From hopelessness to revolutionary optimism.
I want to build a world where we are safe to be our fullest selves. Where we are liberated from the shame and guilt forced upon us by oppressive systems. I want to build a world where our histories and existences are celebrated and honored, where we feel genuinely held by our communities. I want a world where there is no domination, but instead, the ability to freely decide our own destiny.
As I work through what it takes to truly build a world like this, I am transported back to the summer of 2022. I am a new Summer Organizer with LavNix, eagerly waiting for my favorite time of the week—our Brown Bag Lunch—where we get to listen to the beautiful “River of Life” stories my fellow Summer Organizers are presenting. During this hour each week, I am filled with neverending tears that ruin my eyeliner, accompanied by big beautiful emotions that won’t translate over my lagging Zoom connection.
As I listen to everyone talk about their queerness, their homelands, their communities, and their journey before finding LavNix, I am filled with a deep sense of belonging. The best I can do is send a private message to each person who shares and say: hey, that was really beautiful and i am so honored that you trusted us to listen. i could listen to you talk about what brought you to this current moment for hours. i learned so much from you and i am so happy that you’re here with us today to share your story. As I look around the Zoom, I see everyone else tearing up and sending affirmations in the chat, along with loving heart emoji reactions on their Zoom squares. I feel so grateful to be in a community like this. I feel so safe knowing that spaces like this exist. I feel hopeful knowing that we’re building a world where we can always feel this full.
As the summer progresses, the week approaches to present my own “River of Life”. Instead of a peaceful flowing river, it feels more like a raging river that drops down to a 2,000 ft waterfall without warning. I consider rescheduling because the thought of presenting makes me sick to my stomach. I’m feeling overwhelmed and confused because at LavNix, I’ve felt safety and radical care like I never have before. There’s really no reason for me to be so fearful of sharing my own story in this space.
As I reflected on these seemingly-irrational fears, I am transported back to times that I was confronted with shame, guilt, and dehumanization for sharing my history. As working class TQAPI people, we face so many different forms of oppression telling us to betray our history. We betray our history when we forget the powerful work our elders have done in order for us to exist today, and all of the work each of us have done to survive. From centuries of capitalism to colonialism, we have been stripped of our right to tell our stories.
Understanding the roots of my fears allowed me to let go of the unnecessary worries I felt as I began to share my “River of Life”. I was met with radical love and understanding from my fellow Summer Organizers and LavNix staff. I was met with words that nurtured my soul and strengthened my dignity. When my new community asked me to share about my life vulnerably, I committed myself to trusting them to keep me safe. They did. They reminded me that our stories hold so much wisdom, knowledge, and lessons that we can learn from in order to move forward. The act of recounting our collective histories is a practice that allows us to move from isolation to community, from individualism to collectivism, from an overwhelming feeling of hopelessness to an irresistible feeling of revolutionary optimism.
As I continue to move through this question of what it means to truly build a new world, I will always think about the beautiful spaces the Lavender Phoenix Summer Organizer Program carved out to allow us to truly live our values. When we come together in community, we are working towards a world where we are able to show up as our most complete selves. Our labors of love, care, and radical understanding planted the seeds of the spaces we get to experience today, and one day I hope that they reach the entirety of this world.
The Summer Organizer Program was a way for me to connect my visions of a new world to radical practice. As a future comrade and friend, I encourage you to apply to the program and join this community today. I look forward to building that better world with you!