POC ZINE PROJECT — Let's Talk About: 'The Truth Tour and how to be an ally at POC and Native events'

Let’s Talk About: ‘The Truth Tour and how to be an ally at POC and Native events’

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By Cata, POCZP East Coast Intern

The Truth Tour consists of folks from the Pine Ridge reservation of South Dakota and allies, traveling to different cities in the Midwest and mid-Atlantic to tell their stories, advocating for a return to matriarchal leadership and raising awareness of the ongoing genocide of their people. The event I attended was a film screening of the documentary “Red Cry,” held in Washington, DC, on April 16th.

Below is an entry point into a continuous conversation, not a rule book. 

A big question that surrounds POC (people of color) events from those outside of the community holding the event is "how can I be an ally?"

A simple answer to these questions is to put your self in service to the community and don’t take up space. 

DC ‘TRUTH TOUR' EVENT RECAP

April 16 – Washington, DC – Metropolitan Community Church of DC – 6:30pm

When the Lakota Grandmothers came to DC in April, my partner and I cooked a meal for an event as an act of support/solidarity. What follows here are my reflections as an audience member/participant in the film screening event.

I write with a strong desire to contribute to a (hopefully) ongoing conversation of allyship. The night of the event in DC there were many important voices and stories shared. The group had come a long way to spread their voices. I am thankful for their journey. I felt blessed to be among these strong travelers and hope to meet them again one day.

However, among the powerful stories offered there were important voices and stories that were missed. Here are some things I observed as I watched the evening pass with a complex interplay of isms and unchecked privileges.

For days afterward I couldn’t get out of my head the Q&A session after the “Red Cry” screening. 

The white anarchist/activist who stood up and said “I don’t know about the rest of the room, but me and my house mates on THIS side of the room- we’re REALLY in SOLIDARITY with you all! REALLY!”

This wasn’t a question; it was a comment offered perhaps to receive an ego stroke from the audience/caravaners and it was distracting.

Then, there was an African-American woman who stood up asking to be part of the Lakota people, referencing her own Native heritage. It was refreshing to see a person of color seeking to honor their indigenous heritage— but the word use: “Can I be a part of you?” made my face scrunch.

Again, this was not a question pertaining to their journey or to the film.

Then, three or four folks raised their hands… again without questions… but instead with gifts. Literally folks were walking up to an elder with shells, books and bags of what? I don’t know.

Weird? Yes. Distracting? Yes. Ego strokes? Yes and yes.

Three-quarters of the way through the event, the main Native male speaker who had been speaking the most and facilitating, acknowledged that the others on his caravan, including most of the women, had not spoken. He suggested that they go down the line and share something.

"Yes, finally!" I thought, time to hear everyones voice. But, wait. One more person in the audience needs the spot light and asks a question/comment…then POOF! Our time is done.

A song is sung and things are wrapped up. There is never time to hear the voices of the other Native folks, most of them women, from the caravan.

NEXT STEPS

As POC organizers we need to reflect:

  • On this Truth Tour designed to advocate a return to matriarchy, how did the Native man facilitating (and the crew as a whole) not realize that his voice was filling the time available at the expense of other (female) voices from the caravan?
  • How do we as POC organizers/activists let inter-communities privileges distract or disappear an important layer in our events or projects? 
  • How did the audience continue on unaware of their distracting behavior?
  • Why did certain audience members(and why do some folks) think it was/is ok to deconstruct their internal conflicts on some one else’s time?

This brings me back to allyship. Here are some ways to be an ally:

1) Be aware of your layers (gender, colourism, class, race, orientation, shyness etc).

2) Take your OWN time to process privilege, settlers guilt etc.

3) Do your service, go home and process in your journal or with other allies about your experience and how to be a better ally next time.

It’s all good. We are all learning here, but to distract from someone else’s event/or project with your own internal conflicts is unchecked privilege. To disappear someone else’s voice or story with your own, no matter if you’re an ally or a member of the community is rude. These patterns disrupt progress.

