When Ancient Magic and New World Powers Meet: The Rising of Spiritual Capitalism and the Spiritual Celebrity

Whenever I talk about decolonization work, I invite us to understand, to decolonize is not to entirely return to the ways of ancient traditions and doing away completely with the advancements of human technology and progress that have served our ability to enhance connections, awareness and understanding of this existence. To decolonize is to recognize what parts of the New World that we are living in and creating forward, are serving our collective liberation and which continue colonial constructions of oppression and degradation of Life.

The process of decolonizing asks us to question what influences our ways of living and demands that we look at the ways we relate honorably to all that contributes our ability to live a fulfilled existence. I invite the examination in this writing of what drives your living, what your vision of life lived looks like- and I invite us to question if all we do, say, create, and exchange in the world speaks to and serves the purpose of attaining the Liberation and continuation of all Life and the world we have been given to live in and for.

This is essential to reclaiming our ancestral teachings and practices- acknowledgement and honoring of all in relation to the acknowledgement and honoring of self.  The world that we have inherited from our ancestors, that we have been borrowing from our descendants, that we are creating and contributing to the evolutions and revolutions of- has held capitalism as a key determiner of wellbeing, survival an enjoyment of this world.  Capitalism’s agenda is to strip us of our- awareness, accountability and agency that allows us to work toward liberation. How do we carry response-ability, in relation to a world that has been so greatly, and essentially influenced by capitalistic agendas and gain?

We are experiencing an ability to be in understanding and relation to the insidious agendas of Capitalism that shows up in our everyday lives and the Visions of True Liberation that we are collectively realizing and manifesting during this auspicious time in human existence. The emergence of an intersection of these experiences is happening so visibly, and yet the dangers and threats are not being directly addressed.  I refuse to let this crucial conversation be left to the wayside- to speak of the complexities of Capitalism’s hold on us is to have the courage to admit and be accountable to the colonized oppressions that we are enabling, perpetuating and growing in our own lives.

I want to focus this conversation, primarily on the path of Divination/Spiritual/Healing work and practice and what it means to understand the birth of Spiritual Capitalism- though I have also seen this happening in the realm of Community Organizing and Social Justice work and practice with Activist Capitalism and feel it important to align the two as allies of oppression to one another in these crucial times of change. I want to pose the contradictions that are arising in how Spiritual work is being commodified more prominently than ever- where the supply and demand dynamics of capitalism are being connected to Spirituality and Ancestral re-membrance work. Corporations are capitalizing on our demand to be aligned in our mind, body, soul wellness. Capitalism has understood that there is a very real emergence of a want l, a desire, a need – to connect to the celestial, to be in line with indigenous learnings of our ancestral lands and to align with the magical/mystical that was stripped from our ancient ancestors to be replaced with this New World.

You can walk into almost any retail store and find idolic objects being sold as home furnishings and decor, natural minerals and natural healing herbs being used in beauty and pampering products and indigenous crafts and artistic/spiritual creations being made into adornments of jewelry and clothing sold as trends. All are being bought and sold at obscene prices for their rarity and for the very visible and tangible power that they hold.  Be in awareness that often these items are being gathered, obtained, and exported with exploitation of indigenous peoples and of indigenous lands- where distributors often trick them into selling their goods for a small fraction of what they are going to sell them for, so the margin of their gain will be more profitable.

 

This conversation moves beyond just the concept of appropriation- because we are examining the ways in which our reclamations of ancestral knowledge, practice, spirit and way of life are being stolen from our motherlands where they were born and are being commodified by the very powers that once tried to strip our knowledge of them from us, that demonized them and tried to erase them in replacement of their own tools of Spiritual control and power. Spiritual Capitalism makes us consumers of spirit, purchasers of prayer, tainting and poisoning our ancestral medicines with misuse of their powers.  Where ancestral plants like, pachamama (ayahuasca) are being abused for large sums of money, to bring people quick and constant fixes into spiritual trance and journeying, disconnecting them to this physical Earthly living as escape. And in these acts we shun the very Earth that grew that medicine, and that grew us into existence. Medicine men/womxn of communities knew the deep importance of balance between the Spirit and Earthly realms, and our abilities to travel between, but capitalism has allowed for us to glorify this magic, and to live in contradictions and misguidance when we don’t deeply understand and re-member use, versus abuse of objects, medicines, tools of divination in ceremony and reverence.

ayahuasca
Photo from Nexttribe.com

In truth, on my own path, I celebrated accessibility of divination tools and knowledge in the way capitalism allows for it in the diaspora. I celebrated the way navigating the attainment of tools and the access to knowledge was coming with more ease the more I opened to my Spiritual path. And then with time I began to see the insidious ways of Capitalism showing up, seeing crystals sold in the furnishing aisles at Target, and sage bundles at Urban Outfitters. What has been even more troubling for me, beyond the commodifying of spiritual, ancestral and indigenous rooted objects, tools and natural minerals and plants- is the way capitalism is slowly poisoning our practices, our healers, our conduits of the earthly and divine.

image1.jpeg
Urban Outfitters Home Instagram

 

We see the commercialization and exploitation of the Bruja, the Yogi, the Reiki Master, the Psychic- the mass emergence of practitioners of Spiritual Retreats and Festivals, Shamanistic Journeys, and trainings in spiritual practices from across the globe, where ceremony and ritual is being sold for profit and gain. I do not deny that the emergence of healers, witches, mediums and divine practitioners in the diaspora is powerful, and is beautiful- the way magic and ancestral connection to our divinity is being rediscovered inside of us and resurfaced through us drives my very existence. But, it asks us to reflect on the question: “If you are a healer profiting from Capitalistic Gain, how can you claim connection to honoring the intention of ancestral re-membrance?”  

 

This is an important time for us to question whether the healing and ancestral work we are doing is in service of Liberation and in service of the honorable balance and connection between the Earth and Spirit. What do you serve beyond your own survival? Who do you serve beyond a want to live a commodified understanding of a full, happy and rich life? Whose survival have you invested in? Whose existence are you honoring? What movements are you aligning with, and elevating through the powers of your gifts? Are you willing to answer these questions with the truth of your own shadows- and the insidious influence Colonization, and particularly Capitalism has taken on you? 

19787374_10101761114469480_6471473437874043058_o
Living Spiritual Leaders gathered in the Philippines at PAMATI 2016

I have sat in contemplation about how to have this conversation without it falling into solely the culture of “Calling Out”, as the means to hold others accountable.  I have wondered how to speak of this process, like all processes of Decolonization, in a way that can feel like an invitation to process, and grow- rather than to shame and offend. We have to be willing to step outside of our experiences and be in acceptance of how and in which ways we allow capitalism to lead us. I have experienced uneasiness in the ways spiritual practice has become so visible through social media (as this is becoming primary source for capitalism to take hold of our attention and to promote the buying of our daily lives).

 

My wariness is not in regards to the visibility, and the connections and inspiration it is creating. My wariness comes from how social media allows the uses of our gifts to be driven by followers and marketed without any social and spiritual responsibility to the origins of where knowledge is being sourced, without guidance and honoring of elders and indigenous peoples, without acknowledgement of ego being a primary driving force with no connection of your movements and gain to serving the liberation of all the peoples have been and are continuing to be exploited, are suffering in poverty and inhumane living conditions and are dying from the very capitalistic powers that feed your platforms?

 

In the past, we were in awareness of what it took, what the needs have been for us, and our peoples to survive. We were in understanding of the balance of what it meant to be in exchange with one another to meet those needs. And we were in communion with all earthly and metaphysical entities, assuring that we were taking good care of this shared world and existence. As Colonization implemented structures of power and control, capitalism being at the center, our understanding of the needs of each other’s survival, our care for those needs became tainted. Because of the divisions and disparities that have been created between us, and the unique experiences of oppression we have lived- our needs now look so different from one person to the next. And needs have been manipulated beyond the essentials that should be allotted to all.

 

Need is not based on simple understanding of a sense of equality and balance and the right for all life to live in wellness, safety and furthermore in a state of fullness and Love any longer- we have been left to misunderstand how the structures of capitalism have left so many in struggle and suffering, with a disproportionation of this Earth’s resources and energies keeping us alive. There are so many without, and few with too much. And we measure the worth of one’s life on illusionary scales of time and money, of labor and earnings, of success and excellence. We are deceived to believe that to be “successful” is what the marker is of a full life- when so many don’t even know where their next meal is coming from, where they are going to sleep tonight, or whether tomorrow will be the day that the military occupation and wars outside their door will bring death their way.  

 

We have lost the ability to see true purpose of serving one another. We have rooted purpose in that capital gain, in the business of living lives that are lavish, materialistic, that support mass production that destroys lands and lives and maintains an imbalance of survival. Because of the traumatic power structures of Capitalism that have shaped our understanding of exchange asking us to think about What to Charge? What our Rate is? What is “fair” by measurement of capitalism, that makes us question what our profit margins are, and what we gain from giving of our services before doing the Sacred Work we have been spiritually called to do? How can we ask for someone’s rate and compare it to one another- without understanding all that each exchange serves, where those shares will be given? How can someone give their service and create gain to purchase the newest and fanciest trends, when someone giving the same service is struggling to place food on the tables of their loved ones? Even further, when someone giving the same service is supporting the collective liberation of their people from colonial oppression?

 

When your earnings are not accountable to anyone, but yourself, and discount the service of liberation of any, it moves away from the very purpose of healers, shaman, brujas, priestesses, divination and spiritual leaders from our ancient, ancestral past- to serve, protect and ensure the existence of this living. When you are called to Spiritual practice, when you are given awareness of gifts that connect our world with the worlds beyond us, that bring us to be aware of magical order and link us to our ancestors and the divine spirits of all lands we occupy- it is a responsibility. You are meant to work against the very real genocide, torture, degradation of life and to halt the disturbance of balance, the raping and reaping, destruction, of our land/water/sky. Do you allow yourself to know the injustices of the world? To know the injustices of your very communities and people? If all those answering their Sacred Spiritual callings were to understand this in their practices and movements- to ask themselves these questions with a want to align their answers to service of all life- liberation would be laid before us.

 

But capitalism is alive in so much of what is being practiced, and in the ways so many healers, spiritual practitioners and divination leaders are moving. Without allowing ourselves to own this truth- we become servants to the very powers of colonization that are destroying and killing the people and places who we should be honoring and learning from in the unfolding of our divine paths.  We forget that our ancestors before us, and so many indigenous spiritual leaders who still live were silenced, burned and buried for standing in their spiritual powers in service to our people’s lives and liberation. Without our work intentionally serving revolution and liberation, in ourselves and in others, we become agents to Neo-Colonization and the practice of our magic becomes centered on ego, fame and materialism- it is weaponized to serve the maintaining and advancement of Capitalism and the destruction of our collective existence.  And the most troubling part is that when being faced with these truths, these shadows in our praxis, there is complacency, there is defensiveness, there is an acceptance of disillusioned truths that your work is not contributing to a new wave of capitalistically configured influence that has been cloaked with a disguise of being “Woke”, healing, and invested in liberation. We lie to ourselves, rather than admitting that there is work to do, or that you are navigating the challenges of being surrounded by capitalism’s influence so predominantly on the daily. We are growing, becoming more aware, and with each moment we gain perspective, it needs to be acknowledged as work we are responsible for doing. When you give away, distance yourself from your responsibility to the liberation of this existence you give away your power and disempower others.

 

This is not to say you are assuming a role of a savior in service of others because they are unable to serve themselves. I go further to remove this misconception, because this is another way that capitalism has lead us to invest in its insidious teachings. Do not fool yourself that you are above others as your gifts show themselves to the world- check your attachments to being a Healers who should heal others,who has the power to hold space for others, where they become dependent of your circles. This is another way that Spiritual Celebrities have been functioning- not sharing in their gifts to uplift others- creating relationships that make others need the gifts of another, lead by fear, rather than creating empowerment to be support for them find and strengthen their own gifts.

22450536_10155671731424361_1553774948_o (1)
Photo by Benjamin Oscar

Here, I write this to all of us, including myself on the daily, who are being called to lead through our Divine gifts and in support to others in the upliftment of their own. I ask you to question who and what your walk is serving. We must answer our callings, and let spirit lead us, but we also must be critical about whether the ways our magic/spiritual/divine work is serving the movements toward liberation that are crucial in this time. This is an invitation to shift, to be aware, accountable and agency in our responsibility to the collective liberation of this existence.

