Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Mise en Place

 What. A. Year. 

I was adamant about writing before 2021 because it will be my first time posting as frequently in over 5 years. Maybe next year I will meet my blog goal and post once a month. But, I'm also tired of making goals when so much can happen in a year, as seen in 2020, where our entire world has changed in 9 months. Being disappointed in what we "should" have accomplished this year wouldn't have allowed us to celebrate the successes of this year. Surviving a pandemic, a wildfire with hazardous air quality, political unrest, global racial awareness, etc. The list goes on because honestly, this year was so traumatic that I am hardly able to remember sometimes. What I do remember is that I felt more well rounded than I have in over a decade. With so much going on in the world, this year challenged me to strengthen my friendships, reactivate my artistic creativity, explore ways to give back - all while maintaining 6 feet and social distancing. 

A small successes for 2020 included diving into my filipino roots. I have spent so much of my life dedicated to my Black community and background, but I wanted to also give time to my other half. I am also Filipina! I can go into a long discussion on being bi-racial and multitude of layers that creates in identity, but I'll stop for this post. I read Filipino American books (Thank you Carlos Bulosan, Jose Antonio Vargas and Elaine Castillo!), joined the Filipino American City Employees (FACE) Affinity group, and spent lots of time in the kitchen with my mama. I've also been making up for lost time and eating lumpia WAY too often. My mom always says it's supposed to be for celebrations, which I think is fair because 2020 calls for parties at dinnertime simply for maintaining sanity and joy. 

Lumpia! (No, it's not a spring roll) 

Some much larger success happened all right in the last month. In my last post from August I talked about working on an artist grant. The Jordan Schnitzer Family Foundation had announced the Black Lives Matter Artist Grant, which dedicated $150,000 to 20 artists in Portland, Oregon (and another 40 in Washington/Eugene) for artists whose work responds to Black Lives Matter. I haven't made a visual art piece in over 8 years, but my past work was all themed on social injustice, so this grant was a perfect chance to funnel all my feelings in to a new piece. It was hard. I learned I can't just jump into art at a whim anymore - thinking too much on materials, dimension, composition, etc. Too much engineering lately, if you ask me ;) In spite of the hours staring a blank slate, I pulled together not just a proposal, but a completed piece for the grant. It was worth the effort too because I was announced as one of the grant recipients earlier this month. I was and am still elated. I thought I had given up the artist in me when I became an engineer - choosing not to study art in college and giving up the street shows I used to do. Details on the upcoming grant showcase are TBD due to COVID, but I plan to share the piece at that time. Applying for the grant also prompted me to reactivate my old domain and recreate my website, so is also up and running again! 

Also, around August when I was feeling particularly overwhelmed with the state of affairs, I did some research on starting scholarships, foundations, etc. Thanks to some great advice, I was able to start my own scholarship for BIPOC women majoring in engineering, the 'Brannon Diversity in Engineering Scholarship' through my alma mater, University of Portland (UP). It is essentially a unique way to support diversifying STEM fields, which to almost all who know me, is a passion. As part of the 2% of engineering graduates who are black women, I am personally vested in diversifying my field. My scholarship was highlighted this month by UP in their Annual Giving Campaign. Highlighting my scholarship was astounding because it got so much support! Seeing my friends become donors and even a local company supporting this effort brought me so much joy. I am so grateful to all of the donors who made my education possible via scholarships, so it is a pleasure to give back to the future generation of engineers. More info on my newest website tab! ;) 

I can't pretend this year was all good. I lost my great grandma, spent many days in bed, slept more than I thought possible, cried over a lost foster kitten, drank too much, postponed parts of my life and found myself feeling helpless. In spite of the tumultuous year our world has had, we each accomplished so much - working from home, maintaining health, getting closer to friends, and reshaping our "normal." The french phrase "mise en place" means 'everything in its place,' as well as 'setting up' and thats a bit how it feels right now. A year so wretched, but hopeful - setting up for something better in 2021. 

Small orange highlights to this year. Meet Franz.


  1. So much goodness and now, I want some Lumpias. I love you, Jay.

  2. All the feels and so relatable 😭💖! Love you sis! You got this. - Sadé