By Bass Wolf
I forget how important it is to sit in stillness.
Moments of stillness, after the Creating Change Conference 2016 Conference, were rare, until I recognized my desire for deep reflection. I had to pause to create stillness.
The conference flew by swiftly. The busy days of workshops bled into nights of caucuses and events. By day three, I was oversaturated with masses of information, overjoyed by innumerable opportunities to be with folks of shared identities, and overwhelmed amidst many political conversations. After the journey home and almost a week of work, I needed relief from the weight of the conference.
I paused. Sitting in my peace place, my faded sea-foam green armchair, listening to Mozart’s Requiem. I was still. It is often this scene from which my writings are birthed.
Creating Change provided me with invaluable opportunities to network and to learn in spaces that were specific to identities that I hold and continue to navigate.
As a queer, trans person who works in LGBTQ advocacy and education, I am often in spaces where others hold similar identities. However, living in a small southern city it is rare to encounter spaces that satiate my entire being as a queer, trans, revert Muslim raised Catholic, recovering alcoholic, third-culture kid, who is committed to social justice work. Innumerable spaces at Creating Change 2016 allowed me to hold and to navigate all of those identities simultaneously while being in conversational with others doing the same analysis.
Beyond yielding personal growth, these spaces illuminated dark, dusty corners within movement work as well as within my own work. The light revealed complexities of accessibility that come with creating welcoming, productive spaces. As I examined my work at Warren Wilson College with the Center for Gender and Relationships, the light sparked these questions:
Who are we creating spaces for? Who is being left out? What are their needs?
How can we ensure all feel welcome at the table? How can we welcome more voices?
For me, the answer is working in coalition with others. Joining the movement for liberation of all people by engaging in discussions that are anti-racist, anti-oppressive, anti-classist, multi-faith, and LGBTQ inclusive. The oppression of one group, or even of one individual, negatively affects all of us collectively and as individuals as we seek liberation.
Since Creating Change, I have more intentionally engaged with other Student Life departments to collaborate on programs. Our Women’s History Month poster project, in collaboration with Spiritual Life and the WIDE office (Wilson’s Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity), has been a rewarding experience. Each office created artistic, informational posters about individual women and collectives of women throughout history whose lifework impacted our movement today. Poster subjects highlighted the Combahee River Collective, Emmeline Pankhurst, Dorothy Day, Malala Yousafzai, and many others. Without the input of these other offices and their commitment to their own missions, the poster project would not have embodied our frequent message of intersectionality. Together we created something wonderful and impactful.
If I am to share one lesson with you from being at Creating Change 2016, it is this:
All oppression is connected. In order to end oppression, we all need to be connected as communities, as networks, and as activists.
A challenge for us all:
Make a commitment to being more connected to other activists and coalitions.
May our work embody the understanding that all oppression is connected.
Sustain connections and work collaboratively to end the oppression.
May our strength in unity be triumphant.