Lizzie Wann, Puna Press Live
LifeBeat Follow-Up: Haley White
Let’s get caught up with the incredible Haley White who I spoke to as part of episode # 6 of LifeBeat: Conversations with Purposeful Womxn (watch the episode) back in February 2021. During the original talk, we had some technical issues with Haley, so I’m glad that this time around, we don’t have to worry about that. Here we get to learn about Haley becoming an auntie, we get insight into the important work she’s doing up in the Fresno area not only through her job but through her activism, and we discuss some of her side projects, and more. This Q&A was conducted over email, and Haley provided these answers on March 7 and March 15, 2022.
Lizzie: When we began our conversation, I started with some “lightning round” questions, and I asked about pets. For the follow-up, would you be willing to talk up your new niece, River? What do you love most about being an auntie?
Haley: I love EVERYTHING about being an auntie. Buying her outfits. Taking pictures of her in those outfits. Snuggling with her. Rocking her to sleep. Watching her wiggle. Naming her a million nicknames (Princess Wigglebottom seems to be the one that is sticking). Seeing my sister [Lindsay White] and sister-in-law [Audrie Magdeleno White] morph into mothers has been a treat all its own. The only thing I don’t love is living so far away from them. It’s so hard saying good-bye to River already; I can’t imagine how I’m gonna feel once she’s talking and asking me not to leave. I might just end up stuck in San Diego when that happens. I’ll have to ask my Fresno friends to mail me all my stuff.
We transitioned to talking about the best and worst aspects of technology. Is your job still remote or are you going into the office? Or hybrid?
My company [United Way] is awesome in that they’ve offered everyone flexibility this entire time, and all my co-workers do things differently. I go into the office occasionally, mostly for meetings or to pick up and drop off things. More often than that, I go to editing sessions at my cinematographer’s office or our various community events. I’ve mostly worked from home, which works great for me. I don’t have children, so I don’t have distractions. I can sleep in longer and walk on my lunch breaks. I can keep my house freezing, light candles and incense, listen to music or podcasts without having earphones in my ears all day. I was born to work from home. The greatest thing about the set-up is it allows me to work outside of Fresno, too. So, I can visit my niece more. In fact, this week I’m working from my grandma’s in order to help out while she’s sick. I’m very lucky. I wish every worker had the option to choose whichever situation is best for their own lifestyle and personal preferences.
As a tangent from the review of our lightning round questions, and since we didn’t get a chance to really talk about it in the episode, would you be comfortable naming where you work and briefly describing what kind of projects you’re working on?
I’m totally fine naming my work. Our chapter is United Way Fresno and Madera Counties and my title is Director of Marketing.
We’re approaching our 100-year anniversary of being in the Central Valley. Our organization has always existed to assist the working poor, but since the pandemic we’ve really started framing everything we do through an equity lens. Most specifically, we are doing what we can to ease the effects of the racial wealth gap and advocate for the most vulnerable populations in our counties. This often means communities of color but also includes seniors, veterans, single parents, rural populations, and the queer community. I’ve been really trying to refocus our branding on the WHY of what we do. Why are we needed? Why are our programs so necessary? Why do we, as a non-profit, feel the need to advocate for tax credits and anti-racist legislation? The answer to all of this is really “white supremacy,” and sometimes I get to say that out loud, and other times I have to show people – with testimonials, success stories, and interviews – who might not otherwise recognize that these oppressive systems are really at the core of all our societal ills.
I’m not really working on anything in my personal creative life right now, aside from continuing to promote the Save Tower cause [see more about that below], so it’s really a blessing that I get paid to make films and take pictures and tell stories for my day job.
The last question I asked in the preliminary round was about treasured possessions. You said you have little knickknacks that remind you of people you love. I recall one time when you raffled off some of your possessions. I know because I was the recipient of a Janis Joplin framed portrait. Do you still do that? What was the impetus of doing that?
I come from a long line of hoarders, so I’ve always purged (and moved) every few years to combat becoming exactly like them. But I very intentionally curate the items in my home, and I do get sentimentally attached to many of them.
