featured in print
from the third issue of Loam Magazine (print):
”We Are Not an Isolation”
by michael a. estrada
The persisting effects of the ongoing diaspora exacerbate the fracture in how we see ourselves today and how our ancestors saw themselves. We are suddenly apart—not a part of the distinct and rich cultural history that was our brown and black hands in the soil, the melding of ends and beginnings.
There is an innate resilience in our histories. We are here now because our ancestors were once here, once were, and once lived. We are the persevering representation of their collective effort.
There is an invitation in this recognition to investigate and to discover the myriad of ways that our ancestors fought, lived, loved, struggled, and ultimately survived to give us the tools and resilience that we carry with us today.
In this way, a focus on intergenerational resiliency is memorial incarnate. It can not only help place things in perspective in times of hardship, but it can also shift that perspective into an enduring embodiment. As opposed to saying, “I need to change my attitude or perspective because I know others (or my parents) have faced worse” —an experience I believe many first-generation children like myself feel — it shifts the narrative toward the idea that “I can do this because I carry within me the same resilience that my ancestors carried with them.” It is an acknowledgement of their struggles, of ours, and of the intergenerational connection between lives that might’ve never met but still impact one another.
In movement building, it’s a critically important process to (re)discover our own histories and truths. Reclaiming our vibrant histories shows us that we are not alone as well as recognizes the power in knowing that we’ve been here. We’ve been here. We are here. And we will continue to be here.
Resiliency is in our veins. I am not an isolation — I am a continuation. A continuation of the resilience and struggle, of the survival and presence, of my indigenous ancestry.
I’m for the places that celebrate our continued existence. To say I’ve been here or I’ve been outside is to show that I am here in this space not only through my being but through my ancestral lineage when my makeup was earth, when I was more than fixed body.
Whether or not we have the fortune to be familiar with our individual history, there is solace at least in knowing that we are that past for some future person, people, or place. Because in that existence lives the potential for hope.
Interview from Melanin & Sustainable Style:
WHAT ROLE ESPECIALLY DO YOU THINK BIWOC PLAY IN PROTECTING THE EARTH?
MAE: Lol BIWOC do the absolute most in everything, and protecting the earth is just one thing in y’alls arsenal. But if we’re being specific, it’s been well documented that BIWOC face the worst of any environmental degradation or disaster. But it should also be just as well-documented that BIWOC do the MOST in protecting their communities and environment. BE started with this because it was my own personal defining moment when I made this realization for myself. Tree hugger narrative? WOC. Environmental activists fighting for their communities at the risk of their own well-being? WOC.
Recently I’ve been playing with this analogy in my head that WOC are the keystone community of our time. In ecologist terminology, a keystone or indicator species (or “bioindicator”) of an ecosystem is a species that clearly indicates the health of the habitat or community in which it lives; in essence helping reveal to an ecologist whether an environment is in a healthy state or not. I’d argue that WOC are our keystone species: we can see how well society is doing based off how WOC are being treated, from environmentalism (and justice) to equality in the workforce. (Drawing from ecofeminism theory, too).
WOC are the most affected by environmental injustices and degradation, and also do the most when it comes to protecting the environment. The focus on WOC is the most fitting. If y’all ain’t discussing how an issue affects the most marginalized then what are you doing? If you aren’t empowering WOC then what are you doing?
This is where broadening the definition of environment and what it encompasses is so important. Often in white-dominated spaces, environmentalism translates to conservation and/or preservation. Though important, it’s also too limited and misguided. Environment encompasses people -- so if an environmental organization doesn’t address how their issue of choice touches people (and especially the most marginalized) then it is failing. If it doesn’t actively work toward correcting institutionalized injustices and inequality, then it is failing.
“More than Green” Poem
Nature isn’t just green;
It’s colored like adobe and the coarse hues of sand;
It is Trans — unfixed, unbound, and is meant and gifted to change;
Brown — the seeds, the bark of the mahogany tree, the sedimentary rock that holds centuries of life in its very being;
Nature is Queer — evolving, unlimited and necessary;
The sunflowers and the sun, turmeric, ginger — Yellow;
It is Indigenous — the native flora and fauna that have been here with and since our ancestors first walked these lands;
Nature is Black — volcanic, powerful, the depth of the ocean, the richness of the soil and the womb of all life;
Migrant — it answers to no imaginary lines or built walls, and moves with the seasons, with need and with purpose;
Nature is imperfect, unknown, mixed;
it is the Rainbow in the sky;
many like the rain, diverse;
veined and wrinkled like our grandmama’s hands;
and more shares of color than we could ever know;
(purchase a poster of the poem here)
“the original tree huggers”