In February 2018, Lila Scott noticed a woman with blue hair at a speed dating event organized by the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund for people interested in activism. She had wanted to try the same hairstyle, but was hesitant to do so.
Later that night, Scott learned her and the woman — Grace Geisler — had more than hair color preferences in common. Both social workers, they bonded over their interest in social justice. A few weeks later, they met for drinks, and, this past Monday, the couple celebrated their 10-month anniversary.
“It just all felt very natural and like falling into place,” Scott said.
“Yeah, neither of us have felt this way about a relationship before,” Geisler said.
Their story is a happy ending to the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund’s first-ever Woke Bae speed dating event last year. (Woke: “aware of and actively attentive to important facts and issues, especially issues of racial and social justice.”) Its second annual event is this Saturday at the William Way LGBT Community Center from 12:30 to 4 p.m. Tickets are $15 and support the fund’s mission of paying the cash bails of people incarcerated in the city.
The event is meant to build connections — romantic and platonic included — between people vested in the city’s social issues, said Bethany Stewart, a core organizer for the bail fund. It’s also a safe space for people of color and members of the LGBTQ community, she said.
Instead of one-on-one conversations with other attendees, the Woke Bae speed dating event groups four people together for five-minute rounds and gives them a question to prompt conversation.
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As for the term “woke bae”? Candace McKinley said it’s “someone who cares about the world and their community and bettering themselves who’s also cute” — aka an ally or fellow social justice activist.
McKinley is also a core organizer for the Philadelphia Community Bail Fund. Being open about her activism has led to some uncomfortable political discussions on dates, including one person asserting that “all lives matter” after McKinley mentioned her involvement with Black Lives Matter Philly.
It’s important to have a partner who’s at least supportive of her activism because it’s a “core part of who I am,” McKinley said.
Similarly, “I feel like if I was with a partner that wasn’t as supportive, I would feel really stifled,” said Stewart, who’s been in a relationship for three years. “But having a partner that’s supportive has really allowed me the opportunity to flourish in the work that I’m doing.”
But there’s no pressure to find a long-term partner on Saturday, Stewart said. It’s just a chance to meet like-minded people who could become a friend, a future co-organizer or your own woke bae.
“One important thing that I try to emphasize when I facilitate or host events like this is that the criminal justice system completely robs people of hope, dignity and joy, and events and moments like this really uplift our collective power and our ability to reclaim our joy and justice in such a giant system,” Stewart added.
For Geisler and Scott, the event was a foreshadowing for the joy they’d find with each other. Some of their favorite memories are day trips to the beach and Martha’s Vineyard. The couple has been long distance since Geisler moved to Pittsburgh in August, but Scott hopes to moves there next summer.
Then, they look forward to their future together.
“That event brought together specifically people who are social justice and I think that’s part of why Lila and I work,” Geisler said. “But just that [you could find] friends or organizers, all of it, that just made it not a big deal. It’s like, worst-case scenario, I donated $15 to the bail fund. … It was a win-win situation.”-30-
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