Apr 19, 2011

coalition is dangerous

recently roya rastegar shared with me a speech by bernice johnson reagon called "COALITION POLITICS turning the century." in it, reagon offers a definition of coalition that changed my understanding of everything. the basic idea is that coalitions are the OPPOSITE of safe spaces. coalitions are dangerous and painful but we need them to survive.

i will paraphrase the basic idea analogy, but read it here for yourself. it goes like this

in this society if you are poor and brown, life is DIFFICULT to say the least. sometimes you need to create spaces to get away from all the struggle where you can be with your own kind. all it takes is a ROOM with a DOOR where you can check people by saying this is a space for US and if you're not down then you don't belong. safe spaces can be both nurturing and destructive.
But that space while it lasts should be a nurturing space where you sift out what people are saying about you and decide who you really are. And you take the time to try to construct within yourself and within your community who you would be if you were running society. In fact, in that little barred room where you check everybody at the door, you act out community. You pretend that your room is a world. It’s almost like a play, and in some cases you actually grow food, you learn to have clean water, and all of that stuff, you just try to do it all. It’s like, “If I was really running it, this is the way it would be. Of course the problem with the experiment is that there ain’t nobody in there but folk like you, which by implication means you wouldn’t know what to do if you were running it with all of the other people who are out there in the world. Now that’s nationalism. I mean it’s nurturing, but it is also nationalism. At a certain stage nationalism is crucial to a people if you are going to ever impact as a group in your own interest. Nationalism at another point becomes reactionary because it is totally inadequate for surviving in the world with many peoples.
reagon's idea of coalition means so much to me in thinking about all the fallout post-wildness - the general exhaustion i feel that i know is something bigger than just cause i'm working on the movie. the silver platter was and IS an amazing safe space for the Latina transgender community in Los Angeles. wildness was a weird anomaly that for a brief moment created a space for true coalition-building. we ALL had to put ourselves out there, to WORK through discomfort of trying to all occupy the same space. it was hard and painful, but it was vital and real. now that moment has passed we all retreat back to where "we came from" / where we "belong." even for me and my DJ friends. back to our different words of nightlife and fine art. for LGL, many have retreated too. back to our activist circles, back to law offices and classrooms.

i miss that moment where we were truly coalescing but i recognize that these movements come in cycles and waves, and sometimes we DO REALLY need to retreat and be with our own kind - whatever that my be. in my case i'm still trying to figure it out ;)

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