By Landuo Yuan
If you could take a vulnerable moment from your past, bottle dark, rich substance into a throat-deep jar, would you dirty your fingernails to spread thick layers of it onto smooth paper?
If you could lend the moment to a stranger in solemn solidarity, would you sit quietly in the crowd and let it vibrate through the room, to transpose, to heal, and to inspire?
On a pleasantly airy summer night in Brooklyn, footsteps trickled lightly into the hip performance space of the Commons Cafe. Young LGBT+ and POC writers, embraced by warm stage lights and cold champagne, shared intimate stories through the voices of one another. The story-swap event Y(OUR) Story, masterminded for the first time by Wolf & Wilhelmine’s summer interns, was a part of the branding firm’s Solstice Series of community-focused gatherings.
I arrived early, a poetry nerd excited by the spoken word lineup. With light oak wooden floors and wonderfully smooth Americanos, the Common Cafe was spacious enough for frequent community events yet cozy enough as a Boerum Hill local’s go-to spot. I make a mental mark to stop by again and get some summer reading done.
As writers/performers of the night started to file in, hugging each other and expressing their nervousness, I approached Mikayla, FIT and Blush Aluma who reached out to us about the event. In her mermaid-colored bob and cropped band tee styled with flowy striped pants, I caught her slightly off guard. She shoved down the last piece of her brownie before expressing her anticipation for the evening. “I’m so glad you’re here,” she beamed with pride for the work she’s put together with 3 other peers. It was the first time in company history that the interns had managed a Solstice Series event by themselves, she revealed, on a seemingly impossible budget of $1000.
$1000 brought amazing empanadas. Munching on juicy beefsteak filling, I further learned that the proceeds of the event will be going towards GLAAD, one of the biggest non-profits advocating for LGBT+ rights in America. Many attendees are also a part of the American Association of Advertising Agencies’ Multicultural Advertising Intern Program (MAIP), an opportunity benefiting dozens of aspiring advertising professionals of color yearly.
The first spoken word performer, LJ, was in fact a campus ambassador for GLAAD and well-known in the community and beyond for her movement against revenge porn. Through their 2 breathtaking pieces, LJ spoke out against cyber sexual assaults and “rainbow capitalism” – the act of corporations using support for the LGBT+ community as a marketing tactic in disguise, a phenomenon far too common nowadays.
LJ was followed by several story-swaps and spoken word acts, all covering topics and experiences commonly discussed within LGBT+ and POC communities under America’s political past and present. Sentiments were touched upon with tenderness. Something raw and powerful stirred in the air as everyone connected just a little bit more after heartfelt applause for each act. Empathy – the ability to understand and share the feelings of another – quietly fostered among us. By the end of the performances, I was in tears, furiously jotting down beautifully honest thoughts expressed through the stories.
Stepping back into the still-young night, I couldn’t help but feel a rush of newfound empowerment. I had always believed that there was an unspoken magic to words, but to see it manifest and foster empathy within entire communities of young people made me realize just how heavy the weight of certain stories can be. Within stories, we always seek a part of ourselves – by doing so, we are unknowingly lending strength and universal love to the storyteller. Wolf & Wilhelmine sent a simple message through Y(OUR) Story – “your story is our story” – and lent strength and universal love to each and every attendee.