This post is also available in: Kreyol
It is my ongoing commitment to restore my sovereign body, tendon by tendon and thought by thought.
Colonization is an ongoing destructive process in and to land taken from indigenous peoples. The indigenous people are then annihilated, either literally or through the extinguishing of their culture, known as “cultural genocide”. When land does not conform to colonized values and practices, it is seen as “terra nullius”, empty land, land that is waiting to be owned. Colonization also happens in and to bodies. When a body does not conform to colonized values and practices, it is seen as “cuerpo nullius”, an empty body, waiting to be owned.
Decolonization is the ongoing revolutionary process of returning land to the indigenous people to whom the land belongs. It is, in actuality a near impossibility. Decolonization also is the multi-generational restoration of the body to its proper owner through the cultivation of personal sovereignty. It is also a near impossibility to achieve. With everything so possible these days, the impossible is the only thing that seems worth doing! Success is seeing the body outside the lens of the colonized value system as “cuerpo supremus”, the sovereign body.
Sadly, every one of us has been affected by colonization. We have been indoctrinated with its values, which include, and are not limited to: creating a monoculture, developing passivity in life forms, hoarding things, keeping things so “clean” that they are sterile, distrust of anything wild, fear of nature, building social hierarchy, violence, oppression of lower classes created by the process of colonization, classifying everything, including gender, in a binary system, and, organizing everything in straight lines.
The innate sovereignty of our bodies is violated over and over. It is my ongoing commitment to restore my sovereign body, tendon by tendon and thought by thought. Here are some ways that I do this: (This is by no means an exhaustive list and I would love to hear from you what you do!)
Question everything. Everything. All of our values, all of our beliefs, all of our habits were learned in school and church and from parents already well indoctrinated in colonialist thought. There may be a temptation to phrase the question as “Is this a colonized value?” That is a useful question. It’s also a question that can lead to some fuzzy areas. Things aren’t always very clear. Here are some questions that provide greater clarity: “Does this value make me feel inadequate?” “Why do I feel that I need to dress this way?” “Why is Sunday a day off from work?” “Why does my god look like this?” “Why does a ‘legitimate’ family look like this?” “Where does my money go?” “What is money?” “Why do I organize time this way? Months with unequal amounts of days, work week of Monday to Friday, weekend, the year from January to December?” (I would love to know what questions you are exploring!)
Get your information from different sources. Instead of reading a book about plants, go outside and spend time with the plants. Instead of reading a history book about your town, go find the oldest person that you can and ask them what it was like to grow up there. Instead of watching the news on T.V., contact someone who is in that place of interest to you and ask them what is going on there. Instead of researching the internet about nutrition, visit the farm where your food was grown. Instead of keeping the iPod on all the time, learn to make music yourself. If that is too much to begin with, get your information from a book written from a different perspective. Decide to read only books written by black female writers this year. Watch movies not made in Hollywood. Go to a ceremony or ritual of a different religion. Flip through a magazine written to an audience that is not you.
Love your body…now. Yes, right now. Right. Now. There really is no greater act of rebellion or revolution than to love your body and to love it right this second. There is no need to wait until it fits more into the colonized ideal to love it. In fact, the less it fits, the more freedom you will find in loving it. Colonized values are also superficial values. Colonization cares so much more about how something appears than what something actually is. So love your body on your body’s terms. You body does not care what it looks like. Let me repeat that. Your body does not care…at all…what it looks like. Your body cares very much about what it is doing, feeling and how it is being treated. Your body cares about feeling free to take up as much space as it needs to express itself.
Exercise sovereignty. Yes. Everything on this list is a way to do that. More specifically, exercise sovereignty in your relationships to other humans. Take one hundred percent responsibility for yourself. Allow others to do the same. This means that you own your life, your reactions, your thoughts, your actions and you own them completely. This also means that you must extend this same respect to others. When someone says something, honor what they say by believing them. If your sovereignty does not recognize the sovereignty of others, it is actually just tyranny.
Eat. And enjoy what you eat. Don’t worry about calories. Don’t measure it out. Food as punishment or as reward or as source of guilt….that is food through the colonized lens. Eat for pleasure. Eat to connect with others. Eat to celebrate a good season. Most of all, eat because you are hungry.
Look up. Start to notice the moon. Where is the sun right now? There is a natural rhythm to life that we are not allowed to notice. The moon and its phases is an easy way to reconnect. Start to track the sun’s path. Start to organize your time differently. Our calendar was arbitrarily created in 1592. (That means that was a lot of time before this calendar was created!) Arbitrary because it was not organized on anything real in nature. The moon is real. Its phases are real. The sun’s trajectory through space is real. Relax into the cadence of real time.
Take off your shoes. Let your children run around barefoot. Other than the very real detrimental effects that shoes have on the mental and physical development of humans, wearing shoes is a very colonial value. It is a method of destroying connection to the earth and of cutting people off from a very real form of intelligence. Reconnect to an intelligence that you are not even aware you have been disconnected from.
Take off your clothes. Allow your body to breathe and move as a free creature. Be naked as much as is safely possible. Become casual in your nakedness. Unhinge sex and nudity. Learn to be at ease in what your body actually looks like and feels like when it is not being asked to conform to the shape of your clothing.
Know your landscape. To be indigenous means to be of a place. Know your place. There are plants that share your space. There are animals. There are rocks. There are bodies of water. Know them. Understand them. Know the names that science has given them. Draw them. Take pictures of them. Touch them. Give them your own names. Known the names that they have been called in that place. Eat from your landscape. Colonization has a goal of destroying diversity. Each place is different. By honoring what makes your home unique, you rebel effectively against the powers that want to pave over everything and make it all the same.
Talk to people that don’t look like you. Bodies are social things. They are contextual things. Identities are given to people in a society because of how they look. Almost always, there is a different identity that that person has from the inside. Get to know who someone says they are, what their identity is and means to them. Release the hold you have on what you think their identity must be because of how they appear.
Speak a language that is not the language of the colonizer. Learn, at least the name, of the place you live in the indigenous language. In Haiti, most of the language of the indigenous is gone. We know that we do not really live in Haiti. We live on Kiskeya. However, we are a stolen people who fought and bled for our independence, who learned and lived with the indigenous and who carry some of that language in our own. All of that to say: speak Kreyòl. There’s no way around this one. French is the language of the colonizer. It is the language still used today to demarcate the “educated” (which I hope you are grasping is just a code word for colonized) from the “uneducated”. You don’t have to only speak Kreyòl. French or English are very useful in the game. Kreyol, however, is revolution.