This article is a sponsored collaboration between On and PAPER

If there's anything we've learned from the past year, it's that community is everything.

As the world went into lockdown, our immediate surroundings became more important and influential than ever before. We banded together, fought for what we believed in, and worked on building a better home for ourselves and those around us.

Through it all, we've unearthed new perspectives, which is why we teamed up with On to amplify the work of four different community builders across the U.S. who've helped support people across New York City, Miami, Dallas and well beyond.

DonChristian Jones:

Photography: Thomas McCarty

New York-based DonChristian Jones is one of many active players behind Public Assistants, a mutual aid network created for LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC artists who "have found themselves unwelcome and sidelined." By employing and empowering young community members, the Public Assistants team has put forth actions like free bike repairs, toy and coat drives, community fridges, and more. "Programming must respond to the needs of those around us," their website asserts, and Jones is helping to lead that charge.

Below, DonChristian Jones tells PAPER and On how he hits refresh.

Photography: Thomas McCarty

How do you describe the work you do for your local community?

Necessity-driven. Urgency-driven. Creative and collaborative. I don't get much done by myself, but rather with the power and support of an inimitable tribe.

What impact do you hope your work has on the people surrounding you?

That it provides for a more awe-inspiring life. That it makes people believe even deeper in the power of community. That it may make these communities even more joyful and inspired.

In what ways do you think your community needs the most support, right now?

We need the support of space and resources. Greater access to technology, production and fabrication machinery, space in which to work and create our own art and media. Agency over these spaces, storytelling and archive.

How will you be hitting refresh as we enter the second half of this year?

A big dive into the ocean.

Danié Gómez-Ortigoza:

Photography: Sean Michael McCabe

For Miami-based Danié Gómez-Ortigoza, "braiding is a spiritual practice" in that it represents unity in a time of extreme social change and, especially this past year, isolation. The Mexican-American multimedia artist's powerful performances feature braided hair as an "exploration of rituals and ancestry," according to her website, which ultimately helps Gómez-Ortigoza reconnect with planet earth — something she encourages her local Florida community members to do, as well.


Below, Danié Gómez-Ortigoza tells PAPER and On how she hits refresh.

Photography: Sean Michael McCabe

How do you describe the work you do for your local community?

I braid people together and, as I do so, I share a message of union and understanding of all of us coming from the same braid. The same source. My message is a message of strength of the collective above the interests of the individual through my performance art, my braiding practice and my daily conversations with my audience. I also co-created an organization with Martha Graeff that unites the voices of social media influencers for good once a year, where we have raised more than $350,000 for children around the world.

What impact do you hope your work has on the people surrounding you?

I want people to recognize themselves in others and understand that we are each other's destiny.

In what ways do you think your community needs the most support, right now?

We need to go back to nature. We need to understand that the bubble of consumerism that we've bought into is not taking us anywhere. We need to build deeper connections and recognize ourselves in others regardless of our packaging, which often causes so many misunderstandings.

How will you be hitting refresh as we enter the second half of this year?

I will be moving to Dallas and focusing more on art. I've seen the power of performance art as a conversation starter and as a seed to a deeper understanding of who we are as humans.

Tarik the Boom:

Photography: Thomas McCarty

Tarik the Boom is an expert in movement, and uses dance as a way to connect and communicate with his surrounding community. That's why the New York-based, City Girls-endorsed choreographer founded The Core Dance Troupe, a crew of like-minded dancers who share their talents through performances, both in-person and online.


Below, Tarik the Boom tells PAPER and On how he hits refresh.

Photography: Thomas McCarty

How do you describe the work you do for your local community?

The work I do for my community makes them smile and cheer. I'm a dancer, so once I hit the stage or post a new dance video I receive so much feedback on how it makes them feel to watch me dance.

What impact do you hope your work has on the people surrounding you?

I want my work to inspire others around me. They should all know everything I do isn't always peaches and cream. You may go through some tough obstacles, but never give up. That's what makes you stronger.

In what ways do you think your community needs the most support, right now?

I feel my community needs understanding more than anything. We are human. Colorful, joyful, loving people that just want to be respected. No judgment.

How will you be hitting refresh as we enter the second half of this year?

I will be disconnecting from negative energy. Making sure I keep myself in high spirits. Staying focused on all my goals to better my dance community back home.

Molly Sydnor:

Photography: Tony Krash

Molly Sydnor's work in Dallas, Texas is extensive and vital, weaving her background as an artist into different projects that center QTPOC voices. As founder of Radar: The Planet, Sydnor is building a community space to uplift voices in the surrounding area that are otherwise unheard; as director of Local Queer Collective Dallas, she's doubling down on cultivating safe environments for queer women and their allies; and as a creator whose work focuses on colorful, woven wall pieces, Sydnor aims to give back to her local artist community through incubators and more.

Below, Molly Sydnor tells PAPER and On how she hits refresh.

Photography: Tony Krash

How do you describe the work you do for your local community?

I recently left my six-year career as a corporate textile designer to work in nonprofits. Through this work I get to see a different side of diversity and inclusion. I work for a company that puts its focus on adults with disabilities, helping them through higher education and job vocation. When I'm not working my full-time job I'm running a side hustle called Local Queer Collective. Our group focuses on community, events and space for LGBTQ+ folks. Dallas was really lacking inclusive LGBTQ communities. Many groups are heavily dominated by gay white men. Our group focuses on women, nonbinary people and gender nonconforming people. In addition to this work, my freelance art work is an extension of my body and who I am as a queer woman of color. I use my work to educate my community in teaching what it means to be a queer, a woman and biracial.

What impact do you hope your work has on the people surrounding you?

My main goal is to bring others together and start conversations. I really want to show my personal narrative and make things relatable to my experience. I also want to help educate people for the generations after me. Growing up mixed and learning about my queer identity cause me such confusion. I want to make sure people younger than me have a resource where they can find understanding in who they are.

In what ways do you think your community needs the most support, right now?

As a woman, my community needs empathy and understanding. Living in Texas, especially, we need rights. As a queer person, we need the same. We also need spaces that are more accepting that are not just bars. We need real inclusion and not just "Pride Month" rainbow logos. I want to see queer people being hired and paid to speak and do work. As part of the Biracial/Black community, we need people to read and look things up for themselves. People really need to start doing their own labor in education when the internet is mostly free. Support and motivation for our lives is at an all time low. I'm extremely disappointed in the performative activism many people and companies have participated in with little to no effort to actually educate themselves. As an artist, I need to be paid for my labor, skills and talent. People treat our work like it's worthless, meanwhile they often need it. And as a community member of Dallas, we need more diversity: People of color, people with disabilities and people of the LGBTQ+ spectrum.

How will you be hitting refresh as we enter the second half of this year?

Absolutely, I am. If I learned anything from 2020, it's that I need to constantly ask myself, "Is what I'm doing necessary?" I very often fall into the habit of saying yes to everything and getting burnt out. I need to constantly prioritize myself, my mental health, my family and friends. As I slowly start to enter back into the world, I'm finding myself already doing too much. I will definitely be taking a pause to list out what is a priority and everything else can come secondary.

Inspired by emerging creatives and community-builders from around the world, On strives to empower all to integrate movement in their creative process. Fusing performance running technology with street-ready design, the all-new Cloudnova sneaker supports getting outside and moving to tap into that next big idea.

You May Also Like