Kyle Bella, who recently graduated from the Social Innovation and Sustainability MA program, recently shared his graduating student presentation virtually after presenting “Our Viral Lives” — an online archive he launched in December of 2014 — during his February 2018 graduation weekend. He explains that this archive “….has collected stories about the HIV/AIDS crisis, sexual health, and the shame and stigma that continue to shape our conversations about sexual health. I wrote about what goes into making a digital archive, how informal archives are better for social equity, how emotionality should guide writing histories of the present, and how utopia is important in understanding the world we want free from HIV.”
In reflecting on this journey to his work, he writes eloquently about his journey:
In 2006, I left high school to go to college early at Simon’s Rock. I developed such a deep foundation for intersectional thinking, driven by a feminist understanding of the world and an ongoing passion for LGBTQ rights. In 2009, I ended up at Goddard College. By 2011, I was beaten on the street and what could have ended my academic career turned into the catalyst for deeper thinking about race, gender, sexuality, and class. I earned a BA in 2012. I bounced around from Louisiana to NY to Philly to San Francisco back to NY without really finding home.
I joined the IMA program at Goddard soon after getting my BA, left for two semesters to the MFA in Creative Writing but left after I felt like I was doing a project bigger than myself. Then I went back to a Social Innovation and Sustainability focus without really feeling like I belonged there but then I recognized this is the kind of work I was supposed to do. I am able to both recognize systems of inequality and offer actionable ways in which to change these systems through storytelling.
And here I am today with an MA, with a project that’s always been about more than myself, that has been nourished by more than myself, that is about the nameless and faceless in a way that I can sympathize with because I feel that in a way my own project is about the recognition of a new kind of generational power, a call back to action, not through militancy but mourning.
We obviously live in a world that values neither militancy nor mourning. That takes the power of storytelling for granted. That renders marginalized voices on the fringes of society. But the reality is that the people that have most shaped society since 1981 have been the people that died from AIDS-related complications and the folks that took up a call to remember and remake a better world in their images.
We might not to imagine this truth, because it is so structured on the notion of absence, a lack of presence, our own capacity to reconstruct. But this is where we are and what this ultimately means.