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Emotional Justice – We All Need It

2 Dec

TAKEN FROM THE CRUNK FEMINIST COLLECTIVE BLOG

The Immediate Need For Emotional Justice
Guest Post by Yolo Akili

Oppression is trauma. Every form of inequity has a traumatic impact on the psychology, emotionality and spirituality of the oppressed. The impact of oppressive trauma creates cultural and individual wounding. This wounding produces what many have called a  “pain body”, a psychic energy that is not tangible but can be sensed, that becomes an impediment to the individual and collective’s ability to transform and negotiate their conditions.

Emotional justice is about working with this wounding. It is about inviting us into our feelings and our bodies, and finding ways to transform our collective and individual pains into power. Emotional justice requires that we find the feeling behind the theories. It calls on us to not just speak to why something is problematic, but to speak to the emotional texture of how it impact us; how it hurts, or how it brings us joy or nourishment. Emotional Justice is very difficult for many activists, because historically most activist spaces have privileged the intellect and logic over feeling and intuition. This is directly connected to sexism and misogyny, because feeling and intuition are culturally and psychologically linked to the construct of “woman”, a construct that we have all been taught to invalidate and silence. So by extension we invalidate and silence the parts that we link to “woman” in ourselves: our feelings, our intuition, and our irrationality.

This disdain leads to many things: a dismissal or minimization of our own and other’s feelings, a fear of revealing oneself as “emotional” (instead of as sternly logical) and a culture of “just suck up your feelings” or shrug them off. All of these responses to our emotions have consequences that contribute to a range of emotional and spiritual stressors which impact our lives.  In this article I am going to focus exclusively on the reasons I believe activist communities struggle with emotional justice and why the integration of our emotional selves into our activist work can’t wait.

Reasons I believe activist communities struggle with emotional justice

1. Activist Organizations Are Often Over-capacity
Many grass roots organizations and non-profits operate with a small staff that is expected to complete herculean tasks. This expectation leads to fatigue, stress and emotional imbalance. Asking to add emotional justice discourse(s) to the workplace/organizing is seen as a waste of time when organizations are trying to survive and fulfill grant/monetary obligations with limited resources. Yet it is an emotional discourse that could offer many movements opportunities for self-evaluation, especially as it relates to perpetuating models of capitalist productivity that they are often seeking to end.  Regular guided dialogues and retreats must become a priority and should be led by outside consult. They can help build connections, clarify the mission(s) and re-invigorate the collective.

2. Emotional Justice Has No Succinct Time Line
There simply is no timeline that can be put on someone else’s healing. Within an emotional justice framework, someone is able to bring up their pain as they feel the need. Our patriarchal emotional discourses will push back against this, however, and  will instead encourage us to deny, dismiss, and move on as quickly as possible from difficult emotions. Engaging emotional justice requires us to check this attitude within ourselves and develop ongoing strategies that allow us to express our concerns and feelings.

3. Emotions are Used as a Tool for those with Privilege to Avoid, Minimize or Escape Accountability
In an experience working with a group of queers on a racism project, a white identified cis gendered woman in the group would constantly break into tears whenever someone challenged her on the choices she was making that perpetuated racist themes. Her crying, which happened in several sessions, led to the entire group, especially the women of color, to comfort and assure her that she wasn’t a “bad person.”
Yet in the midst of attending to her emotional expressions, she continued to evade accountability and perpetuated the same dynamics. When she was challenged on her use of crying, she was able to come to an understanding that as a child crying had been a tactic she had used within her family to avoid being held responsible. This awareness led to her participate in the space in a much more accountable manner.
Stories like these happen all the time. Unfortunately in most spaces there are not always individuals with the skills to compassionately address these kind of emotional dynamics. This lack of skill prevents many from engaging emotional justice for fear they will get lost in these issues. This another reason seeking the support of healing justice/emotional justice educators is necessary.

