January 2018 Episode of Solidarity Is This

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Movement Ecology

Deepa Iyer explores food justice with Leah Penniman (Soul Fire Farm), and the #MeToo Movement with Shivana Jorawar (Jahajee Sisters).

Our food system is not racist by accident, but by design.

- Leah Penniman

Deepa Iyer:

Hello, everyone. And welcome to the January episode of Solidarity Is This. I'm your host, Deepa Lyer. If you're new to Solidarity Is This, this is a monthly podcast that explores solidarity practices to resist the xenophobia backlash, Islamophobia and racial anxiety in the United States today.

Deepa Iyer:

You can subscribe to the podcast via iTunes, and you can find additional information, including a solidarity syllabus over at www.solidarityis.org. Before we get started with our podcast, I want to wish everyone a happy new year. I hope that all of you are having a peaceful start to 2018. As for myself, I had said some intentions for centering and grounding myself at the start of the new year, with the vision board and all. But I have to say that I've been knocked off that center quite a bit already. The pace of the news, the sheer brutality of the events happening around us, are too hard to bear and digest and process at times.

Deepa Iyer:

So if you're in the same boat as me with respect to all of that, I want to say, I feel you. I've been sitting with a book called Emergent Strategy, by Adrian Marie Brown this month. And if you haven't read it yet, I encourage you to pick up a copy. There are some really helpful strategies and processes that Adrian provides, which can help to center and reenter ourselves and our work in those moments when things are unraveling or seemingly falling apart. So we're recording this podcast a week or so before the one year anniversary of the Women's March. You remember that, I'm sure. It's also the one year anniversary of the inauguration of 45, and the set of policy directives that emerged last January that have affected so many communities through walls, bands, raids, and more.

Deepa Iyer:

For those of you who might be interested, I wrote an essay at the beginning of the year about what we can learn from the solidarity movements of 2017 from here to stay to no Muslim ban ever to me too. Take a look at it over at www.solidarityis.org, and let me know what you think.

Deepa Iyer:

So for this month, we're going to be talking food justice. And we're also going to be talking about the MeToo movement. To a different topics you say? Yes. And that's because there is so much going on these days that I'm going to try and fit in two short segments into each month's podcast. We're going to start with the segment on food, justice and sovereignty. For that I'm in conversation with Leah Penniman, who's the co-director of Soul Fire Farm based in Grafton, New York. Leah has been farming since 1996 and her work has recognized by the Open Society Foundations, the Fulbright program and more.

Deepa Iyer:

Soul Fire Farm seeks to end racism and injustice in the food system. I'm really excited to welcome Leah to Solidarity is This, I have gotten to know Leah over the past year or so, and I've just been so inspired by her energy and curiosity and unflagging commitment to Soul Fire Farm, which we'll hear more about. So welcome Leah to Solidarity Is This.

Leah Penniman:

Thank you so much for having me.

Deepa Iyer:

So Leah, let's start out by actually talking a little bit about yourself, about your point of entry into the work that you're doing on food justice and food sovereignty at Soul Fire Farm.

Leah Penniman:

Well, it's really my personal experience with hunger and food apartheid that brought me into Soul Fire Farm. I was living in the South End of Albany, New York, with my partner and our two very young children. And even though, I had many years of farming experience and higher education. The geography of my neighborhood prevented me from easily accessing fresh, healthy food for my children. And so our family joined a CSA, a Community Supported Agriculture, and walked over two miles in each direction and to go pick up this chair of vegetables. And I would quite literally pile squash and potatoes on the lap of my two year olds and have my newborn in the backpack and then walk all the way down to cook this food. And the price was exorbitant and really challenging for us. So our neighbors when they found out that we knew how to farm, challenged us to create the farm for the people. And that's how the idea of Soul Fire was born.

Deepa Iyer:

Wow. So Leah, I know that we might be using, you might be using terms that folks might be unfamiliar with a little bit. And I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about... You talked about food apartheid, can you tell us a little bit more about what that looks like for communities around the country?

