Throughout my month in the John Lewis Fellowship Program, I carried a small, fraying, white moleskine journal. In it, I recorded my thoughts, reactions, feelings, and notes about books or people or organizations I wanted to learn more about. I filled 19 small pages with hastily written notes as I tried to keep pace with a brain stimulated beyond its capacity. Now, as I reflect, I’m trying to piece these scattered thoughts together. The best way I can begin to do so is by sharing fragments of these writings from different moments in the Fellowship. They are messy, disjointed, and honest. They are what I will carry forward from this program. They are what will shape me into a better organizer, activist, community-builder, friend, and family member. Here they are.
(Note: I have transcribed the notes from my journal almost exactly as they were written. Please forgive random underlines, incorrect capitalization or incomplete sentences. My notes are italicized to distinguish them from the context I provide for each day.)
July 11th, 2018: We spent the first day in the Center for Civil and Human Rights. Brian’s quote is the first fragment I wrote in my journal. He said this while discussing Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi’s responsibility in the Rohingya genocide.
“Even our heroes can become perpetrators” – Brian Tolleson
as always, Gino, be mindful of the space you take up
does the moral universe really end at justice?
July 13th, 2018: Carol Anderson, a professor at Emory University, said this next fragment while dis- cussing the history of voter suppression in the United States.
essentialism will get you killed
July 15th, 2018: These next fragments were motivated by a conversation I had with my roommate. His honesty provoked piercing introspection.
I do seem to project confidence while being deeply insecure.
I firmly believe that our struggles are all tied up together.
July 16th, 2018: Another fellow, Desmond Fonseca, gave a personal presentation about his family’s history.
I don’t feel connected to my family’s history.
ecosystem – trees
July 18th, 2018: Ward Churchill, a former professor at the University of Colorado – Boulder, spoke to us about the history of indigenous resistance in the United States.
I, as a human, have a responsibility to other people.
liberation = refusing to accept the paradigm that oppresses you
I’m still learning…
…[my role is] making space and supporting those getting into good struggle
July 19th, 2018: Professor David Hooker led us through a restorative justice workshop.
in the world we want, how do we have to be in that world?
mine is a construction
his politic is imagination – Rachel Atakpa
July 23rd, 2018: We reflected, as a group, on our experience in Montgomery, Alabama, at the Legacy Museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice. We then participated in a spoken word workshop with Coleman Howard.
untethered – Tanya – I am free
“THERE’S NO MONEY TO BE MADE IN LIBERATING PEOPLE” – Coleman G. Howard
Always pay homage.
July 24th, 2018: I wrote this next part during the panel on immigration with Van, Azadeh, and Emiko.
The panel w/ Van, Azadeh, and Emiko actually brought tears to my eyes…imagining the labor and love they bring to justice struggles as already-marginalized women of color.
July 25th, 2018: Written during the John Lewis documentary, “Get in the Way”
I crave too much the validation and praise of others at Duke and in the John Lewis Fellowship Program. What would it look like to find self-approval, a sense of validation and praise from within myself and not externally? Every time I’m jealous of the attention others receive or wish that I was receiving the same – take a deep breath. Close my eyes.
I run away from what is emotionally difficult and makes me vulnerable.
July 27th, 2018: I wrote this next part during the ViBe Theater Experience workshop with Ianne Fields Stewart.
Storytellers are the stewards of heaven and hell.
The nugget of freedom.
August 1st, 2018: Our family conversation.
Damn, this is tense. My chest feels thick.
August 3rd, 2018:
What am I looking for here?
I have gained the language of a politic of imagination and community from this program. I am eternally grateful to each fellow for the lessons they have taught me. To that end, I close this reflection with a poem inspired by the Rev. Dr. Otis Moss.
“an ode to the trees of my childhood.”
i hung from you,
dangling over shallow, fetid water
showing I could be brave.
when rain gushed from filled clouds
or my mom called us in,
I sucked in your shade,
and took cover behind your
each tree knew me, no matter
our previous lack – of introduction
you knew me.
“be like a tree,” he said.
i am me and me was a tree,
when I danced barefooted
across pointy nettles.
“be like a tree,” he said.
be like me?
or find me again?
softly seated under swaying leaves.