You are likely to meet persons on this course who do not subscribe to your thesis of social justice, who will not share practices that you consider to be well-established around gender and race, who may not see eye-to-eye, and who have different ideas that may be troubling to yours. You may believe that those persons’ beliefs reflect a domination or colonizing way of thinking, and you may or may not be right, or there may be a way of understanding that is beyond right and wrong. In any case, we invite you to make this meeting a site of research that allows for questions and unknown outcomes.
We hope that our community can collectively cultivate a space that holds many more questions than answers. A space that is tender, interesting and interested, charged, haunted, new yet ancient, exhausted yet fertile. This course may be called racist (or some other kind of ‘-ist’) by some and it may be labeled as bypassing by others, but perhaps there are other possibilities beyond these binaries as well.
We Will Dance with Mountains is not Euro-Americo-centric, but multi-perspectival and aspirationally decolonial. We want to lift up important cultural perspectives beyond those heavily shaped by European colonialism and US American imperialism. Our explorations will draw from happenings from different places in the world without dismissing the specificities of local concerns and places of power. We believe that engagement with these issues and social realities are important and we invite participants to embrace this engagement.
We also recognize that contemporary popular decolonial discourse, especially centered in the US, has established forms of protocol that are meant to make mixed spaces ‘safer’ for minoritarian bodies and target groups seeking recognition within dominant cultures. While we are deeply committed to prioritizing the well-being of those who’ve been most extracted from, we are also wary of reproducing hegemonic structures of compliance that override one’s ability to practice discernment, to be accountable to other compelling forces, and to think differently. At the heart of this course is the longing to seek other places of power beyond the State, rather than recognition from its center. And yet, we must also “mind the gap” (Brené Brown) between where we are and where we long to be, and practice attention towards those who suffer the most as we strive to get there. How do we consider and care for those most historically exploited in our cohort without calcifying our encounters through fixed-solutions, reifying colonial sense-making? How do we safeguard such a sensitive process from the fumblings of whiteness? There is inherent risk in our choice not to rely purely on identity-based protocol, and to commit instead to a politic of blackness, of tricksterhood, of Vunja. We ask everyone in the course to hold this decision with sensitivity and dignity.
The organizing and research teams are also committed to our own learning journey and want to stay open to all that we don’t know and can never know. The tensions between some of the theses and research goals of the course: between a politics of visibility and imperceptibility, identitarian and molecular, are acknowledged – not treated as binary tensions but overlapping and supplementary possibilities. To this end, we do not dismiss identity politics, but seek to work within that space.
We wish to create plenty of room for divergent narratives to sit, perhaps uncomfortably, next to one another, while also insisting on a basic level of mutual respect. We also want to question the centrality of some of these narratives, including those that seek comfort in humanity’s oneness or that hold our different social identities as fixed, rigid objects. We want to lift up a complex, ever-changing, entangled world that contains multitudes. We encourage people to find their own ways of relating to what’s offered in ways that serve their journey. This may or may not mean agreeing with this body of work or continuing with the course.
Each session is framed as a provocative question, a reading of multiple theses and insights, exercises and conversation, prayer and silence and dance and performance – none of these things (nor the things that Bayo says) are to be understood as “Truth”; that would be a demotion! We invite disagreement with and healthy challenges to Bayo’s teachings. We distinguish a healthy challenge from an unhealthy attack in this way: the goal (conscious or unconscious) of a healthy challenge is to make all parties stronger, whereas the goal of an unhealthy attack is to take down, cancel, incarcerate, or destroy.
We deeply value participants’ emotional security and well-being and at the same time, we cannot promise safety. Sanctuary in no way refers to a sense of safety. The community of participants will hold many differences in worldviews, politics, belief systems and backgrounds. If it’s important to you to be in spaces where you can trust that people will share the same political analysis or worldview, this is not the right place for you.