With her conversation series, the Hope Desk, Kimberly Dark hopes to spur people to have the difficult and necessary conversations that 2020 has opened up.
It has become a cliché to say that 2020 has been ‘quite a year.’
In early March, as we were all still enamored with the promise of a new year, nearly everything in our lives was disrupted or shut down entirely due to the coronavirus.
And just a couple months later, the country collectively swallowed another bitter pill in the form of one more unarmed Black man killed by the police. Swirling within this news were the stories that had recently come to light of the wrongful killings of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor.
“Suddenly white people were discovering racism in a new way and really, how deep it is—’a caste system,’ as Isabelle Wilkerson says,” Kimberly Dark, a writer, professor, storyteller and sociologist, told Ms.
As the national conversation grew, Dark began fielding more and more questions about racism and how it fits in with other social issues like sexism, fatphobia and disability on her social media channels—but soon found she couldn’t keep up with the demand.
“But I really wanted to. It’s not only thrilling to see people stepping up to learning and hopefully action; it’s about damned time.”
Dark asked her followers if they would show up for an online event to learn about these topics—and the Hope Desk, “like a helpful, hopeful, social inequalities help desk,” was born.
Dark has been writing and talking about intersectional hierarchies for more than twenty years. But the subjects she writes and talks about are not your typical motivational speech territory:
“How we identify ourselves—gay or straight, parent or grandparent, doctor or maid—matters a great deal. Our culture includes a lot of hierarchies of appearance and identity that are pretty messed up. The two biggest ones that organize our whole culture are race and gender. A lot of what I do can also just be seen as personal storytelling, personal essay—but as far as my mission of smashing hierarchy goes—yeah, that’s what I’m doing.”
With the Hope Desk, Dark wants everyone to get comfortable with talking about uncomfortable and, for some, confusing topics. Her aim is to educate and offer a social, cultural and systemic perspective. (It doesn’t hurt that she’s also charismatic and entertaining.)
The topics come from her social media followers, direct messages and some from Dark herself—topics she wishes people would discuss more, like the gender pay gap.
“A lot of folks only know that they and their friends—regardless of gender—start a new job at minimum wage, so where’s the gap, they wonder? I know how to answer that!”
She has also covered Black wealth suppression, school vouchers, micro-aggressions, and the model minority myth among others.
Some previous episodes are available for viewing on Dark’s YouTube channel. “I am modeling how to educate a friend, how to question and wonder out loud, how to have civic discourse with confidence and dignity. I hope that’s of interest, in addition to the topics themselves.”
The Hope Desk is a non-partisan, casual hour once a month to learn about issues that we can then actually talk about with people in our lives. Like so many other things, it takes practice. And as we grow our own knowledge and understanding, the fear to speak up in a situation lessens.
Dark sums it up:
“I want people to find ways to have conversations about social inequality in all sectors of their lives. I want people to become aware of how social policies can uphold and create social inequalities and to stop it when they see it happening. I want people to deeply consider social inequalities and come up with brilliant ways to create equality—things that I can’t right now imagine because I don’t have that person’s perspective and wisdom. Talk about it. Do something. Do better.”
The Hope Desk is hosted the first Tuesday of the month and the only transaction required is to enter your email address on her website at www.kimberlydark.com. You’ll receive a Zoom meeting link to join the event.
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