The text below emerged from the experiences of many bodies who have been systemically impacted by the violences of colonialism. It took the current form through a collaboration between Elwood Jimmy and Vanessa Andreotti on the difficulties of decolonization.
As a living text, it calls us to welcome a thunderstorm ancestor coming with heavy rain, and teenage and elderly winds that can help us move to a different space in our relationships, perhaps opening up possibilities for new forms of co-existence.
We invite you to create a quiet space to hold the text and request close to your heart for a while and to witness your own responses to the rain and the wind.
If you feel moved, please share what you have learned or felt below in any form you like. You may also be asked by the thunderstorm contribute extra verses or write another version of the text.
wanna be an ally?
don’t do it for charity, for feeling good, for looking good, or for showing others that you are doing good
don’t do it in exchange for redemption from guilt, for increasing your virtue, for appeasing your shame, for a vanity award
don’t put it on your CV, or on facebook, or in your thesis, don’t make it part of your brand, don’t use it for self-promotion
don’t do it as an excuse to keep your privileges, to justify your position, to do everything except what would beactually needed to change the terms of our relationship
do it only if you feel that our pasts, presents and futures are intertwined, and our bodies and spirits entangled
do it only if you sense that we are one metabolism that is sick, and what happens to me also happens to you
do it recognizing that you have the luxury of choice to participate or not, to stand or not, to give up your weekend or not, whereas others don’t get to decide
don’t try to “mould” me, or to “help” me, or to make me say and do what is convenient for you
don’t weaponize me (‘I couldn’t possibly be racist’)
don’t instrumentalize me (‘my marginalized friend says’)
don’t speak for me (‘I know what you really mean’)
don’t infantilize me (‘I am doing this for you’)
don’t make your actions contingent on me confiding in you, telling you my traumas, recounting my traditions, practicing your idea of ‘right’ politics, or performing the role of a victim to be saved by you or a revolutionary that can save you
and expect it to be, at times, incoherent, messy, uncomfortable, difficult, deceptive, contradictory, paradoxical, repetitive, frustrating, incomprehensible, infuriating, dull and painful – and prepare for your heart to break and be stretched
do you still want to do it?
then share the burdens placed on my back, the unique medicines you bring, and the benefits you have earned from this violent and lethal disease
co-create the space where I am able to do the work that only I can and need to do for all of us
take a step back from the center, the frontline from visibility relinquish the authority of your interpretations, your choice, your entitlements, surrender that which you are most praised and rewarded for
don’t try to teach, to lead, to organize, to mentor, to control, to theorize, or to determine where we should go, how to get there and why
offer your energy to peel potatoes, to wash the dishes, to scrub the toilets, to drive the truck, to care for the babies, to entertain the kids, to separate the trash, to do the laundry, to feed the elders, to clean the mess, to buy the food, to fill the tank, to write the grant proposal, to pay the tab and the bail
to do and support things you can’t and won’t understand, and do what is needed, instead of what you want to do, without judgment, or sense of martyrdom or expectation for gratitude, or for any kind of recognition
then you will be ready to sit with me through the storm
with the anger
and the longing for better times
with each other
and you will be able
to cry with me
to mourn with me
to laugh with me
to “heart” with me
as we face our shadows
and find other joys
in earthing, breathing, braiding,
growing, cooking and eating,
sharing, healing, and thriving
side by side
so that we might
learn to be ourselves
but also something else
something that is also
you and me
and you in me
and neither you nor me
8 Replies to “Wanna be an ally?”
This is a beautiful collaboration /reflection/reminder/framework.
From ego to interbeing. Humility — being of the earth.
The section beginning with “do you still want to do it?” resonates and triggers my resistance (my whatabouts:), which is almost always a sign I need to reflect on what is behind the resistance I feel coming up when my throat constricts or jaw sets.
I can feel society’s illness and connected to this passage: “do it only if you sense that we are one metabolism that is sick, and what happens to me also happens to you” That understanding, that none of us are well if one of us is ill, is at the heart of the work, for me.
“to do and support things you can’t and won’t understand, and do what is needed, instead of what you want to do, without judgment, or sense of martyrdom or expectation for gratitude, or for any kind of recognition” is perhaps the strongest commitment I can make. It calls in the necessity of fully releasing my individual understanding of the world and requires me to willingly and knowingly give my whole self to support someone else’s humanity, path & journey.
Settlers must respectfully serve and be willing to step aside and be told what to do to change the terms of our relationship with the Indigenous or this land and heal the bleeding rift. We can’t be writing the treaties anymore.
What I appreciate about the poem is the need as a ‘settler’ to take stock and be honest about my motivation to be actively working towards reconciliation and how that needs to start with me being willing to decolonize my thinking and way of viewing the society in which I live.