WHAT DO YOU DO
If you were to spy on me for a day, I would likely be hanging out with my partner, a toddler, and a room full of teenagers (@eclairelang). Every day is a conversation, face-to-face, sometimes painful, but always in the spirit of love and energetic reciprocity. My mornings are spent co-facilitating the Urban Leadership program at Central Campus with Kristopher Rollins, who is also my husband. Our course focuses on creating dialogue around urgent issues of injustice targeting marginalized people such as immigrant rights, Black Lives Matter, and LGBTQ rights, as well as using those conversations to fuel artistic expression and action within our communities. Because much of the content discussed within the public education system has been whitewashed and taught from the dominant lens, our youth are often robbed of learning the true history of their people and this country, and they aren’t exposed to scholars, authors, or artists that reflect them. Our course aims to combat this by uplifting life as the primary text and placing value on our students’ personal stories and experiences as the foundation of our development.
On any given afternoon or evening, I can be found driving teenagers around to various performances, hunting down obscure objects that could be recycled into art projects, taking photos with my iPhone, managing a small but mighty organizational budget, sending one hundred emails, leading writing and performance workshops, eating ice cream cones in the car on the way to said workshops, or coordinating events, summits, or town halls featuring youth artists. Five years ago, I co-founded an organization within Des Moines Public Schools called RunDSM, with the goal of providing youth platforms to speak their truth and express via art forms not traditionally accessible to them. What began with one youth in the corner of a library writing poetry has turned into serving over 1500 young people in 27 schools, helping to establish safe and brave spaces and access to free workshops with local and national artists in graffiti writing, breakdancing, and spoken word poetry. With no hyperbole intended, I feel incredibly humbled to share space with so many brilliant young people, who have undoubtedly shaped my worldview.
Additionally, I make up one-third of a peaceful little family alongside Kristopher, my work-life-love partner, and 2-year old daughter, Ruby Rollins, the lady love of my life. We are at our best on walks around the neighborhood, huddled around book number forty-two of Ru’s choosing, marching with our youth, or dwelling in neighborhoods all over the world. Together, always. It doesn’t matter where.
As long as I can curl my eyelashes and tame my bangs, I can leave the house feeling fresh and ready to take on the day, so my beauty routine is very simple. Getting enough sleep is the most important thing to me, and if you ask anyone who knows me, they will tell you not to call past 8 p.m. (I’m a Nana at heart). I always put a few drops of lemon or peppermint oil in the shower to help set my energy and wash and moisturize my face with gentle products (Arbonne’s FC5 Cleanser and Moisture). I curl my eyelashes and apply the same Covergirl Professional mascara I’ve been using since high school, and add MAC’s Pro Longwear Fluidline in Blacktrack to give my eyes a good pop. I have long, straight hair and full bangs, so it usually ends up in a topknot or carefree down my back.
I have lived in a 2-bedroom Craftsman bungalow in Woodland Heights for almost 9 years, and have every intention of passing this home down to our daughter one day. I purchased the home 2 weeks before I was laid off from my first teaching job, so there are many highs and lows hidden in the walls of this house. Our style is warm and open, and our walls are full of anything that makes us happy. Think, a one-of-a-kind Ruby Bridges collage gifted to our baby girl on her first birthday, a Chance the Rapper watercolor left on our front porch from a dear sister-friend, and photographs taken on an iPhone with one arm out the window on one of our many adventures. Sometimes I walk around our home and smile. We are most concerned with remembering our time together, and it’s important that little pieces of each of us adorn the walls.
Until I met Preservation, my closet was mainly full of dresses! I’ve always been a girl with hips and a booty and for a long time, felt I needed to hide under things that flowed. Thankfully, I make it a habit of giving myself daily reminders that my body is amazing (it made a heart and lungs and carried a baby inside of it!) and I’ve gotten braver to wear things I always loved but never thought were made for me. I’m still obsessed with floral dresses (Christy Dawn is my favorite designer right now) but now have staples from Preservation like my vintage overalls, my Levi’s jean jacket (my youth think I’m the coolest) and my high-waisted, live-in-me Loup pants. I firmly believe in radical self-love, and that one should wear things that make them feel confident.
- As told to PreservationVisit http://www.rundsm.org/ to get involved, support + learn more
Emily Lang is photographed at her home in Des Moines, Iowa by Nicole Lorenson