4. Very Little Knowledge of the Emotional Body or Emotional Language
What is a feeling? What are the lessons they offer us? How can they invite us into ourselves? These are the questions that emotional justice guides us toward. Emotional justice can help many begin to work with their feelings in constructive ways that can help the movement as a whole.
An example: If someone asks many activists, what do you feel? The response may be something like,
“I feel like we just need to hurry up and make this thing happen because they keep on trying. yaddda yadda.”
But that was not a feeling. That was a thought. A feeling is one word. The feeling for this statement could be: “I am anxious, or I am frustrated”. Aiming directly for the feeling, as opposed to the thought around it, can help save time and address deeper issues.  If feelings are continually confused as thoughts, then the intellectual debate process kicks in, and before you know it, we are battling for philosophical dominance instead of saying that we are hurt.

5. Lack of Self-Awareness into how our own unique Psychological Frameworks, Trauma and Social locations inform our Interpretation of Reality
Journeying into our own narratives and seeing how they inform our current understandings of others around us can be  invaluable in times of challenge.  There are many tools for this;  one in which I find very effective is Psychological Astrology; as it invites us to explore, whether we believe in Astrology or not, what our motivations are, what we need to feel emotionally satisfied, the root of our personality conflicts with others, and how we express our aggression. This exploration can help us recognize an area of difference that is predicated on the ways in which we psychologically experience the world around us, a recognition that can help us understand and hear each other better in conflict situations.

6. Ideological Violence
“We were often poised and ready for attack, and not always in the most effective places.  When we disagreed with one another, we were far more vicious to each other than the common originators of our problem. ” -Audre Lorde

It is apparent from Audre Lorde’s words that ideological violence was a big problem for her generation. Many years later it continues to be, as unproductive ego wars rage amidst our movement spaces.
These ego wars (or as many of my friends say, “intellectual dick fights”) are for many apart of the academic environmental training that encourages us to battle for philosophical dominance. While debate in itself is healthy and can be empowering, the challenge here is that this “training” is colored with patriarchy and a “power over others” construct. Tactics such as Interrupting, yelling, belittling each other, and personal attacks, are dynamics of patriarchal communication and must be seen as the acts of emotional violence that they are.* As this is acknowledged, steps must be taken to train and understand assertive communication and the myriad of cultural communication styles that allow us to express our hurt, rage and frustration in ways that minimize harm.

Emotional Justice is not anything new to our movements. It is already being enacted in many spaces and in organizations all across the country.  My hope in writing this is that this work is expanded, illuminated and raised to a level of importance on par with our intellectual critiques.  It is my hope that we realize that just as we must construct new systems and institutions, we must also develop new ways of relating with each other and to our emotional selves. These models of relating will call on us to develope skills and  to work with our feelings, our trauma and our pain. It calls on us to recognize that emotional justice is an immediate need, not only for our movements, but for the world at large.

Yolo Akili is an Emotions Educator, Performance Artist, Practicing Astrologer, Yoga Teacher and long time activist. He can be reached at Yolo@yoloakili.com

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New Mandala Workshop by Loralei Rose @ FPAC 2011

2 Sep

Creating Your Personal Mandala: The Connection Between Self & Source

Sunday, September 11, 2011
2pm
Festival of Philippine Arts & Culture
@ Point Fermin Park, San Pedro
Babaylan Pavillion

What is a Mandala?

The word “Mandala” has its origins in Sanskrit and simply means “circle.”  The depiction of the mandala can be found in all religions and cultures as a circle, wheel, wreath, rotation, circulation, round dance, or just simply – dancing. (Mandalas for Power & Energy by Marion & Werner Kustenmacher)

Technically, a circle is defined by its center and a number of points that are the same distance from the center. As a religious symbol, the center of the circle is equated with God, the One, Source, etc. The circle itself represents our lives rotating around the center/Source which brings meaning to our everyday.

Join me at the Festival of Philippine Arts & Culture on Sunday, September 11, 2011 @ the Babaylan Pavillion @ 2pm to create your personal mandala. Using mixed media we will create visual representations of our lives rotating around the life-giving Source.

Hope you can make it out! It’s going to be a fun and inspiring day!

For more info on FPAC please visit www.filamarts.org

Inspire Me, Hafiz

7 Dec

Caught the poetry bug. Enjoy!

