small victories

i don’t ever really know what sinks in when i talk to my kids about racism. about sexism. about ableism, heterosexism, cis privilege, imperialism, genocide, etc. i’m just winging it. trying to teach them to recognize their privilege. to see white supremacy, the patriarchy, police officers and capitalism for what they are. me and their daddy try to contextualize it so it intersects with their lived experiences. but who knows. this parenting thing is like making it all up when the script is supposed to be in front of you.

and i’m even more dubious when i talk to my 8 y/o. sure, he grasps more, but he’s not as attentive or empathetic as his little sister. he’s bright. but can still be pretty self centered. i dont know what lessons about the struggles of others really make an impression. which made the other night at bedtime especially thrilling. in an enraging kind of way.

elijah and i were snuggling in his top bunk. it was dark and we were just cuddling quietly. sometimes we talk, sometimes we share stories, but that night it seemed like we were just going to lay there quietly while he fell asleep.

after a few minutes of cuddles e finally broke the silence, startling me a bit. he started with the bold (but totally unshocking) statement that they’d read a racist book in class that day. i was intrigued, curious to see how he’d interpreted our informal lessons. the book is called “betcha” and is a tool for teaching rounding and estimation. elijah was angry because the whole book centers around two boys: one white, one black. and apparently throughout the book the white boy consistently, diligently does his estimation and rounding, thus getting every problem right. while the black boy just sort of guesses: sometimes getting it right but more often getting it wrong. ugh, right? but oh, so run of the mill.

we’ve talked about racism as it intersects with academics, the way teachers will differentially treat white students and students of color. especially black students. about tracking and school suspensions and all other manner of white supremacy in the classroom. and here it was glaring my kid in the face and he saw it for what it was. it’s a little thing, i get that. and he didn’t harass his teacher for reading it–which feels like step two in teaching your white kids to recognize racism. i can’t wait for step two, y’all.

so i’m just going to sit here and appreciate my little one and do a tiny, tiny shimmy of exaltation. and then get back to the work of raising white kids to see the world around them critically and resist the crazy bullshit at every turn.

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Lessons i will teach my white daughter

I am seeing a lot about how white folks need to accept responsibility for our privilege and our role in the maintenance of white supremacy in the wake of the continued police sanctioned murder of black men, women and children. And it’s true. As i’ve said before, we need to teach our white children how NOT to be racist, how to see and call out racism, how to recognize the ways we benefit from and contribute to white supremacy, how NOT to be killer cops or trigger happy vigilantes.

There is a whole heck of a lot we need to be teaching our white kids. But as I read pieces by white mother’s grappling with their white privilege, I feel they come up just short of what we, as white parents of white children, need to be digging into

White female tears

White female tears

with each other. The action steps, the how to’s, the words we can use to talk with our children about something that saturates our world as completely as white supremacy.

I want to offer my messy and incomplete thoughts into the realm of strategy sharing. To start a conversation about how exactly we raise white children to make different choices about how to live with and use their white privilege. This post focuses specifically on my white daughter and it is incomplete, but i want to do similar posts for my white son and to expand on this one in the near future. I really am hoping this will be a conversation.

Lesson one: i will tell my white daughter that every man that has ever hurt me deeply was a white man. it was a white man that raped me. it was a white man that emotionally abused me. it was a white man who stole a lot of money from me, lied about it and then tried to wheedle his way back into my life. media, friends, teachers and other family members may try to convince her that black men are somehow scarier than white men. but they will be wrong and i will work to remind her that white female fear of black male bodies is a powerful tool of white supremacy. and i will teach her not to wield it.