I think, if you’re working to evolve as a human, the art and knickknacks that draw you in and sing to your heart at one point in your development won’t necessarily sing the same song to you later on in life. And so I often get rid of beloved things in order to clear room for newer treasures. But I also want the old objects to still have good homes! So, yes, I do giveaways and invite friends over to go through items before I donate them and sometimes even just outright ask people if they want certain things. Some of my friends have even called dibs on things they know I’m likely to eventually give away. I’m so glad you ended up with that Janis portrait. I purchased it on a trip to San Francisco when I barely had enough in my bank account to clear the purchase. There was something about her expression in that photo – I HAD to have it at the time. It lifted me up for many years, though many apartments in multiple cities. And then one day I looked at her and she didn’t make me feel the same and I knew it was time to let her go. These days I’ve got a giant collection of Medusa art. I’ll undoubtedly outgrow them eventually, too.
The main focus of our one-on-one conversation was your civic work regarding the zoning and purchase of the Tower Theater there in Fresno. The fight continues. Can you bring us up to speed on what’s been going on in the last year? Are there still protests every week (or day)? Please add any relevant links that might provide more information.
It is still ongoing, for better or for worse. Protests continue every Sunday. Event boycotts continue. The theatre owner recently suffered a big blow because it was determined by three appellate court judges that he acted in bad faith when it came to ignoring the first rights clause in his lease with one of his current tenants (Sequoia Brewing). So that put a lien back on the property and also made him responsible for paying all of Sequoia’s court fees. But the church is still determined to buy, and in spite of some outward theatrics of the church suing the theatre owner, they’re seemingly still in cahoots, maneuvering how to do this without the support of the community or the legal system. I know I’m biased, but I think everyone should be paying attention to this case. The core fight at the center of this is whether or not federal religious freedoms be allowed to trump local/state laws and regulations. If they win here, they can win elsewhere. I, for one, think that is a very slippery slope. People can learn more at https://savetowertheatrefresno.com/.
We also talked about the podcast you co-host called Dead Folks. I know the pandemic really upended it. Any plans to get back to it or to create something else?
Brooke [Aiello] and I want to come back to it. We’ve both experienced new griefs in the last couple years and also both look at grief differently after living through these last few weird, hard years. But I think I’m very much still in recovery mode. I’m actually okay with not knowing when (or even if) we’ll get back to it. I think we have at least one more season in us. But I’m not in a rush, nor will I be crestfallen if it doesn’t happen. Those are some major ways I’ve changed since the onset of the pandemic.
Tell us about the Fools Collaborative that you’re part of. You had mentioned in our discussion about participating in the Rogue Festival in March 2021. Is it happening again at this time of year? Are you and/or the Fools taking part again?
Rogue is happening right now (first two weekends of March) but The Fools decided to sit this year out. Partly because we lost our venue with this whole Tower Theatre situation, partly because we’re all exhausted from protesting in a pandemic for over a year, partly because we didn’t want to take too many early risks with COVID, and largely because Drunk Shakespeare didn’t necessarily feel like the right thing to be doing right now. I’m sure we’ll be back to Rogue in the future. I love doing Drunk Shakespeare. It’s truly such a great way to vent since audiences are far more willing to listen to social and political commentary when it’s served up as humor.
Most of our 2022 plans are geared toward the second half of this year. All the projects are thematically centered around Healing and Growth. My board and I decided that’s what we wanted to focus on putting out into the world right now. It’s too early for me to announce our two mainstage productions but I’m really excited for them.
I know you’re also a contributor with Qulyn Journals. Tell us more about that.
Qulyn (qulyn.com) is really all [my sister] Lindsay [White]. I just help her talk through ideas and maybe throw a prompt or two her way when she is feeling stuck. I’m more of a sounding board than anything else. It’s been so cool watching these journals come to life. Lindsay has been terrified that having a baby would effectively end her creative career. She made these journals as a way to do something that wouldn’t take up a whole lot of time or brain power while adjusting to motherhood. Like, they’re just supposed to be this small side project ‘cause she can’t focus on her music or her book right now. And then she ends up creating this beautiful, uplifting series of journals that have been so greatly received and are so useful to people who are hurting. At a time when people really need that sort of thing! Lindsay couldn’t stop being an effective artist even if she wanted to. She’s so incredible.
Please share anything else you’d like to talk about or promote!
Thank you for the opportunity!
Thank you, Haley, for all the great work you do. If you want to learn more about her and see some of the fascinating videos or other art she’s created, please visit https://www.haleythestoryteller.com/, and be sure to check out all the links above to support Haley and all of the great work she does!
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