“If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time; but if you are here because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”
Lilla Watson, Indigenous Australian Activist
It’s been quite some time since my last post but my time has not been idle. It’s been filled with many readings, conversations, growth, and opening doors. The last time I wrote, I spoke of a “yes” given to my dream. I’ve discovered so many unexpected things while exploring my dream. Doors that I’ve either not paid enough attention to or never noticed have flown open. I’ve found myself lost on this exploration.
Lilla Watson’s quotation above has been my place of grounding and meditation – a mantra, if you will. I heard it many years ago in discussion with a friend, and I keep hearing it time and time again. It struck me years ago as it does today.
If you’ve stayed up-to-date with the interns, you know my internship is about exploring the idea of a cafe where all can sit together and eat. The concept of “The Table” is to be in relationship with each other beyond the typical transaction of visiting a cafe for a quick meal then moving on to the next task. It would be a place to provide jobs for those who cannot readily find work for various reasons due to criminal history, lack of education, not being able-bodied, etc. It was a giant dream that needed some focus.
Quickly and with the help of a mentor, I came to realize that I needed to name the core values and mission/vision for this cafe. What’s at the root of it? What makes it, in its “soul,” a place where people would want to sit, stay, and meet each other face-to-face?
So I started reading books and participating in training and dialogues on oppression, vulnerability, and shame. As I did, my paradigm shifted. I realized the very real stories, emotions, and pain that sits in these places is what I wanted to address through the cafe. I discovered the cafe had become an image or name for these issues. I wanted to lean into and know more deeply.
The topic of oppression – racial, economic, food systems, the list goes on – has become a new focus. Both racial oppression and food justice are the two that have captured me. I realize they are entwined and deeply entrenched in the system with other oppressions. But I find myself needing to sit down somewhere, otherwise I’m lost swimming in my mind.
The topic of oppression is at times overwhelming, and yet I know I’ve walked through a door that I can never close again. I certainly don’t have answers, nor will I ever hold them on my own. So, as I invited people to the table in my last blog post, I do so again here. Tables have been places where people come together to eat, talk, drink, and discuss. It is the image you hear often when people talk about making sure everyone’s invited to “the table” because everyone has a stake in where the community is headed.
Turtle shared in one of her more recent posts that most projects reach a hazy point where there is a need for some fine tuning and refocusing. That resonates with me on this project and at times has caused me great fear. Where I am at today is realizing the cafe may no longer be the right venue, but the table remains, and thus far I’ve certainly found it’s “soul”.
Tess is an EcoFaith Recovery intern and a member of Leaven Project. To sign up to receive these blog post directly to your email account, click here or on the link in the upper left sidebar of any page at test.ecofaithrecovery.org. Please feel free to share this post with others and use the comment field below to post your thoughts on this topic. Thanks!