Leah Penniman:

So right now in the United States, if you are a person of color, you are only 25% as likely as a white person to have healthy food in your neighborhood that you can afford. And so this system of segregation where some people experience food opulence and other people experience food scarcity, where their communities are flooded with highly processed and sugary foods that lead to diabetes and other chronic illness, that is food apartheid. And I prefer that term to food desert, which is what the federal government uses because the desert is a natural phenomenon and apartheid is a human created system of separation.

Deepa Iyer:

So I think that's so important because I know that part of what you all are doing at Soul Fire Farm is to really acknowledge and validate and heal from the histories of systemic oppression, right? Racial and economic oppression that have displaced and disconnected communities of color from their lands, from access to food, from controlling or being able to shape the food system. So can you make those connections for us, specifically around the systemic piece?

Leah Penniman:

Our food system is not racist by accident really is by design. So all of the land upon which we grow our food is stolen from first nations people and 80% of the labor that grows our food is Latinx and Hispanic, even though only two or 3% of farm managers have that identity. You know, the wealth of this nation was built on the back of enslaved Africans and our legal system even to this day has codified that racism. For example, in the new deal of the 1930s, agricultural workers and domestic workers who were predominantly black and brown people, were excluded from the labor protection and many of those provisions are still on the book. And so that is why farm workers have different wages and don't experience overtime benefit or the right to unionize. That's why there's not child labor protections for people who work in farms and fields. And so we've inherited this legacy, which is really designed to increase wealth and access for those who already have wealth in access in the food system and in the system at large.

Deepa Iyer:

And so how are the efforts that you all are taking part in at Soul Fire Farm really changing that system? How are you interrogating it and dismantling that system of oppression and displacement? And tell us a little bit about what those initiatives look like.

Leah Penniman:

Well, one of the things that I'm excited about that we're working on right now is trying to reclaim land ownership. In 1910, at the peak of black land ownership, we'd scrape together our Sunday money, our sharecroppers, and a mass like 16 million acres of land, which is almost all gone. And there's a long legacy of USD a discrimination and lynching and racist violence that have stolen land from our people.

Leah Penniman:

And now there's a whole returning generation of black and brown people who are excited to become farmers and reclaim rural spaces, but are struggling to access the training, the land and the resources to do that. And so we're actually working with a national coalition through the national black food and justice Alliance to create black owned land trusts or black led land trust that will help connect this returning and generation of farmers to land ownership. So that's very exciting, sort of at the macro level, what it looks like on the day to day at Soul Fire Farm is that we run training programs for returning generation black and brown farmers. And so for anywhere from a day to a week to an entire season, people come and learn how to tend the soil, how to use a tractor, create a business plan, and how to access these federal and private resources in order to start their land based and food based businesses.

Deepa Iyer:

And do a lot of those folks go back to their homes then, and begin to reclaim the land, as you say?

Leah Penniman:

Absolutely. Some of the projects that we're really excited about include High Hog Farm, which is led by Keisha and Cameron outside of Atlanta, Georgia. So she graduated from our trainer program a couple of years ago and has expanded a livestock operation and is now working to train other black farmers in her area to convert over to organic, to increase their revenue, so that's one exciting project. There's also the wild feed community farm in Healing Village and Millerton, New York, started by a bunch of our graduates and that provides a retreat center and healing space for black and brown people to recover from racial trauma and also is a working farm that sells garlic and mushrooms and Christmas trees to the community. And there are many, many examples. Some are farms, rural farms, some are urban farms. Some are catering businesses that are reclaiming Dominican, Puerto Rican, and Haitian cooking with a healthy edge. And then there's people who go into leadership in the nonprofit and public sector to try to change policy.

Deepa Iyer:

So I'm going to backtrack a little bit to ask you to break down this concept of the black led land trust, what that means, what that looks like and why it's so important when you think about food justice and sovereignty.

Leah Penniman:

So black people, particularly in rural spaces are being displaced from our land at an alarming rate. In the Gullah communities and the sea island communities that were once almost entirely black are now only 10% owned by Gullah people. And so we need to quickly send the tide of land loss and then start to reverse it. Right now, black people own less than 1% of the nation's land, even though we make up 13% of the population.