 

Advertisements

Kapwa Tarot: The Re-emergence of Public Divination Work and Honoring Ancestral Practice in a Time of Spiritual Capitalism

29060880_10102040352599030_3771021419436683513_o

Often, when being asked about Kapwa Tarot I am asked “What was your inspiration?” “What brought me to create the cards?” and “Why did I decide to create them?” The answer was that it was not a decision at all, it was a necessity- that was amplified by the encouragement of community. And the cards themselves are not just cards, they are not just a deck of illustrations, or words written on a PDF file. Kapwa Tarot is a creation connected to my way of life.  I have been answering my ancestral, scared calling for many years now, in truth I have been answering it my whole Life, without understanding the fullness of it, and without the intention and awareness I walk with.  2 years ago the messages were clearly directing me to create Kapwa Tarot, as a way to hold many of the core teachings I had gathered and was developing through my work of re-membering ancestors and practicing decolonization. I didn’t imagine the Divine timing of it all.  I just knew I was ready and that they would be manifested through me.

The call was echoed by community and family to create what I didn’t know I had the capacity to and to share it at a time where the “demand” for this work was being made. I could not have created these cards at any other time, but in this very auspicious period when so much that is of Diasporic Divination work is emerging and being made visible to the world.  I bring us into awareness of the generations that are rising, that are being born on Turtle Island that are the descendants of those who were, in many ways, forced to leave their Motherlands and brought to be servants to the “American Dream.” That dream was rooted in that servitude, in allegiance to Colonization- Capitalism, Racism, Patriarcny/Heteronormativity- and it is us, and our descendants that are being born in these similar land bases in the Diaspora, on Turtle Island, that are creating a new paradigm, creating radical change, and creating tangible revolution, through the re-membering of Divination and Magic based practices that we seek to re-member. These practices and tools that are emerging through our inception and manifestation, are entryways that are being distributed throughout the global diaspora to help ground our, communities to begin the path of returning to Life as Spiritual Practice.

Individuals and communities are currently seeking divination and magic as means of survival, for guidance, for healing and for creating a relationship with Spirit that can help to heal the traumas of this existence. That is why we see our learning of these tools and these modalities of metaphysical healing and empowerment as practice. What I have understood that the true goal is not to be great at reading cards, or at creating herbal tinctures and oils, or at playing sound bowls, and identifying and working with crystals to elevate spirit- the actual goal is to re-member the magic we can surface in all tangible things, and in all our relations because of the magic that is within ourselves. The goal is to understand the magic of us all, and these tools and practices are there as a reminder.

That is what I feel in this work with Kapwa Tarot and with all the divination tools that are being created in this time. How many decks have you seen emerging from different communities? How many tools of divination, books, crystals, herbs, iconic figures and use of earthly elements configured to support so many seeking spiritual knowing and connection? There is a call, within us, from a place so sacred and beyond this physical world that is asking us to create in line with the greater creations of change that have been built throughout these years in the work toward liberation of our communities. I believe this so firmly.  Our ancestral re-membering has brought us here, to this time, where magic is emerging on the surface, and is resonating with everything from what we eat, to what we wear- so much because that is being paradoxically supported by Colonization itself. It is being fetishized and capitalized on, just as it is healing and liberating us.

31403991_10102067898137550_5316470107088617472_o

The powers that be are working to contain the Divination Work that is being interpreted by them as that “demand” I mentioned. And thus Spiritual Capitalism has been born of this intersection. They are looking to be the markets in which we “purchase” our prayer.  But what they don’t understand is that our communities are working around all of this in such intentional ways. And maybe even in none intentional ways, but are creating because it is necessary to, because something inside of us as creators is inviting us to embody the Divine in all that we create in this world. And a larger part of ourselves re-members. We re-member what it was to have our magic stripped from us, what it was like to be killed and tortured into shifting our beliefs for reading our cards in public, for praying amongst the trees and open sky, to gather in ceremony and ritual. We re-member the labeling of savagery, and uncivil, the being seen as un-human, unclean and demonic. We re-member how much it took for our Ancestors to adopt the beliefs of their Colonizers, all the death, all the pain, all the trauma to the bodies, minds and spirits of our people.  

There is a conflict that is intrinsically arising, the conflict between producing for capital and our relation to monetary survival and the necessity for money to liveand creating in relation to sacred calling and purpose and the survival and liberation tools that are necessary for revolution to come to be. The lines often get blurred because we are only beginning to understand the truth of what it means to be in Radical Imagining and Manifesting. Capitalism still feels necessary to live, and to live in wellness. That has been the most trying part of having brought Kapwa Tarot into this world-  and the trying part of all my divination work that is rooted in my artistry, activism and work as an educator- that in relation to ability to create this work for it to be used by community that there has to be a process of monetary exchange that allows for the materials, the labor and the creation fully manifested, to be sustained. In this world everything has monetary cost, we have invested in this as the way of life and bound ourselves to putting price points to all aspects of our creations and measuring demand with whether or not to pursue what may feel like a part of our understanding of what we must create and perform.  I think of the many times where I was taught that something was a “waste of my time” because it did not honor me with payment. Negotiating this is challenging.

We have made it our way as human beings, to find necessity in one another, in service-  that what we cannot, or have not learn to do for ourselves, we look to others to produce for us, and we’ll pay them, for the convenience, for the ease. So if you have more money, then you have more options, more resources and more ability to utilize the service of others and in turn can then create a greater service and gain greater capital in return. It all is a complex system that was created and sustained by humans all these years and relieving ourselves of the oppressions that it is rooted in is not something that will happen without complete destruction of its structures.

The navigation of this is rooted in the Principles of Sacred Exchange where I am continually working to build for myself and to share with my community. For now, it is a reworking of my relationship to capitalism, but what it is intentionally working toward is a radical shift and dismantling of capitalistic practices and creating practices of exchange within our communities that will not feed into the persistence and growth of Big Banks and Corporations ruling over our survival, our well-being and our ways of living. I share the following with you all as a part of a process that is always being added to, reoriented, reimagined and communally created on the daily. I believe that it is crucial to have these conversations, without it the Powers that Be will take hold and this will be the beginnings of how people weaponize our spiritual movements- through capitalism- by having ego, power and fame lead our creation and practice of divination work.

29595533_10102047973222240_3721658893138789523_n

1)    Re-membering the Deep Histories of Creation that Makes My Creations Possible

No thought of creation is to be owned by another. Conceptions of copyrights, patents and other labels of ownership dishonor the truth of how at the core of all creation is the Ancient Divine. Our creations, just as our lives were created by a Great Creator, have lineage, have ancestry, that begin and are rooted someplace Ancient and Divine. If we can recognize and honor this, then we can pay reverence and homage to our work without having the Ego in place. If we see our brilliance as being detached from the brilliance of all, then we run into technicalities created by Capitalism that create practices and procedures of enforcing misguided states of scarcity, competition, glorification and divisiveness.  I create with honoring of all that is called in for that creation to take place. Create with the permission and/or the recognition of those before me and those who I am in Sacred Service of in my creation. Honor the lineages of your work. Understand that no idea is ever just yours. It is important to understand and pay homage to how you have created from a space of channeling something Divine, but true Revolutionary Creations, were never just ours to have. Kapwa Tarot yes, was manifested and labored by my hands, and came through me from my imaginings and creations, but I know every image, and every word shared will never be just my own. If the words echo yours, or the images are similar to what you have imagined, it is because they are meant to be ours to connect and hold in union and Kapwa (the Shared Self).

 

2)    Reframing Being “Independent” or” Corporate” as Options that Bind Us to Ideas of Capital Worth and Overall Value in Creating

I don’t consider myself an Independent Artist- I know that all my Art, all that I create, is through the support of community. And to be Corporate is never the goal. I was raised in beginning with this type of languaging and I remember the first time I claimed myself  I be an independent artist, how empowering that really was to make a statement that I was doing it all on my own, not bound by a company that would determine how I spent my creative energy and capacities. And then throughout the years, I realized every being an “Independent” artist still bound me to the Master of Money leading the way I navigate my work. I found myself being coached and mentored to “brand” myself, and to be in a position of selling that brand. I was imagining products that would suit my consumers/audience versus imagining limitless possibilities. I was also looking at how to be cost efficient, and how to source materials in order to get the best deal, and make the most profit. That mentality poisoned my space of creation. My Art was losing its depth and connection to the Divine. I began to gauge the value of my work on monetary acclaim. This, became another dishonorable practice. I found myself not taking any exchanges for my art because of it, or taking very little- and at some points not doing any art at all for fear of becoming consumed by capitalistic relationship and value of my Art.  It was not until Kapwa Tarot, that I understood in greater capacity how important it was to find a balance in exchange. And so just beginning with no longer consider myself an “Independent Artist” and categorize myself based on how my Art created income, but identifying myself profoundly as a Creator, a Cultural Bearer and a Revolutionary has allowed me to lead by the Spirit and Sacredness of my creations in connection to how they are filled with influence and wisdom of community, ancestry and descendants.   

3)    Being Right with Materials That I Utilize to Create and the People Whose Labor is Offered to My Work

I have come to understand that no creation that comes from our making will be manifested without the collaborative efforts of other creators and of the Great Creator(s) themselves.  An intention from the beginning of designing the cards for the Kapwa Tarot deck was to find a printer that would be equitable and that had practices that felt collaborative and would not make me feel like I was just another customer making a transaction. I went through 4 printers before landing with one, where there was practice of humanized communication and that really saw my deck as work that they were co-creating and cared for as well. It made the process one that felt honorable for all of us, I felt the way they cared for each card as it was processed into their design lab, and there was continuous clarity up until the packages were shipped. I also worked to be in understanding of where the paper was sourced, and sought recycled stock to print on, to pay homage to the trees that gave their bodies for the manifestation of the work. I have been in reflection of all that gives to these cards being manifested, the ink, the steel that cut the cards in processing, every hand that packaged and shipped them. And I imagine all the Earthly Elements and how they gave to the tangibility of these cards. My part was only a portion of a larger scheme of manifestation that I recognize and honor. These days, this a large part of how I am seeking to relate to all objects created by human being- to re-member their sacredness.

4)    Considering the Way I Hold the Process of Exchange- The way the Process is Humanized and That Exchange Does Occur

This process of creating the cards and distributing them has been one of the most challenging acts of creation I have ever given my life to. My work has not ended in just creating the cards, it has continued in making Sacred Exchange and taking care of this in the best way I can. Every deck is packaged by me and carried to the post office to be sent to the homes of community that have given of their support and seen this creation as a support to their own Spiritual practice or their re-membering and Decolonization path. I have had so many individual exchanges with those who have been receiving the cards, and inviting them to hold them and their communities with their lessons. Some exchanges have been tough, with the delay of delivery, mistaking of addresses, the damaging of casing, and other unforeseen challenges. And when these moments have occurred I have experienced how much the exchange cards have become an extension of how people relate to me.  I work to relieve any individual of these feelings that often arise in us when we make a monetary exchange, that feeling like we are not getting what we paid for- or that the service does not feel sufficient. The distribution of these decks in a good way, does not come from the want for repeated consumerism, or for satisfied customers. The exchanges are Sacred ones, because I know that what I am sending to them is filled with the Spirit of re-membering the divine in all things, of honoring ancestry and descendants, and of understanding Kapwa (the shared self). I fill my exchanges with Kapwa, I seek to connect with whoever it is that has invited these learnings into their home. I am elated with each note sent, each conversation about the cards, with every post tagged in and photo/screen shot forwarded of the cards being used for what they were meant to- in service of Diasporic Divination work in relation to my heritage and ancestry being elevated. I am working every day to make these exchanges more than meaningful, and in this reflection, I realize I am even seeking for them to be more than acts of humanization- I want these Sacred Exchanges to feel Divine, and I pray they have.

 

This writing is an invitation for all of us who are being called at this time to be in connection to Divination Tools, to create a good relationship with what rituals and ceremonies you are practicing and what you are using to surface and make tangible that practice. Understand the power in your Sacred work, creations and exchanges and be in reflection about the way you honor the tools you work in union with. If you are a creator of any of the tools of Divination that are being greatly manifested, I embrace you from a far and thank you for answering your calling. May you honor the Sacredness of what your work embodies of the Divine. We are together Kapwa, toward the re-membering and liberation of all our peoples

If you are interested in KAPWA TAROT click here: http://www.janalynnecreativeproductions.com/shop

Decolonize the Classroom: Education for Liberation, Preservation and Survival

 

Lakbay Lumad USA

I am the daughter of immigrants who journeyed here in the 1960s and 70s with a vision of attaining the “American Dream.” A key to manifesting that “American Dream” was through the path of education. And alike all things that lead to that perceived success and attainment of freedom that has been painted by our colonizers- Education, in this country, has always been controlled by those in power, those with the money, the influence and the visibility to say what and how we should be taught in the formative years of our upbringing.  

