I created Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian (N.A.H.) on April 1st, 2011. It’s been a tradition for me to share a few thoughts each year to acknowledge the blog’s birthday through a yearly address.
N.A.H. turned 8 this year, and it’s also the first year that I let this space revolve around the sun without writing something down. It’s about a month after the fact, but better late than never I suppose. There isn’t a theme here for this year, only a collection of thoughts.
As far back as I can remember, writing has been a preferred form of expression for me. I like it because it provides me an opportunities to be more deliberate and intentional in my communication in ways that aren’t always available to me in real-time conversations based on how my brain works.
I write when I’m motivated. In other words, In order for me to write, I typically have to feel something, and then use those feelings as the fuel I need to get my thoughts out. Although I can look back at my life over the years and find evidence that my personal writing style has always been this way, I can also say that it was definitely solidified as a result of my training to become an intergroup dialogue facilitator.
Relying on binary thinking in social justice work is detrimental to achieving the outcomes we seek. There are a variety of ways to communicate, they each may produce different results. I can hold that reality, while also holding that intergroup dialogue requires a specific commitment to and investment in acknowledging and shifting power dynamics in ways that I hadn’t been exposed to before.
I learned that there’s a difference between engaging in dialogue and passing along information in a descriptive or clinical way that is disconnected from the people. I had great teachers who would model participant-leadership; often reminding me through their actions of the importance of being willing and able to require the same vulnerability and bravery of myself that I would ask of participants. Those years really showed me the transformative power that lies in speaking from the heart. Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian was born out of that passionate place.
More often than not, I write how I talk. I’m not super invested in grammar or defending/upholding “standard English” in this space. I recognize that I’m not writing in English right now because it’s the superior language, but instead, my ability to communicate in this way is connected to a larger history of white supremacy through colonization and other forms of coercive oppression. The same language that some folks try to uphold as a marker of intelligence often tells me that my name is spelled wrong in the spell-check. My name isn’t spelled wrong, but the implication tells me that it’s not supposed to exist. I imagine that readers who get stuck on that kind of thing have moved on already.
Notes from an Aspiring Humanitarian: Year 8 Complete
After 8 years of this it feels like it’s been a long time, and yet no time at all. When I check through my list of subscribers I see that I have a wide range of folks who’ve been receiving my notes and curated resources for 7 years and some change, to just two days ago. I appreciate you. That longevity is an affirmation for me. I have another online space that I’m calling my “Notebook” where I am beginning to write about my (current) work as a Director of Social Justice Education. I’d encourage you to subscribe to that space as well if you’re interested in that sort of thing.
From Aspiring Humanitarian, Relando Thompkins-Jones