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Transform Yourself with Tierra Allen

Tierra Allen: We will create gardens. We will create songs. We will create homes. Please bring your gifts. Show us who you are. We will find the place where you can be nurtured and shine. Please bring your gifts. We can't do this without you. I can't do this without you. It's time. It's been time.

Chorus: [sings “Remember”]

Yura Sapi: Welcome to season three. Welcome to our liberation. Welcome to the Building Our Own Tables podcast. The Building Our Own Tables podcast is produced for HowlRound Theatre Commons, a free and open platform for theatremakers worldwide. This is Yura Sapi, here to support you on your journey of creation towards our collective liberation. How exciting is it to transform our future and be the future ancestors we've dreamed for? May you receive that witch supports you on your journey and release that witch does not. The universe expands as we do. Nature evolves as we do. We remember. We remember. We remember.

Chorus: [sings “Remember”]

Yura Sapi: Let us call upon the four elements that support us: The fire that burns within igniting our imagination, our ability to see into the future. The water that holds us and holds within our memory. The air that lifts us up and carries our stories across to meet each other. The earth, which provides us sustenance, repair. To support us on this journey, let us welcome in all of our ancestors.

We're learning from visionaries who have built their own tables, receiving gems of wisdom to support us along our journey. In today's episode, I interview the incredible Tierra Allen. They share about their new podcast, the Real Work, collaborating for transformative justice in the Bay Area theatre scene. Listen in for conversations around learning from non-humans and sharing of beautiful poems and songs. Enjoy.

Tierra: Greetings, beautiful listeners. My name is Tierra Allen. I'm a Black queer femme. I've got light skin privilege. I've got freckles all across my face. I have ancestors from multiple continents. I walk through this world as an abled person, as someone whose brain works in a way that conforms to what dominant society wants. I take care of a dog. I like to tend to plants. I was born on the west coast of Turtle Island on Puyallup land, also known as Tacoma, Washington. For the last decade and some change, I've been living on Houchin, which is unseated Lisjan (Ohlone) territory, specifically Chochenyo speaking Lisjan (Ohlone) territory, also known in settler culture and to other folks who are not settlers but who love it here as Oakland, California. Ooh, in that time have been deeply growing and learning and sort of braiding together a practice of community collaborations and offerings aligned with spirit and always expanding.

Some of that has looked like giving offerings as a theatre artist, that has looked like being someone who performs as a dancer, an actor, a singer that's looked like being someone who more creates and shapes the work. There's this phrase in theatre called “devising” that really just means making stuff up together with your collaborators in a room. So I've created work that way, also through writing and have done some directing and some movement directing or choreography as well as that. My purpose in all of this is to tell stories that are medicine for the journeys that we're on to collective liberation. I am incredibly excited about what is possible at the intersection and the collaboration between theatre and abolition. I'm sure there are folks listening where if I use the word abolition, that means a lot to them. It's very clear. There may be folks who that's a bit more new and I am also constantly learning.

Abolition is a creative process through which, when we face the fact that what the state, and in particular the police, are offering in terms of what keeps us safe is actually harming us and will never keep us safe, well then what do we need instead? And that is an incredible creative process. There is some dismantling involved in that, but it also has to be connected to what comes next, what comes after. Which for so many of us is also going to be about remembering what was before. What was before these waves, these layers of colonization back to practices that our ancestors stewarded for us in terms of how we live together, how we live in balance and right relationship with all of us humans other than humans. Also, I think it's creative both in the, yes, there is the remembering, there's the Sankofa piece of it, and there are things going on in the world that our ancestors actually didn't have to deal with.

Climate change, climate chaos in this way is not an exact thing that some of our ancestors were maybe having to tend to. They had some other things, so there's also additional medicine maybe, right? Sort of additional gifts, structures, ways of being that ought to perhaps emerge now in relationship to that. And so one offering that I collaborated with some friends and folks to create at this space between abolition and theatre is a podcast. It's called the Real Work podcast about transformative justice and theatre culture. And it emerged from some organizing I was able to do pre-pandemic with some other folks in my theatre community where we were able to collaborate with the Bay Area Transformative Justice Collective and in particular, Mia Mingus, who is amazing human period and also has done so much speaking, writing, organizing around disability justice and transformative justice. And we were able to work with her to actually train up a cohort of folks in Bay Area theatre across the year in transformative justice.

