It had been a working Saturday. Back Cove beckoned; I responded with a run. Back at the University of Southern Maine, I discovered I was locked out. I called campus security. When he arrived, the officer asked why I wanted to get in. “I work here. I’m a professor.” “ID?” he asked. “Not on me,” I said, “it’s inside.” Straightforward, right? Not if you are brown- or Black-bodied! No matter that you are 5 feet, 104 pounds – you’re still a threat. The officer called someone and, after discussion, finally let me in. He checked my faculty ID, lectured me on my carelessness and left.

This happened a while back. But as I watched the mostly white mob storm the Capitol, this and other humiliations resurfaced – viscerally. All my friends who are Black, Indigenous and/or people of color experienced it; we felt, in our physical beings, a cumulative rage from generations of being barred from places – universities, stores, museums – questioned, told we don’t belong. Mixed in with the rage is the fear that this “encounter” could turn bad, really bad!  Sometimes, our children are present. They, having seen us – their elders – powerless, naked will never know safety again. They may earn high credentials but their bodies will know: There is nothing between them and the violence of a white supremacy state! All this is rising up, choking us, as we watch.

We also felt the violation of the ideals that the U.S. has sought to embody but has never enacted fully yet: freedom, equality, justice for all! Michelle Chatman, an African American scholar-activist and D.C. native, talks of being taught as a child how to comport herself in white spaces so she is safe. But at the Capitol no prompting was necessary; she was hushed in reverence. David Brooks speaks of the reverence he felt as a 14-year-old and the awe that still envelops him, at 59. This reverence and awe are also somatic experiences, a quieting in the presence of something greater than ourselves. It saddens me that the terrorists didn’t experience it. Instead, they responded to the beauty and grandeur of our vast experiment with democracy by physically desecrating what they cannot understand nor be a part of.

And what of you, my white friends, who felt the assault but explain it in abstract terms? I invite you to feel it in your body, experience the ground being pulled out from under you, know this is an existential threat! Resmaa Menakem talks about white body supremacy – that’s what we experienced Jan. 6. Black, brown, queer bodies feel it all the time; this time it brutalized you, too. I implore you, “Please don’t resort to intellectualism.” It’s OK to be distraught – it’s important. Because, white people, it is by paying attention to how this has affected you physically, that you can get a glimpse of how Black, brown and queer bodies have been barred, mutilated and enchained. Let this humble you not into a silent guilt, please god, but into an exploration where you invite your own wounded physical being into this mess. Develop a somatic awareness of what space you occupy, who else is or is not there. Do you really want to share space? Is your body an ally or an obstacle?

But to be able to bear the enormity of this exploration you will need help. Turn to your communities. Learn body-based practices that can support you to lean into this trauma, to get stronger! Learn from Black and brown folks, who’ve had to be resilient. We’ve done it by upholding the truth of our inherent dignity and wholeness even as our bodies endured trauma. We’ve written, sung, created art; stayed in touch, in community, in love.

And all of us – Black, white, brown, queer folx – let’s organize. Let’s join the movement to uphold our democracy and continue the glorious tradition of our ancestors. Let’s do it with joy; let’s move with the spirit; let’s dance to the Resistance Revival Chorus’ full-bodied rendition of Woody Guthrie’s song “You Fascists Bound to Lose!” Yes, they are!

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