Hafiz, c. 1320 to 1389, a beautiful, mystic, Sufi poet from Persia

The Day Sky


Let us be like

Two falling stars in the day sky.

 

Let no one know of our sublime beauty

As we hold hands with God

And burn

 

Into a sacred existence that defies –

That surpasses

 

Every description of ecstasy

And love.

Faithful Lover


The moon came to me last night

With a sweet question.


She said,


“The sun has been my faithful lover

For millions of years.


Whenever I offer my body to him

Brilliant light pours from his heart.


Thousands then notice my happiness

And delight in pointing

Toward my beauty.


Hafiz,

Is it true that our destiny

Is to turn into Light

Itself?”


And I replied,


Dear moon,

Now that your love is maturing,

We need to sit together

Close like this more often


So I might instruct you

How to become

Who you

Are!

 

09.02.10 Poetry/Spoken Word + Music + heARTwork @ Common Ground Open Mic

23 Aug

Common Ground Open Mic. 09.02.10. Featuring heARTwork by loralei rose

Hellooooo Friends! If you are in or around the OC come thru to one of the newest open mic events, Common Ground. I will be taking my artwork down at the Coffee Studio in about a week and putting it up @ the VAALA Cultural Center on Sept. 2, 2010.

Prints will also be for sale.

Come kick it and enjoy a fabulous night of spoken word, music, and art. Hope to see some of the homies as well as make new friends.

What can I say? YAY for ART and EXPRESSION! Life would be colorless without them in the world. 🙂

EVENT INFO

09.02.10

7-9pm

@ VAALA CULTURAL CENTER

1600 N. Broadway Santa Ana, CA

*co-sponsored by the Vietnamese American Arts & Letters Association (VAALA)
*Doors open at 6pm. Open mic sign ups @ 6:30pm.
$5 suggested donations

common ground:
connecting communities through creative expressions.
We are a collective of community members, artists, and activists committed to cultivating positive
and safe space for artistic growth and community empowerment.
every first thursdays


I am Soultable

22 Jul

“ The artwork and artist, work and person, in every field of activity, are in a mutually creative relation to each other.

Each requires the other to give to and to communicate. The relation between a person and her

work is thus a living expression of dialogue.”

-Zinker

Every third Thursday, I pack an overnight bag and prepare for my monthly get away. I know, it is not fair. You must be thinking to yourself, “Why does Loralei get to go on vacay once a month?” Although you may not have thought those words precisely, you may at least have been asking yourself where I take these little vacations of mine.

Truth is, where I go technically isn’t a lavish R & R spot. Friday after work, I jump in my purple Scion and head out to a small office in Manhattan Beach for a weekend packed with activities regarding Expressive Arts Training techniques. I consider this time more like vacay or even something close to a retreat rather than school because the experience has a consciousness raising and even somewhat spiritual effect on me.

School, at least the type of school we have here in the US, which is based on power struggles, rewards and punishments, etc. is nothing like what I experience in these classes. Here, I get to learn about myself through various creative activities and really take time out for me. I can’t explain the high I feel when I am there and even after I leave. But all I can say is that in a society where we have to be on the grind 24-7 just to pay the bills, it feels good to be able to give back to myself every now and then.

STRING ART

In my last class, we focused on the VISUAL ARTS. I want to share a few of my creations as well as my experience with you all.

The piece below was created by dipping a piece of string into black india ink, painting with it, and then going back in and coloring it in with watercolor. Usually, artists are concerned with aesthetics balance, etc. However, here, I just let my mind go blank and let my feelings and intuition guide my process. The key to this technique was to NOT HAVE A PLAN and simply LET GO.

“Soultable”

When I first stepped back and looked at my piece, I was in awe. To me, it looked as though I had created a spinning heart-shaped turntable. This was meaningful to me because I viewed it as a gift from my subconscious. [ As I said, I had no plan when I began this piece. I was painting it purely for engaging in the act of creation.]

Music is mos def my supreme muse. When my piece revealed itself to me, it was as if the universe was confirming this deep and meaningful relationship.