Leah Penniman:

So the idea of a land trust is a community controlled nonprofit organization that holds land in common for the public good and for environmental stewardship. So land trust actually started in this country by Charles and Shirley Sherrod who started a new community's land trust in Georgia. There are a black couple, got a mass over 3000 acres of land that was shared in common by 500 black families and catapulted this whole land trust movement.

Leah Penniman:

And so the idea with having community land trust is that we could buy up black land that has been foreclosed upon and is put on auction, which is the main way we're losing it right now and then hold it in sacred stewardship while we make a match with a returning generation black or brown farmer who wants to steward it for a community benefit. And there's only one land trust with that mission right now in United States. It's the black family community land trust, and they're way over burdens and overtaxed with what they're trying to deal with. So we need to proliferate that model.

Deepa Iyer:

So you also mentioned, Leah, a little bit about the policies that organizations are working towards when it comes to food justice and sovereignty at the national level as well. Can you share a little bit about what some of those initiatives are?

Leah Penniman:

So just full disclosure, I'm not a policy expert, but it's become necessary for me to educate myself and get involved. So we are part of three different policy platforms and helps to craft them. It's the HEAL Food Alliance, the National Black Food and Justice Alliance and the Vision for Black Lives policy platform. And in all cases, what we're essentially asking for is to invest in black and brown leadership in the food system, through land, through the SNAP program and access to food, through funding cooperatives and businesses, through free and universal education, and to divest from the policies and practices that are harming our communities. So right now, if you look at the farm bill, which is the biggest piece of legislation by dollars that we have in the United States, is investing disproportionately in industrial agriculture, which is poisoning farm workers and destroying the environment and loading our communities with commodity foods that are making us sick.

Deepa Iyer:

And I'm glad that you mentioned the vision for Black Lives policy platform. We've talked about that often on our podcast. So I think it's another example of how the work that you're doing is linking up to broader racial justice, economic justice movements in the country that it's not siloed. And I'm curious if you can talk a little bit about... Even as you message or speak about your work, how do you see it in relationship to say, the movement to end police brutality or to dismantle the detention and deportation complex, or even living wage efforts? How do you make the connections between what you're doing and those kind of racial and economic justice efforts that are happening in the country?

Leah Penniman:

Yeah, something I love about the current movement is that we really don't see the divisions between these individual struggles. It's the same white supremacist, capitalist, patriarchal beast that is undermining our food sovereignty, and also undermining our education system and enacting this insane criminal injustice system. So, in our messaging, certainly in our newsletters, we include links and encourage people to get involved with sister struggles all the time. But tangibly, we ask ourselves, what can we as farmers do to support these intersectional movements? So for example, there's a Victory Bus Project, which is led by the Freedom Food Alliance that provides transportation between New York city and prisons upstate so that people can visit their loved ones. And when folks get on the bus, they're also given a package of farm, fresh food from our farm or one of the farms in the victory bus collective.

Leah Penniman:

And they can bring that up and give it as a package to the person who's incarcerated, who's not receiving fresh food, or they can keep it and see their family. We also do a solidarity share where folks who are immigrants or refugees or otherwise targeted by state violence can get free or for food and very nominal costs from our farm that's delivered right to their home on a weekly basis. And we intentionally reach out and work with these communities that are targeted to let them know that like, yes, we're a farm. Yes, we have this particular mission, but we see you and we're going to leverage our privilege and our resources to support you in the ways that we can.

Deepa Iyer:

And I know that you talked a little bit earlier about some of the sibling farms in other parts of the country, but you're also working in places or in connection with farms in Haiti, Puerto Rico. Can you talk a little bit about what those connections look like?

Leah Penniman:

Yeah. I feel so honored and grateful that we get to work with our sibling farms in Haiti in particular, my mother's lineage is from Haiti. And so, after the earthquake, my sister and I, along with other Haitian Americans felt this imperative to do something. And it sounds a little bit cliche and maybe even paternalistic, but we visited our homeland and we asked what was a way to help, that didn't impose external will and folks in the farming community of Comea and Leovan said, "You know, we really would love you to help raise funds and bring experts and volunteers down to support initiatives that we've prioritized." And this community in Comia has needed irrigation, a new well system to pump clean water, mango tree planting, composting initiative. And so over the seven years, since the earthquake, we've been going down once or twice a year, raising money and implementing these projects. And it's beautiful because the community there completely leads them.

