by Cristina Rivera Earl on Aug 16, 2021
You're a lifetime New Yorker (specifically a Brooklynite). What has kept you there all these years?
I grew up in the rough and tumble New York of the 70s and 80s, when the subways were sweaty and covered with graffiti, the streets were grimy, Central Park was bedraggled and crime was rampant. But it was also a place of endless possibility and excitement, the art and music worlds were thriving and the sense of a vibrant creative community was strong. The energy was, and still is, palpable and it is this kind of energy that I have come to rely upon for my sanity. Status quo has never been my thing and New York is, in my opinion, the best place in the world to be if you are interested in striking new pathways. And eating good food while you're at it!
You seem to have had such an interesting career and are a true multi-hyphenate. Tell us a bit about what you do, and what projects you're working on currently.
Hahaha— the next time someone asks me what I do, I’m just going to tell them I’m a multi-hyphenate. I love that. As for actually answering— it changes depending on which day you are asking. And each of the various things that I do informs and supports the other activities in some way… I am the mother to an extraordinary thirteen year old girl. I’ve been taking pictures seriously since I was ten years old and spent much of my schooling and early professional days behind a camera, so photography is second nature and, naturally, I shoot almost all of the photography on my blog, This Is Authentic, which sprang to life after I left a full time gig as a magazine editor. I have been singing and writing music with my own projects as well collaborating with bands like Beastie Boys and currently I’m a founding member of the Resistance Revival Chorus, which is a collective of over 60 woman and non binary singers who join together to breathe song and joy into the resistance. (We just recently released our first album on Righteous Babe Records, which is called "This Joy".) That project marries my activism (I was a national organizer of the 2017 Women's March in Washington, DC) with my love of music and my deep commitment to the rights of women and people of color. As a writer, I get to interview and profile so many of the amazing people I meet for various outlets, including and these days especially Brownstone Cowboys, which is a new online magazine/universe launching this fall. I’m the Editor at Large there and I’m really excited about it. My life as a mother feeds my motivation as an activist (we need to make this world a better place for the next generation!) as well as gives me all sorts of content for my blog. And a real sense of joy and hope for the future, which is the thing that keeps me going.
Out of all the things that you've done, if you had to choose a favorite, which would it be, and why?
Obviously being a mother. Now in truth, it’s the most difficult and relentless activity I have ever had the privilege of participating in. But it is also the most rewarding. And I am a far better mother because of all of the other things I do outside of directly caring for my daughter—especially my relationship with my husband, Josh Liberson, who has been my partner in every way from the outset. One of the most important things I feel I can do for our daughter is to be an example of a woman who is engaged in the world, working to make it a better place while being surrounded by people who love and respect each other.
Photo credit: Jane Mayle
Your commitment to fighting for social justice is inspiring, and we love the Ella Baker quote in one of your IG posts that says, "We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.” What will it take for us to be able to rest?
I do not see us being able to rest any time soon, at the rate things are going now. But that said, there are so many bright lights. So many people doing incredible work, so much positivity, so much joy in the community of activists that I engage with —it’s so important to hold on to those things as a bulwark against despair. And it’s also so important to remember that we all need to rest whenever we are tired. I recently interviewed my friend, the cultural organizer Sarah Sophie Flicker, and she spoke so eloquently about the importance of taking a break when you are tired. Such simple and profound advice that we often forget to heed. So as individuals, we should rest whenever we need to, but as a collective, rest won’t come until everyone has a seat at the table and is heard and seen. When the Earth is treated with respect and not as a dumping ground, when oppression is no longer “just the way things work” and when everyone truly leads with love in their heart.
Can you talk a bit about being a person of color in the current environment? Does it feel like we're making progress or is it a two steps forward, three steps back type of scenario?
It’s more of a two steps forward, two steps back, one step forward, a half step back, three steps forward, 2.5 steps back, etc. We are making progress, but it is SLOW and there are constant setbacks. That said, the phrase "systematic racism" and the academic movement of critical race theory are concepts firmly planted in the minds of the mainstream now. We watched millions of white people join people of color marching against police violence after the George Floyd murder. People are paying attention. But it’s still incredibly frustrating, especially as a parent of a brown kid, to see how entrenched our country is in the old, racially biased ways of doing business. Again, it’s all about leading with love, but it can be a tough love, a frustrating love, an exhausting love. Which takes us back to Ella Baker’s proclamation that “We who believe in freedom cannot rest until it comes.”
We love the name of your blog "This is Authentic" and the story behind it. What is authenticity to you? Do you feel it's something missing from our culture with the proliferation of social media, among other things?
Authenticity, to me, is quite simply realness. Things that ring true. Good food, an interesting book, a funny joke… I think it’s too easy to demonize social media and say that it has killed authenticity—because there is plenty of realness out there for folks to discover. The problem is that there is so much pretend realness as well, and it is often the make believe stuff that is louder and brighter and has figured out how to show up first on your feed, so now we don’t see the unmade beds in the background of the photo of our cousins. We see the rock star’s perfectly edited bookcases with his Grammys all arranged just so. It’s just like the retouched fashion magazine covers where all skin is perfect and the clothes are flawless… once we start to measure ourselves against those standards, we’ll never measure up. And then we are automatically deflated. But there are still all sorts of interesting people, sharing the things they do over social media, making art, teaching us how to compost properly. We just need to work a little harder to find them. But they’re out there. Authenticity is not lost, it’s just crowded in with a lot of other stuff that you’ve got to sift through.
Photo credit: Josh Liberson
Given how busy you must be, what rituals or practices do you have in place to maintain balance, unwind, and practice self-care?
I have all sorts of things that I love to do to maintain balance but to be honest, I consider myself lucky if I get to more than one of them in a day! I try always to move: a walk on the beach is always invigorating, or a long walk in the woods. Trees are so restorative, especially pine trees. Just the scent of pine releases hormones in humans that make us feel better. And I also try to do some kind of exercise video or a yoga class a couple of times a week. But when all else fails, I at least do a few sets of push-ups and a few sun salutations whenever I have a 5-minute window. It’s actually amazing how much progress you can make physically, even with a tiny burst of exercise.
I have also become very attached to meditating, and while I wish I were someone who sits for hours at a time up on the mountain, I’m more of a ten minutes of mindfulness in the morning type of person. But again, those ten minutes make a real difference in how I approach the rest of my day. Also, I have MS, which is an autoimmune condition that is exacerbated by stress, so meditation is something my doctors strongly recommend.
Other than that, I am an avid journaler, and I still use a pen and paper for that. I am a huge believer in the restorative power of a hot bath. I try to turn off all screens at least 30 minutes before bedtime, just to give my eyes a break and to help signal to my body that it is time to shut down. And I sing. Singing, especially when you sing with a group, releases oxytocin—which is the love hormone.
We like to ask each of our Insiders: what does clean beauty mean to you?
I’m sure everyone says this, but for me clean beauty starts on the inside… what you put into your body has such a profound impact on what you get out of it, how you look, and how you feel. So it starts with eating intentionally and mindfully and then continues with the skincare products and any embellishments you might be interested in playing with. And it’s contagious: if I feed myself and my body sustainably and wholesomely, I will do that for my family as well, and our friends, and our communities, and our cities, and on and on until the whole world is considering all others and the Earth in all of our decisions concerning how and what we consume. Imagine how amazing that would be? Let’s put that thought out into the world, shall we?
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