with Minnesota Prison Writers Workshop and Metro State University. Erin worked as the MayDay Parade and Ceremony Production Manager in 2016 and 2017 and was a consultant to the Parade Celebration in 2018.
This summer it has felt at times like the Phillips and Powderhorn neighborhoods, and the rest of this area, has been at the intersection of so many critical issues :
- the looming threat of ICE surveillance and detention
- a global pandemic and the way it has shown health disparities Black and brown people experience
- the murder of George Floyd and the uprising that rose up in response
- the way those protests rippled across the state and the nation and around the globe
- the call to reimagine public safety, the mutual aid networks that showed our ability to respond to crisis and need and to take care of one another,
- the houseless encampment that grew up on the (stolen Dakota) land that has held the MayDay celebration for the last 4 decades
This time demands response, demands that we answer the call to make real, deep, lasting change. And the MayDay Council has already been at the task.
Remember the way tulips grow? In the fall, before the ground hardens, you bury tight bulbs in the wet loom. You wait through the long crush of winter and you might fear they won’t come up or you forget about them ….until a brave green shoot pushes up and then in a blink the yard is covered in bright yellow.
Over the last year, we’ve been at work. Free Black Dirt (me and Junauda and Lisa), and the MayDay Council and the staff and the board, we’ve been building something together. Though it may have felt to you, quiet and still, we have been industrious and focused, the way a seed holds the tree that made it and the tree it has the potential to be and all the while vibrating in the labor of growing. The quiet work is necessary and may result in something beautiful and the more I witness it the more I think it will.
The MayDay Council is made up of a group of people, vibrant souls who arrive at each of our meetings ready to contribute to build something for a larger network of communities. We met in person, before we were forced to meet in a digital room and even there we were embodied, not needing to neglect our personhood. And it felt to me like we found joy in the work and in each other. Some of the time we weren’t sure what we were building or if we were on the right path, but there were confirmations along the way that invited us to trust the road and keep heading in the direction of a more equitable MayDay, one that would deepen relationships.
We have spent a lot of time talking about sharing and the opportunity to use decentering to strengthen MayDay for the future.
How do we hold something together? How do we hold it together, all of us using our hands to keep it aloft, using cooperation and sharing effort in equitable ways?
We are learning that one of the benefits of decentralization is resiliency because it means that it isn't reliant on one person or a small group of folks who have always done the holding. But I know that being decentered can feel like you are losing. The ways that folks fight it, you might think being decentered, meant total and certain exclusion but I have begun to think about the invitation it offers to take another place in the circle.
You might wonder how you can help. Look for the beauty. Practice trust. Celebrating moments you can feel discomfort and the opportunities to share something that has been sacred to you.
Share the holding.
Together, we have been planting a garden that we hope will grow over many years and in that pursuit the word community was discussed. What did we mean? Did we mean a place? Did we mean an identity group? Did we mean one thing or many? After reflecting on the work, I think the MayDay Council and Free Black Dirt have been in search of ‘us’. And that ‘us’ includes you. And more than you--because MayDay is meant to be shared.