wanna be an ally?

The text below was written from the experiences of many bodies who have been systemically impacted by the violences of colonialism . As a living text, it calls us to face our fears, to decenter, to disarm and to interrupt and to disinvest in harmful desires and entitlements, in order to open up different possibilities for existence – together.

We (Elwood and Vanessa) invite you to create a quiet space to hold the text close for a while and to witness your responses to what it calls you to do.

If you feel moved, please share what you have learned or felt in poetry, imagery, sound, movement or prose below. You can also contribute extra verses or write another version of the text.


wanna be an ally? (version 1)

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 be needed
to actually 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

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 knowing 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
they do it to survive

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 your preferred version of victimhood

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?

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, 
and your entitlement to justice arbitration 

don’t try to teach, to lead,
to organize, to mentor, to control, to theorize,
or to determine where we should go
and how to get there

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
the pain
the frustration
the losses
the fear
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

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