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May 24, 2016

Young Women Envisioning Liberation

Going to South Africa was a personally profound experience for me on many
levels. Any free moment I had I would run outside to soak up the sun, to breathe the air, to touch the nature around me. I contemplated on topics
of ancestral home, land, legacy, connection, humanity and loss. While I am still processing all the love and struggle I encountered, it was incredibly grounding and humbling to meet and engage with young people and youth activists doing the work. I was reminded of home, of being “scrappy”, of being creative, of using art as a tool for community-building, and her liberation and survival.

I was moved by the youth leadership I saw at Surplus People’s Project in Cape Town. These youth leaders were not only reclaiming their land and
bodies by starting community farms (at an elementary school and another at
an abandoned lot) but also by growing healthy foods that connected them
to their history and soil. They walked us through their mission and vision of
creating wholeness and healing for their communities. Our site visit to Tyisa
Nabanye taught me how farming and healing are interconnected practices.
Using the ethics of permaculture – care of earth, care of people, and sharing
of surplus, the youth leaders of Tyisa Nabanye truly embodied the spirit of
the change they want to see in the world. They spontaneously and lovingly
shared their music, dance, and song with us and showed how vulnerability,
movement, and joy are liberatory practices.

Photo of Lorena meeting Talent Jump of Katswe Sistahood

When we reached Johannesburg, I finally had the privilege of meeting with
Talent Jumo of Katswe Sistahood. I signed up to present a “gift” to Talent
and had been anxiously awaiting our encounter. My girls at Sadie Nash
Leadership Project created a scrapbook of love notes including poetry, drawings, encouragement to share with our sisters in Zimbabwe. Talent was everything I imagined and more! In true youth-worker fashion, she got a group of adults on our feet for some call & response songs that she uses with her girls. The work of Katswe Sistahood is similar to the work we do at Sadie Nash Leadership Project. We are both committed to providing safer spaces for young women and girls to tell their stories, to see themselves as leaders and to take action. As Talent shared with the group,“We build a platform for women to speak for themselves. We need to tell our own stories and develop our own strategies. We need to be the ones to define what justice means to us.”

“We build a platform for women to speak for themselves. We need to tell our own stories and develop our own strategies. We need to be the ones to define what justice means to us.” – Talent Jumo, Katswe Sistahood

My time in South Africa witnessing and experiencing powerful youth leadership was everything! Particularly, I was inspired by the depth of the conversations young women led around personal and collective power, freedom, and liberation. Often times, youth because of their age and lack of “rights” feel powerless to affect change. However, the work we do at Sadie Nash is about inspiring and motivating young women to be leaders and change agents.

Photo of young women leaders at Sadie Nash

I developed a discussion activity/tool to engage my youth at Sadie Nash in a conversation about liberation. I honestly had not thought about liberation until I attended Move to End Violence’s first convening last June and it shifted the way I saw and valued myself and my work with young women. I am sharing this tool so that other folks within the violence against women’s movement can begin to talk to their young people about liberation. I found that many young women had not thought about liberation before because it didn’t even occur to them that it was an option or goal. For many women of color living in a state of constant vigilance and fear around our bodies and minds, the process of liberation requires a lot of unlearning and a reclaiming of ourselves as enough. We need to continue to do both personal and community work that centers healing and liberation so that we can create a world that fully recognizes the humanity of all peoples.

Art by lizar_tistry