This Bitter Earth

Had a great time at the New Conservatory Theatre Center for “This Bitter Earth” discussing how I found my activist voice, meeting other black queer activists and learning about this new play by Harrison David Rivers directly responds to the personal and political impact of racial tensions in our country today. 

Harrison David Rivers, playwright of THIS BITTER EARTH
Jay-Marie Hill, artist & musician
Kwesi Wilkerson, Poet
Shaun Haines, Bayard Rustin LGBT Coalition
Moderated by Jewelle Gomez, author, and playwright (LEAVING THE BLUES)

Leading through Struggles To make an impact

To make the largest possible impact, I work to represent the socially marginalized and economically impacted because throughout my life I, too, have been socially marginalized and impacted. My life has been full of challenges and obstacles that I repeatedly overcame. That includes homelessness and displacement from home and community. That includes workplace discrimination, sexual harassment, being bullied, and being raped.
My struggles include having to fight and pay for my own education and housing, and watching all my vital resources and access to opportunities being destroyed, repeatedly, before my very eyes from age 19 to the present.

Finally, it includes being victimized by systems and public policy that is often written to protect us but have loopholes that are used by interests that are corrupted by greed. The corrupted interests are geared toward our destruction by through systems of government and business that undermine the ability of people with significant challenges to rise up into leadership or even just escape harm’s reach.

My history includes all of these experiences coupled with daily threats to my life, livelihood, freedom, and also physical and emotional violence. Yes, I’ve had to endure so much more. I am Black, I am Gay, I am Haitian-American, and I am Native American. I’m a part of a dying breed of first-generation San Francisco natives. Our decades-old affordability crisis undermines our ability for San Franciscans to achieve and maintain multi-generational experiences.

Our society excludes the experiences of the underprivileged, as shown by the lack of diversity in business leadership, nonprofit boards, membership of social-justice organizations, and representation in mainstream media and At times I cry, but I endure and persevere through the struggle as my survival is at stake — not just the image I project.

I only wear the fancy suit and crisp tie because our society recognizes and provides an opportunity to those with the appearance of privilege, wealth, and status. We prioritize these things over the life experiences and livelihoods of marginalized and impacted populations.

I have and enjoy none of those benefits, so I struggle like so many of us. I’m doing everything possible to remain actively engaged. I would sacrifice my life to protect our community. Our livelihood — access to job opportunities that match my skills and experience has been diminished and I feel uncertain about my future, but I’m not giving up. I can’t give up because my apathy will result in my death.

I have been successful in using my experience access to certain volunteer positions so that I could climb this mountain to lend my voice to those without a voice. I’m here to fight for you, my people, who are most vulnerable because I am VULNERABLE. I will serve you and our community at every table of leadership that your support allows me to sit at. I work hard at this because I care and because I’m tired of watching other people who have little knowledge about the day-to-day hardships and struggles of the people who are most in need.

I say to those of your who are woke and paying attention. It may not be possible to deliver real solutions to all our problems and issues if those who we empower to design them have never experienced these things first hand. I understand how the identities that we can’t remove put our lives at risk. My middle name is Hassan and I understand this heritage puts my life and liberties at risk.

Thanks for reading, being a friend, and supporting my efforts to lend a voice to the forgotten.

Believe we can connect on issues important to San Franciscans?

Let’s work together.

To become involved in making a difference.

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Like you, I’m fighting for a better future, for my family, the community and for the health of our human society.  Together, I have fought with you for justice and progress in matters of; social justice, human rights, civil rights, open government, public health and safety, homeless services, worker rights and workforce development, community heritage, and preservation.

Follow me online on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn @HainesForSF