My parents’ emphasis and urgency around education was an echo of the emphasis and urgency from colonized constructions that continued this false representation of the “American Dream”- that emphasized attaining primarily capitalistic wellness and power. The K-12 public schooling that I received here in the United States was one that supported the continued dismemberment of my connection to my Motherland, the erasure of conflict between my people and colonizers’ rule, the forgetting and misunderstandings of oppressions that brought my family here to being with and the both blatant and insidious injustices that kept us here.  What I would begin to understand- as I was led to teachers who would begin paving the path that I continue to build today, which amplifies the truths of “Knowledge is Power” and “Education for Liberation”- is that the Schooling system of the United States has been formulated to maintain the oppressive structures in place, that keep our communities of color and other marginalized and degraded communities from rising in a way that is not dictated by this country that was built upon the destruction, dehumanization and in many cases the genocides of our peoples. Children are being raised to uphold the systems that are holding them hostage to their own oppressions, becoming agents and service workers that maintain the legacy of this country built on Colonization.

I have invested my entire walk as an Educator to working with our younger generations (primarily students of color) to have their eyes open to these truths and understanding that their Liberation is all of ours.

I have worked in the line of youth development and education for the past 10 years, primarily working with organizations that are rooted in communal liberation work and in youth service driven organizations and institutions including working with Domestically Sex Trafficked youth and with incarcerated youth within the Juvenile Detention/ Rehabilitation system in NYC.  I have also done work with indigenous communities including on my own motherland in the Philippines, working beside, in support of, and learning from indigenous teachers rooted in the upbringing of their community’s future generations. And among all these experiences of bringing Education for Liberation pedagogy through theatre to communal circles, my current role as a Theatre Teacher at a Public Charter School is one of the most important front lines that I have ever rooted myself in, in the work toward Liberation.

I walk into my classroom with intention to show up as my whole self- as an Artist, an Activist, a Healer. The communities I worked with before this past school year were ones who were on the ground, already doing the heavy lifting of communal liberation work and empowering through holistic development of our children from a foundational “Education for Liberation” pedagogical lens echoing revolutionary communities like the Black Panthers, Young Lords, Brown Berets and Rainbow Coalition and all the organizations that have been serving their communities throughout the history of their peoples’ colonial relationship to the United States.

 

Re-membering Indigenous Teachings

In my Decolonization work, I have pushed myself to see the walk toward Liberation in the educating of our children being connected to the re-membering of our pre-colonial ancestors and their indigenous ways of teaching. This intentional focus has brought me to also integrate the re-adoption and implementation of indigenous influenced practices of bringing up our children and in bringing up our children creating influence and upholding of societal structures.

For instance, the Colonial constructions of learning and relaying information, of valuing information models of Patriarchal and White Supremacist culture- discounts knowledge beyond what has been “proven,” been given evidence to, and what has been archived and written.  And that also sees us from an anthropological and societal subject of study, devaluing the individual experiences and valuing solely the information that looks at us as groupings and categorizations,that allow for measurements and definitions to be placed on us- before being understood and valued as individuals with unique and valuable experiences that can teach us about the complexities of the human experience in both our traumas and our triumphs in the walk of life.

As much as written knowledge is valuable, to count it as the most valued, and credible in conversations of Decolonization is further perpetuating these Colonial, Patriarchal constructions of learning, of passing down knowledge, that makes the knowledge keepers those who are “literate” (primarily with the colonized languages), or have access to literacy which feeds into an inferiority of knowledge shared in the traditional indigenous ways of knowledge sharing by our ancestors and those still living on our Motherland of oral traditions and also through the storytelling and account recording in symbols through crafting and artisan workings.

“I think about how much suffering, destruction, silencing and re-programming our colonizer had to do in order to stop our ancestors from continuing those traditions and adopt the practices, stories and beliefs of the colonizer that diminished our egalitarian ways of living. The core belief I have about the shaping of our existence as people is that “If you control a people’s belief, you control those people.”

Colonization forced us to believe that those religions with written words of God were most valid, and those religions with those written teachings being the most patriarchal placing men at the center of belief forming and relaying. Man’s word through these learnings would be THE Word in which our worlds would be shaped.

All knowledge sharing is important, but in my experience some of the deepest pre-colonial knowledge will not be found in a book, or it will not have the names of the indigenous peoples who first spoke these truths in to the world. These knowings will only be found within the minds and spirits of our indigenous peoples, and by those who have been fortunate enough to sustain their traditions through the passing down of practices, stories,  beliefs/values within families through oral teaching and lived practice. In conversations of Decolonization when there is this need to uphold only the written accounts, the quantifiable evidence that is published and credited, feed right into capitalistic and patriarchal mentality.

What I have learned from my elders, and the indigenous teachers I have come to cross paths with, is that universal knowing, knowing of Spirit connected to the land, the waters, the sky and all creation can sometimes not be put into words- knowing is intuitively within us, and those deep truths can only survive through those who are willing to listen beyond the tellings of a constructed colonized existence. When individuals enter a conversation with me of Decolonization, valuing the written accounts, the proof, the studies over the people in their individual lived experiences and their processes of becoming and understanding all else through the knowing of self, first- I invite them to see the problematic nature and the way our intake of knowledge has been influenced by colonized construction. 

Lumad and Moro students call for DEPED action

Decolonized Teaching Pedagogies- Education for Liberation 

Every individual’s life is valuable, holds deep lessons for us to bare witness to and to learn from- this is what our indigenous traditions of knowledge bearing  teach us, that truth comes from living it does not come from just a book or an essay and we must relearn to value one another’s Lives first and foremost for what is individually brought to the relations and exchanges, each time we place value on another for what they have and continue to live and we allow ourselves to listen for the lessons of those lived experiences, we uphold a way of relating through learning that has been diminished by Colonization that says, all life lived matters and has something valuable to teach us.  In Education for Liberation work this has been re-adopted as the “Each one, Teach one” practice. And it is the invitation of these types of methods of learning that we allow for our classrooms to be decolonized.

Everyday I invite into my classroom, the teachings of Freedom Fighters who have worked to dismantle oppressions and heal traumas post-colonization, who sought liberation on the lands we have been forced to occupy and liberation from us having to contribute to and uphold systematic oppressive structures of our Colonizers. I also invite into my classroom the teachings of our Indigenous Cultural Bearers pre and post-colonization, who maintained a sense of humility to the wonders of the world and valued the knowledge of not just human beings, but of the land, the waters, the sky and the divine. To teach in this way is not an easy thing to do. To teach in this way can is dangerous. To teach in this way is necessary.

It is a struggle, when the majority of the teaching in Public Schools in the US emphasizes the importance of “academic” learning as framed by Colonized teachings.  Where students’ success is measured by their ability to retain and regurgitate knowledge, that is standardized and that measures their excellence in a way that does not value their unique needs of learning, does not support their holistic-mental, physical and spiritual development and does not celebrate their unique brilliance, and the contributions they have of their perspective and critical thinking and understanding of the world.

Education systems help establish the way we work to understand, hold value, and build and implement practices in the creation and sustaining of our society. When we reflect on the education system of the United States, I ask who do our current methods of education support and what do the learnings within those systems present and uphold of societal construction? From the viewpoint of a 2nd Generation daughter of immigrants, who has worked her entire adult life in service to her communities and ancestral culture, it is clear the way the systems of schooling seek to uphold Colonization, to maintain and uphold power rooted in capitalism, white supremacy and patriarchy. Think deeply about the way we teach our students through what Paolo Freire named a “banking systems of education,” where students do not practice critical thinking or have ownership or personal stakes in what knowledge they are receiving.  Think on how our students are held to their learning through punitive disciplinary systems, that restrict and restrain our students- creating a system of control over them, relieving them of being invested in their own accountability to self, and leaving it up to the administrators and teachers “in power” to hold them to what we believe is their highest self. See how these examples reflect how we function in this society. School becomes a training ground and a center for conditioning future generations to maintain the Colonized systems that are already in power.

 

It is important for educators and school administrators  to recognize how we are setting up our youth to function in society, and how to relate to the world past the classroom. It is also important for us to question why we use certain systems, why certain systems are being thrust upon us by the government and those who have say and stakes in how our youth are being educated. Paolo Freire speaks on Education for Liberation in this way, he says “It is not education which forms society in a certain way, but society which, having structured itself in certain directions, establishes an educational system to fit the values which guide the society… a society which structures its education system to meet the interest of those who hold power, finds a means to preserve power in the process of education.”   

 

There must be a critique of our education systems at play, about the way it is greatly held through a political framework that maintains the ability for the powers that have created it to serve the preservation of their power. And in these critiques we must begin establishing the ways in which we see the educating of our youth serving the revolution and people’s movements.

Decolonize Mindset- Understanding the Realities and Finding the Balance

Working for a Charter Network, has had moments where I have been confronted with practices and ideas counter to the pedagogies that I have developed and grown throughout my own development as an educator and a human being. This entire first year has been so much navigating and negotiation of my way of teaching with the systems that have been created within the Charter Network, because of the investment that there is from what feels like the whole of the staff to these constructs, that have caused me to relook at my educational frameworks and pedagogies and confront the realness of how the systems of public education of the United States are being formed. This work has thrust me into a reflection of societal structures  mirrored within my place of work and made me look at the political and societal systems that are being supported and enforced through the educational systems that are being invested in, across the US. At first I was at odds with myself, because I truly felt that I would not survive the learning of these practices and the necessity to implement them as a part of communally upholding culture in the school.  But I have recognized what it means to find a balance of holding true to the root of pedagogy, while maintaining my place in a system that I am existing in. It is to say, there are systems that are in place that create order, and that are invested in by the communities you contribute to, and you can live within that while still having a mindset and a pedagogy that allows you to create room for the flow of being understanding, compassionate and see the humanity in yourself and others. And that even in systems that feel confining, you can, at the heart of every movement live for liberation.

 

What has been the most difficult part of it all, is the recognition that the students, many of whom have been a part of the Character Network since they were in the 1st Grade, also had a level of investment in the practices, that have them finding attachments and dependency to a system of accountability that they often hold more valuable than their own personal accountability to their learning and rising to their greatest selves. In beginning my journey in this system of education, I observed and took note of the way the students felt the power dynamics embedded in the style of discipline formulated and implemented by the school, that hold them to being in adherence to standards of “good behavior.” I was taken aback by how students asked me to be more strict and required a level of hand holding through creative content and learning that I have never experienced before. The assignment of a Freewrite, brought up a multitude of questions that begged me to offer format and more quantifiable expectations. And it was such a trial for me to think of how to continuously work/re-work my curricula and teachings adhering to the instructional and disciplinary practices and also to serve a level of humanizing of myself as a teacher and them as young scholars along the way.  This navigation work reflects everyday survival in United States society for a person who has been raised by community to think from a Revolutionary and Decolonization lens.

 

I invest in the school as I see how the systems have rationale to back the practices. I see how the systems mean well. But rational can be broken down and also sometimes meaning well falls short. We can have great intention, but are we aware of our full impact and the complexities of how we affect others? I believe there is truth in the needs of consistency and a sense of organization for young people to be held in a good way in their upbringing. In our indigenous communities way of teaching and in revolutionary community driven and organized learning spaces- consistency and organization are crucial as well. I have worked in spaces of Education for Liberation pedagogy that lacked the organization and consistency and saw how this hindered the learning of students. Being at this school has taught me my own gaps in this. Freedom is necessary, but without some sense of order, some laying down the path with consistency and clarity in guidance our young people will be lost. Guidance is necessary, but when the guidance become detrimental to their ability to use their own judgement and critical thinking they become dependent of the system to hold them.

 

In all my planning I question how I can create the balance- clarity, consistency, organization, in guidance, while also holding compassion and a constant invitation to be in communication for understanding and humanization to create awareness, agency and accountability for liberation. Students in their learning need to feel those holding their education see them, are seeking to know them as whole beings, are holding them in their learning with love and care and do it with competency and direction. Everyday I juggle the structures with the flow and freedom of raising children in collaboration with the other teachers and administrators, their parents, their community and also in co-collaboration with the students themselves.

