Generating ideas, connections, and action

Actualizing Freedom, Asserting Presence, Cultivating Power

This month has brought up a lot of emotions. Our country, still reeling from the losses in Florida, just witnessed the loss of  another person to police violence, Stephon Clark. With so much to carry, it can be difficult to create and be present in truly liberating spaces. Maybe because of these moments of deep sorrow, the the Empowering Womxn of Color Conference felt like sacred space.


I was immediately humbled by the offerings available for women to express and practice their leadership. Most of the sessions were facilitated and guided by young women of color to share tools and learning. I joined Af3irm SF’s session on Transnational Feminism that set the tone to learning more about the #MeToo movement.

During this session, the group discussed what it would take to create communities where women can be truly equal world-wide. Women brought stories that demonstrated the many ways that our culture and society normalizes violence and systemic oppression of women and specifically women of color. The solution is to remain united and commit to the liberation of women throughout the world.  


Recently, Rinku Sen shared a leadership development model from female farm workers, that brought these lessons to the forefront. Women farmworkers united to eradicate sexual harassment from their industry and work with men, and urged farm owners to make it into a reality. Gender inequity is so weaved into our society that we must come together to make a strong united stand against all forms of inequity in order to make a real change. Women throughout the world are not only asserting their presence and cultivating power, they do this to make freedom a possibility for themselves and others. Everything at EWOCC emobodies that.


I was still processing these conversations, when I was invited to see the film, The Mask You Live In (available to view on Netflix). I was truly saddened to see how toxic masculinity (not to be confused with masculinity in general) is ingrained into grade-schoolers’ psyches. It was truly heartbreaking to see little boys, turned into young men, struggle to take a stand and retain a connection to their feelings and seek understanding. The film makes the case for how boys are taught to hide their feelings; being unable to cry, unable to find validation for their pain, forced to appear strong, and stoic. This lack of emotion then creates a disconnect to feelings and that numbness leads to a lack of empathy.


Through different media sources which are commonly accessible, boys are being taught violence and aggression to deal with their emotions. Eventually, some boys themselves begin policing each other on any forms of what might be feminine in the playground which for some may develop into aggression towards women. Though the film was very emotional to watch, I found myself also being able to empathize with the stories shared of some of the aggressors portrayed. Empathy does not mean that I believe we should exonerate them for their crimes. I felt more able to see the humanity behind their pain and to understand their inability to hold that humanity within themselves.


Beyond that, I also felt compelled to pay even more attention to the details shared by the children in my life. I again felt the responsibility to be present and alert to ensure that I can recognize my children’s full humanity and the humanity of all those around me.


Next time, I'll share some practical tools around mental health and self-care from EWOCC. Stay tuned!



Part 1 of 2. Read part 2: Self-Care: Actualizing Freedom, Asserting Presence, Cultivating Power