The work Beyond ‘The Work’

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by adélàjà simon

Nou Pase Kay Etranje
Hougan Sydney, January 31, 2016

Nou pase kay etranje
Nou jwenn pitit nou
Ap bale pa pòt
Nou chita nan salon etranje
Nou w
è table nou
Kwoke sou mi
Nou tande mizik nou ap sot nan gagann yo
N-antre nan kizin etranje

Nou jwenn toutrèl nou
Ap kwit nan chodyè yo
Yo ta chode toutrèl lavi-n

Yo ta toufe zwezo bèlte-n
Men gen moun ki pase
Chodyè -a dekouvri 
Toutrèl vole l-ale
Sou dife a-l kite
Yon chodyè ki vid k-ap boule

We go up a foreigner’s steps
And find our children
Sweeping his floor
We pass through a foreigner’s house
And find our paintings
On his wall
We hear our music coming from his gullet
We enter a foreigner’s kitchen
And find our dove
In his cooking pot
He’s trying to cook our bird alive

He’s trying to smother our wild dove
Someone’s lifting the lid
The dove’s escaping
The dove’s escaping
Leaving on the fire
An empty pot that is burning.

It is very curious to me how much folks want to hear about the three POC cohorts in the Work that Reconnects. Exploring that topic was my original invitation to writing this article.

Many in this cultural context dream of a workshop where they are in a space with peoples of all ‘colors’ singing together in harmony…is that you? In that same dream, do you imagine which language(s) will be spoken? English…Spanish? Both dominator languages forced on the majority of peoples through physical and/or economic violence. Do you feel the weight of what is lost in service of assimilation for that dream to happen – looking at merely the one variable of language?


Some of the impacts of colonialism and assimilation? [i]

On one hand, I experience interest in those cohorts as a beautiful impetus, on another hand, I experience it as being asked how to best set up a mission school

I do not use that metaphor lightly as one whose family has been greatly impacted by the mission school system through the Anglican as well as Catholic churches. My Yoruba great grandfather was ripped from traditional Yoruba ways by Anglican missionaries and taught to keep future generations separate from everything of those ways except what is above the surface. My Ayisyen great grandfather was practicing from a revolutionary vodoun cosmology during the time that the U.S. occupied the island of Ayiti. This occupation [ii] literally paved the roads for current economic woes, and demonization of vodou in his lifetime and beyond.

Learning and living with Patricia St. Onge [iii] at Nafsi ya Jamii has taught me much about the layers of the landscape of culture, and learning to navigate it. Pat speaks of the separation from ancestral land, language and legacy as the ‘three legged stool’ that the ‘Industrial Growth Society’ [iv] or ‘Imperialist White-Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy’ [v]  is built upon. 

the separation from ancestral land, language and legacy as the ‘three legged stool’ that the ‘Industrial Growth Society’ or ‘Imperialist White-Supremacist Capitalist Patriarchy’ is built upon. What emerges once this three legged stool is created in our psyches can be characterized as Wetiko. 

What emerges once this three legged stool is created in our psyches can be characterized as Wetiko [vi]. This is a Cree or Algonquin word used to describe a psychic infection which leads to a condition that externalizes and replays the particulars of it’s formation. This replay of traumatic events is inviting those enmeshed in the dominant culture into the center of our own healing. When I use the word white, I use it as a synonym for Wetiko.   

The neocolonial energy in Yorubaland forced my father to separate from his traditions in it’s sanctioned schools, then led my father to the U.S. He now experiences the decision to leave Yorubaland as one of his biggest regrets. My grandfather had already died before my meeting him in this realm to learn his stories and my grandmother may as well if I do not make it to Yorubaland soon. Intergenerational transmission is one of the many major impacts of assimilation.

The earth centered energy of vodou and the way that that cosmology was held through my great grandfather molded my mother. She raised my siblings and I knowing some of our interrelationship with the ancestral realm, plant realm and spirits. My siblings and I were forged in the heat of their conflicting world views.

This is a very small window into my own story, and, experiencing its multidimensionality leaves me doing my best to reclaim those traditions before they are too far lost.

Reaching across time and space, with one hand grasping the hand of my paternal great grandfather and his father and the other grasping the hand of my maternal great grandfather, encircled in the collective ancestral village.

Reaching across time and space, with one hand grasping the hand of my paternal great grandfather and his father and the other grasping the hand of my maternal great grandfather, encircled in the collective ancestral village. This speaks to one aspect of the meaning of my first given name: adélàjà, the one who settles a dispute between mother and father.

You may identify with the missionary in these images, wanting to defend them. Or maybe with my mother or father. You may want to stand up for the Yoruba, identify with the Ayisyen or bash the church. Rather than do any of those things, I invite you to get intimate with your story, with the unconscious urges in yourself, your family and in this culture and bring them to consciousness.

