Race Matters Spotlight will feature individuals in our community who wish to voice their opinions and perspectives regarding racial equity. By modeling how to discuss race in our society, our hope is that it will prompt us all to be more mindful and willing to have the necessary conversations regarding racism within our circles and peer groups, and normalize making those potentially awkward conversations more commonplace.
Larissa (Lolly) Hopwood is a children’s musician and entertainer who has resided in Bucks County for 25 years. As a co-leader of the Bucks County Anti-Racism Coalition (BCARC), she endeavors to be an advocate & ally for people of color and the LGBTQ+ community. In addition to her involvement with BC ARC, the Desis of Doylestown, Roy G Biv, Youth 4 Unity, the Doylestown Democrats, BCDC, and other organizations doing important work in our area, Lolly has helped organize several in-person rallies, events & actions in Doylestown.
She is the proud mother of a 14 year old trans son. The two of them love going to shows, cooking, playing with their adopted pets and smashing the patriarchy.
Kevin Leven: When and under what circumstances did you first become aware of the concept of race?
Larissa Hopwood: The first time I can remember being aware of race was when I was about 5 years old. On a two hour drive from Boston to my home town of Southwick, MA, my parents were listening to a segment on the radio about Ella Fitzgerald. My siblings were sleeping in the backseat, but I was listening. I remember rousing myself to ask questions about the part of her story that mentioned race, since the segment did talk about her journey as a Black woman. But it really focused on her accomplishments and contributions as a singer. It felt easy and natural to ask my parents about race. It seems that sometimes, as white people, it’s a subject that we dance around. But having race talked about in a natural and casual way set a tone for how I’ve approached the subject with the children in my life. It’s easier to have the big, tough conversations when you’re already talking about it in a casual way.
KL: When did you first become aware of Anti-Racism, and what does that term mean to you?
LH: I became aware of Anti-Racism in the wake of the murder of George Floyd. Like a lot of white people who endeavor to be allies, I wanted to get involved to make a change. I kept hearing people, especially online, say that it was a time to listen, not speak. So I did. A dear friend of mine, who is also on the journey of allyship, first told me about Anti-Racism. I was blown away by her simple and to-the-point explanation, and knew exactly where I landed in the anti-racism spectrum as soon as she told me about it. Since this was well into Trump’s presidency, I had already been taking an active stand against racism that I was seeing more and more clearly in the world around me. Having a term that describes how I was feeling inside just strengthened my conviction to do the hard work and to use my privilege and position to make an active and positive change whenever I could.
KL: What examples of racism (overt or unintentional) have you witnessed here in Bucks County?
LH: I have witnessed a lot of racism in my 20+ years in Bucks County. In the past 10 years, I have been made more aware of what racism looks like in this area. From the verbal jabs that people make to the overt middle fingers and n-words being yelled from car windows at students of color, I have seen a very real manifestation of racism in our community. It’s something that has been pushed aside and trivialized as a ‘non-issue’. And not just by people who are being actively hateful, but by people who would never think of themselves as racist. We have such an opportunity to model what the journey of allyship should look like in an area that lacks diversity. Although there is a lot of work that still needs to be done, I am glad to see so many people in our community and in certain branches of local politics stepping up to the plate by listening, learning, and taking meaningful action. There will always be growing and learning to do. The first step is to show up. And there are a lot of people showing up.
KL: What’s one thing we can do to help further the cause of racial equity locally?
LH: Amplifying marginalized voices is something that we should all be doing! That can look like a lot of things. It could be donating financially to organizations that are dedicated to making positive change in our community like the NAACP and the Pair Up Society. It could be reading books by & about people of color and talking about them with people that you know. Diversifying our social media feeds and sharing posts about racial issues is an easy, but important thing that we can all do. There are so many ways that we can all try to combat racism. We all have different talents & capabilities. But amplifying the voices of people of color is a job that we can all do.
KL: What resources (books, movies, podcasts, etc.) on race and race relations have you found helpful in advancing your understanding on the topic?
LH: The books that made the biggest impact on me when it comes to understanding race & racism are “When They Call You a Terrorist” by Patrisse Cullors, “Freedom is a Constant Struggle” by Angela Davis, “Hood Feminism: Notes From the Women that A Movement Forgot” by Mikki Kendall, and “Patriarchy Blues” by Frederick Joseph. I highly recommend all of them! Beyond that, one of the best things we can do as people endeavoring to be better allies is diversify our bookshelves. We can do this no matter what age we are. Louise Erdrich is my current favorite. Her stories about modern indigenous communities are so beautifully told. There are also so many more books featuring children of color, children in different types of families, kids with disabilities, and much more. I recommend anything by Christian Robinson and Julie Morstad if you’re looking to represent more diversity in your picture books. “Julien is A Mermaid” by Jessica Love and the Andrea Beaty books (like “Ada Twist”, “Scientist”, and “Sofia Valdez, Future Prez”) are wonderful! If you want to get a little deeper, the “Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls” and all of Anastasia Higgenbotham’s books are great places to start. I try to do the same thing with my record collection, the TV & movies that I watch, and the social media accounts that I follow as well.