Updated: Feb 27, 2020
Over the weekend, I attended the Shifting the Paradigm Back to Humanity Conference (SPBH) on Saturday, 2/22/2020. The purpose of this conference is to provide a platform for people of color to facilitate necessary conversations about race and identity, and to create an environment of healing between people of color and allies. The venue is set in Edgewater, Maryland on Historic London Town & Gardens. This year's theme was centered around Healing Humanity. The atmosphere was dominated by fierce matriarchal energy, appropriately so, given that feminine energy is a conduit for healing. Indigenous people believe that women are the healers of humanity because they have the ability to give life. We refer to Earth as our Mother, and she gives us life and she produces medicine.
The event was organized by Elena Jimenez and Allie Moore, two powerful agents of change. Elena is a Puerto Rican spiritual adviser and financial manager. Allie Moore is an activist for Black and Indigenous rights and an educator. Allie and Elena are both adamant advocates for equality and social justice. They are humble servants to their causes and amplify and uplift the voices of others every opportunity they have, including myself. These women continue to inspire and create space for other people of color to optimize their experience in this chaotic world we live in.
We opened the event by acknowledging that we were occupying Piscataway land. Piscataway Elder, Rico Newman, opened the day with a Piscataway prayer, followed by a welcome song sang and drummed by Northern Cheyenne Native, Lance Fisher.
Closing Ceremony, Lance Fisher discussing song, and Rico Newman in blue after prayer. Teko Photography.
The first conversation took place between Elena and T'Karima Ticitl, a Mexica midwife, doula, health and fitness coach, and Mexica Ceremony Woman. T'Karima is the co-founder and co-director of Traditional Doula Midwifery Arts (TDMA), owner of the Cihuapahtli Matriarch Council, avid member of the Native American Church (Teo Kali Quetzalcoatl), and Mexica Dancer. During this conversation, we explored Indigenous identity in Mexico and Southwestern parts of the United States. There is debate about using the term Latino/a and Hispanic as a pan-term to identify Indigenous people in Mexico, Central America, and Latin America. T'Karima explains that she prefers to identify with her specific tribal group, Mexica, as most Indigenous people do. She also discussed how white supremacy has created a great deal of self-hatred for many Indigenous Mexicans. She expresses that she is neither Latina or Mexican, because both of these references are to the people that colonized and murdered her ancestors. She also touched on DEA regulations and how they affect Indigenous administration of medicines, and some of the difficulties and misconceptions about doula practice. We will dive deeper into this topic in a later blog and T'Karima's book, My Body My Birth.
Nellie Bledsoe, daughter of Colombian immigrants, discussed with Elena the struggles and triumphs of being a Latina in the realm of corporate world. She offered important insights about the the development of Latina identity and how she overcame the cultural differences of living in a less body expressive environment in America versus Colombia. She brilliantly navigated the conflict of feeling as if she had to "check a box" when it came to her identity, and how attending a predominantly white college (PWI) was a bit of a culture shock to her. This lead the conversation into navigating the competitive corporate world, and working in predominately male dominated spaces. She thrived off of the pressure and the traps set for her to fail, and mentioned how important it was for her to have support from other Latinas (Elena) at the firm. She broke the glass ceiling by focusing on her ability to face adversity, her work ethic, and her refusal to back down lead her to earning a high position in her field on top of being a mother and the polarizing matriarchal figure of her family unit.
The next conversation occurred between Allie Moore and Sandra Hope, a member of the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe. Sandra is the founder and CEO of Stolen Nations LLC, an author, screenwriter, and producer. She created findanative.com to address the invisibility issue that Native Americans often deal with . The site helps people find Natives with different career backgrounds. Sandra addressed the concept of "Blendians," and how the term refers to Native Americans with mixed ancestry, which ultimately was initially a result of colonization. Allie and Sandra focused their conversation around the historical removal and resurgence of "The Matriarch." Sandra discussed that with colonization and the rise of patriarchy, there has been an increase of attacks on Native American women. She states that the spirit of colonialism and capitalism have resulted in the over extraction of natural resources and therefore the harm of Mother Earth. As these assaults against Mother Earth rise, there is also a rise in violence against Native American women. She remembers Faith Hedgepath, a Haliwa-Saponi Chapel Hill student found murdered in 2012, and how her unsolved murder still affects her community today. She turns the conversation to taking care of family, correcting legislative loopholes, and consolidating data from across the country to fix the issue of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women (MMIW).
