SXSL Recap by Erin Galey

This time last week I was at a revolutionary new event on the South Lawn of the White House – SXSL. Here’s a quick recap after spending the week letting it all sink in.



Dress down, noob!

First things first – I pulled a total rookie White House move and completely over-dressed in a black silk pants suit. Note to any future SXSL-ers, this is NOT a dressy event! Even if you’re on TWH lawn, it’s still ok to dress casual. Me? Completely over-dressed. 😛  (To be fair, I was not alone).

Ignoring your privilege – as bad as ignoring a house burning down beside you. 

One of the biggest things I noticed people talking about at SXSL was diversity + privilege and how it connects to social justice. It’s incredibly relevant and important right now, not only to be aware of it, to check it. We are not a nation of inclusion, (not like this is news, Captain Obvious), and there were many calls to action last Monday to keep working towards equal opportunities and equal experiences for everyone this nation calls a citizen. As a cis, white female, it was amazing to step back, listen, and create space for so many incredible voices out there, and to hear the stories of so many beautiful perspectives not heard as often as others. Gave me a ton of perspective and honestly? A ton of hope for the future of our country. Interested in learning more? Check out this sweet article on how to be a minority ally.

The Social Justice talk knocked my socks off. Here’s a recap from Megan Rose Dickey at Tech Crunch about this talk. One of my particularly favorite quotes was from Brittany Packnett who created the incredible organization, Campaign Zero – “I am fully committed to the idea and the dream that young people — trans young people, gay young people, black young people, Muslim young people — will be able to enjoy the kind of freedom in which they can define themselves for themselves, as Audre Lorde talked about, and show up as their full selves as we go out and change the world… to show up in our red chucks at the White House.”

macklemore obama

Mr. Ben Haggarty… 

Macklemore and his 2 bodyguards made an appearance in the audience to watch Leo’s live panel with the Prez and Katherine Hayhoe. Nice of him to show support (#NeverLetGo), but 2 bodyguards – really? Professor, you’re smart enough to know the entire Secret Service was there.

Here but not here

It’s a seriously VR world. From MTV to Nat Geo, there were VR headsets everywhere. Here’s me testing out a virtual visit to Yosemite National Park, standing next to President Obama while he talks to a ranger about the park’s history, and narrates in my ear about the preservation of wild spaces, while I get slowly canoed down a gentle river. When the wind started blowing on the South Lawn, I actually thought it was a kind of cool 4th dimension effect, but alas, just a happy accident. While I’m personally still getting used to the vestibular/visual mismatch  (nausea), the way VR is being utilized as a storytelling device is fascinating and impactful to me as a producer & director and gets all my creative neurons firing.


Litterbugs – everywhere! 

I was shocked at an event with high themes of climate change how much people were littering. Plastic water bottles all over the lawn, and plastic water bottles allowed anywhere at all – jaw dropping. As a serious ecology and greenie from Portland, I am always carrying my reusable water bottle around with me everywhere. It’s super convenient, easy to do, and creates less waste. The plastic water bottle problem is humungous. Water bottles live on in the ocean, 450 years actually, long after our hearts go on.  Myself and friend Arlan Hamilton were shocked and dismayed at both the attendees for littering, and for the White House to be so tongue in cheek hypocritical to even HAVE water bottles on the lawn at all! It’s a serious issue and I would have liked to see TWH lead by example here by potentially giving reusable water bottles out, having refilling stations, or at least letting attendees bring their own bottles into the festival. Even the bottle I brought with me I wasn’t allowed to bring into the festival.

All in all, it was an amazing experience and so glad I went! Can’t wait for the next one!