Lesson two: i will teach her that as white women we are white supremacy’s darling. we are the antithesis of black male bodies. we are what white american terrorism is made for. from the lynching of emmett till, to the kkk, to the school to prison pipeline, to the ongoing open season on black bodies. all of that institutional violence, at it’s core, is all for us. all for white women. we are the battle cry of our white brothers. we are something to fight for and protect. while non white bodies, male and female alike, will be seen with suspicion by law enforcement and will be charged and imprisoned with enthusiasm by our justice system, she will be seen as innocent. she will be protected. at the very least she will be given the dignity of being treated innocent until proven guilty.

my daughter will know the names and stories of shanesha taylor and kari engholm. shanesha taylor is a black mother who left her two young children in her car with the windows cracked and the fan running while she went to a job interview. immediately upon returning to her car, ms. taylor was charged with two counts of child abuse, faced up to 8 years in jail and had her bail set unnecessarily high. her children were fine. keri engholm left her infant daughter in her minivan and then rushed off to meetings. tragically the little girl died but iowa officials were hesitant to charge mrs. engholm at all and it took them awhile to do so. my little girl will know that justice looks different when you’re a white woman. and that that is all kinds of fucked.

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White women: doing the work of white supremacy every. damn. day.

Lesson three: i will teach her that her white female body is used as a weapon of white supremacy against non white women. that while, yes, we face certain violences as a result of our female bodies, we also face less because of our skin color. and that her skin, hair and eye color are the trifecta of perfect beauty. that it is our bodies that have colonized beauty standards worldwide. that women all around the world have been taught to hate their own bodies because they are not light enough, their hair not straight enough. and that all over the world there are women that change themselves to look more like us. it pays to be the darling.

Lesson four: i will teach her that our dominion as the ultimate woman goes beyond beauty standards. that it permeates our psyche and that we let it be our truth. i will teach her the real history of the white female heroines she will learn about in school. she will know that when it mattered, during the women’s suffrage movement, white women were willing to throw black freedoms under the bus. that they were pitted against black male suffrage and instead of uniting made it clear they would not work with black men but fight on their own. i will teach her that margaret sanger, hailed as i champion for female reproductive choice, used her development of the birth control pill to serve the agenda of forced sterilization of black women. my white daughter will understand the legacy of our white foremothers and know how it continues to impact white feminists’ erasure of women of color.

There is endlessly more to teach her. There are whole lessons on avoiding the white savior complex. About tokenization, white woman’s tears, white guilt, how to step back shut up and cede some of our power. I just needed to start somewhere. And open the conversation with other white parents of white children about HOW exactly we teach our children NOT to use their lives as a pillar of white supremacy. Comments, reactions and feedback desired.

It’s time for white parents to have “the talk” with their kids

Alright white parents, it’s time to get real. First, you should read the following articles: this one on the root by Tonyaa Weathersbee and this one by Jennifer Harvey at the huffington post.  Both explore the nuances of how parents navigate conversations about race and racism with their children and to what effect.  A spoiler: it is largely to damning effect.

In short, Ms. Weathersbee argues that “the talk” black parents have with their children about not provoking white people, not doing those things racist dominant white culture deem “suspicious” just supports uninterrupted white supremacy. And gives white folks a pass to continue their violent legacy of racism.  On the other hand white parents fail miserably at cultivating critical thinking on racism with their white children. As long as we, as white parents, fail to challenge the racist culture we live in and teach our children to see white supremacy for what it is, this shit is not going to get better.

Let me draw a parallel that you might be able to connect with. Maybe you’re familiar with the idea that we need to stop blaming our daughters for dressing in certain ways or consuming alcohol or being friendly and instead teach our boys not to rape and assault our girls. Makes sense, right? We can get behind that, right? Well now i’m going to challenge white parents to step up and stop hiding behind the idea that black and brown people need to stop wearing hoodies or reaching for their wallets when stopped by the police or blasting their music or knocking on strangers doors when they’ve been in an accident. And that instead white parents need to start teaching our white kids not to be racist and kill black and brown people because of our white supremacist indoctrination that teaches us to fear and hate non white people.

