growing up mixed always made me the person who swam between worlds, taking artifacts from each to prove the other existed, negotiating misunderstandings and building relationships that by their nature created coalition among very different people.
activists friends and i talk a lot about balance and energy. about how to work the system and how to do what we love (organize, create) but come to think about it, no, not everyone faces that problem. people who grow up as translators and bridge builders—folks who live in multiple communities, folks who had some privilege and were favored in some way by the system, mixed folks— are the ones who travel back and forth never knowing where they fit, what safe space looks like, when to switch up tongues. people say that both the reformist and the radical has to exist but no one feels the obligation to be both, to carry everything, like we do.
our communities fought so hard to be at the table, how could we not respect that & politely say no thank you to sitting there?…honestly our communities that we are working with don’t have the privilege for us to disengage, they need the resources, the funding, the connections that come w/ sitting at the table. (especially with disability and the daily things we need being so tied up in government). …we could spend a month with all our energy going to trying to fund something ourselves or we could use the dominant culture language skills we have to spend a day writing a grant application. …or these folks aren’t members of our communities but could be amazing allies if we put some time into it.
it is selfish not to work the system for your community, to get the money, when you have the skills to do so, right? but at the same time, sitting at the table, constantly working the system from the inside is tiring. representing your community at some board meeting may be a part of the work but it is nothing like doing what you love or being in home community. i feel most free when being me is a fundamental part of my organizing/creating. spaces where poetry, hip hop/pop culture, & our experiences leads to deep conversations and analysis building. where what i wear and what i listen to is seen as part of the media i make. where i am working with folks who “get it” with blood– blood stolen, blood flowing through their veins— not their pretty heads. people who organize out of necessity not because of a cause, charity, or to have something sparkly on their resume. that’s when i feel most at use or accomplished— when we are building with each other to find words & build movements that speak to being us. when we are doing and being us.
everything ultimately comes down to the question of where to put energy: balance of doing what you need to do to work the system or doing what you love & what makes you free. but maybe that is just the saga of a mixed girl…
artifact is another word for an object made by a person.
reform and radical are words used to describe how people see social change. reformists work to get society to recognize their community by doing things like getting in political office, writing for a big newspaper, etc. radicals believe the system will never help their communities and work to answer their own problems.
“sitting at the table” is phrase used to talk about being a part of a decision being made. people work hard to get their communities a “seat at the table”, which means being represented or recognized.