#IamFree because the SiOP Community Has My Back!

By Diana Marie Lee

Stand in Your Power — Support Women of Color leading transformational change this #GivingTuesday – https://www.razoo.com/story/Siop2015/

Today is “Giving Tuesday” and I am sharing with you a bit of my story and why I am inviting you to join me in giving to Standing in our Power, a national network of women of color working to change the status quo and eliminate violence and oppression towards women and girls of color.

Standing in our Power (SiOP) has been a unique space for me to continue the healing journey I began back in 2009 when I walked away from a lucrative career with a national nonprofit dedicated to social justice. Tired, sick and burned out, I had become disillusioned with the unhealthy ways in which those of working for social justice relate to ourselves, each other and the communities we seek to serve and uplift.

When I began my healing journey, my focus was to reclaim the “sweetness” in my life, to discover a renewed sense of vitality and joy. As part of this journey, I lived for a time in Belize, Central America where my vision for Sweet Livity crystallized as I explored new ways of “being” in the rural communities of Sittee River and Hopkins Village. But becoming “visible” in Belize, through my art, my healing and my activism, had consequences and I found myself at risk of personal harm and danger. Sadly, this was not a unique experience for women from the West living alone in some regions of the country.

When I returned from the beauty and pain of Belize during the fall of 2011, I almost immediately launched my business Sweet Livity (www.sweetlivity.com). My vision was and remains to create wellness programs for individuals, organizations and communities. A year later, through a reconnection to Taij Moteelall and as a tangible way of practicing Sweet Livity, I found myself serving as a coach during SiOP’s first Transformative Leadership Institute held in the fall of 2012. A year after that, my gypsy soul wandered again and I found myself living and working in Miami, Florida by June 2013.

One of the ironies in my healing journey, is that of course, wherever I travel I find myself and all of the unresolved issues and fears from my past. One of those fears is “being seen”, “being visible”. From traumatic experiences going back to early childhood, I am well practiced in the art of “hiding”, “disappearing” whenever I find myself triggered and recalling painful events from the past. Painful events connected to my identity as a girl and later as a woman. When I landed in Miami, and found myself personally affected by the gender violence happening within movement organizations, the shock reverberated throughout my mind, body and soul. Pent up rage and grief from ten decades of living without fully expressing out loud all the heart-breaking events I had personally experienced or witnessed sought release. I found myself at a crossroads, needing to decide whether and when I would be willing to share my story.

The women that I have met through SiOP, each one in their own way, has been part of the medicine I required to deepen my personal healing journey; a journey occurring right now even as I write. With many others, I am learning and re-learning that healing is an organic and evolving process. Meaning, as I reach one level of healing and make forward strides in my life, I find new opportunities (some of us might call them problems or crises) for the healing work. SiOP is a safe space where someone like me, a person with a big vision and unresolved fears, can continue their healing work not in isolation but visibly in community with others and with tangible tools.

There is that wounded part of me that has always wanted since the age of four (4) to feel and have more power and positive impact in my own life and the bigger world around me; but more in an “underground railroad” kind of way. Harriet Tubman is one of my spiritual guides and inspirations and I have always admired what she was able to accomplish — freeing thousands of enslaved Africans — in the dark of night. She once said, “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.”

I have always been a dreamer – sometimes to escape my reality and always towards a better future – seeking to change the status quo. And, I know what it takes to make my dreams a reality. Somewhere on my healing journey, I got tired of the pushing so hard, especially if it meant I had to be in the limelight. But, thinking on Harriet, she did not only operate in the dark. Folks had to make their way north during the day and the night. The night was when they could at least rest some; but they had to move mostly during the day. This means that I also have to move and live out my dream mostly during the day. So, I might as well put it all on the line and be out there all the way, living my life and passions out in the sunlight. As Harriet once said, “I can die but once”.

So, I am saying out loud today, I matter. My story matters. I have many stories to tell and the time to tell them is now. I am ready to tell them. Thanks to SiOP, I am ready for example to write a story I wanted to write when I came back from Belize, “From Sharecropper to Shareholder” — A Healer’s Journey of Reclaiming the Sweetness in Daily Living and Social Justice Work.” I will tell that story and others, giving voice and visibility to this wondrous healing journey that I now know began not in 2009, but all those many years ago when I was a child of two or three talking on my play telephone. A child — not unlike my mother, aunts and grandmothers before me – smiling while surviving the craziness of a world which often does not value the life and perspectives of girls and women of color.

Stories of a journey to heal legacy, genetic memory, hate, anger, disappointment, isolation, disconnection, people-pleasing, overwork, poor health, and weariness of the soul. Stories of a journey to reclaim identity, cultural practices, balance, boundaries, art, joy, values, long-held dreams, relationships, healthy practices, freedom, optimal well-being, happiness and prosperity.

And, while I write, I’ll continue to live and work in Miami and other vulnerable communities across the country to create a world where everyone including me is and feels safe, loved, free and prosperous. I’ll continue to heal in community. And, I’ll do all of that knowing that I can keep moving forward without fear of looking back because the Standing in our Power community has my back, no matter what.‪ #‎IamFree‬

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