Piper Anderson

Jul 262012
 

Over the course of three days, we connected, shared, strategized and transformed in a beautiful home where streams of sunlight flooded the space, giving life to the multi-color décor. Our stories of love, trauma, struggle and resilience were as bright and rich as the colors in the curtains, etched into artwork from around the world and painted onto walls.

The first Standing in Our Power (SiOP) core leadership team retreat was held on June 6-9 at the blessed abode of core member, Shilpa Jain, in Berkeley, CA. One of my favorite memories was sitting around a large, round wooden table–that felt like it was made just for us—while we shared communally prepared food.

We began our core retreat with ritual, led by Dayanara Marte (Dee) and Omisade Burney-Scott. It was a beautiful, co-creative process that allowed each of us to honor something greater than ourselves. Shilpa led a ‘Snowball Inquiry” activity that surfaced questions that are real for us at this time. It was like sewing together a quilt with disparate yet strikingly interconnected patches.

From the discussions that ensued, a thread began to weave throughout the retreat in the form of an inquiry: How can we embody a new way of ‘being’ and release the constant pressure of ‘doing.’ Honoring that question, we were able to slow down, breathe and be present. We agreed that the inaugural SiOP retreat, scheduled to happen October 25-28 in Ohio, will focus, in large part, on who we want to be as Women of Color leaders. We will explore how to embody new ways of leadership and release the overwhelming sense of anxiety and inadequacy that comes with needing to do the next best thing.

We then took a deep dive into some much-needed healing work with Dee and Piper Anderson through a process called “Emotional Release,” which has been developed by Dee in her work with Women of Color in the New York City. It was an incredible individual journey inward and then back to the collective. I personally uncovered traumas that I had packed away so well that I forgot they even existed. Together, we laughed, cried and held space for each other as we explored how our hearts had been broken.

Meizhu Lui, our amazing elder on the core, then led us through a process to deepen our political analysis and framework. We examined historical and contemporary data that spoke profoundly of the social inequities experienced by Women of Color. This process definitely got us fired up. As Meizhu tells us: we need to know how we got here to then be able to transform our present and future. Cherine Badawi led us in a World Café process – as we walked in pairs throughout Shilpa’s neighborhood – which explored Women of Color leadership by tapping into our experiences and visions. As the retreat came to a close, we appreciated each other, shared gifts and celebrated with music and poetry.

The retreat yielded a powerful draft agenda that we plan to continue refining as we finalize our list of attendees for the first national SiOP gathering. As we continue our deep listening phase and begin building the next circle that will help to develop the larger network, the energy of our core retreat guides us. These next few months will be a time to continue focusing on how to be, while we also manage a series of tasks. I have no doubt that it will also unfold and flow in a truly magical way.

Dec 082011
 
I’m 31 years old and still very much in the process of discovering my power. The ways I think about my leadership continue to evolve and take on new meaning in my life and for how I want to contribute to the world. Twelve years ago, working for social justice was in itself an act of healing. The act of organizing, speaking out against injustice, understanding systems of oppression, and being apart of a larger movement for change was exactly what I needed to stop feeling powerless and silenced. Yet by the time I was 24 years old I was burnt out and the work simply wasn’t enough. All the energy I extended out into the world left me feeling depressed and heart broken. Furthermore, I began to understand that the systemic and interpersonal trauma I sustained throughout my life impacted my ability to be fully present and invested in my relationships both personally and professionally.  I had to change the way I thought about my leadership and my contributions to creating another world. I had to change because my life depended on it.

 

I wrote this poem in 2004 when I began to intentionally walk my healing journey. This journey has led me to an expression of my power that is rooted in a commitment to transformation, imagination, and healing justice for all.
A Commitment to Living
     By Piper Anderson

Let us laugh after crying
or better yet in the midst of tears.
Let us wear our battle scars like tribal tattoos
Wash the feet of a comrade 
Love our weaknesses like they were perfections
Make eye contact with destiny 
without blinking 
or hiding behind what we think 
we know.

Let me kiss each blemish on your soul
and hear the story of its inception. 
Lets give birth to silence in the midst of 
this urgent need for movement
Lets make love to the sound of our
analytical/theoretical/processes
Lets quilt together our political identities
Draw surrealist images of the enemy

Lets be revolution that is whimsical and fantastic.
Lets remember that before we were our ideals
before we defined ourselves 
according to somebody else’s theory of our existence
We were breath, nommo and 
dreams that were so far out of this dimension 
that they could only be dreamt until
somebody spoke them 
and decided that they must be lived
so we did
and it was just that simple.

Because we knew the power of words
and we knew that we descended from shaman
and spirit warriors
we knew the power of light
and the color of sound when it penetrated
erupted and transformed energy
we knew that we were midwives of
tomorrow and each moment was preparation
for delivering her to the present.
But some where along the way
we forgot the power of being human
and settled for just being 
political with the right leftist analysis
But my flesh won’t let me forget
each ache from head down spine
won’t let me forget.
When my throat closes tight
and my hands shake
and I wake at night crying
from dreams that I can’t read
I can’t forget and the revolution
becomes getting out of bed each day
working though layers of barbwire coat my back
and my head whines until thoughts blend
with memories, forgotten “to do list”
and decisions that need to be made
and all I want is to be held close 
rocked in loving hands
but some how none of this makes sense to you
and so I’ve changed the way that I live
made a commitment to honoring moments
I am celebrating a revolution of Spirit.

In this Movement there will be the telling of stories
the laying on of hands
the gathering together of voices to create harmonies
of transformation
Because theory is nothing without practice 
So don’t feed me a lecture that won’t fortify my soul 
I don’t want to read no research I can’t wear
Statistics just bind my hips 
And I’m tired of published findings that restrict my movement 
I can’t dance in your language 
two many abstract words to decipher 
my body only knows tongues
that are shades of reds, yellows, and browns 
speaking in universal rhythms. 
So if you’re about revolution 
you better have the courage to love and understand
listen to self and to each other
honor the wisdom of the Earth
and let our tears heal everything that grows.
Because revolution is having the courage to be human
and together taking responsibility 
for our living.

© Piper Anderson 2004

Piper Anderson, SiOP Core Committee, is a Performance Artist, Writer, Educator, and Life Coach. She is an Adjunct Faculty member at New York University’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study. From 2006-2008 she embarked on a national tour of her second solo show, IN HER MEMORY, the story of a young woman’s journey to heal the wounds of intimate partner violence. Anderson uses the arts as a tool for social change by designing curriculum and facilitating community arts residencies internationally. A few of the places her work has taken her include Harvard University, UC-Berkeley, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Columbia University, Bard College, Kigali Institute of Education in Rwanda as well conferences such as The Tides Center’s Momentum Conference, Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence, and Critical Resistance.Her writings have been featured in numerous publications and four books, How To Get Stupid White Men Out Of Office (2004) and Growing Up Girl: Voices from Marginalized Spaces (2006), Conscious Women Rock the Page (2008), and Love, Race, and Liberation (2010). She has trained extensively in the healing arts, completing certifications in Reiki and Empowerment Life Coaching. She holds a Masters of Arts in Applied Theatre from CUNY and a Bachelor of Liberal Arts degree from the New School where she was a Riggio Writing Democracy Fellow. To learn more visit her website.