Inner Landscapes Activists’ Community-of-Practice (CoP) III.

Practitioner Experience — Ajowa Ifateyo, Grassroots Economic Organizing (GEO)

Activists Take the Mystery Out of Myisticism for Movement-building: Inner Landscapes Community of Practice Part I.
The Thing About Resistance: Inner Landscapes — Activists Community-of-practice Part II.
Activism Guided by Still-Point Consciousness: Early Adopters Speak Out: Inner Landscapes — Activists’ Community-of-practice Part III..


Self-Awareness Lessens Inadvertent Complicity in Furthering Oppression

I first became aware of the power of Pamela Boyce Simms’ work in 2016 at a Grassroots Economic Organizing (GEO) retreat where we were dealing with issues of race and class in our diverse volunteer group. In particular, GEO members agreed that we needed to look at ourselves before we critiqued the work and action in the worker cooperative/solidarity economy movement.

Pamela had each us recall an instance of an early experience with race and class. That in itself was a very personal and powerful moment when we told those painful stories. We went through a series of exercises involving those instances and talked about them and re-visioned them. We each talked about our incident and how to re-wire that experience from a place of power and connection with the Universe.

I remember how much that resonated with me. And I was excited at the power and potential of others in the movement looking at our “personal” experiences (in the 1960s we learned that the personal is political) and how they may affect and impact our responses to similar incidents. Unfortunately, due to unnamed issues, GEO was not able to follow up on plans to continue exploration and make those experiences available to the movement as an experiment in teaching as we learned. (I still have hope that we will still be able to do that soon!)

As a result of that retreat experience which I cherish, when Pamela made the Community of Practice work available to GEO, I jumped at the chance, despite being so “busy.” I know how important it is. I’ve found this work even more powerful as we learn to retrain our brain and/or our automatic responses. Pamela is so passionate, and confident that when she explains our connection with the power of the Universe, I instantly get charged up because the information resonates profoundly with me and with my experiences as well as because of the potential for the movement benefiting.

I believe that we are activists because of profound personal experiences — whether our own or someone else’s — hating injustice that we saw or experienced, having our dreams thwarted, or we see discrimination or hate. We want to change the world because we “feel” intensely how critical it is. We want to be our best because doing so will help us and others. This inner work allows us to take our positive experiences and use it to transmute our negatives, which makes us more powerful and confident beings. And more able to give to the movement in a profound way. And Pamela is such an awesome role model as she herself exudes confident personal power, and such an enthusiasm for the work. Even when I’ve been unable to follow through on an assignment, or have forgotten some key piece (as I struggle to juggle life), she never gets annoyed or preachy. She even shows her human-ness when she might falter.

I think that this Community of Practice work has tremendous personal organizing power for anyone who suffers from internalized racism or from oppression in general. Through the work, we become aware of our unconscious responses to oppression and how that may affect us in other situations. I wish that every black person, in particular, could do this work. We have so much baggage from centuries of racist oppression. I wish that every woman, and anyone who has internalized the lies about ourselves, because we get an alternative way of handling our pain. We will be reminded that as Pamela puts it “The sun shines equally on all of us,” and how we even we have the ability to rise above the clouds, and to be supported by a power much greater than any on Earth.

As I practice (and not perfectly by any means), I am becoming more aware and confident every day and I feel stronger inside as I process some of those hurtful slights, or downright serious attacks, and remind myself of my own personal and spiritual power. I am excited to do these exercises, especially with other activists as I learn from each person’s experience, or when my thinking is challenged, or my survival habits are questioned.

Becoming aware and strong makes us less complicit in doing things to further our own oppression unconsciously or without meaning to. And growing our own spiritual power is very exciting. I can’t wait to see what develops as we match that with our political power and ideas, as an individual and as a group. And I would love to see what black people can do once we free ourselves from the internalized oppression that chains us emotionally, intellectually, spiritually and otherwise. We are sure to create a more loving society and planet, and be more giving, happy and loving people who will solve or help solve the world’s issues in no time, provided enough of us get it.

Ajowa Ifateyo, a Co-editor with the Grassroots Economic Organizing (GEO) Editorial Collective, is a journalist, co-op educator, developer and activist.