Privileges unchecked and unprocessed hurt ourselves and our communities. Until we learn as how to beware of our layers and hold one another accountable the biggest thing that will come of our events and projects in the eyes of others (and maybe ourselves) is debriefing the distractions.

Distractions are annoying. And, distractions are NOT solidarity. Lets move the focus back.

NYC ‘TRUTH TOUR’ EVENT RECAP

April 8, 2013 – New York City, NY, Judson Memorial Church- 239 Thompson St. (Solidarity/Decolonization Training) – 7:00pm

By Anonymous contributor to POCZP

I attended the Indigenous Solidarity and Decolonizing Training at Judson Memorial Church in hopes of learning more about the Lakota people, their struggles, and what it means to be in solidarity with indigenous communities. I was looking forward to participating in conversations about the meaning of decolonization and how one develops and sustains a political praxis around decolonizing the self in relation to community.

These days I have been thinking a lot about what it means for me, a women of color to challenge the mindset of settler colonialism that is part of my privilege and my immigrant histories. I believe that the complexities of communities of color engaging with native and indigenous communities should not be limited to understand through reading books and watching documentaries, so I went to this event to listen, to learn, to say hello.

I have deep respect the leaders of this training, for their histories and communities, and for the ways in which they walk through this world. However what I experienced last night was triggering, frustrating, and very confusing.

All but one of the Lakota grandmothers was present and the reason for this was never clearly explained or discussed. We began by asking those in the room who have any European ancestry, to stand up. As expected nearly eighty plus percent of the room were of European descent; I was one of few women of color, and perhaps South Asian in the room who did not stand up.

I have a vague understand of the purpose of this exercise, to call attention to the active realities of colonization as part of people’s being, and that as privilege that you cannot erase. However the presenters did not once ask any questions or specifically engage with the people of color in the room to ask why there were present, what it means for people of color to experience colonialism, and how the displacement of communities of color can reinforce colonial oppressions that native peoples face.

Once again white people became the center focus of the discussion, a conversation that I am sick in tired of having.

How can we destroy the constructs of whiteness if we continually reify them in our political spaces through reliving trauma and shaming one another?

There were several instances where the main “teacher” of this “training” used disparaging language against biracial and multiracial people. They outlined the role of elderly women, or the grandmothers in the struggle without giving the elderly women in the room a chance to speak out on their own and share their stories.

There was a moment where a white man was being disruptive and the presenter challenged him on his behavior, but did not ask him to leave the room. Of course this man continued to be disruptive and my friend, a women of color, had to ask him to leave.

I could give further specifics and in detail but I am not interested in calling out the presenter or the organizers of this event. Rather, I write this to raise the question of how can we build solidarity and decolonize together when so many of our political spaces are dominated by the politics of whiteness and by those whom I gender as being male-identified and male-bodied?

What is it going to take for men to recognize their male-privilege and to step down, work together on building true allyship with women in the struggle, and to call each other out?

There is a lot to say about this training. I am vested in having these conversations in person, and with people I hope to build my politics and community with.

However, in sharing this, I hope we can have a more open and honest dialogue about how to challenge spaces that are political defunct in the moment, and how to create something new that has a liberating direction.

Editor’s Note: POCZP founder Daniela Capistrano attended the NYC Truth Tour date and put a call for feedback on the POCZP Facebook page. Subsequently, Daniela spoke with this anonymous contributor, who gave POCZP permission to publish their thoughts under the condition that they remain anonymous. POCZP respects their choice to remain anonymous, as often it can be very difficult and triggering as a POC to question POC-led movements/actions.

MORE ON THE APRIL 8 NYC TRUTH TOUR EVENT

Below are POCZP founder Daniela Capistrano’s thoughts on the NYC Truth Tour event, originally published on the POCZP Facebook page. She also recorded this positive moment at the end of the evening:

[DESCRIPTION: The event leaders asked attendees to participate in a round dance at the end of the event. Couples were placed in the middle circle, while the elders were in another circle around it. After a while, others who weren’t necessarily elders were encouraged to join the outer circle. Native and non-native folks participated in the dance. This video captures about 80% of the round dance duration.]