It’s the same idea, really. Even if we don’t want it to be. In order to do it though we have to give up a couple of pretty lame excuses i hear far too often from white folks who claim to want to do this work. The first is that white people often feel like we need to be taught by people of color about racism.  As if as white people we have no experience perpetuating or benefiting from racism that we could use to work from, or no ability to look critically at the systems of power all around us.  Or no access to articles, blogs, news sources, comedians, etc. who are speaking from their lived experiences about racism in this country.  Not to mention the way this re-centers white need and forces people of color to not only live in our racist culture but also enlighten well meaning white folk about their struggle.  It is baffling to me.  The second excuse i hear is that we don’t know what to say, that we need some pre packaged talking points to get us started.  And then nothing happens.  We’ve stated our desires to work on this ish, but we have no tools and apparently no power within ourselves to take a leap and build as we go.  But we need to let go of our fear of not being the perfect white “anti racist,” because always saying the perfect thing doesn’t matter if we are letting it get in the way of doing anything to deconstruct the systems of oppression we. participate. in. and. benefit. from. every. day.

So white parents, it is our turn to tackle “the talk” with our kids.  To share the burden of unpacking racism with parents of color.  It is time we teach our white kids not to murder and fear kids of color.  Not to assume they are guilty, violent, lazy, stupid, drug addicts, etc. Because if Ms. Weathersbee’s analysis of historical patterns holds we are swinging back into a period of even more severe violence against children and women and men of color.  Soon #Every28Hours will be #Every18Hours.

And there is some good news for us, white parents.  Once you start to look for jumping points to discuss racism with your kids, you will find that they are nearly limitless.  Here’s an easy first step. Just take a look at any media that is relevant to your child(ren) and you are bound to find stereotypes aplenty or maybe just a palpable lack of characters of color, voices of color, etc. Media constructs a significant part of our kids worlds today and even if we’re groovy parents that limit visual media consumption (ya know because it teaches our girls they need to be rescued by boys, etc), there’s always books. My nearly 6y/o daughter will almost only consume books with rad female characters. If i pushed her i think she’d be able to identify that that’s because she can connect to those characters more easily than she can cool male characters. So what if i pushed her to consider how in these same books she loves there are very few characters of color? And asked her if she thought her friends at school would be able to connect to those characters in the same way she does. And when she says no, to encourage her to consider how that might feel. To be constantly unrepresented or stereotypically represented in movies, books, television shows, etc. It’s not a giant leap.

Or you could work with your child to analyze the ways in which we teach history in this country. You know, because we make it all sound so pretty when really our American history is an ugly parade of violence and white domination. As they come home from school with construction paper “native american” headbands, take a second to talk to your kid(s) about what really happened to those same native americans after the yummy feast was over. About how we killed native americans, pushed them from their lands, killed them a lot more and pushed them onto increasingly smaller reservations, then how we legislated their assimilation, stole their children and jailed them with impunity as they tried to resist and preserve their lives and cultures. School, i promise, will provide SO MANY OPPORTUNITIES to debunk the great white myth of our own superiority and fairness.

And while we can start small we MUST build up to the big stuff. We’ve talked to both of our kids about the murders of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis. The murders, mind you, the blatantly obvious murders. We’ve talked about how this happens a WHOLE FUCKING LOT. I’ve talked with our 6y/o about how she is the antithesis to a black or brown male. Cops will trip over themselves to save a pretty white girl, we are who armed forces have risen to protect throughout white history. I mean, damn, we’ve had whole nations going to war for us.

Explain to your kids that we fail to sentence the murderers of these children but conversely imprison and execute men and women of color for NON VIOLENT crimes. Explain to them the next time there’s a missing white girl’s face racing across every news outlet and computer screen that we do not do the same to find missing girls of color. Help them draw the conclusion that this means in our white supremacist culture that we just don’t value the lives of people of color. They will not need your help to know how utterly fucked up this is.

