Day 9 of the International Exchange: Curious Conversations
When we started this journey, Mariela Arce of the JASS team described it as a river. We all come from different sources and ecosystems, and during these ten days of the international exchange, we will converge and flow. We will encounter currents and sometimes the rhythm will move quickly and other times it will move slowly, but no matter the speed, we are constantly moving. We are near the end of this journey, but before we separate off into different streams, we paused and reflected on what conversations were bubbling up. Today was spent in open space to allow those conversations to happen in different forms and groupings.
Learning about Systems in Guatemala: Some had the opportunity to visit the Guatemalan youth court to learn about their juvenile justice system and they noted key differences with the U.S., namely in creating an environment that is less aggressive and intimidating. The woman judge was in regular clothes and simply sitting at a table, there was no law enforcement in the room, the adolescent defendant was not shackled and was allowed to have his dad sit with him, and juvenile offenders are never tried as adults. Even just these small differences reminded us of the power of treating people humanely.
Indigenous Culture Exchange: Others did a healing and spirit exchange between North American Indigenous and Mayan peoples. They shared songs, instruments, and stories as part of healing processes. Cohort members talked about healing sexual violence while the Mayan participants talked about healing the ancestral memory that has been lost due to colonization and war. One of the songs cohort members taught is deliberately one without words, just vocals, which is also part of practicing language justice. One cohort member reminded us that when our songs are lost, we can create new ones and they can become the songs of our people.
Migration Solidarity Discussion: With immigration being a very clear and highly politicized link between our countries, one group reflected on how the movement to end gender-based violence could stand in stronger solidarity with the rights of people who are migrating, knowing that many of those people are women who are vulnerable to and victims of sexual violence, reproductive injustice, and trafficking. They reflected on how Indigenous people and Blacks who were brought here as slaves, as the two peoples in the United States who are not immigrants, could connect with migration through their own histories, such as the Great Migration and the Trail of Tears.They discussed the push factors that force people to leave their home countries and what we could do to highlight their struggles and make staying in their home countries an option, such as supporting local businesses and standing against co-optation of handmade goods and crafts that are essential to women’s economies.
Building Stronger International Networks: Two members of our cohort are part of La Via Campesina, the International Peasant’s Movement working in 81 countries. They met with local members of La Via Campesina to strengthen relationships, discuss gender dynamics within the network, and to create a shared analysis on the current political moment in the region. Many organizations working to end gender-based violence are not part of international networks and global issues are often not on their radar. Connections like these can help expose U.S. groups to the possibilities of how these kinds of networks can serve as a vehicle for shared visions, struggles, and strategies across borders.
Addressing Anti-Blackness: Non-Black people of color in the cohort gathered for a discussion on anti-Blackness as part of an ongoing commitment to name and address it, with the recognition that getting to authentic discussions on shared strategies for liberation cross-race hinges on this. They shared how they each perpetuate it in their own lives and how it shows up in their organizations as an acknowledgement that all of us are steeped in anti-Blackness because of white supremacy, and that it’s everyone’s responsibility to not just interrupt it but to also reflect on what we can do to be pro-Black.
Black Brilliance: Black folks in the cohort spent an evening focused on joy and laughter, celebrating each other and lifting up each other’s strengths. It’s important to make space for this as humans, and especially as humans that are being constantly scrutinized and policed. In a country like Guatemala with very few Black people, it was very powerful to go out together as a highly visible group and lean into their joy and community.