My identity shapes my belief of what’s possible.
As a white woman working in social transformation, naming my social location is essential me to owning my motivations, identities and vulnerabilities. Naming my privileges and gifts as they live in my daily actions supports me to move in the world knowing what really sources and drives me, where my stumbling blocks are, what I’m holding back on, and where I want to go. It is embodied mindfulness of who I really am, and what I do.
Our lifetime experiences are in our bodies, in how we show up, in how we move in relationship, and in our everyday actions. For leaders and transformers and creatives and change makers, its getting to know the deeper nature of your inner fire.
Roots and Legacy
I am an orphan of white Slavic working class immigrant parents, and I grew up as a foster child with an aunt and uncle.
I’m cis and bi and single and I didn’t have kids. This has both enabled me to take advantage of lots of free time, and to sit in the solitude of not being part of a blood family. I’m blessed with amazing chosen family in my home town of Vancouver. I got myself highly educated, I’ve had the luxury to travel a lot, and my independence has enabled me to work as a freelance contractor instead of in a 9-5 job. I have lupus, mildly, and physical action keeps me moving. Gardening is bliss, I get to make art and performances, I hike and kayak and camp, and I love to explore what consciousness can be.
The family I grew up with was puritan, violent, and grappled with mental illness and addiction. I was never seen as anything more than a foster child by them, and all information of who my family really was, was kept from me. At the age of 7, as I walked home from school, I asked myself,
‘What kind of society treats its people so badly that they can only act like this, so destructive and angry and violent?
“And then, there’s how that same power group treat the people native to this land, how do they have any right…?”
And then, “What kind of 7 year old asks questions like this?” I knew that I couldn’t share that thought with anyone, and that the seed of it came from my original parents. And I knew that that one day I would know who they really were.
I was driven for social justice, community development and social innovation, yet always with a stance that I was never of a place, system, or community. Like many social innovators, I loned it and worked on amazing projects, always on the go, excited by the question of what could be possible for us to create, as ways of living on this gorgeous planet. Years later, about to turn 40 and thinking I was long past the past, violence announced itself again. An ex-boyfriend assaulted me. There were no witnesses, he was acquitted.
I came to focus on violence as a root of dominant culture. Researching the Restoring Circles Project, we found that a large portion of current leadership and wellness models are sourced from Indigenous cultures.
I am very aware that being a white woman gives me access to people and resources that many people who are ‘othered’ by this culture can be blocked from. I use it. My working as an Ally, or collaborating as the people I work with call it, is about opening space in the dominant systems and then co-creating a better way.
In the 1980’s years of international protest of South African apartheid, I knew as a teenager that I would work against Canada’s apartheid against Indigenous people. There was never any question of this. It was both my deepest nature, and my choice.
What nature, and what choice?
Through a series of right person right place right time encounters, I’ve pieced together that my mysterious original family were deep-in labour and civil rights activists in the US South in the 1960s. They died there – mother, father and sister – in a car accident. Recruited by the social anarchist Industrial Workers of the World for their labour organizing experience on the West Coast, with the IWW they collaborated with African American civil rights organizers and the American Indian Movement. They were human rights organizers who loved jazz and art.
Their ways of being in the world are embedded in my bones, muscles and blood that push and nudge and guide me. And I choose this path every step. When I finally got to know their story, however, I suddenly made sense. I belonged somewhere.
I grew up with violence and what I’m interested in is joy. Pleasure Activism is what adrienne maree brown calls it. The joy I’ve experienced springs from deep, collaborating, witnessing and playful relationships where trust is fundamental. Joy is collective, humble and energetic and on the days that I don’t get to touch joy, I know that whatever discomfort I’m sitting in will open to some new facet of it once whatever is changing, does. Changing the culture of violence – this power over, isolating, colonizing, consumerist, divide and control culture of less-than and neurosis-as-identity, anchors what I do.
“Another way is coming,” Ahrundahti Roy notes, and “if I listen very carefully, I can hear her breathing…”.