Decolonize Discipline- Teach Them to Own Their Education

A student came to me this past week as I spoke to them about the escalation and presence of major disruptions and displays of disrespect by many of their peers in the last weeks of school that we have had. Their response to me was that, it is to be expected as a teacher that kids are going to be that way because that is as they shared with me- “just how they are, we’re kids,” and that I just need to be more strict. I broke down for them how problematic that mentality is- the idea that teachers should have the expectation of disruption and disrespect as a part of the nature of our students and their relationship to us as teachers. I told them that if I were to have that mentality every time they entered my classroom it would be a setup, that would cause me to treat them as if they could not have accountability or care for their words and actions and how they affect their place of learning. And that treatment would insist, just what they stated, a need to primarily invest in punitive structures that would hold them accountable, because of an adoption of the belief that they cannot. Many educational structures are set up with the belief that students need to be held in this way, that support an idea that young people cannot take accountability for themselves- that strip them of their responsibility to self and their communities. That make them believe that their age, their identity as a youth is a disempowered time in their lives where they have to be trained, controlled by punitive systems that will check them. And then the punishments become their markers of “good/bad” behavior- and the systems inherently become what controls them.

When students are held by these types of systems and they begin to feel that those systems are oppressing them, that is when the disruptions, and the disrespect surface in great intensity.  

The conversations I’ve been having with my students about the ways we can build safe, respectful and loving space of communal productivity in the upcoming weeks have lead to conversations around the need to be punished in order to “behave.” I’ve been working to break down with them deeper conversations around the importance of teaching them at the core of all content practices and value of awareness, agency, accountability.

AWARENESS + AGENCY + ACCOUNTABILITY = LIBERATION

How does the practice and strengthening of awareness root us in our path toward freedom? Young people often are left to believe that they cannot “control” themselves, that their inability to be focused comes from their nature to be free. The misconception here is that freedom is the same as chaos. But chaos has no regard to relations, to the impacts made on others from our inability to be aware. To me Freedom is always coupled with Love- and without Love there is no true Liberation. I’m trying to teach my students this everyday. To have them be centered, grounded, and motivated by this. To re-member this in a world that has led them to believe that being young means you must be told what to do, and how to act, because of an incapacity of being aware- when what really needs to be done is mirrors have to be held in front of them, to help them be aware and be in understanding of the complexities of who they are. When you teach a young person to be in awareness of Self, to care, respect and love self- they show up in all spaces of relation caring, respecting and loving others. And they make room for and model for others to do the same. Empowering them to rise to their greatest selves.

 

I see the efforts of all the teachers and administration to bring their passion for the growing of young people to their space of teaching and exchanging with  the young people. And I see how much they hold love and care for our students. The longer I have worked beside them in community the more I see how we all are in this work to balance. As much as we all have invested in the school and understand the ways in which we would not be able to change many of the methods that have been developed by the network for all the schools, we are all working also to build something different, to build a place where holistic learning and humanization of ourselves and our students can be upheld within these contrived, colonization structures of teaching.  Like I mentioned before, it is not an easy feat, though I see the efforts consistently being made, and the perseverance of my cohort to adhere to the structures while also seeking ways to be in a conversation with liberation.

 

In my classroom, we examine all structures of power, and societal constructs that ask all of us to examine how we practice and exercise our agency and accountability. I chose material that reflects my students, and that reflects the world around them and asks us all to be in conversation with the parts of ourselves in relation to society (and colonization) that are most challenging. My belief is that When creativity and justice meet in the classroom- revolution is being practiced. The sign that is posted in the middle of my classroom is “Theatre is Rehearsal for Revolution,” echoing Agusto Boal and his teachings from Theatre of the Oppressed, that emphasize the encouragement and urgency for a community to be in collective examination and conversation about the issues in their communities that breed Oppressive structures.  I root myself in the ideals of community organizers and revolutionary leaders, who understood the impact of the Arts to educational and revolutionary spaces enhancing the ability to empower and amplify movements through the expression of the people.

Decolonize Teacher/Student Relations and Dynamics 

I ask my students to constantly look at their relationship with me as a teacher, with all their teachers and with the school that they spend a majority of their living in, and to be in constant work of humanizing the faculty that is essentially the village that is in partnership with their family in raising them. Public School teachers in the United States are very much on the frontlines of a war where our classrooms are being colonized by ideas of education that do not serve our students’ ability to fully grow into their greater selves, ready and equipped with knowledge to support them in a world that is ready to challenge them. Our schools serving the most underserved populations in the country, are battlegrounds, constantly emulating how the world already is challenging our students, and if our classrooms do not reflect pedagogies that support their ability to understand and dismantle the structures that oppress them, and in many cases, if we allow structures within our classrooms and schools to mirror and support those oppressive structures without even attempting to couple them with Education for Liberation work we become agents of neo-colonization.

 

As an educator, I understand the impact that I make on a young person’s life. Our students have 8+ hour days, and for those that stay after school, can spend 10 hours per day at school. To be in an awareness and understanding that we are maybe their core influencers, outside of their friend circles, that I have the ability to impact their decision making, and their way of understanding and relating to the world. Being a teacher is beyond just teaching subject matter, it is being in partnership with parents- where they are trusting that their children are being seen, held and raised up by their teachers. Where we are building up both their sense of self, their character and humanity as much as we are building up their knowledge of the world. If we are not careful in the way we are teaching our youth we create broken beings, and I carry the words of Frederick Douglass in speaking on this as he said, “It is easier to build strong children, than to repair broken men.”

 

There is so much disparity in the ways in which children are being educated in the United States, and much of this has to do with money, and who has stakes on our young people’s educations. I spent one day answering my student’s questions around the differences between private, public and charter education, rooting it primarily around who is making money or spending money making the decisions about the “best” ways to teach and measure the success of teachings of young people. Our student’s education is being contingent on who has the most power of influence in a capitalist based society.  There are many schools across the country, including in NYC, that are now following a model of Community Schools initiatives, where the stakes are put in the hands of the community that surrounds the neighborhood of the school and the communities and families of students attending the school. Initiatives that schools like the El Puente and their High School the El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice pioneered in the early 90s. I was fortunate enough to work for this organization for over 7 years.

 

My mentor and founding Principal of the El Puente Academy for Peace and Justice, has a deep passion for the education of young people and roots herself deeply in the pedagogies of Paulo Freire, Martin Luther King Jr., Huey Newton and so many others who really invested in creating revolutionaries of our children, where they could be taught their sense of Agency and responsibility to Self and Community Accountability that would equip them with the perspectives and motivations to work for their liberation. When you enter the Academy as you go up the first flight of stairs a quote by Frances is muraled vibrantly on the walls saying “We do not come here to just learn about history, we come here to make history.” Empowering the youth that enter those corridors to understand that they are in a space that emphasizes the learnings of “Each One, Teach One,” “Knowledge of Self,” and “Education for Liberation.”

 

I see how the school in which I currently work at seeks to do the same, I see how they are really trying as a brand new school in this network.  There is a sense of trying to forge an identity that is empowered within a structural system that has been implemented throughout schools in the network. I know this is a risky conversation, as I worked with organizations that were seeking for years to stop the progress of Charter School takeovers because of the way they are monetizing education and how many of these schools have colonizer practices of taking over school buildings and displacing students from the communities that they live in because they were not selected to go to the Charter.  But I see how the school I work in currently is building foundations within this network to activate our students. Teachers are developing classes that include “Comparative Slavery,” “Hip-Hop and Social Justice,” and our Foundations of Leadership course that has our students reading bell hooks, James Baldwin, Ntozake Shange, Ta Nehisi Coates and other POC contemporary liberation thinkers and influencers. I also see how there is celebration of identity being upheld by many of the teachers and administrators on staff. And I am given hope that this community raising these young people at the school that I am working at every day, are more than well meaning- they are invested in Revolution and Liberation on the daily and are figuring out every day, how best to teach that and spark something in our students.

 

Are there practices of the network that I disagree with, yes. And do I feel that there are moments of compromise that are being made in order for me to maintain my place in the school, yes, but I connect this to the greater scheme of this existence. Life in the work of decolonization, is constant negotiation of relation, to people, space, time and situations- in conversation with the largest agents of colonization Patriarchy, Racism/White Supremacy and Capitalism. These are foundational systems of oppression that build up law and order and the ways we have been conditioned to relate to one another and every day as we choose to live in this existence, in this society, we are navigating. And those of us that are in awareness of this, and are motivated by a deep Love of our communities of the past, present and future and a want for Liberation and Justice for us all- are constantly speaking out, in not just our words, but in our actions, and our practices of relating in the world.

 

When I began working at the school I have rooted myself in this past year, I was in constant navigation, and challenged more than ever in my life by not only the pedagogies of the school, but also the young people and staff who have invested in them. Adopting their methods, also requires continuous conversation with my students and with my co-workers about how to, outside of just adhering to the systems implemented in the school to create the conditions of Law and Order and create a conducive environment of learning, how we are holding our students in deeper conversations, humanizing their experiences and our own, and bringing them to a place where they can be rooted in the formula of:  Awareness + Agency + Accountability = Liberation.

 

In our communitie’s pre-colonization, all learning that young people received, meant to serve the uplifting of our villages, our tribes, the continuation of our peoples. I am continually seeking to activate my students and bring them to a place where they can see their education connected to this and how they can challenge in a productive way, exemplifying their value of learning and also their love of their growing selves, when what they are being taught does not serve the greater purpose of empowering and uplifting them toward liberation and love of self and community. As Charter Schools continue to expand their reach and become embedded in POC communities, I urge our communities to demand that the learning in these institutions of learning be held by teachers and administrators who truly see their liberation bound with our own. And that the holistic growing of our students is served by pedagogies that humanize them and allow them to humanize themselves and those that teach them on the daily. Our classrooms need to be places where our students are learning how to think critically about the oppressions that they live in relation to on the daily. Where they are being taught to be kind and loving to each other, and demanding the same of others. Where they are supported to imagine and to vision possibility and then root that in action.  Where they are exposed to truths of power and find the power within themselves to act, speak and live in a way that serves the betterment of us all. Where they are able to find joy and strength in all that they are learning that will support their upliftment and success beyond the classroom.

image2

Every day is a new day, with new challenges in the raising of our students, and I continue to make my early morning commute everyday, knowing that we will be learning more about one another and the world throughout the school day. I enter my classroom in prayer and invite all the learnings from my Activism, Artistry and Ancestral re-membering to enter the space and join my students in their Sacred Space of Learning and Creating for our people’s liberation, preservation and survival.

Living a Vision of Healing- Decolonizing Accountability and Acts of Forgiveness (Creating Practices for Rebuilding w/ Those in Our Communities that Have Harmed Us)

Living a Vision of Healing- Decolonizing Accountability and Acts of Forgiveness

(Creating Practices for Rebuilding w/ Those in Our Communities that Have Harmed Us)

 

353

 

What does it take to heal, especially when the hurt and trauma come from within your community? People of Color communities have been facing very visible and very real humanizing revelations of our idols- that have been harmful to communal identities and social justice movements. Particularly we have seen the ills of White Supremacy and Patriarchy arise in relation to Cis Men of color who have been influencers of justice and liberation in our communities, speaking and acting in ways that diminish our ability to feel we can hold them to their past actions and word that have served community awareness and uprising (Kanye, Fabulous, Nas, Bill Cosby, Junto… and this is just some of the most recent defaming. The list goes on.)  In reality, these men are protected by a society that upholds justification for these actions, imbedded in their own trauma from oppressive structures. A long list of excuses as to why they were lead to living out these offenses are brought to light- though validity is present in these moments of empathy and compassion, it should never discount the harm and damage they cause. The real deal, is if they decided to be on the defense, or denial tip for their actions, these men I listed, like many men of celebrity before them, could go on and continue with their lives- protected and supported by Patriarchy and Capitalism, and still glorified by many.

 

Should the response, as it has been so prevalently made by our communities, to “dead” our idols? To disown them and discount who they may have stood for to us before the moment in which they have harmed and offended us.  Is there no coming back from these harmful words and action? Is there no possible means of reconciliation? I ask these questions, not just in reflection to celebrities of influence, but I ask them in connection to those within our closest circles of relations that influence and inspire us, when they say, act or create in a ways that disrupts relation, offending, harming, disrupting and destroying bonds that have been built, particularly in the walk toward building Love and Liberation.

