-written by Hearth Founder, Miranda Aisling
It’s been over a week now since the tragedy in Orlando and I’ve been struggling with how to respond as an individual, an artist, and a community organizer. There is, of course, the grief and the fear and the anger that such a horrific thing has yet again occurred and that the conversation about how to stop it continues to spiral with no resolution. I am part of the generation that has come of age in the time of mass shootings. Columbine, Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Aurora Theater, Charleston, Orlando: this has been the backdrop of my entrance to adulthood. As I now pour my energy into growing the Hearth community, it shakes my very core to think how easily such a community can be torn apart through random acts of violence.
What scares me most, though, is how easy it is to become desensitized. To admit that I purposefully did not check the news last Sunday after seeing the headlines because my heart did not have space and my schedule did not have time. To recognize that privilege, the ability to just turn off the news, and the naive sense of invincibility that it is rooted in: it wasn’t here, it wasn’t me, it won’t be here. But to remain wrapped in privilege and invincibility is to perpetuate the problem. Being a numb and passive bystander is, in its own way, as dangerous as being an aggressor. It very well could have been here, and it very well could be.
We must try to open ourselves to the hurt of others, of those who don’t have the privilege of turning off the news because they themselves were targeted. We must ask ourselves: How do we keep our hearts open in times of pain and fear? How do we respond? How do we make it stop? I’ve seen the images and calls to action posted around the internet. Don’t just talk, do something. Take action. But how? What action? I feel too ignorant to craft gun control policies or even to know which ones to support. Last time I checked, my iron was too low to donate blood and the centers are full anyway. Instead, I’ve returned to what I am learning how to do everyday at the Hearth: creating a space where people are safe and loved and heard. A space that can hold us and where we can hold each other.
At its root, this tragedy was a hate crime aimed at the gay community and the Latinx community. In my little privileged bubble of the world, where gay marriage is legal and couples of all orientations can hold hands walking down the street, it is too easy for me, as an ally, to forget the rampant bigotry that still exists. In large part that’s because it is not directed at me: I’m not so naive as to think that everyone in Massachusetts is as open to the gay community as I would hope. I have never thought I needed to designate the Hearth as a safe zone, for the LGBTQ community or otherwise, because to me this is obvious. We are a community built on love, on caring, on creating, and that love is not restricted.
This crime was a reminder that safety is not something we can take for granted. We must actively fight for it for everyone in our community. We must use our voices and our hearts to spread love and acceptance in the face of pain and intolerance.
Today, I am designating Miranda’s Hearth as a safe zone for the LGBTQ and Latinx community. This is not at the exclusion of any other community, as I would like to think that the Hearth is a safe zone for all who come to it, but it is a targeted act of love to offset a targeted act of evil. This is just a starting point, because saying it isn’t enough. Designating the Hearth as a safe space does not mean that we magically are one, it is a goal that now requires action. I will look into actual training for myself, and anyone else interested, to learn how to facilitate that safe zone and to define what a safe zone actually is. Becoming a safe zone does not mean we will automatically eradicate all our prejudices. As a community, we will occasionally say or do the wrong things and accidentally hurt each other, but becoming a safe space is about being dedicated to growing and learning through those moments: recognizing our own biases and attempting to find clear solutions.
We’ll be putting out the image below at all of our events and are open to any and all suggestions about how to actively create this safe zone, recognizing that it will never be perfect but working tirelessly anyway.
The only way to respond to hate is with love, and love is something the Hearth Community has in leaps and bounds.