So we committed to eight, eight-hour days across the year. Anyone in theatre, I'm going to think about scheduling of that, but it really was, we were really asking folks to really dig into the commitment to get trained up in this and to see what's possible. That organizing came out of things that have been going on for a long time. The Me Too movement brought that conversation into focus into the open in a way that folks were sharing more about things that were going on in theatre that were oppressive, not that necessarily were new, but that there was a different kind of conversation and focus to it.

We had decided back then that we wanted to share the story of what we were learning with our communities through a podcast. So I collaborated with some friends and collaborators of mine, We Rise Production, cultural production company across audio, visual, all kinds of media, live events as well, all for collective liberation and solidarity. And so we had them come in and just do recordings of workshops across the series and we also had them do kind of one-on-one interviews with folks about what is this process we're in? What are we learning?

Yura Sapi: Time is not linear. You are not alone. You were never alone. We've been through the cycle before. We're working from the power of our past fighters from before and time isn't linear. Connections happen for a reason. There's a reason I am here where I am. So bask, indulge, refuge in the happenings of now, the happenings of past which will guide to the future, which is also really the past. The Building Our Own Tables podcast is produced in partnership with Advancing Arts Forward, a movement to advance equity, inclusion, and justice through the arts. We create liberated spaces like this one that uplift, heal, and encourage us to change the world. Check out advancingartsforward.org to see our gatherings, courses, coaching, and artist residency program. You can also donate to support this podcast in other spaces.

Tierra: We actually were like racing. I wanted to release this March 2020—ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha ha. We're building up for this event where it's going to be released and the whole series isn't done, but we're like, we just think that we're going to work at this pace. That made so much sense and was so normalized to me before and COVID is here, it happened and really changed our focus. We realized this is an important offering, but just mutual aid and meeting people's basic needs is the most important thing. And so the project kind of got put on hold for a while, but eventually we came back to it and it's released. One question is just what is transformative justice? We explore that and unpack that across a lot of episodes, but one definition that I can give right now is that it's an emerging paradigm of practices and approaches for preventing, addressing, and healing harm, violence, and abuse.

And so, with transformative justice or TJ as you'll hear me shorten it, we are thinking about systems. Sometimes there is an acute harm, but there's also conditions for why that harm happened. There's conditions for why that abuse happened, that violence happened, especially violence and abuse, they can repeat themselves in cycles and patterns, but that happens for reasons. And if the conditions for harm, for violence, and abuse are transformed to ones that promote safety, belonging, thriving, healing, then that's going to result in something different. And so much to unpack there, but for folks who feel at all called, I would super invite you to check it out. It emerges over six episodes. Why it's called the Real Work and where we start to go requires that we look at the systemic and the conditions where things unfold. It also invites a deep exploration of ourselves and how we show up.

And so, whether folks might be interested because they have an idea that, “Oh, maybe I would like to learn more about TJ so that that's something I could offer in my community,” and that could just be among your friends, among your families that you might want to be someone who runs an intervention with a collective. Totally not an individual kind of thing. Or maybe you just want to be someone who is more available as a support to someone in your life who maybe needs to take accountability for harm that they've done. All of that work really also has to happen in yourselves. If we're going to talk about accountability outside with anybody else, we've really got to get clear on what does it take to be accountable for even just small things, for small harms before we think that maybe, “Oh, I can really do this for someone else.” Think about healing and what it is required for maybe someone else to heal.

Something that I love about TJ, it's a practice of being survivor centered. One person or one community or what have you has received a negative impact for which there needs to be repair. What do they really need to heal? Not just for the thing to stop, but for the impacts on their body, mind, spirit, all of that over time, how do we make sure that they have what they need to heal? That's going to invite some looking at what maybe in our lives needs healing and that maybe didn't necessarily get the resources or the support to go through that kind of journey that TJ would've offered if it would've been available to us.

It's called the Real Work because we on that journey, folks were like, “Yes, okay, transformative justice. This is going to be a way we're going to address this racism, this misogyny, all this stuff in Bay Area Theatre,” and yes, it is, and it required a lot of inner work, a lot of inner work and not, again, as a way of bypassing the work we need to do outside of us but fully in relationship. This idea of transforming yourself to transform the world. Please check it out.

