Tuesday, February 02, 2016

Panel Discussion: How Do You Keep Things Going At Work?

Notes on what was said.  This was delayed until I got the names right (I hope.)

l-r  Nicholas, Neisha, Evon, Liz, George, Daxkilatch

Daxkilatch James - 5th or 6th generation to hold my name - thank 1491s for raising that issue about walking in two worlds - hard to turn my Native off.  How we bring this into work we do.

Work for University of Alaska, one of the coordinators for Native and Rural students center.  UAS - Juneau, Kethikan campus.  Part of orientation, assume safely that most people coming to campus are somehow related to me.  Our aunties and uncles do the teaching, so that's how I see myself.  But not everyone comes from Tlingit culture, and I have to work with them too.

Neisha Jones -  I bring my authentic self to work.  I feel like you have to do that without concessions, unapologetically.  High racial tensions these days.  Being a black women, in service, and a business owner.  I feel it's important to bring access to younger women.  How beautiful their skin and hair are. We don't get that enough.  We filter out who we are often because we don't want to be offensive.

George Martinez - lots of opportunity to travel, originally out of the melting pot, from the second most diverse community - Queens.  Seen diversity real time and how institutions didn't reflect that.  I group up speaking multiple languages living myself by default.  Recognize our selves, as a work in process, gives me a sense of my value.  When use language of equity, could me fair and impartial, but most people here use it in other ways - you're homeowners, or corporate shareholders.  Think of US as a business and we all have shares.  Who determines those shares?  If we don't have our own . . . people ready to make claims, challenge existing institutions to respond.  Original claim - give us something and get out of the way - but now thinking about collaborative systems.  My total self - I grew up up speaking English and Eubonics.  I never saw two worlds, I saw multiple worlds.  Everyone here has a different view of what the world is and should be.

Nicholas Gatinin - Sitka - I've always. . . coopting our knowledge and things that shape our identities as artists, community members.  Irony of needing access to success through institutions, then having to hang up your culture to do well.  These are what our artists, poets, musicians, activists, scholars working at creating space for our voices and for our youth.  Historically, the same institutions that created forced assimilation.  We need to focus on those spaces.

Daxkilatch James -   Thanks for inviting me to be part of this conversation.  Shout out to 1491s . . .  Indian country is so small.  ???'s father is national leader talking for mother Earth, and he was one of my mentors, so I saw these young men before.  Understanding why they are doing this, is so powerful.  Purpose in how we presented ourselves and how we showed up.  Had privilege of growing up with Gwitchin single mother, had facial tattoos, as part of her healing process.  A decolonization process.  Thank her for teaching me.
Grew up in Mt. View for a little while - saw urban impoverishment and also in Fairbanks.  And sent away to live with grandfather in village.  Got to see a real different way of living and being.  When I became conscious of the inequity in the world around me and why Alaska Natives were facing so many challenges, but those from other cultural backgrounds had so much more wealth - at that time I was a high school drop out with a mohawk.  Reembrace of our identity.  Analysis of western institutions and systems - social, education, economic - are unsustainable.  Need to indigenize the world so we can be happy and whole as people.

Liz Medicine Crow:  Hit on a couple of themes.  Being able to bring your whole self into work.  Through our work, we're trying to build relationships and then create a pathway to bring others in.  Find ways for more people to be at those tables.  Becomes really hard sometimes. There's a lot of consequences when you put yourself out there all the time, if you are always the one bringing up 'those' issues.  How do not be always the angry brown/black person, the need to educate everyone else.  How do you focus on the job?

George:  I became a mechanic long ago.  I'm in a mechanic uniform now.  My sphere is public service.  In my personal walk, the power to go in and challenge the institution comes from the power to not do that.  I know the value of myself as a whole person and my relationship to the planet.  Whether folks knew that or it's new and they're learning.  I refuse to make the false choice and let institutions shape the process of what I'm doing.  If you are working for a paycheck, you have a restraint.  From a hip hop perspective, a cardboard box on the sidewalk, changes everything into a music studio and we can remix things.  I can either go into your institution and just do your work, or we can go in and be entrepreneurial and make things actually work.  I'll take the tools and build the alternative.  If you build it, they will come.  When we did hip hop, it wasn't to change the world, but we did it for ourselves.  I take that into institutions.  I didn't expect them to see me as normal.  Structures are changing enough to ask the questions to invite us to bring what we have into the existing institutions.  I'm not here for the 20 years.  I'm here for the generations.  Not here to see fruits of our labor, but to do the work.

