Tag Archives: activism

Breaking Down Intersectionality

Because it always takes some practice.

During our second event in our  For the Love of Justice series, we wanted to jump right into our session by asking “What does intersectionality mean to you.”  However, we realized that intersectionality is such a loaded question. We didn’t want to the audience to feel disconnected and removed from the notion if they hadn’t already understood the academic, collegiate context of the concept. Yet, we knew that though people might not be familiar with the actual term – we all experience intersectionality and it helps us see the ways we’re empowered and disempowered. However the people that need to understand it the most may not even know what this scholarly term is that activists have come to use in such frequency.

So we realized we had to start smaller to go bigger. To make this concept more accessible to a larger community, we needed to break down intersectionality in more simpler terms. How do we bring people closer to that word, who DO experience it daily, who needs to understand the concept the most, who should be equipped with the language –  without sounding so anthropological about it?

We started backwards. We first asked: What do people know about you… and what do they draw from that? How do you see the world and how do you move through the world?

And if we broke it down further… we realized that intersectionality really is:

  • The understanding of an entire person
  • Having no hierarchy of your identities. You are all those things at once.
  • How your race, culture, class, gender affects you and how people interact with you.
  • How it’s not JUST reduced to culture, race, class, and gender….
  • How it’s ALL the elements and experiences of the entire person, their actions, their thinking.

And we came to the conclusion that when talking about intersectionality it really is understanding who you are. It is simply your lived experience and it shapes how you intersect, interact, and view the world. It put a focus on the empowerment component of intersectionality and was an opportunity to define intersectionality by however the individual wanted to be defined. So instead of asking “what intersectionality meant to you” at the beginning of our session – we just prompted the question with “I Am…..” allowing themselves to define whatever, however they wanted to be.

Facilitating Someone Else’s Process: Helpful Guideposts

By Carmen Morgan, LDIR Program Director

Setting the Tone
We cannot force someone to become enlightened, transformed, or aware. Our only role is to create the path by which someone can walk towards their own self- awareness. As we create that path, we should acknowledge and be aware that we are also walking that path ourselves. Our own journey continues. Our own awareness process is not over.

If we come to this work with an attitude of one-ups-manship, or as the “enlightened teacher” we will not be truly effective. If we come to this work with the humility and grace that was afforded to us as we learned about ourselves, as it is afforded to us even now as we continue to learn about ourselves, then we can do some good.

Having an Open Heart
Many of us believe strongly that the nature of our work is on the side of justice. Because we are committed to values of truth, equity, and fairness, it is easy for us as activists to become headstrong and self-righteous. It is no wonder we often do not model the values that we profess. We are angry, justified, indignant, and often burned out. And this cycle continues. The truth is that a self-righteous activist is not helpful. A self-righteous community worker is not helpful. A self-righteous, angry facilitator is not helpful.

Nor is it helpful that we position ourselves as martyrs who will burn out without self-care. And while our anger towards injustice is justified, it can often get in the way of building relationships with people. When did the issue become the person? How can we work against injustice without working against each other and ourselves? This is our greatest task.

Showing up with Grace
So then, how do we show up? We show up as a part of the process we are guiding. We are not separate from or above, merely guides. We show up with compassion and with a commitment to honor the individual, the process, and the group. All three are intertwined and invaluable. What is not valuable is our own ego or desire to control the process or an individual’s journey. “Why don’t they get it?” we might inquire. Well, why don’t we get it?

We show up with a listening ear. It’s really not our airtime or grand opportunity to expound on our wisdom. Let your wisdom shine quietly. As facilitators we can create dynamic processes and hold up powerful questions for reflection, and then step back. It’s helpful for us to keep asking ourselves, Why am I still speaking? Did I really hear what was shared? Active listening takes a tremendous amount of energy – more energy than it takes to speak. When in doubt, err on the side of listening.

Lastly, and most importantly, show up with a commitment for self-care. We must commit to continuing our own learning and healing. We need to be clear about our own limitations and when we need support. It does not mean that we become selfish, but that we remain self-aware and remember that our own journey is unfolding. We are not martyrs.

1/26/13 Come to a LDIR workshop at UC Irvine!

Asian Pacific American Awareness Conference

On Saturday, January 26, LDIR will be presenting an interactive workshop, “Activist Essentials: Becoming a Proactive Ally” at 11am and 2pm as part of the annual Asian Pacific Awareness Conference at UC Irvine.

It costs only $5 to register for the conference, so sign up and join us for some short, but sweet awareness and skills building.

Here’s the full workshop description:

Activist Essentials: Becoming a Proactive Ally

What does it take to be a truly collaborative leader? Whether or not we’re aware of it, we often come to collaboration and movement building with our own biases, stereotypes, and oppressive ways of thinking. This interactive workshop challenges participants to locate themselves and interrupt the urge to be passive about privilege and oppression, so that we can begin to figure out how to actively and meaningfully organize in solidarity with one another.