This is the type of work that was a center piece of my education at CIIS. It brings up many, many feelings I would love to share. I have practiced both as student and teaching assistent many of the building alliance activities demonstrated in this video with my former professors in the Social and Cultural Anthropology (SCA) program. I have pride about my experiences and training in this work. I have wonderful tools that flow from courageous conversations about race, class, gender, sex, history, oppression and privilege. It is beautiful to see this work in the world.
It is interesting how powerful my experience was watching this video. I have deep feelings of mourning connected to this work. I believe the power of this work is very dangerous; it is combustable if handled improperly. Paradoxically, that same fire is the power needed to enact justice, forge radial intimacy, heal multigenerational pain, and ultimately our Earth.
My experience of “Building Alliances Across Difference” created a powerful, intimate, engaged connection within my program. It built a community for the students in my program. Our commitment to one another, our agreement to change the world around us, and practice radical justice flowed out of the classroom into the larger institute of CIIS. Our work supported and built our student government. We led groups advocating for queer rights, connecting people of color, white people working against racism, and our year long administrative push expanded the multi-gendered restrooms on campus. As our institutional power grew so did our mistrust of administrative authority. Suspicion clouded institutional processes; accusations of “unsafety” flew and the administration eventually fired our professors effectively ending the educational progress of thirty plus students.
This was an intensely personal matter for me. I still have trouble teasing out my painful emotions. ‘Unskillfulness’ was the word that continually made sense to me. It seemed clear that our institutional leaders simply lacked the tools to navigate the difficult waters of conflict resolution. And in the end… many peoples lives were deeply disrupted, injured.
The work of restorative justice, of understanding difference, of building alliance, the work of mourning and healing is not only a practice of communication, compassion, hospitality… it is a cultivation of skillfulness and celebration – unification. Watching this video reminded me how important it is balance the seriousness of history and pain with attentiveness to the future and playfulness.
The work of mourning and healing is always, already precarious. It is the real threat of danger and uncertainty that is at the same time the heart and power of building alliance work; it is the reason why we experience radical empowerment.