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Liberatory Practice: Locating oneself

Eva Fiallos-Diaz, LCSW


In my organizing and activism work I’ve had the opportunity and honor to access and learn from a number of contemporary movement makers. Though I had been working on internally “locating” myself, I first formally practiced “locating” myself among peers at the 2017 Communities of Color (CoC) Roundtable led by the Resource Sharing Project (RSP). In particular, a workshop co-facilitated by Denise Loya and Rick Gipprich of the Texas Association Against Sexual Assault (TAASA). Later, I deepened this practice by participating in Move To End Violence’s virtual, self-paced Racial Equity and Liberation series. 


My biggest takeaways from these practices are about expansiveness. Widening the container that holds me so it can hold all that I am. That understanding allows us, allows me, to see that potential in all individuals. Though it must start with an internal desire, curiosity, and willingness to see yourself as more than a single-storied individual, that expansiveness translates to an understanding of the greater context that exists around us and shapes our thoughts, understanding, feelings, and behavior. This is as true for healing individual trauma as it is for healing historical and intergenerational trauma. We are more than the sum of our parts. We need connection and belonging to be well.


Liberation is an “us.” Embracing my multicultural identity means understanding the parts of me that hurt because they have been systematically suppressed, denied, and/or erased. Yet, they still exist and speak to me. Sometimes I (we) am (are) unfamiliar with their language. This means an acceptance that I am a mixed ethnic and race individual, even when I may not appear it to others and understanding the privilege and duty that comes with being that sort of bridge between identities. Surrounding myself with safe people to be able to do the work. Taking up space when it is safer for me to do so. Providing that space for others when what I am called to do is be a buffer, protection, and to hold the line (or circle). 


Liberatory practice is getting acquainted with the land you’re on. Learning what other nonhuman kin live on it. What do they need to survive? Listening to how the land wants to be loved, engaging in loving it daily, expressing gratitude, and noticing how it protests mistreatment. Learning whose bodies shaped this land, loved it, before you. What did they call it? Where are they now? How do they heal? All this knowing is remembrance and also a seed we can plant and watch grow.


We will do harm because we are imperfect beings. The call is to do better when we are called in, when we learn we could do better. Whether it is accidentally planting a bunch of sword ferns in the yard (oops) or otherwise. Repairing harm is an additional practice to cultivate.


PRACTICE


Take 15-30 minutes to journal or create something that explores the following questions:


Who are you? Who are your people? What are the traditions that are important to you? How do you identify yourself? How do others identify you? Are there parts of you, or stories, that are hyper visible? What parts of you, or stories, are less visible or hidden? What stories are you curious about? How does your story intersect with forms of oppression (racism, sexism, ableism, classism, etc.)? What feels clear? What questions do you have that remain unanswered? How do you engage in gratitude?


Gratitude and Resources


Tallahassee, Florida, where I live and practice, was called Anhaica, “place of the strong or elite” by its ancestral caretakers. "Tallahassee" is a Itsate word (Tula-hiwalse) meaning “town of the highlanders.” The Apalachee have been found to be related to the Ashaninka of Peru, Southern Arawaks. We honor and appreciate the Apalachee and Mvskoke (Muscogee-Creek) who are the original Indigenous people of this settler-occupied, unceded land. To learn about the indigenous peoples of where you live, visit https://native-land.ca/


To learn more about Tallahassee’s Mvoskoke culture you may also visit The Wildwood Preservation Society at The Museum at Fred George Basin Greenway and Park. If you can, catch any of Misty Penton’s presentations. Misty Penton is a bioarcheologist and designated storyteller for the Muscogee Tribe of Florida.https://themuseumatfredgeorge.com/ 


Misty Penton was also instrumental in creating the Molly of Denali Virtual Museum which features Muscogee traditions such as traditional shell carving and storytelling. Anytime Program: Molly of Denali Virtual Museum – WFSU Education & Engagement 


To get a feel for the Mvoskoke (Creek) language: Mvskoke (Creek) Language Chart 


By 1860 enslaved people in Leon County exceeded 9,000, outnumbering white people by almost three to one. You can learn more about Tallahassee’s history with slavery and the rich cultural history that Black and African American helped shape in Tallahassee by visiting the 

Meek-Eaton Black Archives Research Center and Museum and its collection and the The Riley Center and Museum, among many other sites in Tallahassee.

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