Speaking Up for Butterflies

A personal note from your old/new Communications Director Cindy Marie Jenkins

I worked for 24th ST from 2013–2015, left when I moved to Orlando and now I’m back in the role of Communications Director. I remember the first school shooting after I started — and how painful is it that there were so many more; I knew in my heart that we couldn’t carry on as normal and began posting articles on how to talk to your children about guns and violence in schools. I did this without asking Jay or Debbie, and, they being who they are, encouraged it and appreciated the role that they could take to perhaps help their community in some way. We all felt so helpless. Giving parents and educators the tools to face those young minds who look to them for guidance, for help understanding their complex emotions; that is something we can do.

Fast forward to 2017 and Charlottesville. Perhaps because I just returned to this work again; perhaps because my planner clearly told me that I was to focus on marketing La Razón Blindada that day. Perhaps because now, months later, I am so used to diving deeply into my work in order to tune out the violence and horrors manifesting themselves on our streets; perhaps for all of these reasons, my instincts on Saturday were off. I went about the day like it was a normal day, trying so hard to make it a normal day.

But of course it wasn’t. This reality is normal for many of our citizens, although I hold too much middle class white heterosexual cisgender privilege to experience this hate on a daily basis.

I woke up Sunday morning to my small sons clamoring for my attention and a long to do list running through my head. Over that first cup of coffee, I read a twitter thread from a clown, describing what happens when a boy wants a blue butterfly painted on his cheek and his parents make him get a skull and crossbones instead. They turn his desire to appreciate something beautiful into an image of violence and hate, effectively telling him not to embrace the way he feels unless it fits their — and our society’s — image of masculinity. The power of a birthday clown’s story even caused my husband to rethink a conversation we had about a princess dress my son likes, a conversation we had months ago and never resolved.

It made me feel very insincere and cowardly for ignoring current events in favor of privilege and a to-do list.

So I pledge to speak up to you, our 24th ST Community, about beauty, emotions and how to talk about them. It’s the least I can do to enhance the mission you all support, to supplement the fantastic storytelling that allows parents, teens, kids and friends alike to tap into your emotions and give you space to feel without judgment.