Yura Sapi: Wow. I think it resonates so much for me and this podcast and this idea that we're building our own tables and like you said, the real work means that we come back to ourselves. It's always coming back to self. Yeah. It's like the more I'm able to heal and move forward on this healing journey, I'm then able to radiate that in everything that I do. And if we're building our own spaces, we're inviting people now to our own tables that we're making that are trying to not do the same thing that we wanted to get away from in these other tables.

Tierra: Yes.

Yura Sapi: How do we that?

Tierra: Yes.

Yura Sapi: How do we make sure that we aren't replicating the same thing? Because so many times it is that situation where hurt people hurt people, and so if I've been harmed, that ends up being something that could show up for me again in how I'm relating to others. There is that trauma and there is that invitation to take the time to address that, to hold myself, hold myself accountable in that, holding the hug and making sure that I'm able to take these steps and then kind of keep expanding outwards with others.

Tierra: I'm just like breathing and had to exhale because that's so real and that resonates back with me. This healing piece under these systems that are still standing, that are crumbling, but they're not all the way gone yet, right? And so you're born into oppression. We react against it, we resist against it. The oppressors try to assimilate that, figure out new strategies, and come back again, and then we got to react and respond to that. And thinking about how to make space outside of this oppression, reaction, oppression, reaction cycle—not to say that none of that work is important or needs to happen—but to make space for healing so that, as you said, as we are building something anew, building alternatives that the patterning, coping mechanisms that of course we have either inherited or just gotten into trying to survive out here so that we don't perpetuate that. What we envision beyond the oppression, beyond the reaction. We just get to be human in right relationship with everything so we can really be moving in that energy. It's a creative process and is work.

Yura Sapi: Yeah. I love the creative process invitation. What you started off with saying, this special place that theatre, theatre artists, artists in general have in being able to make this a reality, to make this possible, the ability to create, to see, to be able to travel into other worlds through what we're good at, in terms of storytelling. These other worlds that are different from our reality that we see day to day, and yet they also are reality. They also are drawing us towards this change towards who we could be, who we can be, who we will be.

I think there is something there in terms of how we collectively, by moving towards life, by just being ourselves, constantly expanding what's possible for us. Even without all of the resources that we rightfully deserve, still being able to grow and crack this shit.

Tierra Allen: I would say that really at this point, I feel very open and excited for collaboration with folks in this space of abolition and theatre. Another project I'll lift up that I created with longtime friend, collaborator of mine, Sango Tajima, was a film and I called it The Remembering Time, wanting to spend more time in my creative practice in the world that we're building. And of course then yes, having to tell the stories of how we got here. There's been an appetite in Bay Area theatre for Black trauma that many, many, many artists, many, many, many artists I've been in conversation with have been like, “Nah, this isn't the only place we want to live in terms of our storytelling.” And if we do want to tell stories where we are really digging into what it's meant to survive in these times and what it's looked like that we also want to think about the audience and the container for that. Historically white theatres with real entitled subscribers maybe ain't it.

From me wanting to challenge myself and my imagination to expand into what else, what could be there. I made this short film called The Remembering Time, short conversation, kind of imagining if the next thirty years were the best thirty years—miracles are happening, all the good things that we know are possible actually. The U.S. military budget wasn't they are doing what they're doing with it. If we had all of that returned to us, for example, or other visions of just if we had the best thirty years, imagine then in that future a conversation between an auntie and a niece and they're going to a healing ceremony because, of course, we would just have much more time just dedicated to healing. This conversation about where they were going because I said it at the site of what presently exists at a CAFO, that's a confined animal feeding operation by industrialized agriculture.

For folks who take in animal bodies, about 99 percent of the bodies of animals that folks are eating that are put out, are raised in these really horrific, unsanitary horrible factory farms. And so I imagined abolition of all of those as well because they're horrible for animal health, for the workers, for surrounding communities, for all of us. That's not right relationship with animals and that's not trying to have a conversation about how we relate to animals in a balanced way. Imagining that sites like that then get healed. What do we do when we abolish that and we have to be healing the land that's there and what do we create instead?

