Othering & Belonging Conference

On April 8-10, I attended the Othering & Belonging Conference in Oakland, CA. It was so great to be in the midst of like-minded people. I have added new activities, new vocabulary, new books and a renewed excitement for this work. One term that I want to share right now is Belonging. They use the term belonging rather than inclusion. Inclusion still has hierarchy attached to it. We, people of color, are being included in the majority work. However, Belonging is where all people come together and co-create their community/society. Thus, the opposite of ‘othering’ is belonging. Othering splits people into groups (breaking) but belonging allows for all and welcomes all (bridging).

This has been the work of Visible Unity from the beginning. We seek to bring diverse people together and help them to develop relationships across cultures. In the words of Othering & Belonging, we have been building a bigger ‘we’.

At the conference a poem by Warsan Shire was recited by a young person.

Home by Warsan Shire

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilet
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

go home blacks
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
be hunger
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Jeanne Segrest
    Apr 14, 2019 @ 20:53:38

    This is great, Pam. Will you post this on Facebook visible Unity page so we can share?




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