Trump’s first two weeks in office can be called many things–above all, draining. Every day has seen a new attack against equal human rights, with marginalized communities taking the brunt of the blow. Our communities are on edge, glued to television newscasts and social media feeds to hear the latest assault, and, in turn, the latest emergency protest. Our daily lives have become saturated with the cause and effect of Trump.
So how do we maintain our health and hope during these dark times?
Gozamos reached out to several Latin@ community leaders in Chicago for self-care tips and messages of hope and resistance. We hope their words empower you as much as they did us.
Sylvia Puente, Executive Director of Latino Policy Forum
As we know we are living in difficult times for the nation and indeed globally. At a recent staff retreat of the Latino Policy Forum I shared my “coping strategy” regarding the new administration. First of all, I refuse to say the new President’s name. I feel that saying it gives him a power and a legitimacy that I am am not willing to offer. I will remain respectful of the office, but this is my little protest about not acknowledging the person who sits in it right now.
It is also important to acknowledge that its not business as usual and that we all need to do what we need to do to take care of ourselves, starting with being extra kind and compassionate to each other. As an example, at the Forum we of course struggled with digesting the news of the executive orders released this week around immigration. As we were processing the overwhelming significance of it, I asked our immigration analyst if I could give him a hug. This little act of support and compassion helped me get through the day. I have encouraged Forum staff to find opportunities for little acts of kindness and to take time for their own self-care and to maintain work/life balance.
While we lament, it is also important to ACT and do what you can whatever your sphere of influence. As examples, do not underestimate the significance of calling your elected officials to let them know how you feel, or sign up for the Forum’s advocacy alerts and check out the Forum’s IMPACTO Illinois, page for “real” news and federal updates.
Finally, and most importantly, I have been tremendously inspired by the levels of civic engagement that we have seen on the streets and around the world. I have an unabiding faith in the power of WE. WE are privileged to live in a democracy where WE can make a difference and where our voices can be heard.
Byron Sigcho, Educator and Director of Pilsen Alliance
On self-care: I am still learning myself but here are a few things that work for me:
- Meditation: Take at least 15 minutes every day to leave everything outside our minds to focus on the most basic aspects of life. Our mental health is important, and our strength is vital in order to help others.
- Be informed: Do not feed into the media frenzy. Look for credible and alternative (non-mainstream) media sources. Good information give us peace of mind and helps us inform others.
On hope & resistance: This has been a tough week for many of us. The continuous messages of hate and intolerance are overwhelming at times, but also we have seen an even more overwhelming and continuous message of love, unity and solidarity. From the massive and historic women marches across with world, to the most recent protests at airports across the country, or the defeat of Arpaio in Arizona, we have so many examples of solidarity and successful resistance that it is evident that love is bigger and more powerful than fear, so let’s continue spreading our message of love and unity in every community, across the country and in anything we do. Juntos somos muchisim@s mas! Si se puede!
Andre Perez, Director/Producer of America in Transition at Transgender Oral History Project
On self-care: I have a cap on the amount of time I can spend consuming media that fuels my fear, anger, and isolation. As a documentary filmmaker, many of my viewing habits focus on social issues, and things that are wrong in this world, so it’s a huge shift for me. I’ve been watching time lapse videos, and drone videos of nature while listening to music that soothes me. It may sound funny, but it helps me imagine and think about all of the different places in this world beyond my sometime insular frame of reference.
To create culture that’s uplifting to people’s spirits, I also work on a show I created, Been T/Here on OpenTV. I wanted to make a more hopeful and celebratory series that showed my own community in a way that didn’t reinforce all these tragic notions.
On hope & resistance: The reality is that all we can do is fight, and for many of our communities, we’ve always had to fight. This is the latest battleground, and it is terrible. However, I find solace in thinking about and reading the words of others who came before us in the struggle against injustice. As a trans person, I think of Sylvia Rivera and Miss Major who gave everything they had when they had nothing materially because they had a wealth of heart, passion, and love for their communities.