 

I’ve been sitting deeply in listening to the questions arising in my heart about how the journey of accountability in our communities asks us to move beyond the very real reactionary feelings of anger, disappointment and mourning from the pain, the damage and the destruction. This moment asks us to move beyond these feelings that often make us cut off, remove people form our lives. I ask us to vision how those who have insulted and injured us can be held to enact daily practices and actions that are in the “Vision of Healing”. I think on how because of the complexities of trauma in this world, that it is a common practice to rather than work on restoration and reconciliation, that we sever and erase. Often we do this to avoid further hurt and deeper creation of injury and often it is because of fear, of further hurt and harm. We cannot believe that after someone inflicts pain and offense on us, that they would be willing or able to heal what has been destroyed. And because of the constructs of this world, often they do not. Partly because of their unknowing of how to, or because the ills of this world have made them really feel they have not wronged us.

 

The complexities of the work of accountability go beyond just “calling someone out” and disowning and disregarding them – it becomes much more difficult to “invite them in” to a vision of betterment and rebuilding that asks us all to shift and see each other underneath the constructions that make us forget our responsibility to one another. We must see how much we are responsible for the maintaining of suffering and oppressive cycles, when we do not see beyond our pain and trauma. If we cannot as a whole community make room for these difficult healing processes to be created, we abandon hope, we maintain the rupture, that breeds in us distrust and fear and that relieves us of examining what it is that we communally have not worked to heal, so we can as individuals in times of human error and injury, see the ability and need to heal.  It is time to create Visions of Healing, that we can live out. It is our responsibility to become clearer about what it will take to restore and reconcile what has been broken in our relations to each other.

I believe that we are being given an opportunity with the visibility of communal harm and hurt from idolized figures of celebrity, to begin processes of creating protocol for accountability and for healing these egregious acts. And we must live out that healing, with sound discernment of what accountability looks like as practice beyond just statements of regret and promises to make things right. Or one action that will create a bandage, that seeks forgiveness, though the hurt and harm need much deeper healing. What does it look like to reconcile? How do we make room for the healing needed not only for the relations who have been harmed, but also for the individuals that have caused harm?  How can they take responsibility in a way that their Living becomes continuous acts of healing for self and community? For any given situation where we have felt a loss of faith in someone, where we have felt reprehensible damage has been done- what will it take to heal?

In moments in my own life when I have felt the actions of others have been harmful toward me, I practice for myself a level of demand that the harm is known, and that also with compassion and the want to heal that we look at where it was rooted. The invitation to move toward sustained and deepened accountability through a Vision of Healing, asks us to see one another in ways that may not have been possible before the offense. In these moments we are being asked to look at our most insidious traumas, the parts of ourselves that if confronted would change parts of ourselves that we never knew were limiting us, and holding us hostage to behaviors of oppression toward self and other.

 

It is important to understand that when we are harmed and hurt by others, we become victim, not just to the individual who has spoken the words, or done the actions that have harmed and hurt, but also by all the societal and human created influences that are rooted in oppression and injustice subconsciously supporting these damaging moments to occur. Capitalism, Patriarchy and White Supremacy are the main agents of Colonization that influence so many of the actions that harm and hurt self and others. To be in a position of understanding how we are all moved by these constructions of oppression, especially at the core of any moment and dynamic of harm and hurt that is lived, is crucial to the possibility of healing. When the harm and hurt occur, we are being confronted with much more than a moment of offense from a single person- we are being confronted with a lifetime, and often ancestrally inherited, traumas that propel and fuel an ability to hurt and harm, even those we cherish and Love most in this world.

 

I have been formulating protocols for myself as to how to hold community and self-accountable to moments of offense and invite a collaborative understanding of creating Visions of Healing together and root those visions in clear lived actions and practices that will sustain a path toward healing and liberation for all those effected.  For now they have remained quite simple, and it is the actual continuity of practice that is where the complexities lie:

 

1) Speak- on the immediate reaction to the harm and hurt. Honor your feelings that come instantly, but do not these reactions be what leads your process of addressing the harm and hurt.

2) Learn- Be in active and communal examination of where the harm and hurt are rooted for you- personally/relationally/societally. There is no timeline to this, it may take your whole life to understand where it all comes from- or you may never fully understand in this lifetime.

3) See Each Other- Recognize dynamics and create exchange for understanding of all perspectives connected to the hurt and harm. Let yourself become aware and in relation to all that contributes to the ability for the hurt and harm to take place and exist.

4) Vision the Healing- Ask “What does it look like to heal this?”- understanding that there is never a quick fix to any hurt or harm. Be conscious about what it means to be in “continuous healing”- center all means of healing with continued action and practice.

5) Live in your Vision of HealingKnow that healing is a lifelong journey- that moments of hurt and harm stay with you and so it takes constant addressing and confronting when that hurt and harm show up to live beyond these moments in a good way. Root yourself in daily actions and practices that you mean to grow into your behaviors and ways of being, that uplift, empower and Love beyond just the reconciling of the hurt and harm, but that seeks to ground you in the ability to be held and hold others accountable for the liberation of us all.

 

The specifics of this process will vary from moment to moment, but it is a starting foundation that I have begun to implement in my daily life. Continuously asking myself- and now asking of you all “How do you create your Vision of Healing? Your Vision of Communal and Individual Liberation? And live in it, inviting all others to join you?”

Accountability of Self and Other- In the Acts of Recognizing Our Living Ancestry

Accountability of Self and Other- In the Acts of Recognizing Our Living Ancestry

I write this in reflection of an unfolding of an exchange that I know will resonate very deeply for creators in this present day existence. My question posed to us is how can be allow our send of empowerment and agency to be directly in relation to our ability to be accountable to ourselves and each other. This is a sign that I have recently posted in my classroom:

 

AGENCY + ACCOUNTABILITY = LIBERATION

 

And I placed it there to directly address a lot of what is surfacing in the world, that begs us to be responsible for what we express, act upon and create in the world and also to hold our communities responsible to each other for what they express, act upon and create in the world. There are many people who have a very strong sense of agency in this existence, but to have agency and lack the accountability to be aware and responsible for how it affects others is the problem that we are coming up against, especially with the intense visibility that this age of Social Media brings. It is the difference between Kanye, and Chance where one in his greater visibility and entrenched in his ego has lost site of how his words and actions are directly related to the survival and the living of his own community- and another who mis-stepped in the want to support his brother and in being held accountable by his community readily addressed with humility an expression of apology and the intention to right it by his actions. Read the apology here: CHANCE THE RAPPER ISSUES APOLOGY AFTER DEFENDING KANYE WEST’S SUPPORT OF DONALD TRUMP

I have been teaching my students the importance of awareness, and the responsibility we have to ourselves, our words and our actions.

 

Yesterday the presence of a quotation from one of my artistic works was brought into visibility after it was photographed from a workshop that I conducted at the Women of Color in Solidarity Conference that stated:

 

“The Act of Decolonizing

Is an Act of Re-membering

How to Love Yourself”

 

This is an uncovering that has taken my entire lived path of returning to my ancestors, to find grounding in. It is a recognition of the real work that it has, and continues to take, in order to look myself in the mirror and walk in this world knowing my ancestors are within me and made up in my physical being. Decolonization work is sacred because it peels away the layers of oppressive, constructed and conditioned knowings of self and replaces it with a liberation that sees us as holistically Divine. I share this process as an artist, activist and a healer who has been greatly understanding the importance of expressing outwardly in the world, as a representation of my Ancestors and as a living guide for my Descendants.

 

This quotation was directly cut from the photograph posted on the Women of Color in Solidarity posting and repurposed for a meme on a very visible page run by sisters who are doing decolonizing work in tandem. One of the participants of the workshop and a sister in this walk messaged me with the recognition that this was done without the act of acknowledging source.  I visited the page (which I do not name, because the point is to see this moment as a teaching moment, and not as a means to be in conflict with the sisters who run the page itself, though I know that it may cause them discomfort and challenge for growth and self inquiry) with an invitation in the comment section to please cite my name with the photo saying something I the line of:

 

“Peace Sisters, these words are my echoes of my Ancestors. My name is –Jana Lynne Umipig, please cite my name in honoring.”

 

Directly placing my name in relation to the words that were channeled through my expression of uncovered understanding of the world.  What came after was the erasure of my comment and a citing of my handle on the post caption. What was lacking here was the full understand of what it means for women, like myself who are creators and may not be as visible in Social Media platforms, to be honored for their words and creations. It is so easy to cut, copy and paste what is shared and not give credit, acknowledgement and honoring to where it was rooted. And when we do not do the work to honor, it becomes a part of our subconscious adoption of colonial practices of erasure. I DM’ed the sisters with an invitation into a conversation around accountability the following is that exchange:

 

JL: Peace family. I am inviting you in exchange in this moment. Please take a moment to reflect on the erasure that has just taken place on your page. I directly commented with the ask that you cite my words, my ancestral channeled expression. In honoring, please take down your post with the editing to include my name. And please acknowledge what has been done here. This is an invitation to examine how we honor each other in sacred work of re-membering.

NO RESPONSE FROM SISTERS WHO POSTED THE MEME

JL: This is quite heart breaking as I have shared and uplifted your page many times. Please be in prayer around the act of erasure that has taken place here. Not only of my name on connection to my words, but then of my ask to you in the comments- directly erasing my name- my handle is not my name dear sisters- please honor this.
SISTERS WHO POSTED THE MEME: I don’t understand. I did exactly as you asked and even tagged you, in the image. I didn’t mean to disrespect. I found this image on Pintrest with no credit to anyone. Thank you for your words and check.
JL: Word, sister. Thank you for getting back, I know this may be a moment of spirits really needing to be in listening. I understand your feeling moved by the quotation. And though not meaning to disrespect, I invite you to have a real moment to reflect on protocol. How do we as a community look to uplift the names of Womxn whose words are of ancestral channeling? What do we do to seek the honoring of each other. To even ask where the words may have surfaced from before posting?

 

I mean to ask you to edit your photo to include my name-otherwise the image may just end up on Pintrest again or any other platform without acknowledgement. 

 

I have been praying deeply about the ways we honor ourselves in the demanding of our names to be connected to all we release, express and create in this world. As a means for our descendants to find us.

Please also send me the Pintrest link so I can follow up with that community.

 

What commenced after this was no more response. And as other sisters were raising voice of solidarity and acknowledgment both in my inbox and the comment thread of that post, the sisters removed the commenting ability and proceeded to erase the entire post.

What this became was a direct response to an invitation of accountability, which was very visible to, at the least, my sisterhood and communal family circles. The response was one of erasure, without accountability and a humbling that allows us to move with healing and uplifting intention. More than ever I am recognizing the importance of engraving, etching, binding our names to our work. And to ask of that honoring from our community is crucial, because there are so many, as reflective of historical colonial tactics, that will see that the naming of ourselves is powerful and choose to discount us, to not name us, to readily claim works and creations as their own, or often call it anonymous because they’d rather not do the work to understand and be in knowing of their origin.

 

Ijeoma Umebinyuo @ijeomaumebinyuo tweeted this truth in connection to this stating “Generations of women whose works were stolen, displayed in your museums with no name and you think I’m creating to be anonymous?”

IMG_1552

I have grown through moments when my community has held me accountable, to any moments of misrepresentation of quoting or depiction through an image or video post. I have allowed myself to be humble to the reality of being so moved by something and it being so easy to just post and re-post without intentional regard. I understand this, and when we are called out it is important for us to check the shame and guilt, the defensiveness that arises from being asked to reflect and often retract and edit our words, actions and creations when it represents others.

The invitation for all of us in our interactions and postings on the internet and social media is to name yourself in your work, be very clear about what protocols you have around how people share your words, expressions and creations. Keeping in mind the value of how Agency + Accountability = Liberation. I hold myself to and I hold our communities to this as well. If we are to work in tandem- in solidarity- on this journey of connecting the ancestral to the future we have to be willing to understand how we are setting our descendants up to know us, to re-member who we are. And so much of what is archived of our lives has become very public through Social Media, which begs us to be very conscious and intentional about the way we hold ourselves and ask others to hold us in our expressions. Let your names be boldly written in all your reflections family. Teach others how to honor your name, your image, and your creations as they show up in sharing and relational exchange with others. Teach them to care for your self-preservation, for you, for your ancestors and your descendants. And practice the same in return.

