In 2015 I delivered a speech to the graduating class of Xicanx students from San Francisco State. I had been nominated by my former classmates and comrades, folks who had helped shape my identity as Xicanista, educator and artist. Together we had budded new flowers of consciousness in our years together. But now, with the blessing of the universe, Ometeotl, the stars, la luna y el sol, we were to break apart again, many of us returning to the family that originated us. And so with a sense of urgency and deep love driving me I asked everyone in the room to identify:
1) the community you are willing to fight for
2) the problems that exist there
“It is your duty to discover what is happening to challenge the problems, and if it is nothing, it is your responsibility to make something.”
In front of all these people I made a promise that I planned to move back to the Inland Empire in Southern California, where multi-million dollar corporations own the land, paying the workers barely minimum wage, hiring and firing as they see fit. The workers are my friends, my family. I promised to build something that did not yet exist, an organization that would challenge these insane conditions. I was riding on my high horse, ready for battle, ready to be embraced by old friends and family with deep conversations that would blossom to entire shifts in lifestyle and values.
I wasn’t aware at the time how singular my thinking was. Although my intention was to live in community I was only thinking how my individual self would move through my old home, not considering the autonomy of all those folks I was ready to work with who in actuality didn’t even know who the hell I was. It was naive, to say the least. And so when time came to pick up our things and jet out it wasn’t at all how I had romanticized it a year earlier up on that stage in front of a hundred people.
In my arms I carried a two-month old baby, a beautiful gift from the universe for me and my partner, who was ignoring his instinct which screamed at him to not move to Southern California, a foreign land covered in concrete and smog. We found ourselves in my brother’s old bedroom living with my parents, not only trying to figure out our new surroundings but also still processing our eviction which uprooted us from our loving community in the Bay and our new life roles as parents. To say the least, that shit was challenging. Our relationship barely survived and my partners health was severely jeopardized.
I realized then that my idea that home equaled community could no longer be defined by my own ideas or upbringing, but had to include the life experiences of my closest community: my life partner and sun. I also realized that home is not only the community in which you were raised and that we, nomadic humans, have the right to find and create a community in which we know we will thrive in.
My ancestors been moving, sometimes fleeing war and others dreaming for more. My grandparents and mother and father crossed borders with little to no money in their pockets, finding a community that would support them as they figured out how to create their home. I recognize I stand with more freedom to move today. I wouldn’t call it a privilege, but a gift returned after years of it being violently taken from me, as it continues to be violently taken away from folks all around the world.
There is much to discover when we return to the places that raised us. Some may find their loneliness diminished in the presence of their blood family; some may find a need for community that does not exist in their original home and will be driven by love to create it. For me, I discovered that though my roots had been planted there, my flowers would not bud if I remained. Now, we live in the beautiful canyons of Siskiyou County, where the Sacramento river runs in our front yard. This is not the land of my ancestors, desert people, but I vow to protect it as the Winnemem Wintu tribe has continued to do since the onslaught of colonization.
At times, remembering my newness on this ancient land, I fear that my flowers will bloom only for a season, longing the desert land --- the hills of sage, grey boulders, rattle snakes --- that gave them those beginning life creating nutrients.
But I know I am more beautifully complex than that.
I am resilient. I am seeds blowing in the wind, thriving where they land. I am not I alone. I exist with my mother though she lives nearly 1,000 miles away from me, whom I feel in the sacred grains of maize as they pass through my hands into by body; I exist with my partner, a man of the mountain which watches over us while he and I sleep, our baby between us, its sacred waters pouring into the streams of my veins. I exist with my sun, sun and moon, star gazing, silly, fruit-loving fire child. I find solace in the fact that he will define his homeplace, that he will move through the world in freedom and in gentless, discovering that roots thrive in all environments and in all elements. We, not I, just have to try.