Over two years ago, I had been mulling over what my purpose in Second Life would be. It may sound a bit silly for anyone who views it as “just a game”, but the beauty of this virtual space is that we do have the freedom to be whomever and do whatever we want.
I remember when I first heard of Second Life during its toddler years and learning how much there was an ambition to incorporate learning opportunities into it. It wasn’t until 2011, however, that I had decided to join the virtual world….and while there are some fantastic places and educational resources, I always felt there was so much more potential to bring that into play. Sometime in 2015 I found myself searching the world for more culturally focused projects and realized that there was a minimal amount of attention on US Black History. There were places, of course, but not a format for discussing current events and really digging deep in an interactive way.
As a person of color that comes from a mixed background, I had grown up feeling that I couldn’t really embrace my racial profile. People often expressed that my position was invalidated by being “diluted”, since I was not 100% black. But I still experienced a heavy load of discrimination, as well as not being wholly accepted myself by the black community where I lived.
There was an incident that I experienced in 2010 when I went to leave a physically abusive relationship but had to call on the police to get an escort out of the situation. When my then-partner realized I was trying to leave, he started stealing my things and locking them up in his brothers’ apartment downstairs. I basically was at the point where I just gathered whatever important paperwork and documents that I could and went to leave with two trash bags of clothing. But he would not let me leave.
When the police arrived I was initially grateful. I explained to them that I just needed to get out safely and that by that point I had been struck several times. One of the cops looked at me and said “Well, you’re the stupid bitch that was here to begin with” and summoned his partner. They got into their car and pulled off, leaving me with a very hostile and enraged man that had now been empowered.
The injuries I sustained that night still haunt me. I managed to leave, but was close to losing my life that night.
As years passed, I realized that my insecurities around my race were being deeply suppressed by the rising frustration with the obstacles that people of color face daily in the united stated. But it was the negrophobia in recent years (which resulted in viral videos on social media) that led to the killing of unarmed black men that especially awakened my need to DO something.
In January of 2016, I attempted to create a virtual Black History museum in Second Life in an area called Bay City. It was the perfect community to begin such a project, especially since the city itself was themed in a similar time frame as the Civil Rights era. But soon after I started to establish the building, my neighbor (who, ironically, played a cop) very quickly blocked the entrance from public view by erecting both a border wall and a courthouse. Deflated, I later abandoned the project and left Bay City.
The July 2016 death of Philando Castile and the resulting video rocked my world to the point where I stopped watching and became more vocal about the injustices that are only now becoming more obvious because we had entered a technological age where everyone walks around with a camera in their pockets. This prompted me to write a post about my experience in Bay City and general issues with discrimination in a virtual space (which later prompted media attention).
As I became more comfortable with urging discussion around these issues of abuses of power and how this is not a new issue by any stretch of the imagination, it grew into me finding pride in my background. It grew into me finally finding my voice when I spoke about injustices and recognizing the plethora of issues that POC face that we shouldn’t. It grew into me encouraging people to stop using privilege as an excuse and try to understand what it means to be a POC in today’s America.
In mid 2017, I finally got over my fears and started plotting for a revised approach to creating this museum. Towards October of 2017, I started the build itself and it started to flow together quickly. But it wasn’t long before people started to notice it was there, and the onslaught of attention towards it began.
And it was incredibly receptive.
I cannot express how humbled I was to realize that so many people were looking for a place like what I had created. I paid respect to the history in a timeline format in hopes of getting people to understand how we are NOT disconnected from the history that enabled these current-day issues without being blatantly told how to feel. I kept it objective and bite-sized so each person can experience it in their own way. And, because there is SO MUCH that can be discussed, I decided on a format that would have an ever-changing special exhibit and a constant attention on current events and enabling in-world discussions on certain topics. I wanted a place where people can safely learn and discuss their individual views. If I had a positive impact on just one person, that could create a ripple effect that would impact so many more.
And here we are. Me writing a post and sharing this story. It is just the beginning, but I am so overwhelmed with gratitude. The outpouring of support and encouragement gave me the fuel I needed after being treated so poorly when I originally wanted to do this. That experience reminded me of WHY I needed to do it; why I needed to promote both awareness and humanity.
I am excited to be able to explore this purpose. I am inspired by so many people who have shared this vision with me and have contributed along the way. This is just the beginning of something so amazing.