Resist. Persist. Insist.
Invest. Nurture. Thrive.
Inform. Inspire. Act.
Activate. Educate. Legislate.
These are the words I read on large posters as I entered the Sonia Sotomayor room at the CH2M Hill Alumni center at Oregon State University. The buzz that filled the room was energizing as women and their allies gathered for a day centered around change making in many different forms. I entered the gathering hall. Although I was expecting for this day to be inspirational, I wasn’t prepared for was the power surge I received from the passion and force shared by the speakers throughout the day. Luckily, I was not alone on this adventure, one of my dear mentors and dance sister Antigone was there. We spent the past year working together with teen girls from high schools around using the healing art of tribal style belly dancing to facilitate discussion around body image, identity, earth stewardship and much more. Kristina, a fellow Environmental Arts and Humanities student, also shared this experience. We were amazed by the speakers’ courage and their stories. Their gentle and loving reminders for radical self-love and self-care spoke to my heart that day.
Corvallis Changemakers was a conference for women & their allies that was “[C]reated by a group of friends in Corvallis, Oregon who, inspired by the upsurge in activism in our community and our nation, seek fresh voices, ideas, and tools to effect change.”
I want to share a little bit about the keynote speaker, Walidah Imarisha and what she calls visionary fiction. Walidah is a writer, educator and poet. During her presentation, Dreaming New Just Worlds: Visionary Fiction and Organizing, Walidah walked through the importance of imaginative spaces, offered through visionary fiction for exploring contemporary and historical problems. In addition to inspiring and transforming the way we imagine and re-imagine the realities of the future. She emphasized the power of the of our imagination through creative outlets, such as writing, to decolonize our minds. Using fictional storytelling as a catalyst for change requires some clarification about what the goals are within this genre.
A few points about visionary fiction:
- It discusses current social issues
- It is conscious of identity and intersecting identities
- It centers leadership around marginalized and most affected
- It is conscious of power inequalities
- It is realistic and hard but hopeful
- It is generative- creates options
- Change is grassroots
- It is nonlinear; dreams with past
- It is not neutral
The most powerful statement that I gathered from this presentation is that, “art either advances of regresses justice.”
Check out the anthology Octavia’s Brood: Science Fiction from Social Justice Movements she coedited with Adrienne Maree Brown.
Goodness, what a hard act to follow, but all the speakers delivered. One common theme that echoed throughout the day was that sharing our stories is an act of resistance. It allows us to honor our multidimensionality and reclaim narratives that may be otherwise told for us. I believe this was a day dedicated to creating brave spaces and engaging in tough dialogue around the role of power and privilege regarding: gender, able-bodiedness, race, sexual orientation, etc., in the spaces we are hoping to transform.
I tried to capture more direct quotes from throughout the day, but it was nearly impossible. Have you ever had a time in your life when you wanted to capture every word that flowed from a person’s mouth. Try multiple people’s mouths during an all-day event. This exact feeling captivated me. So instead I will share a list of the panels I attended, along with the names of the speakers. Just in case any of you out there are interested in learning more about some of the amazing people who spoke that day. All of the conference speakers and their bios can be found at the Changemakers website.
Vulnerable Storytelling for Revolution
Panelists: Trystan Reese, Mary Zelinka, Alejandra Campoverdi
Unleash Your Inner Changemaker Through Intentional Relationship Building
Panelists: Susana Rivera-Mills, Deborah Parker, Jazmin Roque
Personal Resilience: In it for the Long Haul
Panelists: Rhonda Simpson, Lisa Wells, Stacey Rice
The diverse experiences and voices present created a dynamic program that required a lot of energy to remain mindful and engaged but also a fair amount of energizing reciprocated through activities and discussion. One of my favorite voices (and laughs) was a laughing activity shared by Traci McMerrit during the laughing labyrinth exercise. We used the healing aspect of laughter to create space in our heart center, relax, and build community. Apparently laughing is a way our body copes with stress, so laughter is good medicine. Other speakers such as Rhonda Simpson and Lisa Wells lead us through activities such as heart-centered breathing, yoga stretches (and shaking), which complimented powerful testimonies about the crucial need to put ourselves first, and take care of ourselves during our journey as change-makers.
So to sum up the day, we breathed together, stretched together, laughed together, shook together, cried together, learned together, grew together, and dreamed together. Not only was this a Sunday worth remembering and reflecting on through this blog, it was a day that contained golden nuggets of wisdom that I hope to come back to. I intended to focus on tools and solutions rather than problems, and to remember there is a vibrant and engaged community ready to serve as allies in a time of uncertainty. My only regret is not taking many pictures. So here is a link to the Corvallis Changemakers Instagram.
So, like most of the time in college, I am left with more questions than answers. But one question that is always worth exploring was presented by Rhonda Simpson during the final session, what makes your heart sing?
From there the thread of connectivity became apparent in my mind.
Invest in it. Nurture it. Thrive.
Inform yourself. Inspire others. Act.
Activate forces that support it. Educate others about it. Legislate.
What does not support its liberation…
Resist. Persist. Insist on change.
We are the Change Makers.
May our power rise, may we liberate ourselves, and may our collective wisdom continue to blossom.