1/11/11, a lucky numerical day I believe to start something new. I got off the BART train in high heels freezing my tiny self and toes off, noting that I never want to wear these specific heels again to the city. I had coffee breathe and stopped by Walgreens to get some gum, I also eagerly needed to use the bathroom and wasn’t familiar with the city enough to find one. As I walked down 9th street, I imagined myself arriving to the first day of my internship asking if it would be fine if I took my shoes off and use the bathroom right away. Luckily I was early and decided to explore the block. I found a coffee shop to do my business and take a seat before I rang the office bell and began my first day as an intern at CounterPULSE.
When I was let in I was greeted by the energetic administrative coordinator, Rozelle. I was a lot earlier than I expected, but it was fine because I got to meet some of the staff before the day took on its full course. During this time I also met Amara Tabor Smith, someone who I actually heard quite a bit about through artist and friend Aimee Suzara. I was so happy to meet her and couldn’t wait to be able to communicate with her more about her work, but more so just to get to know her. I shook her hand with admiration, and nothing else came out of my mouth just cause I couldn’t find the exact words I wanted to express at that moment. To me it was one of those Homer Simpson moments, after reflecting about it, where you just put your palm to your forehead and say “doh!” Fortunately I knew I would be seeing her around more which eased my “doh!” moment.
After a day filled with orientation materials, as well as getting an overall sense of what CounterPULSE stands for and everything they do not only for the arts community, but also how effective they’ve become amongst the broader community, I felt my jaw dropping. This small group of people I was sharing the room with make all of it happen and I get to spend time with them to understand how it all works.
I was sent home that day and given a task to read about artists in the Bay Area who are interested in one of the programs CounterPULSE offers. This was rewarding. I sat in bed reading the material and I could hear my son and his father in the background going through a super hero “look and find” book together. All of this made me smile. Opportunity, inspiration, and support, some of the many things I’m grateful for.
Day 2, I decided to drive and I get lost. While trying to find my way, the back of my car somehow knocks over a motorcycle. I get out of my car to leave a note, and suddenly the owner comes running to pick up his bike. I felt awful, but he was understanding and was surprised I made an effort to leave my contact information. Other than that Day 2 began and moved quickly. It was filled with great discussions and ended with forward moving productivity.
So no more driving in the city for me, and I’m sticking to BART. This time though, on Day 3 I was running late and decided to wear boots. Running in these weren’t the greatest idea either. I was probably only 5 minutes late, but I prefer being early. As I reflect back to this specific day, I know it’s one of those that I’ll always remember in specific detail. It was the day I believe that everything started to sink in, that this something new in my life is my reality, something positive and good that will continue to nourish me.
I remember running into Amara and we had a brief conversation about food and how the standard lifestyle people live often limits us to eat right. She told me about her experience with the Mission High students that morning as well as some details about her future food parties. Sometimes it only takes one person to make a decision for action and change, and a ripple effect then begins. I think what she’s doing is courageous and beautiful, something so unselfish and maternal that I understand. About 10-15 minutes after our conversation ended I hear a voice of a friend and her name being called. I ran out of the kitchen from helping set up a birthday surprise and see Aimee Suzara, who is taking part in Amara’s upcoming show. It was refreshing to see a familiar face, one I hadn’t seen in almost 3 years. Although we didn’t have a chance to catch up too much, it was nice to know I’ll be seeing her around more.
After the little birthday surprise for Brittany, the previous program intern, we had a short meeting with the whole staff. There’s something about listening to others and being heard, a mutual respect of communicating with one another clearly, that is so satisfying in that it creates an atmosphere filled with optimism. As I helped clean up our snacks to head off to a seasonal karaoke event, which I’ve never done in my life, I said good bye to Aimee for the day and she introduced me to some of the other cast members. I recognized the women from Adia Tamar Whitaker’s previous show at CounterPULSE, and I was able to let them know how amazing I thought they were. I remember them performing with such intensity, a committed soulfulness, that reached out to me and I believe poured out to the rest of the audience as well. Where art and action meet, and is felt, understood; it is one of the main reasons why I was drawn to CounterPULSE.
Then the karaoke event began and ended. Throughout the whole thing I was struck by everyone’s skills and was happy I got to see that side of everyone. I was extremely nervous, but luckily I had some people go up with me, which eased my anxiety.
Over the weekend I was able to show up to the “works in progress” for the artists in residence Kegan Marling and Dandelion Dancetheater. I was too late to see the pieces, but I got to stay for some of the feedback and discussion portion. When I arrived towards the end of Dandelion’s piece, I was excited to surprise the cast since I knew most of them while I was in college. Eric Kupers, one of the directors for Dandelion, was my very first modern dance teacher, someone who I loved working with, and played a big role in shaping the dancer and artist in me (hope he knows that!). When he saw me he seemed a bit confused, wondering how I knew about the showing, so I told him, then he wondered if the staff made the connection that we knew each other. I knew some of them did, but not all. Either way we were pretty happy to see one another. As I listened in to the discussion portion, I found myself loving this part of their process. The interaction to try to help each other out, understand their work, move it forward, was inspiring and fruitful. Everyone’s input was thoughtful and mattered. Another set of committed souls.
From the staff to the performing artists, I’ve witnessed everyone to be what I like to define as “committed souls.” Rather than people who are committed to their jobs just for the sole purpose of having one, everyone involved with CounterPULSE gives me a sense of passion for every little thing they do. It’s a type of drive that is rooted within the soul and is then poured out for everyone to take in. You can’t help but be excited every moment that you’re among them.
– Grace Alvarez