Leah Penniman:

They're completely autonomous. And so it's really a matter of what feels like international reparations for the pain inflicted on Haiti by United states, which we benefit from here. And then in Puerto Rico, we have a sibling farm called think of Conciencia in Vieques. And they're wonderful folks. It's very much like the Soul Fire of Puerto Rico. And since the hurricane, they have been providing paid work as well as food relief to thousands of people on the island. And so we're trying to leverage again, and our networks in the United States to transfer resources to the project that they have identified and that they're running.

Deepa Iyer:

Leah, as we close up the conversation, I want to ask you a couple more questions. One is, how can folks get involved, right? There might be people listening who are learning about food apartheid and food sovereignty for the first time, there might be others who want to get in engaged, but they don't know how and they're living in places, not in New York, for example. Tell us a little bit about how everyday folks can make a difference in terms of how they utilize and think about the food system generally, to how they can actually support and get engaged with initiatives like yours.

Leah Penniman:

You know, we all can take a stand and make a difference in terms of working towards food justice. And I encourage people to follow the lead of those most impacted by the issues no matter what our geography. So a first step is to find out what's already going on in your area, particularly projects that are led by people of color and projects that are led by people who've experienced hunger and displacement, and to ask what's needed. And sometimes that's not super sexy. It might just be filling up the coffee pot or doing childcare or providing transportation, but that's always a really good starting place.

Leah Penniman:

On our website, we do have a list of actions you can take in terms of pressuring or encouraging your local schools and businesses and elected officials to make shifts in policy that will help more people get access to good food and good land. And then I think too doing some self education and self reflection around ways to uplift our own personal food sovereignty, what are ways that we can choose health and choose connection to land and choose to honor farm workers in our day to day?

Deepa Iyer:

I started off at the beginning asking you what your point of entry is into the work you're doing. And you talked about how it started in a very personal way with your family. And as we close this segment, I want to ask you what sustains you to keep going? You've been doing this work, I know since 1996. And so what are the ways in which you sustain yourself?

Leah Penniman:

Well, in some ways, I think it's just your stubbornness. There are fellow us who really don't want to give up and we don't want to give in, and we want to see our community to the other side of the struggle. So a lot of it is that it's just grit. But I think also it's true that when I hear feedback from alumni and folks have gone through our programs, that being at soul fire farms is a little taste of what it would feel like to be free. That it is an overflowing cup of resilience to be here on this land and in this community and learning the things that we have to offer. For me, that type of feedback reminds me that all of the long hours and the struggle and the frustration is really making a difference in terms of our community agency and our community sovereignty.

Deepa Iyer:

For anyone who's met Leah. It's very clear because it comes out of you. And again, Leah, thank you so much for your work, for your energy, for your commitment. It's such an inspiration. And I hope that more folks will learn about Soul Fire Farm and the different initiatives, as you said, in the places that they live and educate ourselves about them. Thank you so much for joining us.

Leah Penniman:

Oh, thank you so much for including me in this powerful project. I appreciate it.

Deepa Iyer:

Now, we're going to switch gears and we're going to talk about a movement. That's captured all of our emotions, which is the MeToo movement started by Tarana Burke, a black woman. The hashtag MeToo is an individual in collective declaration of the shared experiences that women have with sexual violence, harassment, and inequality in every single sector and aspect of our lives. Recently, many women, particularly those in Hollywood, started a movement called Time's Up, which focuses on workplace harassment. But clearly there are many women, especially those in service industries, who are enduring harassment and inequity at even greater levels. And women of color are contending with violence in our homes and workplaces as well.

Deepa Iyer:

Joining me now is Shivana Jorawar. Shivana is the co-chair of Jahajee Sisters, an organization based in Queens, New York. She's also with the center for reproductive rights, and she's worked previously at the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum. And she serves as a board member of the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance. Before we get started with this interview, I just want to provide a warning that we're going to be talking about some graphic violence in this particular segment. Shivana, welcome to the podcast.

Shivana Jorawar:

Thanks so much for having me. I'm honored to be with you.