And also thinking about what's the conversation between let's say an auntie and a little one. They're going to go to a ceremony at this site and this little one doesn't know anything about that. She doesn't know anything about this idea of keeping so many animals in cages in this way where they can't move around or see the sun or anything. She doesn't know anything about that. She doesn't know what a prison is. These are all things that we have to explain. This is how we used to live, and there are adults who are in that bridge generation who are still actively healing, but the little ones have no idea. And how would you even explain some of the things that we, the conditions we just live under and what we had to survive to little ones in this future where we have done the work and the world is just so different. I'm interested in more collaborations like that. So truly, if you're listening to this, hit me up.

I was commissioned to create a piece for a conference, and I know when I did this for this conference, it was edited and I believe it was called This is How, but this version on my laptop is called Untitled Black Feminist Care Poem, which was the iteration. And I think the sort of expanded version wants to come be with us.

You wake up in pre-autumn darkness in the room you've lived in through five plus relationships, four plus heartbreaks, and keep eyes closed as you hold on to the last images of your last night's dream. It was a surprisingly good one. All fences mended, personalities integrated, your family around a picnic table sharing smiles, pleasant conversation, your friendships unfractured, hard conversations had, hearts met in understanding. You see faces of distant ones near to each other around tables close to hills and sky. Your dreams are so rarely, if ever, like this. Can't remember seeing something so simple, perfect, and longed for behind your eyes before. But before your eyes open, the memories come. The familiar tightness around the heart, sinking of the lungs as you see the faces of the ones who discarded you, called you family, but walked away from your grief. Left you shaking and sleepless with trauma. Let silence grow in the cracks of separation and absence instead of accountability. Offered not even an empty cup to catch your tears, let alone water to replenish for what you'd shed. But.

This is familiar and you've practiced. So you breathe in and breathe out, thank the scenes for what they have to show you, what you've learned, what they have to offer you, but are clear with them that they are not welcome to stay. You don't choose the past. Today, you choose yourself.

You open your eyes and stand from your covers in walls your friends came over and helped you decorate. You open your eyes to walls, covered with sketches, prints, and posters your friends put up to help you love yourself. Help remind you, you are worth loving, an altar to your healing six or four seasons into a year when living was a challenge. Your shower playlist is all Black women mending spirits and sowing futures. You choose purple floral leggings from the first clothing swap since COVID, a tank top from a clothing swap pre-COVID, denim jacket from the free store with pins of Angela and Asata, a quote from Lauren. Little gifts given to yourself when you've needed cheering up. You've learned to give yourself gifts, make yourself feel seen and special.

And you head outside into the new early October air. Past the threats of cat calls and familiar patterns of street harassment, predictable as falling leaves. Past the gentrification towers advertising vacancy after three-thousand-dollar vacancy, past the storefronts changed over even before this pandemic because Hertel from the Abolitionist Sister whose vintage clothing shop used to be sanctuary on this street, sanctuary for organizing, grieving, art-making, who always took time to water the oak outside her shop, who once stopped you on your way home to tell you about the spiritual gifts she saw in you. The landlord who owns the block wouldn't renew anyone's lease, wanted new clientele. You pay for your breakfast, remembering the Asian owned shop that used to be here offering cheap American breakfast and Korean lunch with paintings for sale on the walls, and across the street used to be that Latinx owned spot with the cheap donuts and breakfast sandwiches.

You pay more at this place than you've ever paid at those places and in your head, you begin to write this poem. You consider omitting that you took a plastic fork with you so you could eat your food by the lake. Decide instead to be honest. Instead, promise to take it home after wash it clean and add it to the others. You've taken responsibility for, carrying the burden and opportunity of your choices instead of pretending like there's any such thing as away. You remember that Enbridge is turning on line three today and you're still meeting people who have never heard of it. You make a note to check in with the water protector comrades who sheltered and fed your affinity group two months ago, got you hash browns and a hot shower after you camped out in front of the courthouse all night because of the necessity of freeing water protectors who show up full-hearted to their front lines as you try to show up here to yours.