Our kids are bright and they get shit, they pick up on what’s going on around them. So let’s not hide them from the ugliness of the world we’ve built for them, but instead let’s reveal it to them so that they know what we’re up against. We cannot fight what we are not acknowledging. We cannot protect our own children if it means condemning other people’s children to a life of violence and a high probability of murder.

This blog does not begin to cover everything it needs to. But it aims to start a discussion and keep it going. #ItsTimeWhiteParents

being the body

i love my body.  love it.  its softness, its solidness, its roundness.  the way the muscles pull and move under my skin.  the way i feel as i walk through the world with all the contained power and potential that is my body.  just this morning misty read us aloud an eduardo galleano quote that goes, “the church says: the body is a sin. science says: the body is a machine.  advertising says: the body is a business.  the body says: i am a fiesta.”  all day i’ve been affirming that my body is a fiesta.  and not just any fiesta, it is the kind of fiesta you want to be invited to.  and i want to be worshipping, nurturing and celebrating my body.  i want to be taking care of it.  but one day i will also want to risk it.

because my body is also political.  historically my body has been a protected body.  it is white, female, heteronormative (mostly).  it is the kind of body cops ache to protect; it is the kind of body they were made to protect.  men have been said to go to war for my body.  i am the antithesis of the brown male body, and still a far cry from the brown female body, the non gender conforming body.  those bodies have to be violently suppressed.  i am meant to fear those bodies, distance them from myself, remain pure and worthy of the protection i am given.  i am a body deified.  our culture sets the standard for beauty by my body.  i have all the power and privilege of my white female body.  and one day i will use that when i am ready.

last night i was sitting around talking with some friends.  talking about the sorts of community organizing i want to be doing in charlottesville, about the kind of work i want to be committing myself to.  and it’s clear to me that one day, in my future, i will be organizing things that are much too threatening to the systems and structures we live in and under.  because i want everything about my life to threaten and undermine the way we’re taught we have to live.  i want to be breaking this shit down and creating pathways to different worlds.  i want us to get back to the joy of living and let go of this struggle for survival that is capitalist culture.

and when what i’m doing is too much, when it gets to the point that the cops or whoever need to confront me and the other people i’m working with, i want my body to be in the middle.  i want it to be the first body that’s attacked.  because for centuries worth of history, all manner of bodies have been under attack, have been brutalized and terrorized by the police and others.  but not mine.  and i know in my gut, that part of my body that knows things before every other part, that i want to be in the way.  i want to be the body they have to get through first.

veronica talked some with me about the difference between being the voice and being the body.  how they both have their strengths and how you can really only be one or the other.  because being the body requires you to give up access to the voice.  because being the body is a different way of communicating and engaging altogether.

for now i’m happy to be a voice.  i like using my voice.  but i know that i am only being the voice now so that one day i can be the body.  and that knowledge sits heavy in my gut for now, hovers a bit around my heart, making it flutter from time to time and is beginning to permeate my whole self.  i feel grounded in it.  not particularly excited, but almost ready.

IUD’s, anthony comstock and bleeding huts

i spent several hours the other day with the fully fabulous caroline, hanging out in the kids playhouse behind morning star, stretching out our achey, menstruating bodies.  caroline pointed out that we were in our very own bleeding hut.  and we rose to the occasion, talking about: sex, lovers, future dreaming, girlfriends and the absurdity of the crusade against reproductive rights and a woman’s control over her own body.  we marveled at how we had survived through our own socialization that women should fear and be ashamed of their sexuality, that we should abdicate control of our bodies to men who  cannot know them the way we do.

it reminded me of the marge piercy book i was reading, sex wars–a historical fiction piece narrated in turn by elizabeth cady stanton the famous suffragette, victoria woodhull the first female stockbroker and outspoken advocate of free love and healthy sexuality, a young immigrant woman who makes quality condoms out of her home to support her family, and anthony comstock the self appointed “right hand of God.”  it is a cast of inspiring female characters who overcome all of this same socialization, who give a big fuck you to society in their pursuit to reclaim their sexuality, their right to control their bodies and to write their own story.  all balanced by the male crusader for morality, anthony comstock, who ruins many lives in his pursuit of “evil.”