I also think of Lucille Clifton’s famous poem that ends:
with me that everyday
something has tried to kill me
and has failed.”
Personally, I am carving out space to tell people I admire how much they mean to me. I’m making sure I go to birthday parties and revel in other ways of celebrating people in my life. I know that I can self-isolate when I am in my feelings, but the reality is that our enemies want us to feel alone. We really are all we have, so I am making an effort to connect with people I love every single day, and tell them exactly how I feel about them.
Amara Betty, International Indigenous Youth Council – Chicago, Las Artelitas
Self-care is something I struggle to balance into my life. These past few weeks have almost tipped me off balance a few times, I’ve cried at work, I’ve cried out of frustration dealing with out of touch white women and seeing my loved ones in pain and mental distress about what could happen. What helps me is spending time in my home, touching my plants, playing my records, stretching, drinking tea, sorting thoughts, organizing, reading old notes, lounging around looking out the window, just living. There are so many people to heal, so many actions to go to and many times we just don’t stop. You don’t have to feel guilty about it, you can stop and begin again; the important thing is that you find strength to go back into it healed and reenergized.
In Chicago it can be easy to get overwhelmed with the amount of politics that exist and segregation of groups. Much of my strength comes from a spiritual connection I feel with the people I work with. I feel like I am reclaiming my indigenous roots and fighting the battle our ancestors didn’t finish and when I pray on that and channel that strength I feel excited and hopeful for the future. La lucha te sana y la opresión te mata. If you are not feeling nourished in the places where you organize and you are not feeling energized, find that place, create that space, build solidarity and healing circles and pray or feel together. Not everyone has to be on the frontline, this is a pressure that can lead people to feel inadequate when they cannot be there. We should push back against the notion that in order to be in the fight people have to put their body on the line, because many people are suffering from forms of PTSD, are not able bodied or have an immigration status that is not stable. Warriors are willing to do whatever it takes whether that is frontlining, healing the people, feeding the people, educating the people, praying for the people, bringing joy to the people and so much more. When we look for the way our skills can benefit the movement in a natural way, much of this stress will melt away.
Maritxa Vidal, Dir. of Health Education, Community Marketing & Outreach, VIDA/SIDA
On self-care: What’s been working for me for 25 years, I used to do once a month but now I do it every other night: I get a favorite book, even if I read it 30 or 40 times, I put on candles and music and take a bubble bath and read.
I also imagine my grandchildren grown up, smiling with their own children. I put myself in the state of mind that yes, I’m burned out, but this is pasajero, and I know tomorrow will be better of because of today.
On hope & resistance: We have to buckle down. It’s a four-year battle. It’s not going to go away overnight. We have to be strong, empower each other, and be united. Like Bamby Salcedo says, “La fuerza está en la unión y la unión hace la fuerza.” We have to unite as one–Muslim, Puerto Rican, all of us. It’s too easy to say, “This executive order doesn’t affect me,” but who knows who will be attacked tomorrow?
We have to hope for a better tomorrow. It’s what gives us the strength.
When I see my children, I want them to have a better world than what I have because yo puse mi granito de arena. I did something. I don’t want them to grow up and say, “The older generation left me a ruined world.”
We all have to give each other strength and hope. Otherwise we’re going to burn out. That’s the only way we’re going to get through the next four years.
Christina Obregon, Chicago Coordinator, La Casa de Arte y Cultura–Calles y Sueños
Continue to sing, dance, paint and be creative. Continue to take to the streets and arm yourself with chalk, spray paint, stencils, handmade markers, a portable stage. Perform, read poetry in public spaces, keep singing songs about freedom/ Libertad, dance till it hurts but keep on dancing. The streets are your canvas. Dale vida a tus Sueños no en la cama pero en las Calles. Continue to take to the street, my comrades, because, yes, as the chant goes “Whose Streets? OUR STREETS!” Together we will take them back and make them safe and beautiful again. We will whitewash any markings of hate and paint instead HASTA LA VICTORIA SIEMPRE. Our Sueños will come to life once again in OUR STREETS.