Monday, January 25, 2016

Summation of the Decolonial Gathering

Summation of the Decolonial Gathering
-Organizing Collective of the Decolonial Gathering
2016 and Beyond

“Decolonization, as we know, is a historical process... Decolonization is the meeting of two forces, opposed to each other by their very nature ...” (“Concerning Violence” Wretched of the Earth by Franz Fanon)


This is drafted as a reflection and summation of the gathering organized on August 29th 2015 in South Central Occupied Yangna (So Called Los Angeles – Tongva Nation Land) by collective participants.  We hope to discuss what were our intentions (the vision and proposal of the Decolonial Gathering), what we learned by organizing this and on the day, and what we hope the next steps will be for the collective and in the communities where we are guests. 

Our Intentions

“Once we recognize the truth of this injustice we can think about ways to resist and challenge colonial institutions and ideologies. Thus, decolonization is not passive; rather, it requires something called praxis. Brazilian liberatory educator Paulo Freire defined praxis as “reflection and action upon the world in order to transform it.” This is the means by which we turn from being subjugated human beings to being liberated beings. In accepting the premise of colonization and working towards decolonization, we are not relegating ourselves to a status as victims. On the contrary, we are actively working toward our own freedom to transform our lives and the world around us. The project that begins with our minds, therefore, has revolutionary potential.” (From “What is Decolonization” For Indigenous Eyes Only: A Decolonization Handbook by Waziyatawin and Michael Yellow Bird)

        The two things that come to mind in terms of our intentions for the Decolonial Gathering (DG) are these two sentences from the original call for this gathering:
“We hope to not just organize another event or teach-in; we hope that we can build a network to begin with and strategic alliances as we fight this system of white-supremacy/capitalism/imperialism/colonialism/patriarchy, and towards common goals and vision. We also hope folks can learn from each other, common experience, so we can continue to advance towards a decolonized and free world.
If what we are talking about is true decolonization and autonomy, something that is land based, the indigenous people from this continent and hemisphere have to be in the forefront of this struggle (from Alaska to Argentina), and the fight to free the land, water, air and ourselves of colonialism has to be supported across imperialist borders and all regions.” 
        The first point is about being effective, and being serious about what we are trying to do.  We felt that we have organized events in the past, and while everything serves a purpose (in particular maybe, education, raising consciousness, raising funds, protesting, etc.) we wanted to do something different.  We wanted to at least put out a proposal, not just in Los Angeles, but beyond that we start networking with each other to really fight the system of white supremacy, colonialism, patriarchy, and capitalism-imperialism.  We need to come together and start building relationships with each other, especially those who are serious.  As well as learn from our experiences, from all over, both our victories and our failures.  We further explained this in another statement released prior to the DG to begin organizing in a collective: “We are living in a time of struggle and upheaval, which is a good thing, let's talk strategy and build strategic alliances based on clear principles and guidelines for a world free of occupation, anti-blackness, transmisogyny, anti-indigeneity, colonialism, white supremacist hetero-patriarchal capitalist-imperialist system.  Mother Earth is in crisis, combativity needs to increase if we hope to have a world to pass to the next generation.  Let's start by learning from each other, our elders, women, children, etc, lets decentralize knowledge.  Lets build a network, and share materials needed all over Turtle Island, Abya Yala and beyond.  Lets smash this system, and create the world we want to see today.”   
        The second point even more important, because if we are truly talking about decolonization, recognizing that and acknowledging that we are on stolen Tongva Land in so called Los Angeles, but beyond and on this continent, is indigenous land, therefore we do not have a status on this land other than that we are guests here and most non-white people are here because of u.s. Imperialism, but leadership should come from those whose land we stand on, and indigenous people in general.  So we wanted to invite Tongva elders who we have met in the past and have tried to support, to be part of the organizing, planning and building of this gathering, and asked for input, and attempt to follow protocol, in asking for permission to have this gathering, being that the DG organizers are not Tongva.  We also wanted to invite other indigenous people who are in the frontlines, and who are fighting and setting examples in decolonization today, but also be clear on who we felt needed to come together at this moment in time: those who are victims but also are resisting colonialism. 
        Too many times have these conversations been controlled by academia and professional activists, and excluded those at the bottom, and in particular indigenous and African people.  We wanted to reclaim and take this process away from their hands and into the hands of the communities in resistance and those at the bottom, away from the professionals.  We didn't want any particular organization to come in and try to promote themselves, which also happens too many times at these gatherings, it was to build with each other and build alliances, not to promote any particular group.  We also didn't want to make it about what the oppressor, and those who benefit from oppression, are doing, but what we needed to do as the oppressed. 
        Once the collective came together and decisions were made, we started coming to consensus on many things.  We discussed the flyer, vision, outreach, fundraising, and whether we wanted to make this a “People of Color” space exclusively.  What we agreed on was that we would make it an intentional people of color space, meaning that white folks would not be excluded but they had to understand that this was time for oppressed people, with a non-genocidal legacy, to come together and build with each other first. 

What We Learned

“I believe this idea we have out here in the West Coast, acknowledging the land and your status... you have certain limits and certain restrictions...  What we are saying we don't have the right to be on this land, it is a privilege...  We are restraining personal power as a form of respect.”  -(From “Decolonizing the Colonizer” talk by Sakej Ward)

        This gathering had great conversations and a good network was built and strengthened.  We came together as a collective and were able to not only organize the gathering but events leading up to the gathering.  Still we learned, that we have more relationships to build especially with indigenous people of this territory, but also it is ok if they don't want to build with us as well (that is their choice). 
        As people affected by colonialism and it’s State Apparatus, indigenous people from other parts (including African people), and people of color in general, we are here because of different circumstances but forced to be here. It is important work through decolonization to build a collective dynamic to uplift these legacies and commit to the necessary healing of kidnapped, enslaved and deculturalized Africans as well. Because self-determination is often harder to grasp when self hood has been stripped away. We are still outsiders to this land, but don't have a legacy of genocide and occupation as the white supremacist capitalist-imperialists in power.  Still because we are not of this land, we understand to take up a supposrtive role of those whose land we are on, who’s knowledeg and relationship to the land is valuable for the proliferation of their people and ongoing fight for liberation.  We hope to get behind initiatives of Tongva as a collective, if they want to work with any of us.  There is no unified voice in any community, but we hope to continue to work with Tongva elders who are still resisting occupation to this day. We bring a question to those who are guests on this land and to those who have been historically looted ‘what is your ancestral relationships to the Nation State? Does that inform some collective-individual responsibilities and future actions you have to those still oppressed by it?’

Next Steps

        As mentioned, the DG had great conversations and presentations.  We were able to hear stories from elders and warriors who have had victories in the past that we can learn from, and continue to fight in the present.  We met great folks in Yangna and beyond imperialist borders.  We hope to continue to build as a collective and with the network we strengthened through this gathering.  We continue to build with communities and folks who weren't able to be at this gathering, and to support struggles here where we live (in particular of indigenous people) and beyond.  We want to win, and we want freedom.

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