You feel the strain of a heart beating across multiple front lines and breathe to gather yourself back together again. You feel a twinge in your right acetabulum as you head for the water. A warning that you have not been tending to the recovering injury with stretches and strengthening and releasing as prescribed in these weeks of taking on the tasks of your burned out colleagues to get the community event produced, of pushing back on the unpaid hours expected by your nonprofit teaching gig. So you let the lake waters rippling, massage your eyes, the sun make vitamin D in your skin. Enjoy every bite of oil and potato and hot sauce and recommit to not compromising on your care. Coming home to the rent controlled building you've been in since the last recession with the asshole landlord who threatened your once upstairs neighbor with eviction till she took her thirty years there and moved to Texas, to stick a note on your door asking the handyman who's supposed to unclog the kitchen sink and complete eight months old requested repairs today finally, to please not knock until after 2:00 p.m.

A boundary spell around the ancestor remembrance and writing retreat for people of African descent. You are going to tune into from home. You hope the spell will hold. It does. Next morning you see the email asking you to show up to the rally demanding justice for Jonathan Cortez, brother, father murdered by feds right here in Houchin, two weeks ago. You make a note to make a note in your calendar. On the way out the door to write this poem by bird song and water, you were followed for the who knows how many-eth time by the same man in your neighborhood you wish can see you as family, not plaything. You turn off into the crowd in front of the vegan Filipino food stand and text the friends you've done safety planning with.

He's there in twenty-five minutes and while you stand on the block, back to palm tree, a conversation is had. Cis man to cis man, an agreement tentatively made. The man apologizes and takes off on his bike and you cannot know if you will be aggressed on or retaliated against tomorrow. But today, you have not called the cops on a dark-skinned, disabled neighbor and the pelicans crashing into the water is divine music and the air is only moderately unhealthy despite the fires raging to your north, east, and south. This is how we did it, my loves. Breath by breath, day by day, footfall by footfall, backtracking, remembering, starting again, making time for our dreams and learning from our ancestors. Carving space for our stories and trying what we haven't seen tried before. Working the front lines from Oakland to Minnesota, Palestine to Mindanao. Text by check-in. Conversation by intentional action. We planned together, called on each other, showed up in streets, held space on conference calls and inboxes and Zoom calls.

Drew boundaries, said no, found and followed our full body. Yes, we fell apart, disappointed and were disappointed. Dissolved into deserts found at the bottom of our tears, found respect for silence and stillness and rage. We rested, we healed. Broke open cages returned to land and breath by breath. Morning by morning, recommitted again. Again. Two days ago, my partner drives me to work and we see a sibling roller skating down the middle of MLK under overpasses and in the sunshine, hair flowing, melanin glowing, crop top, leggings, and a blunt in their mouth. Now, I don't know all of the details of the world we did our piece to make anew but in my dreams, I hope y'all at least as fly and as free.

Yura Sapi: Thank you so much for your poem, for your light. Yeah, I'm crying.

Tierra: Oh my goodness. Yura, thank you for your poems and your light because I have been reading your work and being fed by it, so we really been doing this work in these boxes. We really be trying—and doing, so thank you. Thank you for making space.

Yura Sapi: Yeah, yeah, and connecting with everybody else who's doing that too. I feel like that's really a core that I felt from the poem is just the connection of all of us who are doing this, putting our little grain of sand and knowing that it'll be worth it.

Tierra: Yes, it will.

Yura Sapi: We're planting trees that we won't see, that we won't receive the wood for, but that's okay because there are trees that we are receiving from others who have planted them generations before, and so that is part of our cycle and our ancestors are with us. If you believe in the reincarnation of us as well, knowing that we may be beings that have been reincarnated from the past and are connecting to what has happened before or maybe it's about our ancestors that we've had in the past that maybe we didn't get to meet or know about, really, but they are with us. We are them, and the story goes on. This is a moment. There's a lot more to come.

Tierra: Asé.

Chorus: [sings]

Yura Sapi: I really have been focused on this word revolution and the evolution part of it that's happening within the revolution. Accessing so much more of the trauma can cause one me to feel that there isn't another possibility because of that pain that happened, and so it's been like these different exercises, reprogramming different things that have been ingrained because of that. Stories that I'm telling myself because of something that happened. That is part of this evolution in being able to transform that. Everyone being able to do that. Yeah. We're able to use our brain, all of our body that is our brain, our heart brain, our gut brain, evolving to realize that we have so much more accessible that we can reprogram things in our mind and then open up space for more futures to be possible, for the ideas to flow, for the conversations to be had, the ability to vibe with another person of a really different mindset or understanding and be able to come out of it with some sort of agreement and moving forward on things. That to me, that's evolving.

