3 April 2011
I'm writing this now with dirt still under my fingernails. My face is swollen red like a pregnant berry and I know parts of my body that haven't been used in ages are going to ache like hell tomorrow. But it feels good--the kind of aching that reminds you that you're human and finite--the sort of thing you forget when you're only ever stretching your intellectual muscles. Today we went to the Fellsmere Community Garden to help the Farm Workers Association with some labor output. I turned soil, learned how to layer with leaves and fertilizer, planted, pulled weeds, attempted to build nestling-like things for tomato plants, and whatever else they needed me to do. It was an overall success. Though, I feel like we failed at being on time (there were extenuating circumstances that we couldn't help/prepare for). My parents have always taught me that punctuality is a sign of respect--respect for other people and respect for yourself. I hope that we didn't offend our community partner by being late. They seemed very understanding and happy that we made it.
On another note, I finished the SL Showcase application (which has been approved) and failed at leading the symposium. It...was a tragedy and I'd like to bracket that off to the furthest recesses of my brain so I don't spiral into a deep depression. But I suppose it's important to reflect on our failures as well as our success...Damn.
First, I'll talk about projects that actually happened. The conditions at the garden are nothing at all like what a farmworker goes through. We worked at our own pace, had proper equipment, access to clean water and bathrooms and snacks. Plus, there wasn't a threat of a crew leader, pesticides, violence, sexual assault (etc) and the space had a positive energy the entire time. However, this is an example of how a community uses the skills it acquires through the disenfranchised and displaced body to actively engage the outside community with their discourse. Farming is tough shit and should garner so much respect, but many people can't realize this until they feel the heat of the sun on their neck and blisters forming on their hands.
Every time I think of the Symposium, I turn sour--at myself, at my classmates. We failed to organize, to compromise, to support one another. How do women do this on a global/intraregional scale if we can't even model it in a classroom setting? How do transnational organizations overcome communication barriers and identity politics to further anti-oppression campaigns when I can't figure out how to do it between 13 people? My initial fears of us not being able to overcome our self-fragmentations resulted in failed projects that weren't directly sponsored by our community partners. I know that I have failed, personally, to overcome these things.
Were we not motivated enough? Did we allow our differences to manifest and swell in unhealed wounds until, ultimately, our bodies were rendered incapacitated?It feels as though the lack of communication between ourselves fell into the trap of "a conversation of "us" with "us" and "them" is a conversation in which "them" is silenced. "Them" always stands on the other of the the hill, naked and speechless, barely present in its absence" (67). We divided amongst ourselves and worked at any given time as oppressor/oppressed bodies. What all of these women's organizations that we've read about so far have in common is that people needed to mobilize--for survival, for a future. They have a personal stake in the matter. But we forget that we do have a personal stake. We are a part of those people over there, because this story is constantly unfolding and we are just a part of the narrative.
What I felt was most rewarding was getting to know some of the farmworkers. They made it very clear that each community faced different issues and that they weren't acting as Native Informants. Rather, they were acting as concerned human beings who see injustice and fight against it because they feel personally invested.
I think I've learned the most this semester from the failure of the symposium. I have to check myself and the ways in which I interact with the people I work with and the community. Critical self-reflection is always the first step, right?
Be well, always.
Word Count: 720
P.S. I'm really sorry if this seems jumbled, but I had a deadline to reach and I just got home from manual labor all day. I think this goes back to what Audre Lorde has always said about writing--that it's a privilege because only certain people can afford to do it. You know, how there'd be plenty more Brontes in the world if people didn't have to worry about the invisible costs of writing, didn't have to worry about the work which makes writing possible.
P.P.S. Sorry for the long first 'P.S.'