In honor of Pride, this year Rothy’s is partnering with Melonie and Melorra Green: Twin sisters, co-executive directors of the African American Arts & Culture Complex in San Francisco, members of the LGBTQIA+ community and all-around leaders in the local activism scene. And this year, they add Community Grand Marshals of SF Pride 2021 to their impressive list of accolades.
Rothy’s is proud to support Melonie and Melorra, two influential LGBTQIA+ members in our hometown, in their quest to bring Radical Rest to the forefront of social justice. In partnership with them, Rothy’s is donating $10,000 to the African American Arts & Culture Complex (AAACC), where the sisters will use their leadership positions to empower Radical Rest across their organization. Read on to learn how this practice can positively impact communities everywhere.
Thank you for taking the time to speak with us. You are both influential members in the Bay Area, particularly in the art and culture scene. Could you tell us about your work with the African American Art & Culture Complex, and its role in the community?
Melorra: For almost 50 years, the AAACC has been a space where Black people all over the Bay Area can exhibit their art, share their music, poetry and theatre, and even launch a dance program. It’s been a space for tough and loving conversations.
We’re also a place for allies, and we have a very diverse group of people who see our space as their home as well, not only to learn about the culture of African Americans and people of the African diaspora, but also to bring in cross-culture connections to a thing that we simply love: ART.
Can you explain to our readers a bit about what it means to be a Grand Marshal of SF Pride?
Melonie: Right now, Melorra and I represent a particular way of being that doesn’t often get the platform at Pride, and we have this opportunity to represent all types of Queer culture. For us, it’s a matter of taking up space and sharing gratitude—for those who have a perspective that we can also see, who have impacted our lives, who have contributed to how tall we get to stand today.
It’s timely that we are the ones chosen as the public poll choice this year. It shows that those who are quite often left out of the conversation can be included. It’s a beautiful moment in time.
How do you continue to foster a sense of community during a time of social distancing? What Pride celebrations look different this year, and have there been any (positively) surprising moments throughout this time, or new traditions that you hope to carry through post-Covid times?
Melonie: It’s about really understanding that we need each other, and that our resources—and even our mental health—is genuinely connected to other people. To have the freedom to be able to go home and hug a loved one, or say hi to a friend. In a post-Covid world, let’s not lose what we know now: We are all precious, something to be cherished. We need each other in order to have a life that we can truly flow through. I hope we’re able to sustain the ways we’ve creatively come together in this time.
Melorra: I was blown away by the number of people who showed up to the recent SF Pride movie night. Pride is beyond even the community I have in my head. I have so many more people to meet and to understand! It was amazing to see that sense of excitement. I also want to say a quick thank you to the SF Pride board, staff and team. It was a one-of-a-kind experience.
Radical Rest is an unknown concept to some folks, which is essentially what makes it radical. Can you share more about the importance of rest, how it enables social justice work, and if the need for it became more apparent during the pandemic?
Melonie: As leaders of a space that holds so much emotional labor, we have such responsibility—including people’s access to the resources needed in order to fulfill their dreams. It’s a challenge to show up and give your best to them when you don’t have a chance to pause and restore. When rested, you can hear the community you work with anew, and in turn pour yourself back into the team you lead, to the community that trusts you.
There is something to be said for the energy that we hold. If everyone is drained and tired and grieving and just going through it, there’s a certain experience we’re robbing ourselves of. Radical Rest is needed now more than ever. The pandemic has taught us these practices need to be sustained, and not just a reaction to the moment.
Melorra: Radical Rest for us has been something that we had housed under “wellness” which is one of our five core values. But our team literally has not stopped since before the pandemic. We knew we had to make space and insert rest into this year. Everyone needs a moment to reboot and come back into our bodies.
Could you share a bit about how you will empower Radical Rest through your leadership roles at the AAACC? How does taking time to recharge help support your important work?
Melonie: It will be an opportunity for Melorra and me to truly sit with what we’ve created through the AAACC and our work with SF Pride. Through the donation from Rothy’s, we will coordinate a retreat for Black and LGBTQIA+ leaders, where we can visualize paths forward for the larger community. We’d want to create a space where fellow community leaders can continue to join us for radical rest, creative healing practices and powerful conversations.
Social justice work is relentless. If we don't keep promoting diversity, inclusion and equity for People of Color, it won't happen. For the Black community, the work to educate, engage and organize people is taking a toll on our leaders. For the Queer community, the work of keeping people's minds open has never stopped. Nothing is more important than taking care of ourselves so we can continue to do this work with love.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
Melorra: I’d like to make an invitation for those who really want to do something to support Black creatives, activists, educators, those who are on the frontlines of health care, social work, you name it. Support us in keeping Radical Rest going. We can’t do the work if we’re sick, or not here. Joy is a right that some cannot afford, and we need to change that. Thank you to SF Pride and those who voted for us, thank you to all the other Grand Marshals who were selected and nominated. We’re all winners and lovers of our community.
Melonie: Join us in this Radical Rest movement. Should you be compelled to spread the word about what we’re doing, or contribute and add to this movement, please do so! Thanks to Rothy’s for stepping out with us, and we look forward to doing more and having a bigger conversation. This is a movement for wellness.