There's also a lot about reconnecting with the earth that can feel like evolution, and I also think it is this return of course to skills that we used to have, that our ancestors used to have back and back and back in terms of being able to flow with the rhythm of nature and make decisions based off of what the trees also need, other animals need, and I've had moments where I've been like, there's a lot that I think was sacrificed to be able to live in this modern human way, that living in the forest and being more in tune with just the way that the trees connect in their roots, being part of that root system.

There's a lot there that we're able to access and you might think of them as superpowers. Things that are impossible are actually not impossible, and they're things that we can tap into once again, and at the same time, knowing that we're in a different time than five thousand even hundreds of thousands of years ago, and so there is a transformation. There is something that's like the first time this may be happening in this way; this idea that transformation is different from change because when we transform, what used to be doesn't exist anymore. So we actually can't go back.

Tierra: Thank you for uplifting the land and the earth in this conversation because of course, always, all the time. From Tupac and from Climbing Poetree, I've been invited to think about how plants crack through concrete. I've actually never owned a car and I have lived as an adult in cities, largely take public transit and skid around a lot just by walking, so taking time sometimes to be like these little blades of grass, dandelions, plants, being able to break concrete. So many questions. One being like, okay, I thought that plants needed the sun to be able to grow. Where are they getting their nourishment, their food to be able to do this? And thinking about without maybe the ideal conditions for them to grow just by being themselves and growing and seeking life and trying to live, collectively they break this manmade stuff that is preventing us from connecting.

I want to continue being a student of these plants. I think there is something there in terms of how we collectively, by moving towards life, by just being ourselves, constantly expanding what's possible for us. Even without all of the resources that we rightfully deserve, still being able to grow and crack this shit. I just want to keep learning from them and from other plants and not other than human beings for sure. I'm grateful for folks and conditions that have made it possible for me to slow down and connect to receive information and find learnings in that way. Yeah, I was referencing the pace at which I was moving pre-pandemic even with my collaborators. I was like, “We're going to make this podcast about transformative justice. We have to rush, rush, rush. We have to get it out right now because things are happening right now.” And that was not, not true and in a space of slowness that the pandemic made possible for me, fully acknowledging that has not been everyone's reality at all, at all, at all, at all.

But in terms of the industry, I was working in theatre, just getting shut down really, that I've been invited into what's possible when we move slower. That's clearly not the pace that capitalism wants us to move at, so if it's not, then what are they keeping from us? You know what I mean?

So grateful for writing as a practice and a technology even when I was a little girl and maybe in spaces where it wasn't safe for my voice to take up space that I could be in a space of private thought through writing and then also when I did have space for my voice to come out song, being an incredible medicine for practicing, telling stories, and being loud and stretching beyond my body and also just feeling joy and pleasure. I feel grateful to share some of what's come through in some of my creation practices and hope that it resonates with some of our listeners.

There is one poem that came to me actually as part of a rehearsal process. The prompt being around the future of home that I dream toward. Where are we going from here and where am I going from here?

More often than plastic, my hands will touch soil, my hands will lotion skin, my hands will grease scalps. More often than plastic, my skin will be touched by wind, my skin will be touched by kind prayer, my skin will be touched by hands playing and braiding in hair. More often than plastic, my eyes will watch sunsets, my eyes will watch clouds, my eyes will watch stars. More often than plastic, we will create gardens, we will create songs, we will create homes. Please bring your gifts. Show us who you are. We will find the place where you can be nurtured and shine. Please bring your gifts. We can't do this without you. I can't do this without you. It's time. It's been time.

Yura Sapi: It's been a really big journey for me to go back to the wisdom of nature, connecting with my Indigenous truth and ancestors, folks—I mean all our ancestors at some point were living very connected to the land. Humans existing, plants are our eldest elders. They've been there for longer than humans have, so they know more about what it means to live on earth. Trees have so much wisdom than the recycling. The recycling of pain. Give that to the earth and let her use it as nutrients.

It's noticing, once you start getting attuned with medicinal plants and everything and start to see how they grow around you, and there's plants that grow specifically for what you may need or what your community needs. Sound like there's this vibe that we're with that we can just tap into: the moon cycles, the way the sun rises and falls every day and this knowing that ultimately there are forces of nature that are out there to look out for the best for nature and for humanity as part of it too. Trust in that and see that and continue on in everything that we do to support and to be in right relation with nature.

