Reflections on Decolonizing

Six of my key takeaways after attending La Raza for Liberation’s Decolonizing Unconference in Austin, Texas in January 2019

Yura Sapi
4 min readJan 30, 2019
  1. Food (In)Justice.

One of my first takeaways was around thinking about food justice, veganism, and the animal rights movement differently. I learned the current vegan and animal rights movements aren’t taking into consideration intersectionality when it comes to people of color. For example, the movements often don’t consider the food workers, mainly people of color working, yes in slaughter houses, but also in producing food products that are not animal based. Vegan food isn’t cruelty free if that doesn’t include thinking about the treatment of food workers.

Further learning:

Food Empowerment Project

Vegan Soul Squad

2. Anti-blackness exists within all POC communities.

This unconference was a people of color only space. That being said, anti-blackness, and colorism, still exists within all communities of color (including the black community, but I’m not black and I’d like to speak on/to non-black POCs now.)

We need anti-blackness to be continuously addressed within all communities of color. I believe there is an acknowledgement factor we have to start taking just as we do land acknowledgements for native and indigenous folks.

This is all in line with building solidarity between us all for collective liberation. White supremacy thrives on pitting oppressed communities against each other. There is a version of this movement where all truths are valid and the answers are within “Yes, AND…”

One example here is advocating against “Settler Nativism” or this idea that “all Americans are a little bit Indian” and that everyone has an “Indian grandmother” while also acknowledging that it is often extremely hard for black folks in this country to trace back their ancestral lines because of slavery. Additionally, it can also be hard for Mexicans, Mexican Americans and other Latinx folks to trace their lineages because of the history here too with creating the class system based on race included those who are “mestizo,” or mixed, encouraging individuals to denounce and forget their indigenous truths. All of these truths are valid and we can all be conscious of each other’s truths when dismantling white supremacy instead of perpetuating it.

Further learning:

Decolonized Buffalo Podcast with hosts Lu Vee & Rick

3. Decolonization is nothing without regaining land sovereignty.

I also had a key moment of reflection in thinking about how I’ve been talking about decolonization. Although, I have been using it to refer to ways of thought and to decolonize concepts/actions, I also acknowledge I need to be more clear that decolonizing food, gender, etc. is nothing without also talking about settler decolonization and standing with First Nation folks in activism, protests, initiatives for regaining sovereignty over land a.k.a. land reparations. The U.S. American government wasn’t the first governing body on this land and it still isn’t the only one that exists today. Native American tribes still have governing bodies and rules that stand today.

Further learning:

Decolonization is not a metaphor by Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang

4. Decolonizing gender and the roll of gender non-conforming folx in the revolution.

Trans, non-binary, two-spirit people have a purpose; we are here for a reason and one of them is to heal many wounds from the gender binary for ALL people, while also actively dismantling it.

I co-facilitated an open discussion on gender with Kai Ramey, an awesome human who also has a zine they were selling. We got to trade zines and had a good time holding space for learning and sharing re: decolonizing gender, pronouns, the binary. 💜

Further learning:

“No Whites Allowed” Zine

Lucero Photography

5. Designing ethically must become a societal priority.

Katherine M. Zhou a product designer at IBM by day and graphic design artist activist by life spoke about the importance of designing ethically in the tech industry. Designers are essentially being told to create drugs in the form of apps, phones, social media sites, and other tech devices. They profit off being addictive, but studies continuously show how bad it is for us with these dopamine highs, the “detrimental effect on many aspects of life including relationships, work and academic achievement…,” Facebook is also literally causing genocides, and AI (artifical intelligence) being only as smart as the data you put in means there are people making robots racist.

All in all, there is a lot that is either already going really wrong or has the potential to. Kat created a site and movement for “designing ethically.” I urge you to take a look at the site, share with your tech friends, and also maybe take some time to personally reflect on your role and activity with these technologies. For me, it definitely put my social media hiatus into more clear perspective. Not sure if I should go back…

Further learning:

Design Ethically Toolkit by Kat Zhou

Kat Zhou’s Artist Website

Facebook Induced Genocide in Myanmar by The New York Times 10/15/2018

Treating Social Media Addictions by The Washington Post 4/25/18

Rise of Racist Robots by The Guardian

6. Spirituality practice is undervalued in the movement towards freedom, equity, inclusion and justice.

Decolonizing spirituality. This one may be the hardest takeaway for me to explain in writing and in language in general. Alejandra Sanchez led a discussion on this topic. She talked about the connection between spirituality (which includes religion) and power structures.

We talked about how colonization has affected spirituality specifically in black and brown communities.

Lucero Photography



Yura Sapi

Creating liberated spaces that uplift, heal, and encourage us to change the world.