Hello from the desert!
I hope we introduce ourselves in new journal entries. Sorry if this is the wrong place!
My name is Melissa, but many call me Mei Li since I spent time studying Mandarin. We had to pick names in Mandarin and that was the name picked for me. Ever since, my nephew calls me Mei and so do many of the people in my community.
I am a student and have been working in the field of education for seven years. My experiences range from teaching ESL students how to formulate basic English essays to teaching women transitioning from prison or domestic crisis into safe houses. I teach creative writing workshops in my community at a local yoga studio and am preparing my first workshop for queer youth with an organization called 1 in 10.
My passion for advocating for women began three years ago when I volunteered for a non-profit called The National Advocacy and Training Network. I developed two fundraisers from the ground up that used women's creativity for entertainment, from academic poets to spoken word poets, women artists in prison to gallery owners in the valley, local bookstores to local grocery stores - the community was united by the cause to educate everyone more about domestic violence. The first fundraiser was intimate and at a small venue, the second was larger and combined music, art, and poetry. This also led me to become a member on the board of members for a grassroots organization called Next Page. It was through Next Page that I began to teach 8-week workshops to women in transition. I am a writer, reader, and teacher. I work on curriculum constantly for different demographics to enable them to embrace poetry and their own stories. I love working with grassroots organizations, but have dedicated my time, money, and passion to larger organizations as well, such as St. Baldrick's Foundation last year when I shaved my head, along with the other yoga instructors I worked with, to show support for our community of cancer patients, survivors, and those who have been lost.
My interest in helping the voiceless began when I was very young, possibly after I read The Diary of Anne Frank. I learned that within the selected demographics of those murdered during the Holocaust, there were many gay and lesbian individuals forced to wear pink and purple stars and included in the acts of genocide. I have read about gay/lesbian lack of rights in Uganda and other places around the globe and am faced with discrimination regarding the same issues in the United States. I am, perhaps, the most passionate about this cause as it is incredibly personal to me.
While I would love very much to simply have a small cabin in the woods somewhere, isolated from civilization, I am continuously answering to the call of service. I recently told my mother I wanted to volunteer next year in the Congo for a month and she told me that ever since I was very small I cried over commercials that highlighted human poverty and inhumane acts toward animals. I thought my passion was simply flared over the past through years due to the accumulated knowledge I have received about the world around me - but I know this is something planted in me from a very young age.
I am both gentle and fierce and strive for a balance between the two. I volunteer in my community as a teacher and a reader for a local literary journal, reading submissions of poetry and fiction to gain a better understanding of the craft of written words. I live with two dogs who I have loved dearly for five years. We have a large garden in the front of the house and take every chance we can get to drive two hours up north to play in creeks and the open forest. I just got back from a day trip to Payson, Arizona three days ago and was reminded of how small I am amongst such tall trees, and how connected I am to the world around me. I am sensitive to issues of human rights, oppression, and violence and wake each morning with the intention in mind to continue educating myself about my world, the worlds of others, and how to connect through compassion, aid, kindness, and equality.
PulseWire has been a blessing. I began blogging and reading articles within the past year in an attempt to share my thoughts with a larger audience. I am a local "performance poet" which means I read spoken word in the community, sharing experiences and engaging with others. I listen intently and have a strong voice, two things I wish to always encourage other people to cultivate.
I often write about religion and oppression, many think this boils down to a personal questioning of God; rather it is an intense curiosity to understand how our world has been shaped over the past two thousand years...I believe in seeking to understand through constant questioning. This also enables me to understand how social customs have been created worldwide and how the adherence to some of these customs, by both men and women, has created dangerous standards of living and has oppressed many while few prevail. My own beliefs in God, creation, morality have been taught to me through the natural world. I am in constant awe of the simplicity of living - blooming flowers, a dog's smile, a mother's love, a community's kindness, an activist's restlessness until equality is manifested.
I am not competitive by nature, so it is funny to me that I signed up to be a global correspondent, but I know I am meant to continue speaking, to enable others to find their voices, to travel and listen to others and understand how they live by hearing their stories - I feel, only then, will I know how to continue moving forward to be the change I wish to see. Although sometimes it is difficult to walk in the shoes of other people, I will put on anyone's shoes in an attempt to listen.