Tierra: Mia Mingus who was, again, the person who was leading these trainings in this intensive for folks in Bay Area Theatre that I co-organized to help us learn about transformative justice, she would bring up that we address harm and violence through policing and prisons through ICE, through CPS, all things that actually create harm presented as that these are solutions, so that's really just trying to throw people away. In the earth, we see there's no away. There is no away. Really being invited into the process of trying to figure out, so then if we're not going to throw people away and pretend that that is really doing anything to support their safety or ours. What comes next? What you were saying about learning from the earth, that lesson made it really clear to me. We have to think about how do we compost the difficult experiences or what we've put out into the world that we're not proud of and we don't want to continue the patterns that we often do.

How do we address, compost that? Some of that may be assimilated quite quickly and some we're going to have to be figuring out how to get these poisons and things out of our soil, out of our oceans and out of our air, and maybe it won't be overnight. I'm open to... I'm also saying, I'm calling in this year, I am fully open to the beautiful, wonderful, joyful, breathtaking in the best way miracles, that maybe are going to unfold that I don't need to intellectually know about. Maybe it's not something that I'm working on, maybe other people are but that will unfold for us coming at the expense of no one and without fine print or evil strings that we don't want. Try to be real clear with these prayers, so maybe we will find some way that's going to really quickly bring a lot of these poisons out. But in any case, it's also understandable if it takes a long time. It doesn't mean that it's not worth it for the future that we can have.

Yura Sapi: Absolutely. I think the good energy, the prayer, the setting and that intention, the clarity around what we're looking to bring forth, that is powerful. And all of us doing that, that is doing something. There is a power in being able to focus our mind's eye, our vision, towards what we do want to work out. Our minds are so powerful. I think we can take that seriously and go forth in this understanding that we may call prayer, meditation, intention setting, focusing on what it is that we do want. Victor Vasquez in another episode quoted adrienne marie brown, this idea of what we pay attention to grows.

Tierra: Grows.

Yura Sapi: Worrying is like praying for what we don't want to happen because we're paying attention. We're calling that in. We're calling in what we don't want, so it is about continuing that hope, that belief, that faith, that there is a way, like you said, maybe, I don't know exactly. I don't have all the specifics and I'm not maybe the one putting things together in a specific way, but it's definitely happening.

Tierra: Yes, it is. Say that again. It is happening.

Yura Sapi: This podcast is produced as a contribution to HowlRound Theatre Commons. You can find more episodes of this series and other HowlRound podcasts on iTunes, Google Podcast, Spotify, and wherever you find podcasts. Be sure to search and subscribe to receive new episodes. If you loved this podcast, post a rating and write a review on those platforms. This helps other people find us. You can also find a transcript for this episode along with a lot of other progressive and disruptive content on howlround.com. Have an idea for an exciting podcast, essay, or TV event the theatre community needs to hear? Visit howlround.com and submit your ideas to the commons.

There's a reason our art is of the heart. We transform and transcend, share love, and share truths. Creation is the cure for destruction. Storytelling is liberation. Communing is power. Evil wins when we learn how to dehumanize. Instead, we must decolonize upon us as an undoing of great feats, so let people in. Be stronger together because there is a weakness in solitude. This is Yura Sapi. You can find out more about me at yurasapi.com or follow me on Instagram or LinkedIn at Yura Sapi. Thanks for joining us.

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Thoughts from the curator

I hear talk about wanting for racially diverse populations to “get a seat at the table” or “bringing chairs to the table for POC,” meaning that we want our people to have a position at existing organizations and institutions with decision making power. For me, a few years ago, I decided to not focus on infiltrating existing organizations, but rather start my own. I know I’m not alone. With the blessing that we all have a role in the revolution, this podcast checks in and learns from BIPOC founders of various organizations in and related to the theatre industry changing the game, making new things happen within, and expanding beyond white and euro-centric experiences. We will learn from these incredible visionaries who have created their own tables of arts institutions, movements, collectives, initiatives, and more. We learn about their processes, pathways to success, and challenges they've overcome. This is an outside-the-classroom leadership learning from folks who are doing the things.

Building Our Own Tables


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