I’m near the middle point of my first semester in the doctoral program in geography at CUNY. I have passed through the state-imposed immunization juggernaut/gauntlet, finally, as I got the results of the blood test today stating that I had indeed been immunized as a child. My bicicleta was stolen, still a little lost without it as I fork over more money to the MTA. I have dealt with the death of one of my professors, Neil Smith, rest in peace. He was a brilliant, kind gentle man who believed in constructing utopias for our peoples, rest in peace brother.
I am learning lots, improving my teaching, focusing, taking it all in, conceptualizing what I want to do with my project, grounding my budding friendships/relationships with folks, organizing in the academic world, always seeking opportunities to construct community spaces in this public university. I’m particularly thankful for the space to think concretely, for the public space to think how our communities can be free, how they have been held back, and how we can understand all that so we can continue to move towards freedom as we do. I am particularly grateful for the space we are building together in my Afro and Indigenous Latin American Geography class, porque la hacemos en español, as we flavor the academy with some sazón/ajíaco! The class with my advisor, Ruthie Wilson Gilmore is great, breaking down the Carceral state.
I am focusing more and more on my project with Afro and Indigenous folks in Colombia and their more sustainable ways of development and relationships con la Madre Tierra and the medicines she, la Madre provides for us. Learning about the resistances of the Palenques, the Herero, liberation theologists, the base communities, grounded in people of color thinkers like Stuart Hall, CLR James, Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Paul Gilroy, Kelly Lytle Hernandez, A. Naomi Paik, H.L.T. Quan, AbdouMaliq Simone, Clyde Woods, Brackette Williams, Vazira Zamindar among others with good white allies, of whom Neil Smith was/is one of the best.
I’m am reading and learning furiously, applying what I learn and read to my life, putting it into the context of our peoples, to understand it well, to see how it measures up to lived reality. I’m happy to adopt the vision of generosity of my advisor, Prof Ruth Wilson Gilmore to what I read and study. The white supremacist authors are hard to be generous with, just saying, not that she means that either.
I am working on several papers/investigations/understanding & articulation projects with lots of input from my friends on the ground – one on Afro Colombians throughout the history of colonization, liberation, forming autonomous communities, surviving massacres and displacement, and now working against the ravenous capitalism called neoliberalism, information and knowledge about for which I am incredibly indebted to mi compañera Rudy Amanda for understanding the lived complexity of Afro Colombian life and history, another on how the Nasa peoples went from developing a guerrilla army – the Quintin Lame to the non violent Guardia Indígena of today, and another on the currently-in-the-news work of the Indígenous Guard kicking out the Colombian military from its ancestral lands and how the media blacked it out, and how we have tried to use those concepts here in NYC to provide for community autonomy and self determination.
These are all context for the work I want to do in a few years with these communities around respectfully documenting and recording their sustainable work in and with the land, their use of herbs as medicina, their care for the environment as their casa, one which they are not leaving, y nosotr@s tampoco, here in nyc.
These are powerful testimonies for us all, given the roving targeting to which many of us are subject by a ravenous profit machine that doesn’t stop. Our lifes and resistances don’t either, as we develop more creative and ingenious ways to resist, celebrate and live our lives in the midst of terror and oppression, carving out spaces to breathe right in there.