I invite you to get intimate with your story, with the unconscious urges in yourself, your family and in this culture and bring them to consciousness.


Bringing the unconscious to consciousness.

A teacher, Malidoma Somé, [vii] speaks of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, in one dimension, as white folks being called to Africa in search of healing. Because the urge was (is) unconscious it’s easy to mislabel and align with the imperial impulse of the time. We can see this unconscious dynamic continuing in many ways. Specific to this article, it can be seen in the urge to diversify spaces – including the container for WTR. Once again, Wetiko is highly contagious.  

The tribal elders of the Dagara (Malidoma’s tribe) and other tribes have sent emissaries to this dominant culture, and in particular to the U.S., to share their wisdom as an attempt to heal Wetiko and reweave the three realms that have become the three legs of the stool: connection to ancestral land, legacy and language. This work of tribal elders goes on, by many recognizing that they will likely not make it through this current advance of industrial ‘civilization’ intact…

My great grandfather Papa Jo has taught me that there are agreements implicit in consumption: to preserve the life of that which you consume, and to integrate it as deeply as is possible.

This can be seen as relatively straight forward in some senses: eating from an apple tree, I want to preserve the life of this tree, to share and preserve the fruit rather than waste. Looking at the industrial agricultural machine, this itself is revolutionary, and we are being asked to drop deeper. Being asked to drop our awareness to the level of the soil and the microbes that live there to the intrinsic water cycle that provides for the land. Wider yet, there are over 7,500 types of apples eaten worldwide, and at least that many cultural containers for the flavors and stories connected with these fruits. There is also a much wider living ecologic system of which this tree is a part. As we widen our lenses to experience the nourishment received, let’s tend our own many layered forest of stories.

Staying with the topic of consumption, I will speak a bit on music. Listening to pop music with an informed ear, you can hear the strong influence of the blues. In the last few years, more and more you can hear artists’ pseudo Caribbean accents and rhythms. These are rhythms that emerged from ways of being that have specific contexts and meanings, carried in the heartbeats of enslaved peoples to support connection amidst atrocities. Extracted from their roots, they very quickly become feel good music, or with a wider view, feel good food, dance, clothing, parlance…all while erasing the people and places that birthed them – as well as the impact that dehumanization brought and continues to bring to all. The stories that animate the WTR or any other body of work, walk this same line and very often repeat this pattern of erasure.

Switching back to the unconscious urge that brought white folks to the continent, honoring what you have consumed is not unconscious integration into a ‘melting pot’ of rootless music or ‘spirituality.’ Honoring is fully integrating what we have received and using it as a signpost pointing back toward ancestors of blood and forward toward future ones as part of the rooted structure of “Life Sustaining Systems.”

The Work that Reconnects is an introduction to many aspects of what a healthy culture could look like – it is NOT an end point.

Ancestors: According to my traditions of blood, we have an obligation to ancestors of blood, ancestors of place, and ancestors of spirit/psyche/cultural orientation in this order. On one level, the absence of fulfilling that obligation results in the kind of socio-ecologic disconnect that we see today.

How is your life specifically impacted by your ancestors? What is passed down the line for you? Specific gifts? Challenges? Take this opportunity to learn, bringing either or both to conscious work versus sending to the next generation unacknowledged. Return to a consistent practice of honoring and communing with them. [v][vi]

Family: The field of Epigenetics teaches us much. Specific to this article, it teaches us about emotion as well as survival strategies passed down the blood line for survival. How are you unpacking this and the way it lives in your family? Post traumatic Slave Syndrome [ix] and Wetiko, how is your family system informed by these? In these places are gifts of connection and power waiting to be healed (brought toward wholeness from fragmentation).  Addictions, from substances to work to sex, stem from them. A clear and consistent practice is needed for each of us to attend to this important and ongoing work. Step into a role of healing your family system.


Community: What is the biggest issue in your neigborhood? What is your role in it? Your ancestors of blood’s role? Family’s? Social group(s)’? Do you understand the issue and its nuances? How are you leveraging your influence to stand for justice in this moment? Are you using this opportunity to enact healing or further fragmentation?

Gentrification comes to mind as one of the major social issues where I have been living in the so called ‘San Francisco’ Bay area. This is ecological destruction. Stories in place are being buried and lost as people who do not have connection to the place move in and contribute – mostly unconsciously – to displacement. This displacement in this place is a continuation of the displacement and erasure started by the Spanish and continued by the U.S. ‘western expansion’.