Daxkilatch -  I appreciated Gyasi reminding us that we come from 10,000 years of survivors.  It's not a mistake that we're here today.  Important to know who you are and where you are from is important.  My auntie who was a weaver, berry picker . . . .  if I don't see eye to eye with someone at work, I remember the ladies before me had these conversations.  If you know who you are you start to heal.  Where we are today, people sharing their stories, thank all our ancestors and elder for sharing their dark stories.  I know now when I'm going for change, I remember my grandparents experiences, advocating for them as well as the future.  Tlingit word ??? you are in three places at once - your past, present, and future.

Even Peter - We are challenging injustice and inequity - an everyday thing for Alaska Native people.  Also working to build foundations - curriculum, ways of decision making - represents where we are heading.  When I got to that point, clarified, keep old from getting worse, and build the future.  It's hard work.  Difficult.  Times I'm shaking before talking older white male officials and have to challenge their world system.  There's a way to do it gracefully, honorably, without compromising what you're doing.  When I was young, I was angry all the time.  That has transformed and is more powerful in getting to where we are going.  No matter what you do, most important is that you never give up.

Nicholas - Lots of the conversations and challenges, coming from community where our voices have been removed like our language, you are empowered by your ?? heritage - Important outlet for our artist and musicians.

George:  Add one more thing.  Making ourselves available to help allies.  How can white folks confront this themselves.  We have to make tools available for them.  Our city is really prime.  we have the demographics, head of our city, the Mayor, is open to challenging us to be more than just the language of diversity.  Challenging us to take advantage.  We shouldn't lose ground and keep building.

Liz:  Last question to give people time to ponder.  Can you share what you do to rejuvenate, regenerate, recommit.  Legit role for righteous anger, but have to find way to rejuvenate.

Nicholas - yes it is work to constantly engage, my work as an artist, no contract that says I have to teach people.  Traveling is big part of my work.  Going home helps rejuvenate.  Getting out on the water is where I get my breath back.

Neisha - yes, tiresome work.  Most times thankless  A lot of the work we do will come to fruition after we're gone.  You give a voice to people who don't have a voice, under represented.  Give them an outlet.  That is a tangible reward.  Seeing I have support of people who believe in what I'm doing.  Need to form partnerships with people in the community.

Daxkilatch - I married a hot man.  He's sitting back there.  To rejuvenate I turn to my family and friends.  I have phenomenal students at UAS.  Wonderful energy from the students.  Be ok with receiving, we aren't good at that.

George:  Speaking as a man with a hot wife . . .  How do I get burned out and how recharge.  I'm pretty good at finding ways to do collaborative things where we add value to each other so it's mutual benefit and struggle.  Try to find system.s  Aware of my bandwidth.  Know how to say no, to delegate.  I have two ways to generate.  I make music.  Got to do some organizing on east side and they sent me a beat Thursday night.  I still record.  My wife and I rap together.  My son - totally connected to him.  The abuse video from 1491s  I see my son and that rejuvenates me.  I cheat.  Doing stuff, being with people, the new opportunities validates the long hours.

Gwitchin:  Reality we have a spiritual experience - we go out and live off the land for a week or two - hunt, fish - that's when I'm at the peak of my spiritual connection to the cosmos.  When I got here last night and into the energy of the people around me was powerful.  Sweat ceremony is a way of connecting and purifying.  Billiards too.  I'm a pool player.  I love it.  Takes my mind away completely.  I'll be playing, most likely, in national championship in July.  We need to find those things that provide that break.  This work we do is not just for people of color, it's for everybody in this world.

Liz:  Thank you all for being part of this conversation today.  Metaphor for our work - like water - as strong, as flexible, as fluid, as refreshing.

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