Tag Archives: safe space

Post the Thirty-Third or On the Importance of QPOC Space

This world is not safe for most of us. For most of us, we are constantly being harassed, assaulted and otherwise harmed, either overtly or covertly. This world is constantly attacking us; through messages from the media, through small, seemingly harmless words. Through physical murder and rape. Through the continued colonization of Third World people, both here in Ameríca and abroad.

Moreover, we are constantly carrying the baggage that that history of oppression, colonization and subjugation gives us. And we always have our armor in place. Armor that chafes and restricts us from growth. Armor that keeps us from making a true connection with other people, people like us. But it is an armor that is absolutely necessary. For without it, we are defenseless against those everyday assaults. We are naked before the sword of oppression. And we are torn to ribbons. There are many draw backs to that armor, and it isn’t a perfect defense, but it at least keeps us safe, keeps us from losing our minds in this world that hates us.

And most of us don’t even know we have it until the opportunity to take it off presents itself to us.

We’ve had this armor on for so long, since our earliest childhood days, that it becomes normal. The armor becomes a seamless part of our being. How could it not, when it has always been there? Perhaps we feel its tightness when we get close to someone, feel the armor scrape against someone else’s but its so commonplace and so subtle that we dismiss it. We fail to realize the way we restrict ourselves.

In my case, it wasn’t until I entered a space that held only Queer People of Color that I finally realized the heaviness of the armor. It was only when I was surrounded solely by people who have experienced the same type of oppression that I had experience, who had baggage and armor similar to mine, that I realized how much SHIT I carried around with me everyday.

And in that space, I was finally able to put it down. I was able to let go of the armor and the baggage and allow myself to be vulnerable. It was in that space that I was able to grow and expand in ways that I never thought would be possible.

This is why QPOC only space is so important. Because it allows a healing that is not possible when white, straight, cisgender people are present. This is because even if they are the staunchest of allies, even if they are the most amazing of anti-racists, the history oppression and colonization that they hold in their skin, a history that cannot be erased or forgotten, is made apparent in many, many subconscious and subtle ways. Because we have been socialized since birth to place white people first, whether it be the first helpings of a meal or the most space in a conversation, we do not even know that we are doing it (and at times neither do they). And this subconscious knee-jerk reaction makes it impossible to put down the armor and baggage and allow for growth and expansion.

Now, I know what you are going to say. You are going to say, “Morgan! You are being a reverse racist! White is a color too!” And to that I would respond that reverse racism is impossible. It is impossible because racism is a system that involves institutional power. That power is held by white people. I can’t be racist against white people because I don’t have the systemic power to be racist. The other reason for the exlusion of white people, other than the ones already mentioned, is because every space that one walks into is a white space. This is because white is the societal default for people, spaces, things. When I say person, the image that pops into your head automatically is a white man (specifically heterosexual and cisgender). So it is with spaces. When I say “we all got together at my place”, the hypothetical “we all” is primarily, or all, white.

For that reason, it is important to state that it is a POC space. We need to carve out that space for ourselves because it is not given to us. We need to delineate those boundaries because no one else will do it for us. Not only that but any space given to us by white people is not a claiming of safe space. It is a segregation and ghettoization. It is relegating us to the back of the bus. When we claim that space for ourselves, by ourselves we creating a thorny island within the greater, mainstream, white context.

And if we are going to do the work that needs to be done to transform this world into the truly equitable world it needs to be, then we need these safe spaces. We need them to recharge, to facilitate self-care and healing. We need these spaces to regroup and come together as family so that we can be effective and transformative in our work.

We need these spaces to live and thrive.

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Post the Twenty-Fifth or On the Merits of Community Organizing

com·mu·ni·ty

[kuh-myoo-ni-tee]  Show IPA

noun, plural -ties.

1.a social group of any size whose members reside in a specific locality, share government, and often have a common cultural and historical heritage.

2.a social, religious, occupational, or other group sharing common characteristics or interests and perceived orperceiving itself as distinct in some respect from the larger society within which it exists (usually preceded by the).

or·gan·ize

[awr-guh-nahyz] , -ized, -iz·ing.

verb (used with object)

1. To form as or into a whole consisting of interdependent or coordinated parts, especially for united action.

2. To enlist or attempt to enlist into a labor union.

Community organizing is about recognizing the power that we have as a people. It is about recognizing the immense spiritual and emotional power that we have. It is also about taking different forms of power back into the hands of the people. Whether that be institutional power or the power that comes from being visible, from being recognized as a people. Community organizing is the act of getting people mobilized to make systemic change in their communities and in communities beyond.

I am a community organizer. Nothing gives me greater joy than to see a group of oppressed folks get together and talk about how we can make our space not only safe but also transformative. Nothing is so healing for me than seeing my people gather together for a common cause. To see relationships and coalitions build around me to create change. This kind of work heals me because it demonstrates to me that I am not alone. It shows me that there are people like me, who think in was similar to mine and who are invested in making the world a better place.

This world constantly oppresses us in many subtle and corrosive ways, and one of the most damaging messages that we receive is that we are alone. That we are are abnormal, freakish and strange and that we are the only ones in the world that have this sort of existence, this sort of body. And for many oppressed folks, myself included, this message is so ingrained in our personal and collective psyches that we often think that we are, in fact, the only ones.

The reason why community organizing is so healing for me is because it dispels that myth. It rewrites the programing of my psyche so that I can fully reject that message of isolation and know it to be false. It shows me, quite viscerally, that I am not alone and that these people share my story in ways that may not be specific, but are similar in tenor and tone. The other reason why it is healing is because it allows me to take off the armor that I have to wear in my everyday life. It allows me to take off an armor that I have been wearing for so long, I have forgotten that I am even wearing it. Because of our shared experience, I am able to be vulnerable in ways that I cannot allow myself to be when interacting with people that have privileged bodies. And that vulnerability allows me to grow and expand in ways that would not be possible because of all the armor that I must wear to survive.

Community organizing is more than just healing work, it is transformative work. When oppressed communities organize by themselves for themselves, movements are created. Change is enacted when oppressed people work together in concert. Spaces are reclaimed and power is taken back.

When communities organize, change occurs.

Those in power are terrified of this change, of the power that we hold if only we claim it. And with good reason. For once power is reclaimed and shared, they lose their ill-gained and oppressive power. I was fired last week for this work. I was one of the louder and more visible member of a community of people who wanted to revolutionize the way my organization was run, which was from a top-down management system to a bottom-up member vested management system, where the power resided with the constituents and they were in charge of the direction of the organization.

I was fired because I threatened the status quo and challenged those in power.

But they cannot fire all of us. And least of all the young people. I might have been fired but the movement continues and I would encourage all those involved to double their efforts to keep those in power accountable and to create the change that they want to see. They fired me because we were getting to them, we were being effective. They wanted to derail our movement. Do not let them do that.

The biggest merit of community organizing is that if one falls, many take hir place. Community organizing is about communities and what communities wants. All it takes is momentum. All it takes is for people to step up and recognize that we are never alone.