Linear time and progress is one of the most harmful lies of white supremacy. Some things permanently alter you. Sometimes the world does stop. For me in 2016 when my life crashed and veered from a singular event, I expected that my relationship with it would be one that the farther I got from it, the less it would impact me. And that one day it would just fade away. The reality was that for me that moment separated my existence between the time before it happened and the time after, where I lived between those two worlds, oscillating in the spaces of those existence, while both realities ever present.
A year and a half later, I was helping to launch a storytelling program. The concept was simple, yet surprisingly missing from the spaces around us. We would invite a group of women (specifically women of color starting in year two), to experience a series of writing and performance workshops to develop an original one woman show on a theme. While we were brainstorming themes, it didn’t take me long to suggest the theme of this is my body, which later became the name of the program. When we had originally began talking about one woman shows, we were going to write and produce our own. I was thinking that I wanted mine to be about the shifting relationship I have had with my body and the years I have spent reclaiming it as my own. When we decided that it would be more meaningful to us to design a program to support other women of color in developing a short, one woman show, I knew the theme still needed to be of body. Because the body in many ways is the theme of self, where the stories of what has been taken and what has been restored is kept.
The first year of the show blew us away. The women were willing to dig deep into vulnerable storytelling and found power in naming their truths. The community that formed around the show, from the spaces that opened their doors for us to practice and perform to the people who came to witness, let us know that we had tapped into something that had to keep going.
Now in its fourth year, it feels as though the pandemic, though far from over, has been bookended by the show. Our May 2020 show when Zoom events were still novel and we were all learning to sit in our bodies inside our homes to our now April 2021 show when folk are worn-down by online events and we’ve sat in our bodies inside for so long, marking each trauma of pandemic loss and racial violence. We are tired, but this year, it became that much more critical for safe spaces of healing to exist and for stories to be born.
Over those four years I have realized that I also needed to keep this is my body going for me. We are too often told that stories need a clear beginning, middle, and end. That without the end, there is no lesson, no wisdom, no connection to impart. For years no one told me that my story didn’t have to be exactly like that. I remember attending a conference for women leaders several years ago where one of the speakers, a Black woman, spoke about how she found that being a leader for her meant showing up even as she was still in the middle of her traumas, and still in the middle of her story. To share what that process that looked like, and be open about the work. I have found that to be my strength as well. Leading and healing from the middle. Maybe I helped start this is my body because I couldn’t find the right words to push out from my throat the words that stayed lodged there. To narrate the story of my violation, my loss, and my re-making. But I knew in the journeys I supported each woman through, they were each helping me keep healing myself.
Maybe I helped start this is my body because I couldn’t find the right words to push out from my throat the words that stayed lodged there. To narrate the story of my violation, my loss, and my re-making.
I was and am always invested in the act of the creation and the healing itself; the work that I refer to as creating yourself to freedom: taking what the world says of you is true, facing that, and starting to shed the lies by replacing them with your truths, one purposeful act at a time. I have always found that naming, that writing, that speaking are powerful truths to create that freedom. And I have seen it in every woman that has gone through the program. Creating yourself to freedom does not have to be an individual task. How best to see this work if not by having others hold up the mirror through which you can see yourself as a new creation. Everything about my life has been about community. Healing has proven no different.
Creating yourself to freedom does not have to be an individual task.
In the end, there was no five years later, and everything is fine. There has only been five years later, and I’m still building. Still becoming. Still creating myself to freedom.
The cycles of healing continue.
If you would like to attend our fourth this is my body show on April 18, 2021, you can get tickets here.