Deepa Iyer:

So Shivana, one of the organizations that you're with that is based in New York city is called Jahajee Sisters. And I was wondering if you could tell us a little bit about how the organization started and what are some of your priorities.

Shivana Jorawar:

Jahajee Sisters started in 2007 when two young Indo-Caribbean women in New York city were killed in acts of gender based violence. At that time, a number of us who knew each other, Indo-Caribbean women felt that these stories, even though they were on the cover of the daily news, the New York post, they were met with a real deafening silence from leaders in our community. Most of whom were older men. And we were outraged that no one was activating on this and speaking out. And so really what happened is we became the leaders that we needed in that moment. We knew that it was our time to step up and do something. And so we out women together for the first time ever in a Mundare, which is a Hindu temple for the first Indo-Caribbean women's summit in that year.

Shivana Jorawar:

And honestly, we didn't know how many people would show up to talk about what was then an even more taboo subject, but the place was totally packed and became clear very fast that one gathering or even an annual gathering like that was not going to be enough. This really needed to be a sustained effort, and it needed to be an organization. And so Jahajee Sisters was born.

Deepa Iyer:

So I'm wondering if you could tell us a little bit about the Indo-Caribbean community, especially the community in Richmond Hill and provide some background in terms of the history right of this community and the diaspora that is here in the United States.

Shivana Jorawar:

I'm really glad you asked that because I don't think a lot of people know who Indo-Caribbeans are, but I'm always looking for opportunities to share. So although we, as Indo-Caribbean have Indian ancestry and in many ways we are a part of the South Asian community. It's important to recognize that our history and the consequently, who we are, is very different from that of Indian Americans who are actually indentured laborers, contracted to work on plantations in conditions that were not so different from slavery. And it was for people and people that were living on the margins of society, generations ago. This is in the 1830s, like sex workers, and widows who migrated to the Caribbean that were brought over. And they were making that decision for many reasons. So some bought into the idea that they were going to the so called land of El Dorado, this land of gold, where they would no longer be impoverished.

Shivana Jorawar:

Others were coerced into signing labor contract. They couldn't reach and didn't understand. And women in particular, because it was so taboo for them to leave the home. And there was a shortage of women, were kidnapped or manipulated into going. And for the most part, no one really knew what they were embarking on, how long it would take to arrive, how harsh the journey to the Caribbean would be. And they were going to an entirely new continent. And so they were taken to countries like Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Suriname to work the sugar plantations there after it became illegal to have African slaves.

Shivana Jorawar:

And today in United States, our largest population is in New York city. And especially in Queens, there's a really big diaspora community there. And in fact, according to the city's department of planning, more than 80,000 Guyanese, mostly Indians, from the Barbies farming region lived in the connected teen neighborhood of Ozone Park, Richmond Hill and Jamaica. And of course we have people in other New York city boroughs, as well.

Deepa Iyer:

So I was actually wondering Shivana, you talked a little bit about when you were starting to talk about the Indo-Caribbean community, how the community is part of the broader South Asian community, but is also different, right? And have shared some of those differences. I'm curious to hear how Jahajee Sisters and other Indo-Caribbean groups are building some of the alliances, given that this is a podcast on solidarity practice. I want to hear a little bit about how those alliances are being built as there is recognition of the very different histories of oppression of migration that Indo-Caribbeans face, as opposed to say a lot of Indian Americans who have been in this country, especially since 1965.

Shivana Jorawar:

So it's definitely happening and I'm glad for it. I think it has to happen more. And I also think it's important to know that one of the uncomfortable truth about our arrivals as Indo-Caribbeans to the U.S., is that Indians from India distance themselves from us. So, instead of being met by community and solidarity, we've historically been shunned as part of what I think is the quest to be seen as a model minority on the part of Indians. So, South Asians didn't want anything to do with our proximity to blackness, because we're from countries with large black populations that influence our culture, and didn't want to be identified with a community that frankly, was not as wealthy as they were, and didn't have all the trapping sex come along with that. And so this kind of respectability politics states back generations.

Shivana Jorawar:

So I think, while we very much want to be included in the larger South Asian community, and to some extent we are to really get there, we need to address the ways we have been excluded and to have that recognized, and there needs to be some healing that happens. That would be my hope that we can continue coming together and organizing together because we're impacted by the same injustices. And we realize we can be more powerful in doing so when we're united.

