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Weaving Life, from Colombia to the UK

On 26th Feb, we hosted friends from Colombia - Vilma Almendra, Manuel Rozental & Mauricio Acosta - from the communications weavings helping to build the Minga; mobilising against the aggression, through the Life Plans of the communities with Mother Earth.


This was the long winter; Trump & Brexit, burning symptoms in the long wave of repression, violence & discontent. Added to this was the wave of liberal shock horror, disorienting many of us who had felt this to be coming. the ghosts of blowblack. There is only so much that can be repressed before the shit hits the fan. So many people had been putting themselves on the line calling out white supremacist imperialist patriarchy. So to feel the fears we daily experience become 'visible', in strange ways, wrapped in tones of suprise, righteous indignation & judgment; all alienating ways of framing longtime experiences of communities, friends and families.

So it was a blessing to receive beautiful friends @PlatformSouthwark, sharing thoughts - about where we are & where to next. From Colombia to the UK. weaving energies, love & light.

"I am not a prisoner of history. I should not seek there for the meaning of my destiny. I should constantly remind myself that the real leap consists in introducing invention into existence. In the world through which I travel, I am endlessly creating myself.” - Frantz Fanon

Vilma on “The Peace of Mama Kiwe* in Freedom, of the Woman Unchained and Unsilenced”: The Meaning of Peace in Colombia from Indigenous Cauca.

*meaning Mother Earth in Nasa Yuwe, the ancestral language of the Nasa people.

Some excerpts:

I write from the perspective of a woman forced to live the realities of military occupation, from the daily terror of a war that continues so that powerful national and transnational corporate entities may continue to accumulate wealth. I write from those of us who suffer the consequences of the laws of dispossession, made and undone by political institutions forever tied to economic elites dedicated to the reinforcement of their own privilege. I write from those of us who are impoverished, murdered, exiled, robbed of our land, criminalized, persecuted and stigmatized for demanding what is ours. I write from all of us who protect and weave our consciousness with that of others, both within and outside our local social and political processes, to continue walking with our communities without becoming subsumed by every level of propaganda that the “powerful” use to co-opt, buy, divide and delegitimize us, our resistances and alternatives for life.

In relating this story, I must first weave together some of the many stories of suffering and resistance endured in our territories, from those of centuries ago to those being repeated now. The past is present. While those who now seek to eliminate us are not the same material authors as before, their strategies of terror serve the same purpose: to weaken the struggles and proposals expressed and nurtured through our community processes, our “Life Plans” (these are the diverse projects and mobilizations that constitute the social and political community process of the indigenous peoples in the region).

The differences end there: we are currently witnessing the same intellectual authors advance and efficiently execute strategies with a recurrent objective: the economic “Death Project.” There are too many stories, and as I think about where to begin and what to share, I suddenly feel the task of choosing one or two to be redundant. In Cauca, our histories, experiences, lives and daily practices of sadness and joy that nourish and build our Life Plans already constitute the fabric of life that strengthens our resolve and allows us to stand with others. We bring these experiences together every day, not by choice but as a means for our continued existence in our territories...

...For many years, our communities have not just talked about the armed conflict. We have lived it. That’s why we’ve been forced to resist, to think about ways to protect and defend our Life Plans. For this reason, our efforts have been focused on the strengthening of our traditional indigenous Councils, our community projects and Tejidos de Vida, the programs and collective actions we weave within our political organizational process. Our dream and collective commitment, through that process, is to consolidate a political proposal alongside those of all other popular causes, not only around claims specific to indigenous peoples but across sectors. That’s also why nearly a decade ago we adopted the Minga as a national collective action, not only an ancestral and everyday practice occurring in our communities. We practice the Minga as a task held in common, where we all contribute threads to strengthen the great weaving of life, as indigenous peoples, campesinos, Afro-descendents and popular sectors all pushing to construct a “country of peoples without owners.” The Minga has an agenda of national unity that respects the differences among our communities but without losing sight of some central issues that affect us all, such as the economic Death Project that should be confronted with Life Plans from and for the people. Terror and war must be overcome through harmony and equilibrium put into practice by and for every people. Legislation of dispossession must be replaced by laws that protect both human beings and Mother Earth. Agreements reached with the state must be realized without forms of blackmail and without regard for who is in government. Finally, we must construct a popular agenda from the communities. These are the collective goals we continue to weave with everyone...

...So, as Nasa, when we talk about peace, what are we talking about? It’s simple: to live in equilibrium and harmony with Mother Earth; to speak and carry out the word of the people in freedom; to travel within our community without fear of death; to study without having one’s school suddenly turned into a military front line; to sow and harvest our food without fear of fumigations; to once again be able to drink the water from the streams and rivers; to see in vivid color the return of green to our mountains as they overcome the encroachment of monocrop deserts and pollution left behind from mines; to once again have the time and energy to sufficiently participate in our community assemblies; to make collective decisions without the immanent fear of one Death Project or another; to be brought together not for funeral processions but for celebrations dedicated to the miracle of life; to weave bonds of unity with other peoples and processes; to live, exercise and nourish our dreams and Life Plans. This was what overwhelmingly came forth in several working groups with our communities: dreams of what would happen not just without the armed conflict but also without the economic Death Project...

...Our resistance is finite, and it is impossible to continue, teetering between sides, while our autonomy demands our freedom and emancipation. If we continue the way we have, our community process is going to break. I feel that, with the discordant movements of people from one side to the other, the threads we’ve managed to weave aren’t going to hold. Thus it is urgent for us to return to paths on which we have already walked: the Indigenous and Popular Congress; the Popular Consultation on Free Trade; the Liberation of Mother Earth, the Itinerant Congress of the Peoples; the Visit for the Country We Want; and the Minga of Social and Community Resistance. These paths are necessary for us to maintain our cohesion, to mobilize and to build anew many worlds of peoples without owners.

I feel the responsibility to scream from the deepest roots of my soul, as an indigenous Nasa woman, and as a daughter of the territory of my ancestors. I scream loudest at those who are mistaken, at those who put us between two machismos, both of which turn their backs on the Law of Origin of Mother Earth. One machismo shouts and performs actions of war, violence, brute force and recruits for their death our sons and daughters of harmony. The other machismo condemns us to kneel before the mandate of the powerful, using pragmatic reasoning and powered by authoritarian and selfish desires. Neither of them are our people. Both silence our grandmothers and grandfathers and do not listen to Mama Kiwe with humility. Screaming at these machismos from my right as a Nasa woman and our right as a free and autonomous people, I demand respect.

Silence! Listen to our voices, because the collective word is that which moves us. We are none of the machismos that seek to deny us life. This may be our last chance. I feel that to be silent at this moment would make me an accomplice of something unacceptable. I don’t let these words out with resentment, nor are they intended to make people uncomfortable or uneasy. I am inspired by an obligation towards a sincere attempt and feeling to summon people to understand and obey the ancestral mandate to which I am ready to submit; to reopen spaces of dialogue and collective reflection before the memory of our elders; so that we can build the peace we need to build and not that of our oppressors, whose interest is death.

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