The Fuck Does This Make Money: “Money is fake. Life is real”
Q+A with Ruby Pinto, prison abolitionist, jewelry maker, organizer, + co-creator of Shred Magazine, launching this week.
The Fuck Does This Make Money? is about Money + Feelings. Today’s is with Ruby Pinto, an artist, organizer and care worker dedicated to building a world where joy, safety and comfort are accessible to everyone. Pittsburgh-raised and currently based, she found her footing in Chicago, blessed to learn from such visionaries as Mariame Kaba, the creators that make up her movement home, For the People Artists Collective, and the youth leaders of the #NoCopAcademy campaign. She considers herself a lifelong student, a cheerleader for the revolution, a prison and police abolitionist and a very fancy monkey.
Ruby’s dream community role would be to create spaces where celebration and healing are intertwined, as she really just wants to party.
Who are you/what do you do?
I'm a 30 year old human who does a lot of stuff, mostly communicating/ talking/ coordinating, art and care work.
I grew up in Pittsburgh, moved to Chicago at 18 to get a degree in Radio from Columbia College, messed around in the service industry until a month-long stint at Little Goat did me in, then really found myself when I started "organizing" or whatever you want to call it around 2013.
I've been a member of For the People Artists Collective since our founding in 2015, and most of my "work," both paid and unpaid, has been geared toward prison and police abolition. I moved back to Pittsburgh at the end of 2019 and spent 2020 doing a major pivot to begin working in the mental healthcare field and starting Shred Magazine with my partner and 5 of our good friends.
The fuck do you make money?
I've got several methods, as I always have. I work as a tech with a therapist, helping clients to learn about their nervous systems and stress responses. We offer a program called "Safe and Sound Protocol" or SSP which is designed to help with nervous system regulation. I love this work because I get to be in deep conversation with folks but not as a therapist, just another human who's helping to map their experiences to what's going on physiologically. I also work with Center for Story Based Strategy as a trainer, so I get to talk to organizers and activists all over the country who are working on various campaigns, and help them to develop stories that can impact their audience and targets and challenge dominant narratives. Again, I get to be in deep conversation, not as an expert but as another human who's helping to map out the ways in which we can use communication to inspire action.
I also have a lil side hustle called Adornamorphosis, a line of jewelry I make out of scrap metal. I've been doing this since 2012 and used to vend in person a lot. Now I sell online but I'm not great at Etsy so a lot of business just happens in my Insta DMs. This also allows me to donate sets of jewelry to fundraisers which is great because I definitely don't make enough money to donate as much as I would like.
What do you spend it on?
Right now, mostly food, bills, rent, taking care of my cats, clothes, treating my family to little gifts here and there, and on my own projects like Shred. I used to spend too much money on ride shares when I lived in Chicago.
How do you spend your time?
I've really been trying to not work "full time" because I don't think I produce much if I try to work on a computer more than maybe 6 hours a day.
I spend about 8-15 hours a week in sessions with clients, about 3-10 hours a week developing or doing trainings with CSS, anywhere from 0-10 hours a week on my jewelry hussle, and 2-8 hours a week on Shred, and then 2-5 hours a week managing emails for everything.
I also spend a lot of time sleeping or resting, walking, gardening when it's warm, scrolling social media, bothering my cats and hanging out with our quarantine pod which is 4 other family members. In the before times I used to go to a lot of shows, at least 2 a week, and go on dates and stuff. I miss the before times.
How do your values guide how you make money?
I had a 9-5 office job once and it was absolutely awful.
Like, painfully boring and confusing and draining. From that experience, I know I'd rather be busy and have inconsistent hours than be bored in a hellishly repetitive and pointless job.
Tell me about your class background without telling me your class background.
My mom was a waitress when I was young and drives a school bus now. My dad has always done manual labor. I went to a school full of rich kids but only because my parents found a rental they could afford in the district. My mother and I have mega debt because I went to college. But I never went hungry, housing was mostly stable, and I was able to do most of the activities I wanted to do growing up, including wild art stuff like blowing glass (because my dad built a friend's studio so we had access to it.)
Tell me about a decision you’ve made about how you make money you’re proud of.
I didn't take a job with the Cook County government even though it was a good salary and would have allowed my husband and I to be insured.
No shade to folks who work on the inside, but I just couldn't do it, knowing I might have to walk past my friends protesting in the lobby or something.
Tell me about a decision you’ve made about how you make money you’re NOT proud of.
Pride is a funny concept, honestly, under capitalism. We gotta eat.
I don't blame workers for doing what they gotta do to take care of themselves and their people.
Tell me about a choice around how you make money that you know was the right decision, but you still feel weird about.
I worked as Coalition Coordinator with the Coalition to End Money Bond during my last year in Chicago. It was my dream job because I had been working on that issue unpaid for years before I was hired. And also, I am not as impacted by state oppression as Black people with darker complections are. I'm mixed and identify as Black, and my dad (who's white) has been impacted by policing and incarceration (he was on house arrest when I was born but definitely would have been in jail if he was Black), and I have family members who have died in prison, but I have really light skin and some class privilege that spares me from the most brutal state violence. So it felt strange taking up space as a Black person in a position like that, especially in meetings with electeds who represented people who were much more impacted than me. I did a good job and I don't regret taking the position but I can see how colorism and respectability bullshit contributed to priming me to hold that position.
What’s something you were surprised by when you first started making money this way?
I've always had a few different streams of income lined up, whether it was babysitting or manual labor or making coffee or teaching glass blowing or running the IWW Literature Department for a few years. And I've always had my jewelry hustle even when I was pulling 50 hour weeks coordinating the coalition. I guess I'm surprised that I'm still able to do it, even as my jobs get more serious and deep.
I'm surprised I can go from a one-on-one session with a client to facilitating a meeting with 20 people within a few minutes. And for some reason, despite being a night owl my entire life, I'm still surprised at the amount of work I get done between midnight and 5am.
Tell me a story about money that makes you feel afraid or anxious (not mandatory!)
My dad always told me "You don't need to spend less, you just need to make more." I can be a little frivolous, I like to eat takeout and treat my friends to drinks and stuff, but I've always made ends meet or been able to ask for a little help if I need it, so I don't have much anxiety even though lots of people probably think I should.
Money is fake.
Life is real and I like to enjoy my time so I don't get too worked up about money unless I'm out of a job and don't know what's next (that's when I start scanning the ground for money; found a $50 in Boystown one time).
Something always comes through.
Tell me a story about money that makes you feel hopeful.
We have a small group of patrons for Shred and I'm hopeful that people will be into what we do and we'll be able to consistently pay ourselves and our creators at some point.
What’s something you do for free, that you will never do for money? Why?
I do a lot of stuff for free and also would accept money for it if someone wants to pay me. I don't think there's anything I'd downright refuse money for if the person trying to pay me could afford to. But if I do a favor or provide something for someone who's struggling, I'll do my best to make it a gift and present it that way to try to mitigate any sense of obligation to pay me.
Anything I didn’t ask that you want to share?
I think humans are supposed to celebrate and process our experiences all the time.
We have a lot of healing and grieving to do and we can't do it if we keep working this much.
I love to daydream about a world where we get to sign up for a few hours of work a day to make our communities function, or do big-picture resource management or whatever, and then we get to spend the rest of our time playing and experimenting and tending to young people and animals and just vibing and having a good time and feasting and partying a lot.
I feel like I'm on a path that will allow me to work a little less than "full time" and have a fuller experience even if it means having a little less money in the bank.
Check out Shred Magazine + all their launch events this week — including a writing workshop on hopeful future I’m doing tonight. They’re great! It’s exciting!