In another conversation between Allie, Joy Hunt, and A'lice Meyers-Hall, Faith's murder was remembered along with the pain and lack of humanity for missing and murdered Native American men, women, and children. Joy is a member of the Lumbee tribe and a nutritional studies student at the University of Greensboro. A'lice is a member of the Lenape Tribe of Delaware and is a retired Communications Engineer and Installations Project Manager in the U.S. Air Force. A'lice offered a beautiful spoken word about the various introspective issues that Native American and African Americans face in their lifetimes. Both of these women contributed to the conversation of mistaken identity in Native America. We are often asked to "prove" that we are Native. There is a negative psychological impact while overcoming the invisibility of being Native in America and healing from historical trauma. A'lice defines healing as a continuum and everyone has a different medicine. Joy discussed her struggle of growing up away from home, and how she found healing in connecting with the Native community at her university.
Allie having conversation with Joy Hunt and A'lice Meyers-Hall. Teko Photography.
In this feminine power dominated environment, there was also the presence of a balancing masculine force in the form of Native Independent Presidential Candidate Mark Charles, and the hosts of the OT Show, Eric Tomlinson Jr., and Grayson Orphe. Mark Charles offered powerful metaphors for the racial injustice in our country, and offered solutions on how to achieve an atmosphere of unity in a nation that lacks "common memory" when it comes to struggle and oppression. He addresses how the laws of this nation still cater, as they have always catered, to white supremacy. The Constitution was designed by and for white land-owning men. He also discussed his "dual citizenship" as a Dutch and Dine' (Navajo) man and how he navigated through historical trauma. We'll discuss more of Mark Charles's campaign and ideologies in a separate blog.
Allie interviewing Native Presidential Candidate, Mark Charles. Teko Photography.
The OT Show brought a sense of levity to the space by using humor while addressing issues within the Black community. With Elena, they discussed how they are using their podcast to create an authentic space for Black people to take control of their own narrative. Often in media, there is usually a negative media portrayal of Black men especially. They amplify the voices of other people of color and also provide another platform for local politicians. They addressed mental health for Black men, how the death of Kobe and Gianna Bryant shed a lot of light of how Black men cope, and how it has become instinctual to bottle up emotions out of fear of being misunderstood. In the worst case scenario, Black people could be killed by the police for showing too much emotion, although they have also been killed for compliance, which we will discuss in a later blog. Eric lamented on how this affects the mental health for Black children, because they are forced to grow up faster being raised with hypervigilence as a result of police brutality. Kids also aren't taken seriously when they come forward about having mental health issues and suicidal thoughts. Eric and Grayson encourage parents to be connected with their children and not to rely on cell phones to act as a pacifier for their child's problems. Both men have found healing in their camaraderie and the platform that they have created to bring attention to issues that affect people of color.
Elena interviewing Eric Tomlinson and Grayson Orphe, The OT Show hosts. Teko Photography.
Before the closing ceremony, we reflected on the rise in matriarchy and various issues in the Indigenous, Black, and Latina/o communities. Highlighted is the duality of women as healers and nurturers, but also warriors who fight battles within and beyond the physical realm. Through all of the healing modalities we discussed, the recurring theme was that healing is an individual act. We choose when to take control of our own healing, and by healing ourselves, we heal our communities, and those who came before us. As A'lice said, "we have medicine inside of all of us." Find the medicine within yourself and share it with the world.
A'lice captured performing a spoken word. Teko Photography.