Place Corps Blog #1: Week of Aug 19

Place Corps Blog #1: Week of Aug 19

Decolonizing what it means to know, love, and serve

This week was one of the most challenging of my (almost) 25 years. In fact, I would characterize her as, quite literally, a ripping open and digging through the person I’ve presented as Jordan thus far.

What does it mean, that under the guise of religion, my African ancestors and relatives were stolen from their homelands and brought to a foreign land where they would be bred and abused as beasts, and their future generations would continue to exist after “liberation” as semi-citizens, stripped of their names, food ways, ancestral practices, and right to self-determination?

What does it mean, that the United States’ continued existence requires the continued genocide, oppression, and erasure of Indigenous peoples?

What does it mean, that our national economy is inequitable by design, thriving off of the subjugation of Black, Brown, Indigenous, and poor bodies wordwide, and the theft of their culture and labor?

What does it mean, that my ability to sit here on my laptop as I enjoy a cool breeze and clean air is due to all of the above?

What does it mean, that the myth of white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism are so deeply rooted in my everyday existence that to decolonize feels similar to trying to breathe without oxygen or searching for a new life-giving liquid that replaces water?

What does it mean, that the fight for the liberation of my people has never been realized and can never be realized under our colonial existence?

Colonization is effective, albeit incredibly inefficient. It’s a process that thrives around and through many of us, regardless of race, nationality, gender, class, and religion. And it brings extraction, exploitation, genocide, cultural erasure, and spiritual bankruptcy.

It’s hard to know where one begins a process of decolonization, which I would define as: a multi-generational, non-linear, and embodied process that enables us to disengage from a colonial existence, and generate one rooted in our sovereignty and lineages. This process can be characterized in three interwoven realms of embodiment in which one (person, community, institution) works to cleanse colonial ways of being from within, reclaim ancestral ways that have been lost, and evolve into a present state of being that merges the past with the future (Afro-futurist time travel? Yes, please).

While I would consider my own decolonization process to have been underway for some years now, I hadn’t realized the magnitude of work needed as decolonization moves from metaphor to reflection and integration. With this realization has also come a deeper reckoning with the reality of the climate crisis, and that the systems set up to “protect and serve” will only grow in their rejection of my peoples’ humanity and right to exist.


So what do I do? What do we do?

The dedication page of Lean Penniman’s Farming While Black reads, “This book is dedicated to our ancestral grandmothers, who braided seeds in their hair before being forced to board transatlantic slave ships, believing against the odds in a future of sovereignty on land.”

I can never truly know the lived experience of my great-great-great-great-great grandmother, yet I see clearly how our work share roots. What I must do is what she did, believe that against all odds, our future generations will inherit the abundance of love and freedom they so rightfully deserve.

And so this week, my calling to know, to love, and to serve has strengthened as it supports a deepening process and a new community to love and hold me as I reconnect with what has been taken, nurture and heal the pain I carry for myself and my ancestors, and work to generate a sovereign future for my people, in solidarity with accomplices aligned in our shared fight.

Jordan Williams