If you turn the painting upside down, the heart now resembles the “BA” symbol in baybayin, the Filipino indigenous writing system. It is believed that shape within an ancient fertility symbol called the lingling-o, evolved to become the symbol of BA. The baybayin BA symbol represents the sound for “ba” the syllable found in girl or female in several Filipino dialects, for example Babae (tagalog) and Ba-i or Bai (Visayan).

Looking at it from this perspective also touches me deeply. A few months ago I attended the Babaylan Conference in Sonoma. That weekend was synchronistic and unbelievably magical. I was able to meet fabulous women who inspired me to continue along my journey towards wholeness. I learned so much about the relationship between Filipino psychology, spirituality, healing arts, and expressive arts. It was only fitting that this subconscious painting lead me towards those memories and confirm to me that I am along the right path.

I am so thankful to have art in my life. Without it, I don’t think I would be who I am today. Art is so integral to my being. In the process of creativity, I get lost and I find myself.

Transcending Time/ Space

15 Jul

I remember gazing into the mountains of Honolulu. I could sit for hours, alone, just me, my journal and the mountains. Staring off into the green that would often be covered by a faint fog, I would get lost in the moment. It was as if the mountains’ existence had the power to transcend space and time. When I sat with her I felt whole. I felt alive in my body. I felt at one with nature, my spirit, and the divine source….This was in 2003, when I studied at UH for the summer, a summer  wrapped in transcendent love.

Lately, I have been longing to feel this deep spiritual connection once again. I receive it in other ways, but it’s just not the same. I miss being able to commune with nature as easily as it was in Hawaii. There, everything around me was lush and green. Here, I see stark buildings and telephone polls. But despite this, I do my best to connect to my surroundings and allow the intense yet calming energy of the universe to enter my body. When it does, I sense the presence of the ancestors and how we are all ONE. It is a feeling of pure joy and bliss.

I have been thinking about how expressive arts and music has the same effect on me. When I create through the power of dance, song, writing, or visual art I feel the time/space transcendence. I get lost in the moment and know of nothing else besides the deep connection between by creation and the divine. To me, it is important to spend both time outdoors with nature and indoors engaging in the creative process. In these elements, I find myself. I understand my connection to the universe and to community. I engage with love at it’s purest form and know from within my core that we and the universe are ONE.

Sacred Life

17 May

This past Saturday I was informed of the passing of inspirational woman, Tam Tran, who I was fortunate to get to know while working together in Americorps through the Public Allies, Los Angeles program. Tam was truly a strong and fierce spirit, dedicating her time advocating for social justice, particularly immigrant rights.

I recall her telling the story of how her and her family’s immigrant experience moved her to become an advocate for others. Here is a video of Tam speaking on immigrant rights.

However, not only did I see Tam as dedicated activist, I have to say, she had a quirky personality to her. I also noticed her urbanista fashion sense. I would often wonder how she found such cool boots and oxfords in the thrift stores. 🙂

Now, what I failed to mention earlier was that I found out about her death when I was at a wedding with a few of our former co-workers. Sitting in a trench of emotional juxtaposition, I was reminded again of how SACRED life is. The message that life must be lived to the fullest in every moment rang loud. We can’t control when the universe calls us back into our spirit forms. But, we can control how we live our daily lives and make sure the breaths we take in our human form are not wasted.

Tam you will be missed. When I think of you, I think of a womyn who lived indefinitely in the moment and didn’t waste a breath on the trivial.
Thank you for all you have taught me and the community through your life.

LINK to Article on Tam

05.18.10 Tuesday Night Cafe will be dedicated to Tam

[Tam, I heart this pix of u!]

A Morning Mantra

5 Apr

Waking up this morning I smile 24 brand new hours before me. I vow to live fully in each moment and look at being with eyes of compassion.

This quote sits above my desk. Yet, somehow I often overlook it. As I write this I ponder the effects saying this every morning would have on the outcome of my day. I believe in energy and that we manifest our reality through our thoughts. Lately, I have been trying to stay on the positive thought tip and have been trying different techniques. This mantra is one I am definitely going to attempt as I continue to look inside me to maintain peace and balance.

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