There are no observers in this cosmos. If you see on the faces of each person being displaced and now living in the streets an ancestor one, two, three, or four generations back, can you still step over them on your way to the coffee shop in Oakland feeling good about giving them a dollar, knowing that they hold stories about the particular ways that this place knows itself through the people? What does this same issue mean for folks indigenous to Huichin who have been systematically denied access to their own ancestral homeland and sacred sites? We all participate in some way, every day, with every issue facing us today. Embed your worldview in every aspect of your lifeway. [x]

Closing

This may seem like a lot of work…! And yet, there is nothing here that is unnecessary and so much more that is not included!

This highlights the need for eco/soulcentric [xii] communities that are committed first and foremost to supporting each other in this healing work…and from that place of wholeness burning away all of the ways of being – inner and outer that stand in the way of embodiment of our individual and collective human place in earth life. There are some ideas for framing this transition below. [x][xi]

I have heard many facilitators as well as participants in this work (and many other bodies of work) speak to the container created being the only place where they are seen or fully actualized. I challenge those reading this with that belief to take on the tasks above, using the containers created within the Work that Reconnects Intensives or programs as merely a starting point.  


There is nothing to lose. Grief and a whole slew of emotions are inviting us to step into conscious service of life. One could say that the story of western civilization is the story of the spread of Wetiko. Is the comfort of this life for this moment worth that level of destruction? The Work That Reconnects invites us each to broaden our identification. Let’s use our understanding of ourselves as ‘living members of a living earth’ to, as Joanna has said, ‘Build the new within the shell of the old.’

Standing on the threshold of ecological collapse, watching the shadow of the ‘Western’ psyche play out in the political, social and economic systems of the world stage, I offer this small contribution to a movement in service of life.

I challenge you to forgo ego [xii] aggrandizement, to make a commitment like Dawna Markova below in honor of all that has brought us to this moment, and all that beckons us into the future. I challenge you to attend the multidimensional work of healing, and take big risks in service of life. I challenge you to uplift the immense privilege of being conscious stewards during this pivotal moment in the story of human planetary interrelationship. It is from this place, that true cross-cultural communion emerges.

‘I will not die an unlived life
I will not live in fear of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days, to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid, more accessible,
to loosen my heart until it becomes a wing, a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
to live so that which came to me as a seed
goes to the next as a blossom
and that which came to me as a blossom, goes on as fruit.’
– Dawna Markova [xiii]

End notes
[i] Cultural assimilation is the process by which a person’s or group’s culture come to resemble those of another group. The term is used to refer to both individuals and groups; the latter case can refer to either immigrants or native residents that come to be culturally dominated by another society. Cultural assimilation may involve either a quick or gradual change depending on circumstances of the group. Full assimilation occurs when new members of a society become indistinguishable from members of the other group.

Parisi, Domenico, Federico Cecconi, and Francesco Natale. “Cultural change in spatial environments: the role of cultural assimilation and internal changes in cultures.”Journal of Conflict Resolution 47.2 (2003): 163-179.

[ii] Danto, Ezili, http://www.ezilidanto.com/2015/07/100th-anniversary-of-the-us-occupation-of-haiti/
[iii] Seven Generations Consulting, http://www.seven-generations.org/

[iv] Macy, Joanna, “Coming Back to Life: The updated Guide to the Work that Reconnects” (2014): 137.

[v] hooks, bell, “Feminist Theory: From Margin to Center” (1984): 14.

[vi] Forbes, Jack, “Columbus and other Cannibals” (1978): 46.

[vii] Malidoma Somé, “The Healing Wisdom of Africa” (1998), http:www.malidoma.com

[viii] Daniel Foor, http://ancestralmedicine.org/

[ix] Degruy, Joy, “Post traumatic Slave Syndrome” (2005)

[x] adélàjà simon, http://emergeazurescens.life

[xi] Movement Generation Just Transition Framework, http://movementgen.electricembers.net/justtransition/

[xii] Plotkin, Bill, “Soulcraft: Crossing into the Mysteries of Nature and Psyche” (2003): Ch. 2,  http://www.natureandthehumansoul.com/newbook/chapter2_sc.htm

[xiii] Markova, Dawna, “I will not Die an Unlived Life: Reclaiming Purpose and Passion” (2000): 1.


Raised in Baltimore, adélàjà is a first generation U.S.born Yoruba, Arawak and Ayisyen descended being working to use this body and this life as a vessel to lift others up and explore the questions, “What do truly regenerative, place-based human cultures that are rooted in ancestral wisdom and aligned with the evolutionary impulse look like?” “How can we align our lives with manifesting these cultures?” adélàjà is currently studying with the Animas Valley Institute, working with Growing Together to plant fruiting trees in community spaces around Oakland and offering a practice at emergeazurescens.

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