New Fellow – Riding the 2 PM train going…somewhere, all the time


[Image courtesy of Naia Al-Anbar @sharkcloset]

Hi friends.

You may or may not have met me at this point. My name is Nik Valdez (they/them/theirs) & I’m an incoming Future’s Initiative Fellow serving as Cathy Davidson’s Research Assistant. Even if you haven’t met me, you’ve probably heard my little rundown – I do abolitionist pedagogy, queer theory, indigenization, accessibility. I’m Mexican, queer, & disabled. Yada yada. Pero en serio… I really struggled to write this intro post. What to say, when there’s so much to be said?

Mira, last week I was on the 6 & I looked around & I was really struck by the fact that every single person – young and old, masculine and feminine – had their eyes closed. Heads drooping, legs splayed. Or else leaning against the handrail, foreheads rocking against the shining steel. Everyone was taking a few minutes to rest. To breathe. To be still.

Sure, I think this is almost always true on the subway – who doesn’t use the rare blessing of a quiet train to catch a few minutes of extra sleep? But it was 2 PM on a Tuesday. And still the exhaustion seemed to drag everyone down, weighed on everyone like an exoskeleton.

We are all extremely tired.

I don’t think I know anyone who isn’t dragging themselves, bellydown, to the next need. Animal bodies doing their best to survive, despite… everything.

I have a lot of questions about how FI will choose to engage, this term – whether we’ll attend to our community, whether we will choose to engage with the needs of the most vulnerable in our communities, & what might that actually look like in practice? What might it look like, for example, to hold the disabled queer Black transfemme as the single most inviolable body, to demand programming & attention for her?

I didn’t know how to write this post without writing about exhaustion, or Black queer femmes. Because I guess, in many ways, that is my work. To try and attend, at all times and in all ways, to the most vulnerable. To upset, to the best of my abilities, the demands and suppositions of settler colonialism and white academic institutions.

So: estoy cansado. Estamos cansados. But hey: estamos aquí. Human beings, the most social animals on the planet, can do almost anything when we’re doing it together. Maybe we can find a way to rest together, even as we traverse this term & find new ways of learning, teaching, being, & fighting alongside each other. I look forward to it.

All my warmth & all my light,
Nik Valdez

Bio: I am a queer Chicane writer, learner, & teacher siempre making trouble at CUNY through the PhD program in English Lit. I focus mostly in queer of color theory – Black, Indigenous, & especially Latine feminisms – & abolitionist pedagogy. I’m also deeply invested in indigenization as a practice & bulwark against settler colonialism.



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