By Sarah Hoenicke for the Rational Online
In the class we took on nonfiction writing at Mills College, Beck Levy sat at the end of the table facing away from the windows, and the sun at her back made her dark curly hair shine at its edges. She wore a look of intensity on her face much of the time during book discussions—her green eyes sharp and wide, sometimes lined with colorful eyeliner; her mouth slightly open, ready to speak, to call out privilege or ignorance where most of us couldn’t see it. It was 2015. I was afraid of her because I sensed she was ten times smarter than I would ever be, and that she had answers to questions I hadn’t even thought to ask. I wasn’t wrong. I sought her out for the conversation below because her penetrating intelligence and political awareness make her an invaluable source of insight into what it means to live as an activist. Long before white people of our generation were activated by the campaign and now the presidency of Donald J. Trump, Beck was protesting the war in Iraq, doing banner drops, and staging die-ins.
Beck is open and warm. Talking with her over the phone in our three interviews, I got the sense that there is little she hasn’t thought about; she had an in-depth answer to most of my questions, with analysis to back up her opinions. She’s a polymath—a musician, public speaker, book artist, mental health activist, writer—but labels don’t stick easily to her because she’s also inclusive, and labels often work to exclude, to simplify. She’s not easily summed up, which is partially why she’s a good source of perspective right now, when everyone seems to be searching for “The Answer.”
She knows things aren’t simple or easy, that to think there are solutions is to be naïve: We will never “solve” the problems of racism and bigotry, sexism and misogyny. But we can think more critically, we can work to be inclusive, to listen, to live at life’s intersections, and hope that these actions will encourage others to take up the fight alongside us.
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