By Daniela Capistrano, POCZP founder

The event overall was (for folks we spoke to) very triggering and complex. I wish that more female elders spoke, since that is what the tour is about. However, I also understand that there is another related event where female elders will be speaking.

This event wasn’t an “easy” experience. Some folks said there wasn’t enough actual training and that it was more of a blame game. Others did not agree with this assessment at all and said they got a lot out of it.

The event leaders asked everyone at the start of the experience “to listen with your heart.” Some people in attendance had a very had time just listening and there were many privilege issues at play. One white male would not stop interjecting and made it all about him until he was asked to stop. He could not handle that feedback and left.

Another white male took up way too much time singing a “spiritual” song, making the focus about him instead of the elders. A white female spoke on behalf of a black male in attendance without his consent. Many interesting and triggering actions went down last night at this event, a microcosm of bigger issues at play …

Some participants had issues with being put on the spot based on race, class and gender. Another controversial facet of the training was when attendees were challenged to cut up their government IDs as a symbol of their commitment to decolonize. Clearly there are many factors that would inform someone’s decision to participate or not, such as citizenship status in the U.S. and the dangerous ramifications of not having ID while experiencing racial profiling or worse. Race, class and gender were also factors.

One could argue that this act of cutting up an ID meant nothing and was in fact hurtful to undocumented folks in attendance or others in tenuous circumstances. Lots to think about. But I aired on the side of listening with an open mind and staying until the end. I chose to cut up my ID to confront my privileges; to know what it felt like to destroy government issued materiality; and to think about all the privileges that made it so “easy” for me to cut up my ID without any real consequences. I did it for myself, didn’t judge those who didn’t and also doesn’t think that cutting an ID automatically “decolonized” my existence and mental state. For me, it was an act of undoing mental damage tied to identity politics.

I am glad that I did stay until the end of the event, because I was able to meet one of the female elders, who I hope will collaborate with POCZP on the Race Riot tour this fall, as #IdleNoMore is our core focus. 

Because I stayed until the end, I was able to capture the round dance on video, which had a very peaceful and healing affect for many who participated.

In closing, it’s 100% OK to not agree with all facets of a decolonizing event. It’s OK to not agree with the leaders and to walk out when you feel triggered. Several people did walk out. But I am glad that I stayed.

NOTICE: POCZP founder Daniela Capistrano reached out to Truth Tour organizers in April to share feedback and to discuss a possible collaboration for the Race Riot! tour. She also reached out again upon publishing this piece. We are patiently awaiting a response.

COMMUNITY: Help make this a productive conversation by adding your thoughts in your reblog.

RESOURCES

Educate yourself on what the Truth Tour is all about:

"Red Cry" information:

"Red Cry" premiered on April 1, 2013, at the Mother Butler Center in Rapid City, SD in Lakota Territory.  It was shown on consecutive nights in other cities as part of the Lakota Truth Tour.

Limited quantities of the Red Cry DVD are available for free.  If you would like a DVD sent to you, Truth Tour organizers request that you give a donation of $5 or more to cover the costs of shipping and materials.

Please mail your address and a check made payable to “Lakota Solidarity Project” to:

Lakota Solidarity Project
PO Box 881
Asheville, NC 28801

If you would like to show the film in your area, they ask that you download the Organizer Toolkit and use this as a model for how to organize the screening. Contact them if you are interested in screening “Red Cry.”

DONATE to the Lakota Solidarity Project/Truth Tour via PayPal by clicking here.

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“Let’s Talk About…” is an experimental series by POCZP created to share communal knowledge, resources and reflections on a wide range of topics affecting communities of color.

If you are a person of color—or a white person with a history of supporting POC Zine Project— who wants to contribute to “Let’s Talk About…” submit to poczineproject@gmail.com with “Let’s Talk About” in the subject line. 

All submissions to “Let’s Talk About…” will be compiled into a zine (print & digital) that will be released by POCZP in December of 2013.

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