The myth of individualism and meritocracy coupled with the great colonial project of American academia might have you thinking I am a really smart unique individually creative bad ass who should be given credit and attention and that all my ideas are of individual genius.
I am a Mennonite white girl from Atlanta (like actually from Atlanta, where I-20 meets I-75/85) who grew up in a home and in a church steeped in the contradictions of peace and social justice and following Jesus’s Way juxtaposed with conservative patriarchal dogma relegating anyone who is not a cis-gender man as less-than- with a stamp of approval from Father God.
I was raised by a long line of strong white Mennonite women who lived out a very different reality than the ideal mandated by the church. I come from a lineage of Anabaptist women who cultivated nonviolent resistance during persecution in Europe. I come from my Great Great Aunt Amanda Buckwalter (for whom I am named) who, in her lifelong singleness and childlessness nurtured and cared for many women and children. I come from Elsie, Katie, Marion, Orpah Mae, Karen Joyce, and Becky Ann my great grandmothers, grandmothers, mother, and aunt who cultivated their own career paths, ran businesses, acquired advanced degrees, and raised families. I was mentored by numerous older white woman who saw leadership and vision in me. Who poured time and energy into me; listening, asking questions, clarifying, encouraging, backing, and supporting my path, my art, and my work.
And what most people don’t know when they see my white lady self walking down the grocery store aisle is that I also have been shaped by many People of Color, and Black Women in particular, who have poured into me knowledge and wisdom and love and care, who paved a way of intersectionality, integrating the heart with the mind with the body with the spirit. In doing this work, I seek to honor Sylvia Wheeler, who in an arrangement much like many others centuries before, helped raise me from infancy to adolescence, who taught me about nurture and resilience, about generosity and love, who first showed me womanism. I acknowledge the numerous educators, Ms. Carter, Mrs. Johnson, Mrs. Griggs, Mrs. Hayes, Ms. Abron, Mrs. Trice, and Dr. Hill among them who showed me dedication to learning and to relationships, whose classrooms had me thinking Black female leadership was a societal norm. My understanding has been influenced by friends and coworkers who believed in me enough to be honest with me and trusted me to listen to their experiences. In doing this work, I celebrate the words of revolutionaries, scholars, and poets whose stories and ideas influenced my thinking and from whom I continue to seek inspiration and vision.
This body of work is a direct result of ongoing relationship and study. I seek to both honor those who have influenced me and also to open myself to present accountability. Much of my deepening learning and growth comes from developing a yoga practice, and apprenticing under the guidance and mentorship of Felicia Savage Friedman, founder of YogaRoots on Location, whose work, life, words, and actions offer me daily insights and paradigm shifts. Over the past several years I have learned much about the deconstruction of race and racism from the People’s Institute for Survival and Beyond whose Undoing Racism Principles and anti-racist organizing extend multi-layered challenges along with a community of wisdom and from anti-racist organizer, Dustin Washington, whose past direction of Youth Undoing Institutional Racism and the Tyree Scott Freedom School influenced and inspired my organizing particularly with young people. At the time of its inception, I was tremendously inspired by the work of Liana Maneese, Cavanaugh Quick, and Jamilah Lahijuddin and from Sydney Olberg, co-founder of WWG 1 & 2. And of particular importance to Mistress Syndrome, I continue to study and learn alongside of the white ladies of WWG, whose commitment to deconstructing white ladyness while striving to live into something new, is as much this body of work as the words on the screen.
All of you have made me me and this work this work. May your stories and wisdom continue to flow through me.