Tina Currin joined forces with her husband, Grayson Currin, back in 2010. This dynamic duo hasn’t stopped since. And thank heavens for that because North Carolina has found itself the textbook definition of “hot mess”. From the election of Pat McCrory and a Republican dominated state government, to Moral Mondays and HB2, the Currin gang has had plenty of reasons for rallying the voice of the progressive south in Raleigh, NC. Auntie Bellum is excited to learn a bit more about what drives Tina to keep active in her community and make noise for change.
Where do you call home?
Raleigh, North Carolina, all day.
Describe your work life.
My “day job” is as a writer and creative strategist at an integrated production company called Myriad Media. I’ve worked at Myriad since I graduated college, writing scripts for places like the Atlantic Coast Conference and IBM. Despite the focus on client-services work, they’ve been nothing but supportive of my antics. They give me a lot of room to experiment and play, while also providing guidance as I work to build my own side projects. So, I absolutely wouldn’t be able to do what I do without the support of Myriad. That being said, my work doesn’t begin at 9 or stop at 5. I’m also a freelance writer, for both local print outlets and larger online publications. It’s great fun. Finally, there’s the activist side of my life: Things like Saturday Chores (a counter-protest of pro-life harassers), North Carolina Needs You (counseling musicians like the Dave Matthews Band and Duran Duran on how best to donate to progressive causes in NC), Hepcat (a charity bike race to sponsor spay/neuter services in our area), and the Air Horn Orchestra (a noisy protest against anti-discrimination legislation in NC). These I do alongside my husband, so that makes it fun. They started out as pretty weird hobbies, and have recently grown into entities much larger than either of us. We’ve just incorporated a business called Stunts, &c. for consulting purposes—if, say, a company wants to do a publicity stunt or take a public stance on an issue—and a nonprofit, called Come Out & Show Them, to educate other activists on how to do the same in their own communities.
Share an accomplishment that makes you feel proud.
I’ve always wanted to do something worthy of being in the New York Times. That happened twice this year, which was just so awesome to me. The day the Times story ran, I noticed an older couple reading the paper in a coffee shop. I asked them if I could take a peek at it, and saw one of my stunts on the front page. My jaw dropped. They insisted that I take the paper, which I now keep beside my desk to remind me of how little actions can make a huge impact.
Similarly, North Carolina Needs You—which is hardly more than a landing page and an open letter asking artists not to boycott our state in the wake of the discriminatory House Bill 2—gave me the opportunity to work with some incredibly generous musicians and funnel more than $500,000 to progressive organizations across the state. Those successes have encouraged me to preach the “Just Do It” mentality to anyone who will listen. There’s really no magic formula to changemaking. You don’t need anybody’s permission. Just go out there and do something.
What does being a Southern woman mean to you?
It, unfortunately, means I have to work a little harder to ensure my rights—and the rights of others—are protected and respected. It also means that I have an opportunity to shape the future of my area in a way that might not be possible if everyone else already looked and acted just like me. It’s both frustrating and liberating, but I choose to see it as an incredible opportunity.
It also means I like basketball.
What motivates you?
How little work it actually takes to make a difference. I think so many of us are lulled into complacency by the internet, like, “Oh, I shared this important thing on Facebook, so I’m good.” But the internet is such a powerful tool, and it makes it so easy to connect with like-minded people and to do new and interesting things together (and those like-minded people are a constant source of even more inspiration). Of course, once you get something started, it’s work to keep it going. But Grayson and I have managed to create multiple campaigns that have raised significant amounts of money, or have been shared millions of times, or have enacted legal or regulatory change, all while holding day jobs and hanging out and running marathons and having friends and brushing our cats and mopping our floors to a socially acceptable level. Like, you can have a normal life and do incredible, significant things in your community, too. I wish more people would recognize that potential within themselves. It motivates me every day.
What is one change Southerners could make to improve our current culture?
Join a group or organization that supports the causes you most care about. If there isn’t one that appeals to you, start your own. Work as hard as you can. Rinse, repeat.
Has there been a defining moment that set you on your current life path?
Grayson and I live in North Carolina. In 2012, “we” elected a Republican governor, Pat McCrory, and Republicans were voted into majority in both state houses. It’s the first time since 1870 that Republicans have had control of both the legislative and executive branch. As you might expect, there’s been a substantial shift toward conservative governance, including cuts to social programs and education, a push for voter ID laws, and, of course, things like House Bill 2.
On June 24, 2013 — the day Grayson and I returned from our honeymoon — I was intentionally arrested for civil disobedience through a grassroots movement called Moral Mondays. I was the youngest person in the jail cell by about 30 years, and some of the other arrestees asked me, straight up, “Where are the rest of you?” As in, “We’ve been doing this shit forever. Why aren’t more young people showing up to take this off our hands?” I vowed to take more direct action—and to do it in a way that appealed to my age group, which I guess you could call Millennials—at the next available opportunity. So, Grayson and I started Saturday Chores, which went viral and is now replicated all over the world. Plus, holding signs is way more fun than going to jail.
Who do you depend on for support in your life and who depends on you?
My husband, Grayson, is everything to me: co-conspirator, business partner, lover, pal.
As far as making these things work, we couldn’t do any of it without the help and support and lively participation of our friends and community members. There are lots of times that I would rather stay home and watch Netflix than go to something like the Air Horn Orchestra, but I know 100 other people are getting up off their couches, so I feel an obligation to show up, same as they do. We try to have fun.
What brings you the most pleasure in your life right now and how has that changed over the years?
I’m really into food and exercise, which is a good combo relationship. I’m sort of a jock—I was on a collegiate sports team at UNC and I run lots of marathons and climb mountains—and I think that connection to my body and to exhaustion and to nature is what keeps me grounded. Running is the best training in mental toughness that I know. And, with lots of exercise comes a big appetite. I really fucking love to eat.
What did you want to be when you grew up and how different is that from where you are now?
I’ve always loved animals, so of course, when I was young, I wanted to be a veterinarian. I went vegetarian when I was 12. I’m 29 now, so that’s more than half my life. But as I got older, I started writing every day (this was the era of Livejournal, mind). I won contests and teachers told me I had a knack for it. I also had a massive crush on my English teacher (science teachers weren’t nearly as handsome, or in touch with their emotions). In college, I studied a lot of science and math. As that became more difficult, writing felt more natural.
That was OK, until I started working as a veterinary technician at a local animal hospital. I remember holding a dog as it had the area around its eyes cauterized, and I could smell the burning flesh. I knew right then that I didn’t have the guts for it. It’s all in service of helping the animal, of course, but I couldn’t handle the slicing and dicing that medicine requires. So, I quit the job and became an English major. That path taught me creativity and critical thinking, and paired with my innate desire to fix things, I’ve been able to use those skills in a way that I think childhood me would be proud of.
Bonus question: What’s your favorite southern saying?
“You’ve got a battleship mouth and a rowboat ass.”
Work until you have a battleship ass.
“Well, I Declare” aims to highlight Southern women who are forging their own paths and making change in their community. We ask them a bit about this and that to gain a glimpse into the lives of women all around us who are shaping the fabric of our future. Check out some other rad women we have talked with: Mollie Williamson, Shanika Pichey, Big Freedia, Kyshona Armstrong.