(SAN FRANCISCO, CA) On November 19, 2017, we gathered at the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts (MCCLA) in the heart of the Mission for our first workshop “Before the Beginning”: Decolonizing Storytelling.

The workshop was led by friend of UxI, Ras K’Dee – a Native California Pomo/African musician, community educator, and cofounder of multimedia arts youth empowerment organization Seventh Native American Generation (SNAG). The mission for the day was to engage with a decolonized notion of “The Beginning,” redefining our concept of history to exist outside the white narrative embedded in our post-colonial society, through exploring the language and story of the original peoples of this land.  We also set out to discuss the ways colonization overtly and covertly creates a dominant narrative, and the ways we can challenge this by giving voice to our own stories , and those of our ancestors, to heal our language and traditions.

The day was a montage of language learning, movement, self-reflection, discussion, and storytelling. Ras began the workshop by teaching us words from his indigenous language, accompanied by movements used to help the youth learn these words for the first time. As it turns out, reflecting on the ways we learned during our youth could be the key to understanding how we can better educate the next generation with narratives that include our own. Ras shared stories about his experiences in elementary school, feeling pulled apart by the Thanksgiving narrative of Native Americans taught within schools, and the truth he knew to be of his own culture. The language exercise also taught us to notice the connections between languages of different cultures, inspiring us to think deeper about how we are inherently all connected to each other and to this world.

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The workshop was also a mix of group dialogue, writing exercises, and shared reflection centered around the idea of how stories define us, define our culture, and define the world. But who is it that has the power to control this act of defining? How do we reclaim these definitions? In one exercise, we each listed all the things we would like to see change – either in the world, or within ourselves. We then took each item, and proposed how we would like to transform to world/ourselves and actualize these changes. Storytelling isn’t just talk – it is preservation of self, of culture, and it is actionable and revolutionary.

A special thanks to everyone who was in attendance! It was a heartwarming experience to be surrounded by a dynamic group of UxI friends, new faces, community members, students, elders, leaders, and storytellers. We would especially like to thank our host, the Mission Cultural Center for Latino Arts, for sharing their beautiful space of art and and intention with us. And last, but certainly not least, thank you to Ras K’Dee for facilitating this workshop, and inspiring/educating us with his stories.

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“Before the Beginning”: Decolonizing Storytelling was the first workshop of our workshop series, to be continued in 2018! Follow us online to stay up to date with all future UxI events!

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