yesterday i drove myself to planned parenthood to have my new paraguard inserted, the copper IUD.  i’ve been trying to get it for months and going through the application process for a free one.  so when i got the call the other day, i was stoked.  as i turned into the driveway at planned parenthood i saw what i had never seen there before, a lone protester, a woman holding a depiction of some sort of religious figure.  maybe the mother mary.  as i drove past her i felt fury well up inside me.  just the day before caroline and i had been talking about the voice of choice campaign.  the idea is that people call those protesters who call and harass abortion doctors, etc., speak calmly and respectfully and ask them to stop harassing others.  and in that moment i knew i couldn’t do it; i couldn’t be calm.  i pulled into a parking space and like a peacock, confident and proud of entering this space that that woman and many others hated, i sashayed into the offices hoping she saw my small act of defiance.

as i waited in the lobby beforehand i read more of my book, feeling as if we’d made such little progress in this bitter battle around a woman’s choice and her right to control her body.  thinking that anthony comstock had never died, that he lived on in myriad form.  and i was happy to be taking control of my body.  shivering with power and the clarity that i was doing for myself exactly what i wanted to, i waited for the procedure to begin.  all to the sound of car horns, presumably encouraging on the lone protester outside.

then my nurse/midwife, the woman who would insert the paraguard, came into the room and i was delighted.  she was flipping through my paperwork and it was with a bit of relish that i corrected the intake nurse’s mistake, explaining that i had had sex just the night before and not three nights before as my chart indicated.  she asked me how i was feeling and i said excited.  she asked me again and i said a little nervous.  she knew better than i did what to expect.

it was awesome, and then it was a bit painful.  ok, it was crazy painful for a little bit.  but that’s because the pathway between my cervix and my uterus is a little unusual.  once the midwife figured it all out it took no time at all.  it’s true, my body went into a bit of shock and it took me awhile to get up off the examination table, and then off the floor.  when i got to my feet i slowly walked to where i would pay for the procedure.  i put my debit card on the counter and sat down in a nearby chair.  the woman who processed my payment encouraged me to rest if i needed to before leaving and i reassured her that i was planning to.

i sat in the lobby once again, reading a sex wars chapter about anthony comstock viciously pursuing a well known and highly skilled abortionist.  the chapter follows the arch of his pursuit and her eventual suicide before being sentenced in a court of law.  and i thought of all those people who protest outside of planned parenthood, of all the people that harass abortion doctors.  and i was furious again.

finally i went home and spent several hours laying in my empty house, not able to do much through the pain.  eventually one of my partners picked me up and took care of me through the night.  this morning i woke and felt mostly better; the more painful cramping had subsided and i was back to full excitement about the choice i’d made.  this morning as i was explaining the experience to a male friend, he told me to enjoy my new toy.  i told him with a mischievous smile that i absolutely would.

it feels incredible to be a sexually liberated woman making educated choices for my body.  i still have plenty of learning and growing to do in this area, for sure, but i’ve come a long way.  and i want that desperately for all of the women around me.  now i’m going to feed my body some tea in appreciation of its amazing capacity to heal and accomodate.  ps. i highly recommend sex wars!

