As[I]Am Podcast, Drop That Hyphen Ep 1: On Community

Hosted and edited by Veda Kumarjiguda. Guests featured in episode 1 are Jordan Alam and Alex.

Drop that Hyphen is As[I]Am’s new podcast where host Veda will be in conversation with artists and activists around the country about their work and how they think about social justice topics. On this first episode, we are discussing communities — topics include what it means to be ‘in community’, creating safe(r) spaces, and what happens when your community fractures. There is also a reference to this article by Carley Gooley, called: “Inclusion, Exclusion, and Suggestions for My Pride Vest” that we think our listeners should read. Take a listen here or on Soundcloud!

Editor’s note: we had some difficulties with volume quality in this episode, so if you have difficulty hearing in some parts, we suggest you use headphones. There is also a helpful transcript that follows the podcast below.

Host Veda Kumarjiguda is the founder of SpliceLit and lives in New York City.

The As[I]Am staff is very grateful to Scooter Oyama for the music used in this episode. SCOOTER OYAMA a.k.a. GO YAMA is a producer from San Diego, CA and based in Cambridge, MA. A jazz guitarist, he puts a playful spin on hip hop and electro. Fusing trip hop beats from artists like Flying Lotus with live instruments and looping, GO YAMA creates an interesting and colorful genre blend of trip hop, indie, and jazz. You can hear more of his work on Soundcloud and see what he’s up to on Facebook.



Veda. Welcome to Drop that Hyphen, As[I]Am’s new podcast, where we’ll be talking to artists and activists from around the country.

[musical interlude.]

V. I have two intelligent activists joining me today.

Jordan. I’m Jordan, I am the founder of As[I]Am and I am also a health and healing work enthusiast, which means that I like to get my hands dirty as per the activist work that I do.

Alex. Hi, I’m Alex, I’m an immigrant and a very angry human that also likes to make art and [am] just is really focused on building something better than this hell world.

V. So a few weeks ago I read an article by Carley Gooley called “Inclusion, Exclusion, and Suggestions from my Pride Vest.” It really got me thinking and there’s this one passage that stuck out to me, and I’m going to take a moment to read it to both of you. So she writes:

“Even if a space isn’t anti-queer, it doesn’t make it feel queer-friendly by any means. Regardless of any overt intention of exclusion in public space, that space is inherently heteronormative and therefore queers are automatically othered for simply daring to venture out. Admittedly, this discomfort is generally small or only nearly noticeable unless I choose to see it – or worse, a man decides to make kissy noises at my girlfriend and forces me to look. But over time it becomes grating and degrading to be made to feel intrusive during your daily commute or trip to the grocery store.”

So, after I read that I started to think: what exactly is a safe space? What makes a good community? These days I have a lot of individual friends and, as an adult, I find myself searching for something greater, some sort of larger space where I feel comfortable. I wanted to hear your thoughts.

J. I really vibed with what you were saying about feeling like you were seeking out folks and then maybe you just don’t fit in that space to talk about certain things. Because I think that the other aspect of safer spaces that I really want to bring up is that I think they are spaces in which we can feel more whole. Or more grounded in. And I actually had a really difficult time with that when I was coming out to myself. Despite being in a pretty queer-friendly space, it was pretty white-dominated or I just didn’t feel the vibe of like, I don’t know, compulsory promiscuity in some ways of the queer space I was introduced to. And because I am Muslim, I didn’t have anyone to talk about that with. You know, like they were sympathetic but not empathetic responses to that ‘oh I’m religious and queer.’ So it was inner turmoil until I really found the LGBT Muslim Retreat, which has been so important to me. Because people there don’t share my exact identities for the most part, not very many of them are like bi Bengali women, that kind of thing, or have all my background. But there’s a feeling that it’s ok to be your whole self in the space. And regardless of whether there are challenges – because there are always challenges, regardless of what community you approach – I feel that the work has been put in for me to feel whole in that space. So, I guess, when you talk about like what you are looking for from community, that’s the thing that I really seek out, that’s the dealbreaker thing, if that’s not there then… I’m gonna go.

V. I’m out! [laughs]

J. [laughs] Yeah!

A. I think for me what’s also really important is sharing art and sharing feelings and sharing trauma. And I was really lucky for about 6 months this year, because I was… I came out to myself relatively recently and I came out relatively recently as well, so I found this little circle of QTPOC people here in Brooklyn who were running spoken word, like small open mics in their house, and also writing workshops in their house. And these were like, this was the first time that I actually connected with a community that I felt like ‘oh wow, I can really be more of myself here than I ever have been before.’ And it was really great. I mean, I don’t want to be cheesy and say like it changed my life, but it really did change my life. But it’s also led me to realize that community I think is something that’s not ready-made. Whereas I thought ‘oh, QTPOC, yeah I’m gonna fit right in.’ No, it doesn’t happen that way.

V. You have to put in the effort too.

A. Yeah, and like you were saying [about] individual relationships. So the safest space I have right now is like my home. Like I’ve made my home a safe space. Because my partner and I, we work all that stuff out. And sometimes it’s difficult. It’s like you were saying earlier about working and constantly evolving, it’s not like we don’t fuck up. People fuck up my pronouns all the time and we always have to just keep working through it. It’s not like once I fuck up I’m like this condemned person for life. That’s this horrible Christian mentality, that’s colonial mentality that’s been forced on us, right? So yeah, I think that it’s about building community, like one step at a time, one person at a time, you know?

J. Yeah. I think building is more than just a metaphor in that case. It’s like, so interesting that we use that specific word for it. Like we have to lay down the bricks and the foundation, you know.

A. And it takes so long to build a foundation.

J. Mhm!

click on page 2 below to read the rest of the transcript.

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