Episode 47: Decolonization: A Harm Reduction Tool for People of Every Color with Ira X Armstrong
Decolonization is a journey of harm reduction for all people.
In this episode, Ira X Armstrong and I have an organic conversation about the ever-changing, ever-present decolonization journey. We candidly discuss Ira’s experience decolonizing their mind, their ancestral history, and the land they live on while sharing tips for people who are just starting their decolonization journey. We also talk about overcoming depression and exhaustion as Black activists and decolonizers, shedding light on how we can begin to shift our mindset, reprogram ourselves, and become the decolonized parents we want to be.
Ira X Armstrong is a mixed Black trans parent, Freedom Fighter, Social Entrepreneur and Educator who is working to create climate sustainability through social permaculture. “It’s basically a fancy way of saying: creating community by really paying attention to the way the world is and following life and growing in the way that life grows rather than following death and the way that death grows,” Ira says. Ira is also a founder at PEACE Out Loud, a queer, Black, Brown, and poor people-led Social Permaculture enterprise in the San Francisco Bay Area that is dedicated to Self Determination, Outdoor and Freedom Education, and Building Consent Culture.
Ira grew up in a family of revolutionaries and abolitionists whose goals were never to change everything and all, but simply to do what it takes to get everyone housed, clothed, and fed. “We are normal people who just want to be free… Once we get there, if people want to say we still need jails, we still need this carceral system… then let’s talk about it,” they say, “But let’s start with resource sharing, let’s start with reparations, let’s start with shifting from the place where our entire economy was built on the backs of enslaved Black folks and indentured servants from all over the world.”
I’ve been struggling with depression recently and Ira brought up a powerful perspective I’d like to share with you. The point of this revolutionary decolonization work is to not work yourself to the point of exhaustion. The point is to push through the difficult parts until we can rest in the fruits of our labor, absorb those nutrients, and grow for a while. Just like a sprout pushes through the walls of its seed until it can break through, soak in the sun, and grow its leaves. If you’re tired, it’s okay to rest until you’re ready to push through again. Just know that sunshine is just on the other side of that wall.
Our minds are like computers. They’ve been conditioned or programmed to think and act in certain ways, based on our past experiences and traumas, that oftentimes do not serve us, but over time harm us… and most of us need reprogramming. Recognizing the patterns and conditioning that have been ingrained into you is a huge first step to decolonizing parenthood.
As they were growing up, Ira began learning about the history of American universities, the land they had grown up on, and how they had been brutally colonized. In tiny ways, they opened themself up to learning about the people that inhabited this land before they did. Then, Ira joined the Black Lives Matters Movement. “It’s been a really, really powerful thing to have a place that I call home that I was invited into by people who this has been their home for thousands upon thousands of years,” Ira says, “But it’s also been really, really painful to see all of the ways that I have participated in colonization and start to, what I call, pick concrete out of my brain.” Ultimately, this education, though painful, is a gift.
So, how can we begin to actively decolonize our brain, our history, and the land we live on? Ira recommends you start with these four things:
- Identify where you are, who you are, and whether you were invited, stolen, or stole other people to get to where you are. Just name it.
- Identify: Who are you from? Where did you come from?
- Identify: Who are you following now? We’re either following unconscious conditioning or conscious conditioning.
- Create a community of practice. Who are you doing this decolonization work with?
Furthermore, for those of you that have white abolitionists in your history… You can be proud of your white abolitionist history, you can be proud of your people and the ways that they’ve resisted, but it’s hard to do that until you shift how you relate to your whiteness. Colonization harms everyone it touches, including white people. If you don’t know your ancestry, I encourage you to do a DNA test to further explore your family’s heritage and have a more complete understanding of who you are so you can embrace every part of you… the light AND the dark. Ask your grandparents about their participation in the Jim Crow and civil rights movements. Those stories don’t have to be a source of shame and guilt, they can be a source of enlightenment and empowerment.
We have to understand the roots of colonization, otherwise we keep perpetuating harm. Decolonizing parenthood is harm reduction for people of every color.
Curious to know more about what it means to decolonize parenthood?
Need a community that will support you on your decolonization journey?
Listen in to this powerful discussion to learn more and consider joining the Conscious Parenting for Social Justice Collective, a Black-led, multiracial collective of parents, working together to simultaneously transform ourselves, our families, and our communities by decolonizing our minds and healing racial traumas caused by white supremacist/capitalist power structures. Hope to see you there!
About Ira X Armstrong (they/he):
Ira has a BA in Educational Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley and has been a teacher of peace, performance arts, and freedom for over 30 years. They are an infrastructure specialist who helps create outdoor education settings as well as shut down bridges, freeways, and government buildings to stop the machine from running over the people, as needed.
Ira consults with political campaigns as well as with ally and accomplice organizations in technology, finance, and education in order to create safe spaces for trans, queer, Black, and poor folks.
Ira is a founder at PEACE Out Loud, a queer, Black, Brown, and poor people-led Social Permaculture enterprise in the San Francisco Bay Area, and they are dedicated to Self Determination, Outdoor and Freedom Education, and Building Consent Culture.
Ira is also part of a coalition of folks building to end rape culture in the next 30 years.
To connect further with Ira & PEACE Out Loud:
Visit Ira’s website: www.iraxarmstrong.com
Follow them on Twitter: www.twitter.com/fraggle94
Visit PEACE Out Loud’s website: www.peaceoutloud.org
Connect with them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/polberkeley
Follow them on Instagram: www.instagram.com/peace_out_loud