IMG_2089

ReVisioning- Utilizing Our Most Revolutionary Tool in the Resistance

ReVisioning- Utilizing Our Most Revolutionary Tool in the Resistance

Curricula compiled and Conceptualized by Jana Lynne “JL” Umipig (www.janalynnecreativeproductions.com)

Full Curricula as a Doc. File and Supplementary Hand Outs Found Here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B9CDbYZlCoGZSWtTRnJfQ2pmV2M?usp=sharing


INTRODUCTIONS and CHECK-IN: Who are you, Introduce Yourself and your Personal Pronouns and what is something that you want to call into the space to energize and uplift our gathering today?

Tool for Entire Workshop: ONGOING KNOWLEDGE COLLECTION: Have participants take out a piece of paper and let it be their place they can take notes and in particular have them write down questions that come up for them throughout the day that they want answered. This will be an invitation for them to find the answers, from each other beyond the space cultivated, or for

3-march_400.jpg

ACTIVITY #1 OPENING: RELEASE, RE-MEMBER, RECLAIM

Materials Needed Physical Capacities (**Check-in and let folks know to do as much as they are physically able, and create adjustments for those with physical disabilities to adjust to the movements asked in this exercise), open minds, and open hearts
Space Preparation Make sure that they have their hands and bodies free and that they have space to move around them.

 

This is a condensed version from the exercise of Release- in the curriculum “Release, Re-Member, Reclaim–Healing the Activist (Curriculum for Holding and Uplifting Leaders in All Communities)” (Insert Link: https://kayumanggingapilipina.com/2016/11/12/release-re-member-reclaim-healing-the-activist-curriculum-for-holding-and-uplifting-leaders-in-all-communities/ )

(*If you have a mixed class with Trump Supporters, do the Awareness exercise first and then you can use this tool for reflection)

 

STEP 1: You can do this in exchange in many ways- the two options that I want to offer are

  1. This is a good choice for groups that know one another very well: Make two concentric circles, an inner circle and an outer circle. Where there are pairings of two, one person in the inner and another in the outer. Have them face one another. For each question you will rotate the inner or outer circle so that they are facing a new partner for each question.
  2. This is a good choice for groups that are new to knowing one another or mixed- it allows them the opportunity to leave with at least one person who they connected with deeply: Pair up, you will be building with one

 

STEP 2: Each question will have an action in place with it, these actions naturally support release. Use them to help your soul be supported with release of your words.

Questions to ask:

  1. ACTION: Shake your hands, arms, feet, legs out as you speak there as if you are shaking these things off your body

QUESTION: Release any feelings and thoughts you have regarding the days that have passed in connection to the inauguration of D. Trump.

  1. ACTION: Jump up and down, as if you are putting your words down into the earth with each landing.

QUESTION: What issue do you feel is affecting you most personally in relation to the human rights violations Trump has set up?

  1. ACTION: Use the motion of wiping off of skin downward to the ground, imagine that you are taking it off your body, your spirit

QUESTION: What is a hard conversation you have had to have, or one that got you really emotional?

  1. ACTION: As you listen put your hand on your partner’s shoulder

QUESTION: What are the things you have done in the past week in response? What have you done for yourself and for your communities (your family, your friends, your children, etc)?

  1. ACTION: Hold the hand of your partner.

QUESTION: What is something you read or heard or witnessed in connection to the Presidency that you feel has troubled you most?

  1. ACTION: Sit with your partner and hold their hand

QUESTION: What is something you read or heard or witnessed that has given you hope?

 

  1. ACTION: Stand together and hold both hands

QUESTION: What is your most important


SEE: BEGIN WITH AWARENESS

To being ReVisioning, we have to start with being aware, to understand how the visions of others may not serve our own. We have to understand what roots policies being in place. Many of the policies that the Trump Administration are administering are rooted in ideals that are divisive, hateful, charged with fear, ideas of White Supremacy and Patriarchy, false notions of patriotism that insight violence, and are centered around Capitalism and Corporate gain. Really seeing this laid out helps us to know what we are up against- and allows us to work in a way of not just Resistance and Reaction, but also invites us to Vision. 

16177543_10104824559201563_1365265666940605849_o

ACTIVITY #2- THE POWER OF KNOWING: KNOWLEDGE AS A LIBERATION TOOL

Materials Needed ·      “Community Issues Resistance Knowledge Poster” Hand-Outs (THIS WILL BE A RUNNING DOCUMENT THAT WILL BE EDITED PERIODICALLY IN CONNECTION TO THE RESIST MANUAL)

·      “How Trump’s Platforms Have Direct Effect on Me” Hand- Out

Space Preparation Hang up the posters, or chart them on larger posters around the room

These are ongoing tools of awareness, you can put up a version of this in your school, community center, your home, on your computer desktop, allow it to give you reason to not be complacent to this administration and why action is necessary.

STEP 1- Community Issues Resistance Knowledge:  Have the group take time to look over the posters on the walls or on the floor in the room. Tell them it is important for them to think on what it is striking them, what did they know, what did they not understand?

***You can also print these out and give them to your participants to take home with them.

For each Community Issue, there will be the following- look to attached Google Doc “Community Issues Resistance Knowledge Poster” documents for the created on-going visual documents for this exercise/tool (Insert Link)

If you want to rework this tool, these are what will be included in the document:

  • Community Issue
  • Policies That Have Been Passed and When (* = passed by executive order)
  • Who it Affects
  • Resources for Resistance and Action, What They Have

3 Daily Actions

For all of these issues there are will be 3 things you can do with ease:

  • Call- Numbers will be listed with any script available for calls to be made – otherwise look for numbers of Congress persons in your location.
  • Conversation- These are topics you can bring up to speak on in connection to this issue
  • Post – these are hashtags and groups/ individuals to follow

Community Issues that will be addressed are as follows (Key Resource: Resistance Manua- https://www.resistancemanual.org/Resistance_Manual_Homel )

*Already Addressed by Executive Orders                 *Pending

Health and Human Services Policing
Immigration Voting Rights
Muslim Ban / Registry Tax Cuts for the Wealthy
Climate / Environment LGBTQ Equality
Foreign Policy / Global Security Consumer Protections / Worker’s Rights
Women’s Rights Disability Rights
Educational Justice Mass Incarceration
Housing and Infrastructure

CONNECT: VIOLATION OF RIGHTS FOR SOME, IS THE VIOLATION OF RIGHTS FOR ALL

This part of the curricula is all about seeing ourselves in connection to these violations in a deeper way how does this relate to our everyday, how do they effect the closest people in our lives? How does this effect the progress that has been made by our his/herstory and the ancestors and what they have faced, that are we continuing to face? How does this effect our children in the future, the generations to come?

STEP 1-  How Trump’s Platforms Have Direct Effect On Me:

Pass out the “How Trump’s Platforms Have Direct Effect On Me” Hand-Outs

Have Participants look to their lives in reflection and choose 3 of these issues around the room.

(*Choose 2 that affect you most directly and 1 that you can make a connection to in the scope of your community, and your greater humanity)

This is a reflection sheet, to allow of us to see and analyze how these policies affect us. Take the opportunity to really understand the policies on the way that they affect you personally here, but also reflect deeply on how they affect us all on a larger scale. Remember: “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”- Martin Luther King Jr.

Questions Posed on the Worksheets-

BODY

How do these policies affect your everyday life and your abilities to do, say, and live how you always have? What of your freedoms are being validated?

MIND and SPIRIT

How do these policies affect your mentality? What kinds of worries and fears do you have around these?

COMMUNITY

How do these policies affect others in your life? Why does it matter to you that they are being effected?

ReVISION

If you could counter these policies what would you advocate for?


STEP 2 Small Group Reflection:
Split into small groups of 3-5 depending on how many participants there are and share how you have connected your lives to the knowledge of violations being implemented by the Trump Administration. Allow for conversation to deepen.

STEP 3 Whole Group: Bring the group back together to share and create dialogue of what came up in their groups, look for the most crucial connections that have been made thus far.


REVISIONING: CREATE YOUR LIFE INTO EXISTENCE

This is where we begin to work together in a way that is not just about how to counter the Trump Administration’s work. Now we move in a direction of understanding what we have, what makes us powerful, what makes our communities powerful and we are going to map this out for ourselves so we can see and make tangible the power that is our existence.

 16266028_10101544823658000_3337479489685374354_n

ACTIVITY #3- EmPowerment Mapping

Materials Needed ·      “EmPowerment Mapping” Guide- Printed Out as a Handout AND Put it Up on a Large Sheet

·      Large Paper for Each Participant

·      Markers/Pencils/Crayons

·      Optional: Collaging Materials- For More Artistic Expressions

Space Preparation ·      Open Space

·      Tables Can be Set Up

·      Create a Creatively Stimulating Playlist

·      Put Materials Out for Accessibility

 

This exercise is all about creating connections. And is a creative exercise as well. There will be an “EmPowerment Mapping” Guide- Printed Out as a Handout and Put up on a Large Sheet for reference. This guide is just that, a guide, and you can arrange this content the way that makes most sense to you, something you would want to put up in your home, your workspace. If you want to categorize folks and make a list, do that- if you want to arrange the names of people in your life around you and make symbols that represent what they provide for you like on this guide- do that! Be free with your expression.

 

THE PEOPLE THAT EMPOWER YOU IN YOUR LIFE:

  • MENTAL EMPOWERMENT- These are the people who have or who continue to contribute to our Knowing and affirm our Values and Ideas that we have formulated about the world? Who are the teachers in our lives? Who are the people who we feel give to our ability to Know? Who are those that challenge and expand our Knowing?
  • SPIRITUAL EMPOWERMENT – These are those that create Exchange in our Passion Areas, that ground us and uplift us. These are the people that believe in who we are and that we have power within us to do. These are the people we grow with, whose betterment and liberation are bound with ours. Who are the collaborators in our lives? Who are the people who show up and who root for you? Who are the people who encourage you to do what makes you happy in the world?
  • PHYSICAL EMPOWERMENT – These are the people that take care of you. These are the individuals who keep you well in a sense of healthy living. These are the people who understand that when you are in optimal health, then you can serve better and deeper. Who are the people who care about your health? Who are the people you can go to have a good meal- that feed you? Who are the people that provide space for you to rest, to take pause, to reflect and recharge? Who are the people you exercise and train with?
  • JUSTICE EMPOWERMENT – These are the people who connect to your care around Justice. These are the individuals who share your values and your politics. These are the people who you can go to, to talk politics and to be kept updated and in line. Who are the people you go to seek conversations around Justice? Who are the people that are willing to CHECK YOU, to INVITE YOU IN to a conversation that will make you examine your words, your actions and the way that they connect to justice? Who are the people in your life that you can seek news and resources that are credible to you and that keep you aware and critical?

 

ACTIVITY #4- “I AM” The Most Powerful Statement We Can Make

Materials Needed ·      “I AM” The Most Powerful Statement We Can Make Hand Out

·      Pens and Pencils

Space Preparation ·      Open Space

·      Tables Can be Set Up

·      Put up chart paper with the questions below

 

The vision of Change should begin centered in self-understanding of who we are in the world. What are the ways in which we speak, act, live with justice guiding our intentions? This is the time to be creative, to be in vision, to ReVision what has been what has driven our movements in the world.

 

Standing in who we are is one of the greatest acts of resistance. When we live in the “I AM” that supports our vision and not the “I AM” that keeps us in roles, confinements and states of victimization that are built by oppression and supported by hate, indifference, violence from colonial, patriarchal, white supremacist, capitalistic structures.

 

STEP 1: “I AM” The Most Powerful Statement We Can Make Hand Out and allow yourselves to answer the following questions:

 

  • Who Am I?
    • The Roles I Hold – Who do I serve in this Role? (Feel Free to include specific names)
    • What are my Skills and Talents?
    • What am I passionate about?
  • What is your Vision?
    • What do you hope for in the world?
    • What are the things you stand for?
    • What do you want to create?

STEP 2: MAKE A DECLARATION

Begin here. Answering for yourself in no more than a 3-5 Line Statement:

“Who am I? And what type of World do I Vision? How do I contribute to that Vision?”

Creating your Vision and standing in your truth make your actions more powerful and rooted. Life shifts with the shifting of mindset. It begins here.

Something as simple as the way we eat shifts with our vision in place solidly. Even our fantasies change, when our vision is in line with justice, and we see that we can serve even in the smallest ways, we have no other choice but to do, to act, to live more intentionally than ever before.

