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April 16, 2019

The Struggle and Promise of Love – Reflections on the MEV Domestic Exchange

Authored by Monica J. James and Tanvi K. Sheth of Triumphant 2gether

Oftentimes, in social justice movement spaces we witness and experience the very harms that we’re moving to dismantle on a societal level – sometimes in ourselves, and sometimes in others. Many times we only witness the trauma and not the solution, as the only real solution is the act of moving in practice. As a movement, if there ever was a point of reaching critical mass – it is now. We are at a pivotal point in our collective journey – a point which can propel us to unimagined levels of unity, healing, positive transformation and progress; or push us into an era of disenchantment, chaos, instability, moral decay, and negativity.

As a member of MEV Cohort 4, I have been gathering with other movement leaders for over a year through a series of convenings. Our most recent convening, our fourth one, was a choice of an International Exchange in Guatemala or MEV’s first-ever Domestic Exchange, which was held in Texas. The Domestic Exchange, led by MEV faculty Trina Greene Brown, was a push forward in a positive direction towards unification and equitization - through learning from the doers and taking direction from the ones who are impacted. Through actively learning, we learned how we can give a hand and how to practice actual solidarity.

Here we are pictured with Priscilla Hung, Co-Director of MEV and Trina Greene Brown, Movement Maker and Faculty

In each encounter, we witnessed examples of building communities that uplift, support, and empower each other; and saw leaders who walked with their people, rather than riding on top of their people:

  • Jolt was an example of an organization who supports their people in healing through their art. Through their Artists in Residence program, art is seen as central to long term culture change and their artists get paid and have opportunities to sell their work to other audiences. Instead of consuming their people’s creativity, they have created an avenue where their people could sustain themselves, through their creativity while moving towards liberation.

Pictured: Tanvi Sheth and Monica James of Triumphant 2gether, Trina Greene Brown and Priscilla Hung of MEV, Tess Ortega of Jolt
  • Youth Rise Texas embodied the spirit of our movement through our youth. Here, we saw elders doing their duty by creating healing stability through their long-term commitment and support of our youth, by building them up through imparting skills and knowledge, and by empowering their self-agency. Here, the youth were not being consumed. Instead, and as it should be, the youth were being prepared to properly assume the reins of leadership by their elders.
  • American Gateways walks with its people as they navigate the immigration system while being tagged by the markers of trauma and inequities, that caused them to migrate in the first place. Here, at a time when immigration issues are used as a trigger-button to create panic and headlines, we saw Natalia Drelichman, their Director of Legal Programs & Team Development, display the stability in action that comes from actual awareness of the issue. We also saw her commitment to her clients in the way she takes care of herself – because if she is not well, then she can’t be present for her clients.

With Natalia Drelichman (center) of American Gateways
  • Organización Latina Trans en Texas is a place where faith lives and that holds the struggle and the promise of love. Here, the noblest, the strongest, the bravest, and because of that, the most vulnerable, have kept the fire burning. Here, many seem to receive even though few resources are given to OLTT. Language justice practices made our visit meaningful so that each of us were heard and understood. Social justice movements have increasingly provided space and resources to cis passing queer communities, and these same spaces and resources are needed for trans women of color, as they continue to struggle for the very basic necessities of life.

We closed the domestic exchange with a roundtable of activists from Houston. As T.D. Jakes put it, in order to provoke any change, one must inform, inspire, and impart. Here, the exchange of actual information took place. Gone was the evasive jargon of our movement, and instead came the clarity through sharing of actual experiences.

All in all, this domestic exchange was a reminder of healing from the inside out and it left us a bit fuller than we had started.

Art by lizar_tistry