Remember how we felt when we watched Black Panther? I went to see it with my brother and sister in law in Atlanta. I was at a regular mall – surrounded by beautiful people of color, mostly black, dressed to the nines in finery – from ethnic looks to fusion urban-ethnic to hip hop and punk. We were so beautiful – blended in our melanin.
I remember watching the movie – when they got to Wakanda. My nervous system relaxed and my brain lit up. Is such a place possible?
You’re damn straight it is.
In my career I have spent years building intentional communities. I taught in schools that thought about cultural competency as an afterthought – “Oh, hey,” a colleague at the charter school I was teaching at once told me. “Now that you mention it, is IS weird that every staff in our school is white EXCEPT the orchestra, PE and computer teacher. Huh, weird.” We all know that shit is not weird, that shit is done by design. It happens over and over. And then they wonder why behavior management is hard, why their test scores look totally different if you assess performance by race. It’s no wonder, its’ not weird. And it is easy to fix. For some of us.
As I have run Be the Change Consulting, I brought a people of color centered, social justice, courageously dismantling lens to every consulting project I ever took. You want to talk about supervision? OK, let’s assess how your white dominant culture beliefs about class, labor, and power hoarding show up in your supervision practices now. You want to talk about organizational culture? OK, let’s assess how white supremacy beliefs send active messages about who matters and how progress is measured and valued. Over an over I have seen the pattern – if you say you value diversity, it’s not about diversifying your staff. It’s about DECOLONIZING your mind, and organizational practices.
We create simulations of these decolonized, relaxed learning spaces. Our trainings are highly experiential, hands on, and rigorous. Our consulting projects engage creative thinking, somatic movement and critical action planning. We get invited back to organizations again and again because people feel good in our sessions and work gets done. More work gets done in a BTCC facilitated meeting, retreat, or process than if we weren’t there. So what does that tell you? Process matters. What you center matters. It’s easy to do and highly possible. The problem with scaling this approach is most people can’t feel it until they experience it. Those in power are freaked out by the idea of what they might lose. They are so convinced that power hoarding is the way that their brains won’t open up to a creative process that lets them see Wakanda.
I went to India last year for 6 weeks, and our people have their problems with class and caste, but to be surrounded by beautiful dark skin was a balm to my soul. It healed something in me that I didn’t know was broken.
So now I have a new dream. I want to create a physical space – an intentional community where people can visit, and experience a decolonized reality. I want to buy land and begin to build experiences where we feel the power and privilege of releasing that part of our cognitive load that stays hypervigilant to racism (there ain’t nothing micro about a microaggression so I won’t say that here).
In my vision (which I am expecting to co-create and expand upon with anyone who wants in) I see raising a million dollars to buy 40 acres of land (hopefully 40 acres and a mule). Half of this money will be crowdsourced- it is important to this vision that our people and communities hold up this process and see themselves in the dream. Half of the funding will come from donors and potential partners. We give ourselves 30 years to turn a profit, after which point the investment will be turned over to a trust to govern the space as a non-profit.
Here’s what I see happening on this land:
Phase 1: Get it Up
We begin with a nice house – where you and your family might go for a weekend getaway. The house will have attractive amenities – a hot tub, a massage chair, a rotating POC chef who comes to the house each evening to prepare a farm to table dinner from scratch. This is a simple way to pay for the basic expenses of upkeep to the house.
Phase 2: Destination Events
Next we construct eco-friendly yurts with compostable toilets around the perimeter and a large multi-purpose barn, which can be used for weddings, conferences, trainings, or events. People could rent the space for a destination event. This creates an intentional space for an intentional group of people. We center our values through an event staff that are well-paid, well-treated and empowered. We have exemplary POC chefs and offer healing rituals like nightly drum circles, jump the broom wedding services, a custom-created Playback Theater show (featuring my other side hustle – Oakland Freedom Theater) or facilitation/MC services that lift the quality, infuse culture, and bring everyone into their bodies.
Phase 3: Weekend Wakanda
We invite artisans and non-profits to travel to develop a thriving artisan market. Hand-crafted jewelry, home-made soaps and beauty products, fat-bodied yoga for all people, ayurvedic assessments and treatments, food vendors from all over the world – featuring the food of a country the US is currently fucking over through sanctions, music shows, wine tastings from black-owned wineries. I imagine all the things I want to divest from – the healthcare system, the world of processed foods, consumer goods made cheap to me by breaking the backs and souls of developing countries. I see this as a weekender paradise. An opportunity for people to get away from the toxic pace of regular life, and not feel limited by the white-dominated spa industry. During weekend Wakanda I see potential workshops for the woke and waking … people could sign up for sessions like:
– Building intentional values with family members
– Having difficult conversations with people who think differently from you
– Strategies to live outside the gender binary
– Resilience building for POC who are surrounded by toxic patriarchy
I think these are moments of intentional self-care. It’s a way to remind ourselves that there’s another possibility besides over-drinking, smoking a bunch of weed, watching too much stupid TV – the binge that is necessitated by too much stress, a drive for overproductivity, and competition for resources we think are too scarce.
We need another reality. Let’s build it.