 

ACTIVITY #5 – Ceating My Revolutionary Existence (Personal Plan of Action- Daily)

Materials Needed ·      Creating My Revolutionary Existence Hand-Out
Space Preparation ·       Open Space

·      Tables Can be Set Up

·      Create a Creatively Stimulating Playlist

 

This part of the curricula invites us to charge our Daily Living with our visions. How can we look at our day today and understand how placing our Vision at the Center of all we do gives us the opportunity and agency to create an Existence that is Revolutionary.

 

STEP 1: Use the Creating My Revolutionary Existence Hand-Out to think on how your Daily schedule looks like.

What does a Day to Day look like for you?

What are the different activities that fill your day?

Think of EVERYTHING:

  • What time do you have your meals, where do you have them?
  • What time do you sleep, what are your routines around this?
  • Who do you see often?
  • What do you do at School? Your Job?
  • What do you do to unwind?
  • What does a moment on Social Media Look Like for you?

 

STEP 2: Think about how you can shift the way you do the things you listed that happen in your Daily existence. If you did these things in service of your Vision, how might it change the way you do them?

Every action, every word, every breath, of your existence can contribute to the revolution.

 

When we prepare our meals, when we meet to train and exercise our bodies, when we hold our children, when we listen to our elders, when we take time to pause, rest and sleep, when we hold our partner’s hand, when we tell a friend we are here for them, when we sit in community and family in presence and in conversation, when we play and laugh and enjoy, when we take a moment to breathe in the air deeply, when we feel the earth connecting to our feet, when we let the sun embrace us, or the rain wash us, when we say thank you in our prayers for this life we’ve been given- we are contributing to the Revolution. Don’t let anyone take away our freedoms to do these things that make life so miraculous and wonderful.

 

 Do all these things with fullness and Love. Revolution begins here- in us.

Fill the following boxes on the Hand Out with intentions about how you will shift the way you do the things you mentioned in your Daily Routines lead by your Vision, feel free to also remove some of the activities you listed- and add new things that you want to do on your daily.

 

CLOSING MESSAGE FROM JL:

Indifference is our greatest enemy right now and inaction is what will be our detriment. Understand that Action does not only have to come from the pushing for and rejecting of Policy. We need folks to work on that level, yes, petitioning, lobbying, attending town halls and public forums. We also need people in the street protesting in large demonstrations stopping the regularly scheduled programs. We need people who are providing accountable press with full representation of the voices in our communities. We need brothers and sisters to be providing direct services and seeking ways to provide direct services for health, wellness, shelter and all basic needs of living. We need teachers to be bringing awareness to our students, to be instilling in them the agency to make their own movements and create their own Actions. We need all these impactful Actions to be happening

.

And also- Action has to begin at home. Action has to being with you.

 

How are you working in your own households, schools, religious institutions, community spaces and work places to address and act in a way that promotes just learnings and behaviors, that breaks down the presence of intolerance- that does not accept Racism, White Supremacy, Sexism, Homophobia, Xenophobia, or any other forms of Hate and Violence on other human beings?

 

How are you promoting care and protection of our natural resources, our Mother Earth, our sources of living- the Earth, the Waters, the Skies and Air we breathe?

 

Actions come in conversations, they come in artistic expressions and sharing space with communities. Actions come in reading and researching to find understanding of the larger picture and multiple perspectives, they come in connecting with your neighbors. Actions happen on Social Media, when we share, when we speak out, when we challenge the unjust.

Action comes from being present for those in your life, holding space for them to grieve and to feel that they are not alone, whether it be on in person, on the phone, or in a exchange of messages.

 

Action is taking moments to care for yourself, to work on your own self preservation, sleeping, eating well, being out doors, exercising, taking time to do something you Love, praying, hugging the people you Love.

 

There is so much to do right now brothers and sisters. It’s time to do it; wherever you are, with whatever capacity you have. Be in Action.

We are together.

 

Not the Beginning- Continuation: Reflections on the Women’s March in D.C.

I marched in D.C. this past Saturday.

16142863_10101544827345610_5725916200508601349_n

I chose to make the drive from NYC to be in that particular space of gathering because of my identity as a Pilipina, a Womxn of Color, the daughter, grand daughter and great granddaughter of Immigrants, the teacher and community organizer of Afro-Latinx, Undocumented, Lesbian, Gay, Trans, Poor youth and their families and as an advocate for every underrepresented and unable who could not make it to D.C, or who are not yet in a place of understanding why being visible with our concerns and our perspectives on equality and justice are more important than ever.

I’m writing in reflection and also as a call to action to all of my community, not just my sisters around the world, but anyone who is caring to read this refection and share it with their own communities- even just as a starting dialogue piece.

I’ll start by speaking the obvious that is extremely powerfully, Millions of Women marched in a massive demonstration of Womxn’s solidarity GLOBALLY, in what is being proclaimed to be the largest peacefully gathering in history. This is something to celebrate, to feel a surge of energy from, but my concern is that this will all be displaced, or forgotten because it is not clear to many the deep issues of racism, sexism, nationalism, homophobia, islamophobia, poverty, climate justice (the list can go on) in this country that Trump’s presidency is threatening to make even more severe than we have experienced in decades. He has already begun.

 

Remembering and Understanding Why We are Against Trump

I showed up to the rally in D.C. with a particular eye, surveying the crowds to see the messaging, to hear the conversations, to feel the vibrations of what was truly being stood up for and against.

At the March in Washington D.C. we were surrounded by posters that were messaging so much about Trump having a “Small Dick” and “Tiny Hands” and about his affinity for “Golden Showers,” that to me were all messages of sex shaming and quite frankly distractions- or chants that were like “We want a Leader, Not a Creepy Tweeter.” It was humorous, no doubt, understanding just how much this man is not being taken seriously as a leader of this country, but after the first hour of taking in the outlandishness I was already feeling so deeply unnerved.

Here I was in one of the most packed demonstrations I have ever been in my lifetime and I was searching so deeply for the posters, and banners and the words being amplified that would speak to the devastating issues we are subject to be facing from the Trump administration. Let alone any messaging that represented People Of Color, Indigenous Peoples, Immigrant, LGBT Community issues and so on, and so forth.

The most predominant issues that were seen on banners had to do with Womxn’s health and reproductive rights, which is such an important issue to bring attention to with this being threatened greatly by the Trump administration and the conservative values of the right wing, and also, we have a lot to address around how these rights violations are specifically threatened for those who have other factors of injustice and oppression magnifying their risk and vulnerability. Racism, Immigration, Transexuality, Religious Persecution when intersected with Womxn’s Rights Issues becomes much more severe and life threatening.

16114764_1411449598868315_4935236428532372384_n.jpg

In D.C. it was clear the moment my sister Vanessa Ramalho and I touched down and entered the crowd that the majority that was present were White sisters and their families, I don’t mean to mention this as say that White Cis Womxn should not be present or that their massive presence is not valued, I know that some may hear this in me making this observation, but if that defensiveness is what is arising for you, I invite you understand a different and very important narrative- which is the narrative of the underrepresented and most vulnerable. I note the prevalence of White Cis Womxn at the march, the prevalence of the privileged, the considered, the already highly visible and want us all to understand how when it is the privilege that is most visible and leading that we hear about the issues from privilege lens- which is in this case Womxn’s issues “in general”.

The Privilege narrative allows for us to put on the forefront the overarching Womxn’s issues, that don’t speak to intersectionality. The rights that effect ALL womxn are not just womxn’s rights- they are the rights of ALL. And so, the specific issues that affect particularly Black Womxn or Trans Womxn or Womxn with disabilities or that effect Immigrant Children or that effect Men of Color who are subject to police brutality are extremely important to bring up at the largest public protest gathering in history. To discount these narratives or push them to the side amidst messaging that has to do with Reproductive Rights is where privilege comes in, and where intersectionality is misunderstood.

Intersectionality vs. Divisiveness

 

My presence in D.C. was a hope to link with others who felt the importance of our communities who are affected by all these human rights violations to show up amidst many who may sympathize, but who do not live with a daily experience that a transgendered black man living below the poverty line, or an undocumented afro Latinx boy with learning disabilities, or an indigenous Muslim mother is facing in the wake of this presidential administration. I work with these individuals, to navigate these systems, they are my students and their families, they are my own family, and I know it will take the deeper understanding of those who do not face these issues on the day to day to really make change happen.

 

I want to talk about intersectionality more, and what makes intersectionality truly viable. To have a White Womxn feminist tell me that it is just as important to bring up White Womxn’s rights, as it is to speak on Black Womxn’s rights does not understand the full depth of what it means to be intersectional. The more intersectional we become, the more we understand the importance of addressing issues for those experiencing multiple threats and violations concurrently, which in these lived experiences that are so much more prevalent, but under represented, makes it much more severe than waking up as a White Cis, Middle Class, Christian Womxn who walks in lines of privilege every day they wake up. Intersectionality also invites us to understand the privileges we wake up with and to see where and in which ways having those privileges can give us the power to support those who do not have those same protected experiences. I invite us to wake up every morning and understand our privilege alongside recognition of our disadvantage.

16177543_10104824559201563_1365265666940605849_oIntersectionality is not just the recognition of the representation of all issues of injustice, it is the understanding of the severity and the urgency, in connection to the history and present day relevancies of some of these injustices especially when overlapped over others. And so yes, it is to say that there is a level of importance to speak on some issues, that make some more marginalized and vulnerable to having their livelihoods threatened and disrupted. We have seen and experienced this throughout time and it is now becoming more visible- there are communities who have and continue to be verbally, physical and systematically brutalized by this country’s policies and it is becoming more visible and severe because of Trump’s proposed policies and his overall stance and demeanor in relation to our communities.

Trump, his cabinet and his supporters have made his presidency reason to resurface Hate in this country in real tangible ways in the House, in the Senate, on the Streets, on our Social Media Feeds.

 

Actionable Steps, Moving Forward

 

One of the reasons why I decided to march in D.C. is because of the release of the platform principles of the march.  These principles spoke clearly my shared values that All Human Rights Violations are Womxn’s Rights Violations. And when I talk about intersectionality I think on how intersectional my own experience is in relation to these threats on human rights. I look to these and I share the concern of many organizers about what happens past the march. I question why there was not more that was actionable during and after the gathering. I looked for the individuals who were holding the petitions in hand, and passing out the informational pamphlets around proposed policies to fight against, I looked for the presence of camaraderie in the crowd. And I understood that there was lacking

13012871_10153624251671985_4892120931102500028_n.jpg

I know that there is much guidance to be given, to those who are just beginning to feel the urgency at all to even join a rally march, let alone understand how to make it more impactful than just mass presence. I wonder how many actually read about these platforms or understood how hard Womxn of Color fought for our presence and visibility at that march.  I wonder how many stopped to listen to Sophie Cruz in ratio to listening to Maxwell singing “This Woman’s Work.”

Many people in my life, including my parents and so many elders who have experienced much blatant discrimination, segregation and brutalization in this country, have told me:

“You can’t do anything about it now. He’s already our President.”

“Let’s just give him a chance.”

“Be careful with what you are saying, and what you are doing opposing him. It’s dangerous.”

My response, is that I will stand up and resist every moment I see injustice, without fear, because I know we can shift the outcomes. We don’t have to continue to be victims to this country- more than ever the things we have been fighting against are being seen by those who did not believe they still existed in this “free country.” Trump and his white supremacist, capitalistic, patriarchal, war mongering followers are making it visible, are making those who were more complacent to these issues feel the effects that many of us organizing in our communities throughout our lifetimes have already felt. They are turning to us for guidance, for leadership, for understanding.

My father called me yesterday after he saw photos of me in D.C. with the concern that being so outspoken was dangerous, that I would be seen as a “vicious, rioting protestor, with nothing better to do.”   And I told him that I didn’t want to wait until things were as bad as we are seeing in our own Motherland in the Philippines. I asked him “Are we going to wait until we are stripped even further of our right to any health care if you are of a poor background? Are we going to wait until they start encampments and registries of our people, like they did with the Japanese? Are we going to wait until they segregate restaurants and public spaces? Are we going to wait until this government is instating militia on the street and gunning us down?”

My dad listened as I told him- “Dad, I know you didn’t work so hard all these years for me to have a better life, a free and prosperous life beyond what you had to face amidst confronting racism and prejudice- just so that I would have to face those same things or worse. I will put myself in danger if it means that I will be helping so many more including you and mom, and my future children won’t have to suffer.” He responded by telling me stories of how bad it was in the 70’s and 80’s in the US and the Philippines, and that I won’t have to worry about that because that is not how things are anymore. I told him, they are- and they will get worse if we don’t say something and do something now. He said I was hard-headed.

