Thanks facebook memories!
I started the philosophactivist blog around this time back in 2011 (and the queerherbalism blog 4 years ago). Back then I barely even knew what a blog was and I just wanted to be able to express what I couldn't in classrooms and on campus, nearly all-white "radical" community meetings and other spaces. I wanted to have a voice and talk unapologetically about all that I was experiencing and what I saw happening around me as I organized and walked between all these worlds of grassroots/community organizing and academia and more recently, communities of healers and healing. Of course my thinking on the intersections of race, gender, and class and even my own gender and how I see myself has shifted many times in the last 6 years. And I've been skeptical about documenting every twist and turn so publicly to a mixed audience out in the internet ethers.
As I was looking at some of my social media posts from 5 and 6 years ago+, I started wondering what happened to all those folks that were exploding on the scene from about 2009- 2012 (and basically 2000 up to then). Poets, graphic artists, playwrights, bloggers etc. all talking about gender and race and class in different ways than before. Doing what I say is important healing work for our QTBIPOC communities. I looked them up and some of them are public speakers, some returned back to school, some have fallen off the face of the planet (some purposefully and others not-so-purposefully, I assume). Then it dawned on me how I was basically there for the building of the foundation of this newer wave that's taking place.
I've been seeing how some of the folks who are now in college and high school are experiencing a bit more freedom of expression and connecting the pieces that the amazing organizers and artivists I knew from the early "aughts" helped co-create. They helped to break through some major boundaries which opened the door for later millenials to have the platform for expression that they have today. And of course they were, in turn, influenced by those the decade before them and the decades and even centuries before them.
But here in the west, elders aren't always valued. In western society the youth hold the future and predecessors and elders are swept under the rug a lot of times. Nowadays what these elders have done just becomes some quote or meme. Something to romanticize and then move on with these "new ways" of doing things. We've forgotten how to truly honor those who pushed open doors before us. As I move through my 30s and watch folks in their late teens and early twenties learn lessons I learned- and they're learning with more technology and at a much faster rate (largely in part because of this access to technology), I know it's more important than ever that we have intergenerational spaces where we can share about our challenges, inspiration, and victories. Places where we can share our tools for individual and collective care, learn about our legacies of liberation and about our birthrights and inheritance.
[Photo of a dashing black non-binary superqueero standing with a machete raised on a mountaintop appearing to slice the sky in Puerto Rico]
This morning I sat thinking about the things some of us need to do because we have to- and not because we can. I mean this in a lot of ways. Especially according to our physical abilities and economic situation. For instance, a friend of mine is beginning a QTPOC land project and it's not because he has the resources or the physical ability to farm- it's because this space is necessary for our survival. This makes me think of some of our BIPOC ancestors and the things they may have had to learn as maroons/cimarrones, immigrants and refugees in order to survive. The knowledge they had to share amongst themselves and across race and class divisions in order to ensure their survival and futures.
As I've done cross-issue organizing dealing with economic, food, health and environmental justice I've reflected on how the skills and knowledge our ancestors had, especially as it pertains to physical, emotional, spiritual and psychological health and well-being, was wrested from them, commodified and sold back to them at prices no one can afford. Like the price of their and their descendant and descendant's descendants lives.
I am talking about how we all came from ancestors who knew how to feed themselves whether hunting and gathering or farming, they knew how to build their own homes and helped each other build villages, they knew how to take care of their health and also had folks in the village who had specialized knowledge about other levels of health that needed to be taken care of for their whole well-being.
And then colonization and colonialism happened. Industrialization happened. We were intentionally made dependent on so many things. We've forgotten our survival skills or - more truthfully, they were taken from us, purposefully. I've been thinking on this for over a decade, returning over and over to how our communities can be more autonomous in these white supremacist, capitalist (and so on, and so on) systems. I've seen many models from marxism to the communal ways of some of our BIPOC ancestors. And now I try not to romanticize about our ancestors' ways. I leave room for the complexities of elitism, patriarchy and other types of oppression and exploitation that existed. Nevertheless, there are models of collectivism to look to and over the years, I realize how important they are for us.
I also realize now more than ever how important it is that we simultaneously work toward anti-colonial ways of knowing and being. This is multi-layered and involves decolonial perspectives on science, math, history...well, EVERYTHING. It involves healing from the traumas of pre-colonial, colonial and post-colonial times. Which also involves healing from our own internalized oppression and all its layers. It involves connecting with our ancestry and dealing with ancestral trauma. It also involves working with collective trauma for our communities and countries and hemispheres.
In short, it requires unlearning just about everything we have been taught. Everything we think we know or have come to value (whether we want to or not) in the western world and all continents affected by ANY colonization efforts. (And let's be clear about how not all efforts are/were European.)
It's interesting how we start out thinking about an issue and then we see how it branches or splinters out into so many issues and after time, we see the roots of the trunk and its branches as we step back time after time to reassess. Many folks take on these leaves and branches as causes, some go for the roots. I think all the work is necessary and should be coordinated and should be Pan-African, Pan-Indigenous, Pan-Asian...etc. And I still believe in cross-issue organizing and always will because we can learn so much from each other by showing up to each other's meetings, protests, and/or homes and other spaces for meals and conversations. See, that's when we get to see the roots of our oppression.
This makes me think about workshops and popular education. I'm hearing there's this movement away from "workshops". I definitely get it. Information should be shared however it can be. But I know for a fact that some of these workshops came from the conversations in peoples' living rooms. Others may be using this platform for more "legitimacy". Which could be argued for or against depending your stance. And still, others may just be doing workshops for workshops' sake- just like meetings. I have seriously sat in organizer meetings to plan meetings. Seriously.
We have to share information in whatever ways are accessible and conferences and workshops aren't always the most accessible (economically, physically, etc.) to everyone. Neither are everyone's living rooms for many reasons. For instance, because these spaces might not be accessible to those in wheelchairs or for those with anxiety or those with chemical sensitivities.
So- diversity of tactics I guess they call it.
Now, I'm reflecting on all this and mostly my place in these movements as I've moved from protest (through writing and in-person) to pushing for policy change to political organizing to specific "healing work" and organizing toward health and healing justice. Not that protest and policy change isn't healing work, folks! Because it is. And it's also important to acknowledge how all of these are interconnected and many folks work across/with all of these strategies, as I have.
I guess I've realized slowly over the years that finding our power meant knowing our history- meant knowing our traditions- meant knowing our medicine- meant finding our power.
Having our traditions suppressed or stripped away from us - there are no words that I can think of that are explicit enough in expressing the impact of this oppression.
Since most of my adult life has been devoted to learning about health and health justice (18 years since my first days of pre-med!) and then stumbling upon it's connection to economic justice and environmental justice and food justice- naturally, I'm at this point where I'm invested in helping our communities connect with liberation healing and their medicine so they can understand their power and be even more prepared to deal with the branches of the tree.
The colonizers knew the power our traditions and medicine held and we should know and understand this, too.
So where do we go from here? We look backward to go forward. We honor those before us and those walking with us today in resistance. We share our tools for not only healing and resistance, but also toward transformation so one day we don't have to continue to resist. We work toward true liberation, and realize it looks different for everyone. Not everyone is trying to burn shit down and overthrow things and some of us don't even realize our complacency (and how we're complicit in the oppression of others) or the need for dismantling of systems. So how do we come together so everyone can be healed and feel liberated? How do we address those whose sense of liberation is rooted in others oppression?
I bet the elders could (and would) tell us a thing or two.