On May 25, 2020 I was once again reminded that the color of my skin was powerful: read..not in a good way. On May 25, 2020 I came to terms with the fact that most (not all) people, feel Black people deserve to be slaughtered. The fact that the automatic response is why are they (Black people) here hurts, everyday and in every way. I said this or something similar on my Instagram feed. The same questions came over and over again. My fiber friends wanted to know how could they help me. They wanted to know what they could do for me. My answer was and still is Stand In The Gap.
A gap according to the dictionary is defined as a break or hole in an object or between two objects, or an unfilled space or interval; a break in continuity. I define “The Gap” as the space where inequality lives and breathes. “The Gap” is the residence of racism, it is the great divide and I am asking all non Black people to stand in it. Now that you are aware that it exists, let’s narrow the focus to our beloved knitting community.
The Gap in the Knitting Community
If you have been knitting for 20 plus years or 20 days, you should be aware of January 2019. That was when our community was forced to face “The Gap”; although at that time we simply called it diversity and inclusion. If you ask me they are one in the same. The face of knitting had absolutely no color and it was time to stop acting like that elephant was invisible. It was a very uncomfortable time at best, but absolutely needed. We need to see EVERY face that made up the community, not just the norm.
The Gap is the belief that Black makers, designers, dyers, bloggers, podcasters and YouTubers didn’t exist. The Gap is the absence of Black vendors at the major fiber festivals and I could go on and on, but I won’t. There have been clear actions taken, sincere and some not so sincere, to finally make a change. We had settled back into the comfort of our wooly corner of the world , feeling a bit better about our community. Opportunities were being offered and accepted; we were getting along. Then George Floyd was killed and as a Black person, I felt like I was first dragged and then thrown into “The Gap”. It was like I was being reminded of my place in this world.
Stand in the Gap is essentially a collaboration if you will. It is us working together to fill a need. In this case the need is to close this gap. There are two ways we can work on closing this gap in our community, as well as the world. Those two things are communication and collaboration.
The first way we can work on closing “The Gap” is communication. Yes as simple as that, let’s talk. Communication is the imparting or exchanging of information or news. The information that needs to be discussed is this: outside of my skin color we are the same. Instead of assuming things about me (other Black people) why not ask a question. I often hear “I didn’t know where to find Black makers”. Did you ask? Did you search? This is where communication is the key. Every one will get a chance to ask their question.
If you will indulge me, I have a few questions. First, why are you shocked when I enter a yarn store? I have two functioning hands just like you. The fact that I am in the same yarn store says I have access and can afford the same yarn you can. So what is the issue? I have access to YouTube. If I decide to, I can use the same tutorials as you, so what made you stare when I walked in? Did I come in with a gun and threaten anyone? No, I simply came to purchase yarn, just like you.
In my opinion, I feel a good conversation, an honest conversation would put every one at ease. We don’t talk to one another, we talk about one another. If we are going to close this gap we must communicate. Without dialog, we will continue to believe things that are not true. We knit too, if that is what we want to do.
The other vital part of communication is you all talking to each other. Say something when I am ignored in the yarn shop. When you are on the council planning the next event; suggest a Black person. When you are in a room and stereotypes are being thrown around, don’t just sit there… communicate.
The second way to work on filling this gap up with love is collaboration. Collaboration is defined as the action of working with someone to produce or create something. Are we not the epicenter of creating things? Imagine if we all decided to work together, can you see that? If that major designer used yarn from an unknown Black dyer…or the most popular knitting publication reaches out to the unknown Black designer. Are you picking up what I am laying down? Together we are a force.
Collaborating will not only increase business for all parties involved. It will also increase exposure, more for the lesser known maker…but exposure non the less. A collaboration will solve the issue of those who sincerely didn’t have any Black people in their feed. It’s unfortunate, but true, if you introduce me (the Black Blogger) your friends are more likely to give me a chance.
We have all heard the phrase actions speak louder than words right? Stand In The Gap is about action, you have to do something if “The Gap” is to ever be closed. I have had folks say they are not confrontational, ok I get that, don’t say something…do something. You can show them or you can tell them. If you want to Stand In the Gap, start with two simple things…communicate and collaborate. Are you with me?