Where Do I Belong?
An exploration of identity and belonging for bicultural and multicultural bodies
And what liberatory possibilities exist beyond the binaries?
This February, 2023, we’re inviting folx who identify as bi/multi-cultural and who live in North America into a 4-month online experiential course devoted to unpacking the experience of not knowing where you fully belong in conversations about race.
'' You only are free when you realize you belong no place - you belong every place - no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great. ''
— Maya Angelou
There is an as yet unbridgeable gap...
This is a playful experiential space that we’ll explore through authentic movement, psychodrama, sociodrama, playback theater, phototherapy, and song. Our interest is not to “figure out” where it is that we belong between the identities we hold, but to dream together into what could emerge from our experiences of non-belonging.
“ The clash of cultures is enacted within our psyches, resulting in an uncertain position. An identity born of negotiating the cracks between worlds…creating a hybrid consciousness that transcends the us versus them mentality of irreconcilable positions, blurring the boundary between us and others.
We are both subject and object, self and other, haves and have-nots, conqueror and conquered, oppressor and oppressed. ''
— Gloria Anzaldúa
There often isn’t space for ambiguity in racial identity.
What would it look like to craft a wise, intersectional, liberatory, and anti-racist space for racial ambiguity?
In many group spaces or programs, we’re asked to identify ourselves according to pre-select fields that represent our racialized experience - casting into concrete terms what is by definition ambiguous, luminous and hard to define. What already betrays categorization.
The Gift of Non-Belonging?
“As a bi-cultural Black woman, I am sometimes black, never fully white, sometimes not black, but always mixed. I’ve held this line of tension in my body for as long as I can remember, and the notion of straddling worlds always made sense to me. What has, at times, been the source of frustration and even despair (where do I belong?) has become something I embrace as a liminal space of non-identity and non-belonging that has powerful creative potential.”
— Karine Bell
Bi/multicultural experiences can create tension in our psyches and our bodies, unsettledness in our experience, effort in our relationships, and uncertainty about where it is that we belong in conversations about race, and in our relationship to lineages and ancestry.
What if, further, those lineages and those ancestors represented both privileged and subjugated peoples? Colonizers and colonized peoples?
Where are the spaces we go to wade and play in the murky waters of those identities, and how might we explore the borderland experience it opens us up to?
'' We've long thought of bi/multicultural identity - in all of the confusion it can create in us — as a bridge — an experience at the borderlands that longs for a new way to think and talk about this fragmented experience. "
In the crucible of these experiences we might find new ways of talking about and experiencing identity and belonging. Perhaps, too, can this ambiguous belonging lead us to explore new terrains that disturb the colonial project of race. What liberatory possibilities exist beyond it?
Much of our lives have felt defined by an experience of not knowing where we belong.
We have a strong commitment to anti-racism and we want to bring that into how we socially locate.
Can you relate?
My name is Karine...
My ancestral roots reach back to the African continent (Ghana/Ivory Coast/Nigeria), Ashkenazi Germany and England/Wales and Turtle Island (unenrolled and distant), I also hold that complexity in my body with both colonizer and colonized aspects, and experiences of what Chicana feminist and scholar, Globia Anzaldúa, calls nepantla. Nepantla is a Nahuatl word she uses to describe the liminal space between worlds and the bridges that represent “thresholds to other realities”.
My name is Leticia...
My father’s people are from Veracruz and my mother’s people are from Puebla, where I was born, in Mexico. The range of racialization within my family is wide and conversations about identity tended to wrap around National identity above frank discussions about race.
My ancestral roots include both indigenous exploitation and genocide by colonizers. How these tensions live in the body, sometimes named meztizaje, is complex and potentiated. The sense I now make is that colonization failed to extinguish those it sought to eradicate. The saying, ‘they tried to bury us, they didn’t know we were seeds’, is a poetic way to work with this durable survivance.
The unsettled nature of identity this can generate has been a powerful agitator and psychic activator in my life.
This course will not be for everyone, but all bodies who resonate with this experience are welcome.
In this playful and exploratory environment, we will emphasize what Leticia Nieto calls an “ethic-to-encounter” rather than an environment of discussion and debate.
This means that we enter in with a willingness to risk what we know, and release the need to know with certainty. This requires a level of self-responsibility and a willingness to stay with the question with curiosity and a willingness not to know — to be surprised and be guided by what emerges for us in the process.
We are co-creating a space of kindness and respect.
Here we’re “working together to create new ‘stories’ of identity and culture…it’s about rethinking our narratives of history, ancestry, and even of reality itself. ''
— Gloria Anzaldúa
This is for you, if….
- You relate to the experience of not knowing where you belong in conversations about race.
- You wonder how or where you could explore the multiple, sometimes contradictory, aspects of your lived experience.
- You want to engage experientially with the diverse experiences of identity you hold.
- You want to do this communally! You’ve longed to connect with other people who identify as bi-cultural or ‘mixed’ to witness and share experiences.
- You are curious to know what new possibilities could emerge for how you experience belonging in your life now.
When, Where, How Often, and What to Expect:
This will be a practice in building continuity, and community, over time.
The official stuff about your facilitators:
Meet your Primary Facilitator:
Dr. Nieto is internationally recognized for her expertise addressing social justice concerns from a developmental ecological perspective including orienting to systemic transformation, survivance, song and poetry, relational repair, joy, radical rest, intersectional coalition, and awakened activism.
Karine Bell is bi-cultural Black woman, a mother, somatic abolitionist and educator, and a PhD candidate at Pacifica Graduate Institute. Her life’s work has been devoted to a kind of rebellion and disobedience that has made it possible for her to re/imagine her life situation, that of her people, and the world(s) she inherited and co/creates. Karine considers herself a wayfinder, whose traumas are the coordinates. Her mother’s suffering was one of her greatest teachers, and her two children are firestarters that keeps the fire-in-her-belly for this work alight.
Claim your spot!
“It seems that one of my functions is to go in and out of various worlds”
— Gloria Anzaldúa
Our focus will be on the live sessions together that will be interactive and exploratory, and you will always be free to move at your own rhythm and speed. As for any supplementary materials, we will likely offer some suggestions, but none will be required, and they will be there primarily to support your own exploration as/when you would like to engage them.
Absolutely. We’ll send you details for where to access the members dashboard and include information there you need to know to get ready for the next workshop. We'll also provide support for where to start during your time with us. We send weekly emails providing an overview of what's coming up, too, so you won't miss anything.
This experience will really rest on the live interactive sessions we are in together. However, we will provide a recording. The personal shares and reflections from other participants will be edited out of it for important reasons related to vulnerability and consent. What we will be able to share then are any teaching/sharing portions from Leticia and Karine. We will also share are any reflections/practices/resources that we provide the group.
This initial offering is focused on racialized experiences for those within North America (Canada, United States and Mexico). This was intentional because we wish to both acknowledge and honor the differences in ways racialization has operated globally. We are planning to offer an iteration of this specifically for people in other regions of the world. If you are on the Rooted email list, we will send more information out when we have it.
Thank you for this very layered question - it sparks a lot of thought. What I think we would say at this point (subject to change) is that this offering is specifically for bodies of culture (people of color) with mixed ancestry. That said, there will likely be people in the space who appear more or less bi/multicultural and we are making room for that. I hope that is helpful - there are a lot of layers to what we're wishing to explore here.
We appreciate the questions coming in for this offering, because it is already a space focused on the ambiguity inherent to our experience as folks who identify as bi/multicultural, and we're exploring the nebulousness of that experience. That said, our focus for this first iteration will be on bi/multicultural folks who identify as BIBOC (and Jewish folks identifying this way are very welcome).