Affirm And Amplify Individual Identities Within Our Collective Humanity

Our collective humanity is comprised of our individual identities, cultures, and lives.

Too often, we overgeneralize each other’s identities and cultures. Such overgeneralizations spark and perpetuate harmful stereotypes. 

People of the global majority are too often called on to validate, defend, and/or debunk these overgeneralizations – the very stereotypes that hurt us. 

The notion of “a single truth” or “the universal truth” is white supremacy at work attempting to silence people of the global majority from sharing their identities, perspectives, and lived experiences for multiple truths to exist.

We each hold multiple truths.

Our lived experiences are truths.

Our identities are truths.

Our cultures are truths. 

When one person of a marginalized racial identity shares a truth that conflicts with something another person of the same racial identity says, white folx will often question the contradiction and demand a singular truth from BBIA folx. 

BBIA folx are too often pressured and expected to explain their truths without acknowledgement or compensation for the emotional labor such discussions take.

Pleas of “help me understand” plague the daily lives of marginalized folx who are not only undoubtedly experts of their own lives, but must too often serve as the unpaid “diversity, equity, and inclusion” consultant in white people’s lives. People of the global majority navigate through the stereotypes and “truths” written by white folx, and our actual lived experiences which are too often denied, denounced, and devalued. We are often gaslighted with relentless questioning to “prove” our truths.

Authenticity in the histories, traditions, identities, cultures, and lives of the global majority does not always show up in the form of literature and written scholarship. 

Recognize and understand that the western written word too often perpetuates white supremacy. 

The personal, aural sharing done by people of the global majority must be authentically accepted and valued by default.

Actively work to decolonize the idea of a “single” or “universal” truth in our collective humanity.

Listen intently without interrupting when we are sharing our identities, cultures, and lives. 

Reflect deeply and internally on what we share.  

Trust our truths as authentic by default, worth amplifying and celebrating when we share stories of our life experiences. 

Affirm our individual identities and multiple truths within our collective humanity — not by inaccurately replicating our traditions or replicating what we do at all, but rather by amplifying people of the global majority who are doing the daily work of preservation and continuous creation of culture. 

Empower our youth to truly hear, vocalize, and amplify each other’s multiple truths. 

The truths of our youth are important and necessary or our collective humanity. 

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Reframing the common question “Where are you from?”

Language matters. What we ask matters.

For too long, we have been socialized to ask and answer the common question “Where are you from?”

For many Black people and Indigenous communities, this question is triggering because of unknown and/or traumatic, severed pasts due to colonialism. We must remember that personal stories, lineages, cultures, and authentic histories have suffered from systemic erasure globally. 

Asking “Where are you from?” continues to otherize folx who identify as BBIA, adopted, multicultural, and more. 

For the AAPI community, this question reinforces that we do not belong, and is too often followed up with “But where are you really from?” — indicating a displeasure with and refusal of whatever answer originally given, as if to comment that a person could not possibly be from anywhere other than what is close to or matches the mental stereotype within one’s colonized mind.

Decolonize the idea that the question “Where are you from?” must be answered with a geographical location. 

We are from what we say we are from, who we say we are from, where we say we are from, and anything we say we are from that is authentic to who we are.

We each have a multiplicity of identities, and we define for our individual selves if and how we want to respond to this question when we inevitably continue to be asked this throughout our lives.

Our intent matters, and our impact matters.

Reflect on the intent in asking and being asked “Where are you from?”

Regardless of whether the intent in asking meets a surface-level desire to know masked under the false pretense of curiosity that only satisfies the person who asks the question or aims to build one’s understanding, having internalized this question as a truth-bearer of identity, the impact of asking can be harmful, toxic, and traumatic, especially with repetition.

We must reframe the common question “Where are you from?” so that we do not further perpetuate stereotypes, nor do we reduce people to only be representatives of their assumed and/or authentic social groups.

Create and continuously recreate new questions with the intent of building deep understanding across communities and cultures. Involve your communities in this process of reimagination. 

“What do you choose to share about your identity/identities?”

“Where do you call home?”

“Who is your community?”

Freedom dream new ways to define and share who you are — for yourself.

Listen intently and fully to the questions, ideas, stories, emotions, and arts shared with reimagined questions to understand your own self, your community/communities, and fellow communities.

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Music is dance AND dance is music!

“Music is dance AND dance is music!” exclaimed a first grader today. This declaration made me critically analyze and reflect on my own understanding of music and dance. Here are a few thoughts I have:

The forced division of music and dance into separate disciplines that do not interact is colonization at work. There is nothing that dictates the separation of the two aside from the colonization of our minds.

The lived intersection of music and dance is critical to multiple cultures of the global majority. The intersections vary for each culture – all of which should be amplified in the arts. 

Music and dance simply do not exist separately. In certain societies, no general terms exist for music and dance. 

Start your research at the indigenous music and dance of Papua New Guinea, Suyá, and Blackfoot peoples. This is a non-comprehensive list and simply a suggestion for a starting point.

The convergence of music and dance is not monolithic and cannot be applied universally to all cultures. Generalizing will only lead to erasure of individual voices in each culture.

Take critical care in understanding the nuances of music and dance in cultures of the global majority. We must always care deeply for BBIA peoples, their individual realities, and their collective experiences as practitioners of music and dance.

Upon reading and researching, decolonize your understanding of music and dance as separate art forms. Arrive at new understandings of music and dance as you continue to learn.

Authentically envision arts in your community to include the bold and unified intersection of music and dance. Once again, there is nothing that dictates us to uphold the status quo of white supremacy aside from the colonization of our minds.

Empower musicians and dancers to critique and redefine the narratives shared when music and dance come together. Actively critique and redefine the narratives as the convergence of music and dance renews itself through each musician, dancer, and arts practitioner. 

Then keep going.