I am.

16266028_10101544823658000_3337479489685374354_nAnd I am this way because my grandmother and my parents taught me through their actions of resistance- that was their labor and their persisting in this country to build a life for their children and my children and future generations to come. I won’t back down, because they didn’t. And I will start at home, making sure that those I grow with and surround myself with will stand up for what is just and what is right, and see urgency to resist unjustice before it becomes more life threatening than it already is.

My fear has always been that the urgency will only come as things worsen, as we experience Trump’s policies and proclaimed wars and destruction of our natural resources and homes come to fruition.  I have already seen millions rise together. What would that look like if we did so with a more radical agenda than just to impeach this man- because let’s face it Mike Pence is no better, he may be worse. My call is for dramatic shifts in the way we see change in this country- to think deeply on what it means to be self-determined, what it means to be truly liberated and how that begins with your own individual words, actions, and values that you uphold in your everyday living.

Showing up at the March in D.C. was important to me. I carried my signs with representation of Indigenous, Pilipino, Spiritual An-sisters and Womb*n and I will continue to write and draw and speak and act and move and live in a way that keeps in mind the power of Womxn to make deep change, and uphold future generations to come. This is the greatest thing to understand if you are looking for next actions- the work does not BEGIN now, it has already been forged by so many, it is time to continue with greater visible force than ever before. Look to those who have before and are currently fighting for justice in this country and learn from them, receive lessons from them about what resistance looks like, take time to even just LISTEN as an action. This is not the beginning, it is a continuation.

“I am Abundantly Valuable”

I have been unpacking a core limiting belief throughout my growing as an artist, that “I am not good enough.”  And that belief has tied in deeply to my ability to truly envision and manifest abundant exchange for what I create in the world.

This is a Spiritual Wound that has been passed down through the generations of my people’s colonized existence. It is a part of the ancestral burden that they never knew would be carried on by their descendants- a belief that was planted in my heart by my parents, and by theirs before them, and their parent’s parents and further back yet, as my family has had at least 5 generations here in the US, the center of capitalistic, patriarchal, white supremacist governance. And before that generations of our lineage were inflicted with wounds from countless colonizers who fed beliefs of inferiority, of dehumanization, of diminished self and communal worth. The more I understand this, the more I confront how these beliefs come up in my daily living and how they are driven by a misguided sense of worth and value.

begging_beggar_hands_mod

I am in a moment of my life where I am confronting it more fully than ever, and I am seeing how much Money has become key to what keeps that wound existent. We can quantify worth by monetary wealth, and we do, we have set up systems, and structures that support this being a truth for all of us. We allow ourselves to determine the value of a human being with ease just by looking to the amount of money they have, and their ability to consume and contribute to this time we are living in where capitalistic Value has become so crucial to existence, that it is a key determinant of survival.

So if you do not make enough money, not only are you faced with the inability to live in health and wellness, but you also are seen as devalued by society and in turn devalued in self.   As I examine this wound, this belief that “I am not good enough,” and how it is connected to capitalism and my survival- it becomes even more important that I open the wound that it represents even further and see it fully for what it has been doing to my spirit. I understand the societal construction of these beliefs, how capitalism has and continues to serve those who adhere to the constructs of division and inequality that keep a fraction of this existence in power over others and make them in control of who benefits from resources natural, manmade and also the labor resources that come from human beings all together. These constructs have been created to tell me my value, someone else has the power to determine that, and to mark my worth by a dollar.

And they have convinced those who love me most in my life and see me for all I am to feel they need to do the same.

My family gave me many gifts and lessons to uplift my being, they taught me to work hard- that labor would reap benefits, that the satisfaction of accomplishing, of producing, of creating what I intend to would grow me into greatness. They also taught me to find humility and humble myself through having immense gratitude for life, that even in moments of triumph and achievement to remember that many people, many experiences  and God/the Creator, contribute to my ability to succeed. They also simply believed in me, they saw the manifestation of their dreams and my own living out through my existence. You would think that this would be enough for me to thrive in this world, but what also exists within me are the more insidious beliefs that were instilled in my ancestral bloodline by a world driven by power over others, and not just the power of living fully in self.

And as I have been unpacking here, in this existence, power has been accepted as being tied to capital. And for those who have been taught that they have little to no power above the governing bodies that are in place, capital has been tied to survival. This is the story that I have been raised to believe- that money is the final marking of my ability to step into my greatest power, because it will assure my survival. This is what my parents were taught as well, and so in contradiction to all the beautiful beliefs that they taught me so I can see myself as great- there were also messages laced with the need to show for that greatness with monetary wealth. And because I have not been able to attain this in my almost 30 years of living, I have not yet reached a place of full potential in their eyes and in many moments, my own.

I hear the echoes of their concern that I have not yet “Made it,”-  “I don’t know why you don’t just find a better job… I don’t know what is happening to you out there, but you need to figure it out, you need to make more money, maybe you need to just look for work that is outside of your field…” By speaking their beliefs out loud in this way, I have been put in positions where I have examined my work as worthless, because I know, to them, that in all the communities that I have and continue to serve, with all the creations I have birthed and all the artistic expression that I have poured out of me, with all of the love I have given to everyone of my students and colleagues and any relationship I have built in my artistic, activist and spiritual work, it still is NOT ENOUGH, because I still do not MAKE ENOUGH MONEY to show for the work I do.

I know they mean well when they say,”You’re so smart/talented/hardworking you can do so many other things that will pay you more… why don’t you find something else to do, there has to be someone who will pay you more for your work, you can do better…,” they  are seeking to encourage me and remind me of my gifts and they are also telling me, that without the monetary exchange I am being undervalued- I am not living in my full value.

I have pushed myself to remove my mindset from the need of that monetary recognition, because I have convinced myself that the type of labor, no matter how arduous I work, in this world, cannot reap those rewards. I have taught my self to live at the barest means, from pay check to pay check, without need for extraneous spending, without need for any materials, experiences that may be luxuries and mostly it has made me see how broken the world is because of its capitalistic structures of living. I understand that value goes deeper than monetary worth, that we have lost sight of that, as a society that has invested in the doctrine that allows us to believe that with the existence of money we can determine whether an individuals has the worth to live the fullness of life,  that allows us to divide ourselves between the wealthy and the impoverish.  We live in a world where self worth is diminished with lack of monetary gain. And I have told myself not to accept that, that my value should not be tied to money- which is in principle, so true, and yet I have suffered many times because I have refused to believe that I need money to be held as such a high determinant of my worth. How do I even begin to shift, to say “Okay, I accept that I need and want more money, to show for my worth in what I create and what I labor and give to this world.” It feels almost like giving up and giving into something that I have worked so hard to not. But why?

I don’t want to tell myself the things I have heard about adhering to the workings of capitalism the messages that say, “that is just how things are…the world is not going to change,” and play into the idea that I need to fall in place like everyone else. I won’t make this the belief that drives the shift I am making in welcoming monetary value into my life, because it will not help to heal the ancestral wound of being “good enough” and seeing my self-worth being abundant- because I understand how money is a construction that has replaced the need to understand fully our whole value of being.  It is not the whole determinant of self value, it is not the core determinant of self value, but in this world it is part of it. I’m working on accepting this so much more than ever, and it is difficult, because I have worked against living with this lens that intentionally placed any value of self on money.

As I dream of a life with my partner where I can raise a family with him, where we can grow our children in a home that we call ours and can give them the opportunities to grow with enrichment of experiences and connection to life, I think of how money is necessary to do these things. And I pause and confront deeply my continued ideas of living at my barest needs and not asking for more monetary exchange, because of the two fold belief that I should not buy into the capitalistic marking of value, and that I would not be able to attain that anyway because I never have. I understand Value in a deeper way than just being determined by monetary worth, and also, I need to live. I need to survive. I need to experience this living beyond the narrative of struggle and oppression that is written with capitalistic divide. And so I am teaching myself  to see all the notions of value being important for me to accept in abundance, because I am worth all of it. 

Everything that I create in this world of art, expression, relationships, community, sacred space, and existence is valuable. I am valuable, by all means. All I create has abundant value. All I give in labor and service has abundant value. All I contribute with my living has abundant value. I am abundantly valuable. My value is abundant. This is the belief I am intending to live by, that will include exchange that gives to the monetary value of my creations, of my labors, of my contributions to this living, because although it is not the center of value and self worth in my life, it still is a means of value in this world and I believe that I am worth all of what this world has to offer. I believe we all are.

13243774_10101294545532370_3134764979836740132_o

 

Prayer of Responsibility

15181566_10101467295070910_2166144960024459234_n.jpg

Woke up Early and Needed to Pray. I was affirmed by Ate Grace Nono how important it is to understand Prayer as communication. You are not the only one who is speaking to the Divine Ancestors speak to and through you in Exchange. This morning I woke from a dream of many dishes in a sink needing to be washed. And my hands went to do the duty and the dishes became bodies and the sink became the ocean, and I was there scrubbing these bodies that were very much alive and I was crying and crying. I felt myself trembling and shaking, but I did not stop. I felt a deep responsibility to cleanse those bodies. They were being prepared to be used for a great rite. This is what I felt. I woke up and prayed.

This is what I heard within me, in communication with ancestors.

“Prayer of Responsibility”

I know my responsibility to my Ancestors
I have dug up their memories
Their words
Their lived lessons
Their collective actions
And in ceremony of similar waking battles
I’m replanting these remnants into my bones
Creating armor for my spirit
With deep understanding of
What it means for us to have to rise
More unified than ever before
To lead from Love
To act through Prayer

To protect the Sacred

My Ancestors are telling me
It is more than right
It is more than belief
It is truth
To be Free

I hear them
And it is my responsibility
To be
Free

This is not just the message of my Ancestors
Who fought in revolutions
In land battles
And in wars

Freedom echoes from
The Trees
The Clouds
The Ripples and the Waves
Our greatest guides
The Grand Mothers and Grand Fathers of us all

With the fires of the Sun in day
Reflecting on the moon at night,
Constantly lighting our way
Through darkness…
They remind me that they are our collective guardians
And they are still rising for us ALL
Just like they rose for others
Many, many generations before
I hear them
I understand what they are calling on us
To do

To be
Free:
Our Responsibility

To Protect
To Honor
To Defend

All that is Sacred
I know you hear their messages too

To Protect
To Honor
To Defend-
What is Sacred

But

You have misunderstood
You aren’t listening in the deep way I have
You hear Sacred is Towers scraping the Sky
You hear Sacred is Pipes penetrating the Waters
You hear Sacred is Concrete clearing away theLand
You hear Sacred is Construct
You hear Sacred is Coverings
You hear Sacred is Skin

You have not heard the Sacred within
You have not heard the humility of human being
You have not heard the humbling of wonderment
And so you have lost the ability to hear even echoes
From what came before any tellings of divide and conquer
Before the messages of supremacy and hate,
Before the lessons of constructs that were made
To make us see each other as Other
Forgetting we belong to the Land, the Sky and the Waters
The Same
Forgetting we belong to Eachother
That is why
You cannot hear your brothers and sisters screaming, right in front of your face
You have blocked out their pleas to your humanity
You have disregarded thier prayers to your spirit
You misunderstand

And so Our Ancestors
Tell us to shake you further
To tear down walls you are building
To destroy the machines you have built to rupture and wreck
To place our bodies before your own
And look you in the eye
And pierce into you the truths
Through our tears and our trembling
We are channeling
We will not let you look away

Even if it means that you will beat us bloody
Even if it means more will be lost
We do not die just for our communities, and our families
We die for our Ancestors

OUR Ancestors

We know our responsibility to them
And to eachother

It is our Responsibility
To remind you
To make you listen

Listen further
Not to Ego
Listen further
Not to Fear
Listen further
Not to Confusion
Go further
Not to Guilt
Go further
Not to Shame
Listen further
To the Freedom Ringing

From Ancestors crying
Through us
I hear them
Can you hear them?

It is your Responsibility too
They are your Ancestors too

Can you hear them?

“Protect
Honor
Defend
The Sacred”

“ALL is Sacred”
“ALL is Sacred”
“ALL is Sacred”

That is our responsibility
The responsibility to the Sacred
The responsibility to each other

To be Free.

Our responsibility.