no justice, no peace

i haven’t written much lately, not for lack of content, but for lack of time to sit and tell my stories.  or maybe for lack of something else.  and this is a piece i’ve been musing on for many months as i grow more honest with myself.  the first time this common rallying cry caught my attention and started to unsettle me was at the march for trayvon martin here in charlottesville some many months ago.  i simultaneously love and hate this chant.  hate is a strong word, maybe more accurately the words both thrill and frustrate me.  i started to gripe about it then.  and i get that most people are working to figure out what they’re willing to do to try to change this fucked up world and most people will not be where i’m at, but it seems fair that if you’re not actually willing to constantly disrupt the peace, you shouldn’t shout this chant.  because–unless youre one of these racist ghouls that thinks his death was his justice–trayvon martin and his family haven’t seen any sort of justice since he was murdered by george zimmerman.  but we arent in the streets.  we aren’t making it impossible for the george zimmermans of the world to kill the trayvon martins; we aren’t threatening the power structures that exist in such a way that they must be held accountable to us.  well at least not enough of us are.

the definition of justice seems important too.  we’ve been taught to seek justice through legal means, the proper channels for our frustration are paved with enough paperwork to bludgeon an elephant with.  and all along the way we’re convinced to relinquish our freedom and self determination.  will it be enough if george zimmerman is tried and found guilty of trayvon martins death?  can we claim justice for trayvon if more and more brown and black men and women are still being killed by racist cops and vigilantes alike?  i tend to believe that justice for trayvon martin is much bigger than a life sentence in prison.  i think it looks more like a total dismantling of the criminal injustice system in this country, a removal of armed cops from poor communities of color, and maybe a complete removal of cops altogether.  i think it looks like a total destruction of the culture that trains us to view brown and black skin as something suspect, that teaches young men and women of color that they can only be so many things in our culture, most of which are “criminal.”  and if that sounds like the kind of justice we want to be seeking, what do we have to do threaten the peace enough to kick start this change?

out in anaheim they are not letting the deaths of their young men go unquestioned, for days they’ve been marching and making it clear to the police that they are not welcome in their community.  i want this to be happening in more places, i want to be creating police free zones.  i want to be doing more to fight back against the normalcy of killing young people of color.  i want to do more than chant.

there was also, recently, a hunger strike at red onion state prison–a super max prison in southwest virginia–where inmates tell a terrifying tale of inhumane treatment and widespread physical and psychological abuse.  prisoners made a list of demands that seem pretty reasonable and outsiders were offered ways to take action.  as i was reading through the updates and stories of prisoners, again this common chant started vibrating through my spine, shaking my body.  and i was distraught by the limited possibilities offered to outsiders who wanted to “take action” and stand in solidarity.  its very unclear what continues to happen at ROSP.  officials said the hunger strike was over long before inmates said it was, officials made no mention of the intimidation tactics and cruel punishment meted out to strikers.  and theres been silence for nearly two months.  it seems pretty clear that nothing resembling justice happened at ROSP and again the question of what justice looks like is curious.  is it a regime change that brings little difference to the daily lives of prisoners?  i’d rather be breaking the prison industrial complex.  i in no way believe that imprisonment does anything to address “criminality,” fuck i dont really believe in “criminality.”  i think our culture creates criminals and creates the real people destroying lives as heroes of capitalism and despotism.  i dont want to sit by and make phone calls as men are tortured and left to die slowly in dark spaces.  i want to do more.

i am making this chant my mantra and my challenge.  i’m tired of playing along at being powerless and i am eager to find others interested in taking this chant at face value.  and i absolutely understand that complementary to destroying the structures and systems i oppose i have to be creating and building new containers, new ways to support, care for and build community with each other.  i am excited about doing both.

back home in the land of burning clay

i’ve been traveling on a slow moving southbound train most of the day–slow moving by mandate of the CSX heat advisory: instead of traveling at 79 mph we’re stuck at 59 mph. and it feels appropriate.  no one rushes in the south, not really.  its too hot, you see.

traveling south again always fills me with a wild set of ambivalent feelings.  there is nostalgia and romanticization that cloud my judgment, but there is also bittersweet and upset.  there’s a lot i love about the south and a lot i cannot stand.  it’s a region of warmth and beauty and ill concealed demons.  all of the forms of oppression that hide insidiously in the shadows in other regions are on full display in this home of the confederacy.  in this land of states rights.  and i know the south is not unique in this, but all the weight of history–both public and private history–presses upon me as i race and race, homeward bound.