Deepa Iyer:

Yeah, no, I think you pointed out one of the key practices, or I should say principles of solidarity practice, which is the ability to acknowledge and validate different histories and not assume that they are the same or to flatten them. And I think that's exactly what you're talking about when you're talking about how South Asians who are not Indo-Caribbean can build greater unity and comradery with Indo-Caribbean communities. And I did see one, I guess, example of that. And I wonder if we can pivot to that a little bit, which goes back to the mission of Jahajee Sisters as well around the brutal murder of Stacy Sing on new year's day of this year. And I'm wondering if you can talk a little bit about how you all have been mobilizing the community around that and the ways in which South Asian organizations, especially women's organizations have stepped up in the wake of that horrific murder.

Shivana Jorawar:

So we woke up on January 1st, New Year's Day to here the news that yet another Indo-Caribbean sister was killed in New York. So Stacey Sing was stabbed to death by her husband who then went to a nearby park and hung himself. It was the first murder in New York city of 2018. So it was a big story, lots of headlines. Stacey had two children, one of and five years old, who are now orphan, which really is one of the status parts of this story. This is going to impact them, of course, for the rest of their lives. And the community has been outraged like never before. So we held a vigil in partnership with 10 other community organizations, and it was held at this same Monday where we had our very first event 10 years ago. And so, that kind of had symbolic significance to us.

Shivana Jorawar:

It was a really large turnout, bigger than we expected over a hundred people showed up, including faith leaders, men, black Caribbean women came out to show up in solidarity and the family was so courageous, even going through all that they did, they got up there and they read a statement, and many women shared our own stories of abuse. And so it was just a really powerful coming together and a moment where everyone was so boldly saying, we have to stand up, we have to make sure that this does not happen again.

Deepa Iyer:

And have you found that the broader South Asian community has also been standing up in support. And I say this because folks might not be aware that most of the groups that work in South Asian communities around the country actually focus on domestic violence issues. And I'm wondering if you can talk a little bit about whether we're making headway to eliminate this form of violence and what you're hopeful in terms of seeing in the future.

Shivana Jorawar:

So one of the fantastic things that came out of all of this as we were reeling from Stacy's same stories was that South Asian Women's Organization put out a really beautiful statement, condemning what happened to her and naming their support for Jahajee Sisters and lifting up that Indo-Caribbeans are a part of their constituency. And that was huge for us, because it meant that we are moving beyond invisibility and we are building bridges. But to me, the most important thing we need to do is change culture, so that all people are valued equally, regardless of gender, the fact that society fundamentally believe men's lives matter more than ours is the root of the violence, need to change that mentality.

Deepa Iyer:

Obviously this is happening. And I think what you're speaking to in terms of addressing cultural shifts, cultural norm, systemic policy changes, are really also part of the rhetoric of the MeToo movement and the times up campaign. And it seems to be a space and opportunity for us to shed light on everything from workplace harassment, to domestic violence, to sexual assault. I'm curious to know how you and Jahajee Sisters view this movement. Do you see your communities in this movement? What are the possibilities and what are some of the gaps?

Shivana Jorawar:

You know, we believe we need an army of storytellers speaking our truth, refusing to be silenced for real transformation to happen. And the MeToo movement has reinforced for us the power of personal narrative and played a role in inspiring more of our newer activists to open up about what they face. So it's important that this is happening. However, at the same time, what I've noticed is that the MeToo movement and Time's Up have mostly focused on the experiences of white women and people with power, maybe in part, because they're celebrity driven, and in part, because the pain of people of color is never really given the attention it deserves. And it's focused mostly on sexual harassment instead of bringing in, I think at an equal level, conversations about violence and gender-based murder. And it's important that activists have been able to bring the experiences of domestic workers and farm workers into the conversation through a lot of hard work, I'm sure, but I think there needs to be more and we need to ask, who are the people most impacted? Who are the ones being killed?

