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In the last five years we have found ourselves in a cultural moment of reckoning, in which survivors are being listened to and supported and perpetrators are being held accountable more than before. However, what emerged is also a culture in which any infraction results in the call-out and cancellation of the individual in question. I believe that this kind of tipping of the scales in the opposite direction serves as an usher of transformation, but that it is not a sustainable or regenerative space to remain in. To create a culture that embodies values of cooperation, pluralism, and collective and democratic stewardship (like a Solidarity Economy), we must be able to acknowledge the histories and experiences we come from in a generative way. And yet, we find ourselves in this moment where people are afraid to learn because the fear of getting it “wrong” is more powerful than the fear of their own ignorance.

Informed by my experiences as a biracial Mexican American woman, bodyworker/somatic educator, dancer, and cultural organizer working within the Solidarity Economy, I am observing a need to cultivate the skills to navigate conversations around topics and realities like race, white supremacy, gender, money, and any and all subjects that surface discomfort. I am engaged in an effort to use my personal forms of knowledge as strategies to help develop this as a cultural practice. It is a series of intimate meetings I’m calling, Uncomfortable Conversations.

Uncomfortable Conversations explores discomfort as a place of discourse and connection. Both verbal and non-verbal dialogue serves as the medium that traces back pathways to locate the roots and home of discomfort that reside within us as individuals, and form our social and cultural sinew. And then there are the bodies— our bodies— that have navigated these systems of oppression and have both delivered and endured violence across generations. Bodies that are doing the work of abolition and liberation. How do we bring them into all that we do in a way that acknowledges their labor, and understands them as places of discourse?

In Uncomfortable Conversations, we are invited to observe what our bodies are telling us. In this conversation, artist and cultural organizer, Caroline Woolard, who I met through our work together for Art.Coop’s Study-into-Action, beautifully mapped her somatic responses (see diagram below) as memories surfaced. Her sensations served as a dialogical partner as we explored the stories and lineage around the word ‘money.’

Uncomfortable Conversations places equal value on the topics and words we discuss, the somatic responses that emerge, and the skills that we cultivate to navigate discomfort with curiosity and resiliency. It is my hope that as these conversations continue to happen, that instead of the isolation that is felt from exiling discomfort from our ‘selves’ and society, we can embrace and understand that discomfort as a place of shared belonging.

Key Words

Somatics, Body-based Systems Change

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Uncomfortable Conversations