just yesterday i responded to an email, asking me to recall the summer i lived and worked in jenkinsville, sc.  and now as i get ready to step onto familiar ground and breathe in air heavy with magnolia and the smell of scorching earth, my stomach ties in knots at the memory of that summer.  each small town we pass through is bigger than jenkinsville, sc.  jenkinsville is a collection of houses and churches along a few miles stretch of two lane highway.  each small town has its own story, its own unique personality, but they all whisper similar truths.  you just cant always hear them, or more likely youre not paying attention.  i went to jenkinsville to hear those truths and stories and that summer has had a powerful effect on how i move in this world today.

i went to jenkinsville to run a listening project, to tease out the community’s relationship with its nuclear power station, VC Summer.  i was not invited there, i didn’t know anyone; i went alone and lived in a small upstairs apartment in the house of a woman riddled by loneliness.  i stepped into a community that i was not from and could not identify with: 96% black, high poverty rates, low high school graduation rates.  when i started knocking on doors warning folks i would be coming around with others to talk to them some, they assumed i was from the very utility i was actively working against.  but i was white and living in jenkinsville and so it made sense to assume i was from the plant.  i was suspect.

i met the locals largely through the senior citizens group at one of the churches.  they let me stay, even though i was too young to be there and they let me play bingo with them, even though i couldnt juggle nearly as many cards as they could.  they teased me in the same breath that they cooed and tutted at me about riding my bike on the small two lane highway between the church and my small home.  they didnt know that many of those days i biked home furiously to fume and color a map of the county mindlessly in front of a box fan.  each day that i got to know the people there the more furious i felt at the utility who was ruining their lives.  the nuclear power industry likes to claim its a clean and healthy energy source, but there is something known as bioaccumulation.  and in a community that lived off of house gardens, fishing in the lake that cooled the nuclear reactor and hunting off of the land, the people of jenkinsville are daily consuming high doses of radiation and the community is full of sickness to prove it.  at one house an old woman who’d lived in the community her whole life pointed to each house on her street giving me the names and ages of the people in each who had died or were living with different cancers.

listening project are unusual and powerful tools and i wish they were being used more.  the idea is that you create a survey of questions which culminate in questions about individuals’ relationships to whatever topic is of interest.  in jenkinsville it was the nuclear power plant.  folks canvas in teams of two: one acting as the empathetic listener who is paying attention to the emotional content of the interviews and asking the questions, judging when to probe and when to move on; and an intellectual listener who is taking notes, trying to capture accurately the content of the interview.  you dont record anything so as to protect anonymity.  often the topics are touchy and sometimes dangerous to challenge.  and the power is in genuinely listening and finally being heard.  by focusing on the voice you remind it of its own strength.

but traditionally you are invited into a community, or you are part of whatever community you’re working in.  i knew i wanted to be working in opposition to the expansion of VC Summer and i knew no movement of resistance would be powerful without the directly impacted community informing the strategy.  but i didnt think about what i was committing to and what archetypal narrative i was stepping into.  i was well meaning, privileged and enthusiastic.  a historically dangerous combination.

i did not consider how lacking any community connection initially would weaken the power of what we were able to do with what we heard, about the possibility of being told–as a paid activist at the time–that this was no longer a priority by my non profit bosses.  i didnt think of becoming just another well meaning white person who would let down a community struggling to challenge forces that could make them pay for their disobedience, while i walked back into my other life.

it wasnt quite like that but it wasnt too far from that either.  in traveling back to this place i travel the roads i did as a young, green climate activist kid.  whenever i think of jenkinsville my whole body aches to go back: to repent maybe, to actually dig in in a way that feels honest, to reconnect to a community that opened itself to me.  and i am still so unsure.

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