The past two months I have been neck deep in the process of writing a series of grant proposals. When I imagine what kind of facebook posts could showcase how I spend my time I cringe with the thought of dry, technical memes that say things like “do your project goals match with your measurement tools?” or sweeping and possibly vague statements like “engage diverse communities in meaningful dialogue.” When one gets on a roll with grant writing, one wonders if the inner poet is forced into deep underground hiding.
Tedious as it may be, proposal writing forces me to do one of my favorite things: talk to people. I am working on several proposals that relate to cross-cultural dialogue in Anchorage, and yesterday I met with Dr. Chad Farrell, the demographer whose research revealed that Mountain View is the most diverse neighborhood in the country. I appreciated his humility as he watched his findings become household conversation throughout Anchorage and the world, and his interest in having his research be a starting point for deeper conversations rather than our community’s self-congratulatory ending point. The demographic fact of diversity simple is, but how are we as a community going to move with it? Our conversation had personal reverberations as I thought how one of the reasons I moved from Kodiak to Anchorage, and to Fairview, is so that my 6 year old son can see more faces that look like his own. I never shared that with him, but when he came home from school with a self-portrait with handsome brown skin and dark brown, curly hair, I felt my heart relax a little. It relaxed even more when he said, “I miss Kodiak, but I do like that Anchorage has people that look like me!”
Conversations like that with Dr. Farrell free my imagination (and perhaps the underground poet trying to weather the grant-writing storm), and then I get to bring new insights to the grant-writing process. Tangibles like the fact that the stories of minority community members are under-documented, and that there is a gap in research on the immigrant experience in Anchorage become arguments for film workshops for youth to research and tell these stories through documentary film. The poet’s fire leaks through to the proposal, even though cloaked in technical language and flow-charts.