Shivana Jorawar:

And then we need to center those voices because when we can center the most marginalized and get them liberation, we're all going to get free. And we serve immigrant women who are disproportionately impacted because of the fact that they live in the shadows. They're unable to report violence because they fear deportation, trans women of color are being killed at alarming rates. And it seems like no one even flinches. So in addition to the Alyssa Milanos and the Reese Witherspoon, I want to call for these spaces and these names to be known too, so that we can get out of this cycle spotlighting only certain people's team.

Deepa Iyer:

Exactly. I completely agree with you. And I think in that vein, there's also been this firestorm around the story. They came out this month about as ease and sorry, which I know has struck a chord with a lot of, South Asians. And I'm wondering if you've talked to people within Jahajee Sisters, or if you've been hearing about how South Asians are viewing this, some people say that this story is trying to undermine the MeToo movement which you just spoke about so eloquently. So I'm curious to know if you have any thoughts on it.

Leah Penniman:

I think this is a moment for us as a South Asian community to begin getting past the hangups we have about sex and sexuality that hold us back from addressing what women face, right? Because if you can't talk about it, you can't solve it. I hope that this question of what to make of diseases, sexual encounter pushes us to break that barriers, so we can have the really important conversations about consent and women's autonomy over our bodies that need to happen. And I have to say too, that for South Asians, I understand that we don't have a lot of media representation, I do. But we can't absolve him. And we can't shut the conversation down simply because he's brown and we want to see someone like us succeed. And we also have to recognize that what he did is not at all uncommon, I would say it's par for the course and know it wasn't great. But that this kind of male textual entitlement is normalized, that the bar is set so low, does not mean that we shouldn't call it out as problematic behavior.

Deepa Iyer:

And I think you're so right, that it is an opportunity to have some conversations that have not been had in this community. I'm talking to Shivana Jorawar. And we've been talking about the work of Jahajee Sisters, which you can find at www.jahajee, J-A-H-A-J-E-E, sisters.org. And in the solidarity syllabus, that'll be accompanying this podcast. You can also find links to some of the resources and statements that Shivana has mentioned as well. So Shivana, as we close out the podcast, I want to ask you more of a personal question about what sustains you in this work. And in this movement.

Leah Penniman:

What keeps me going is love, really it is love for my community, love for the women around me and in my family and less of myself too, because at the end of the day, this work really is about me, right? I have also been a survivor of gender based violence, and these are all issues that are important to me because I am personally impacted. And so for me, I'm really fired up by the need to make sure that we are cared for that we are loved in our community. And I'm sustained by hope. It's really easy to get stuck in this mindset as there's just too much bad in the world. How are we going to overcome it? But if we don't have hope we're never going to get there. And so I'm a big believer in just remembering that everything that we need, the universe has got it for us, it's out there. We have infinite organizing power. We just have to believe and put our trust in it.

Deepa Iyer:

Well, I'm inspired by people like you Shivana and I'm so glad that you are in this work and in this movement. And thank you so much for joining me on Solidarity Is This.

Leah Penniman:

Thank you.

Deepa Iyer:

I hope that you've enjoyed listening to Leah and Shivana on this month's podcast of solidarity Is This. As always, you can find a solidarity syllabus with links and information related to our conversations this month over at www.solidarityis.org. You can also subscribe and download the podcast on iTunes. I know that Shivana and Leah would all appreciate you sharing this podcast episode with your networks and on social media so that their important work gets even more visibility. As we close, I want to return to a theme that we heard about throughout today's podcast about attending two generational trauma and ancestral lessons.

Deepa Iyer:

If you'll recall, I mentioned adrienne maree brown's book, Emergent Strategy at the beginning of this episode, here is a passage and an invitation that adrienne provides in Emergent Strategy. It reads, "I am living a life I don't regret, a life that will resonate with my ancestors and with as many generations forward as I can imagine. I am attending to the crises of my time with my best self, I am of communities that are doing our collective best to honor our ancestors and all humans to come." Again, that is a passage from adrienne maree brown's Emergent Strategy. Take a look at adrienne's website, www.adriennemareebrown.net for more affirmations, resources and adrienne's own writing. Whatever the work is that you do, I hope that you are doing it with meaning and compassion. Thank you for joining me on this month's episode of Solidarity Is This. See you again in February.

 

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