Why the change from The Underground Railroad to this new space? What happened?
Clearly I am still invested in the lives and people affected by human trafficking, and the issues that pervade its continued existence; clearly I still enjoy blogging and writing; and clearly I understand characteristics and images of God through the lenses of freedom, love, and justice.
From an external perspective, growing pains are happening within the movement to end the modern slave trade. More and more organizations are survivor-led, which I believe to be a healthy shift. However those of us who have never been enslaved lack the kind of perspective that survivors have in their genes. Our compassion is tempered differently.
Are those of us without the trauma of trafficking in our lives to back off altogether? Certainly not. Are survivors expected to suddenly take up positions in anti-trafficking NPOs? Not at all. Yet there has emerged this chasm between survivors and non-survivors, (as much as I hate to use binary categories), the extreme poles being: a) you can’t have the necessary empathy to assist survivors if you have never been one, or b) it doesn’t matter who you are, you are necessary as a human being to help wherever you can.
From what I’ve observed, most survivors and non-survivors fall well within the middle of these two poles. While we experience growing pains together, a beautiful way forward is being created. I believe this and I love this. However there have been a few outspoken folks of both sides who feel either: a) if you aren’t a survivor, get out, or b) you WILL accept my expertise and help because I’m skilled and able (this, to me, sounds the more oppressive and arrogant, not to mention scary).
If history has taught us anything, it is that we would do well to listen to the most marginalized as to how to break chains and create new worlds. Perhaps the movement gained significant momentum because of non-survivors (and still does), but as more survivors lend their voices to the world, it is to them we must listen. Perhaps “The Underground Railroad”, as a blog, was becoming a bit too on-the-nose.
Perhaps it is time now to shift focus. I named the blog in honour of the Underground Railroad of old, but the truth is I have never been Harriet Tubman, nor would I claim to be. If my blog is going to create barriers to effective transformation, maybe it’s time I listen. As for colleagues who continue to insist on naming names on social media about how non-survivors are being excluded or put-down (or how terribly skilled non-survivors are), I can assure you these words and actions are most undignified, unloving and unjust. If you feel the need to lash out at other movement leaders in order to justify your role, perhaps deeper work needs to be attended to.
From an internal perspective, I found myself writing naturally about other people and things that involved justice, love and faith; but not necessarily trafficking-related. It became harder to justify writing about LGBTQ life and people on a blog devoted to human trafficking. It wasn’t wrong, per se, but rather confusing.
Last year I started writing to the late Henri Nouwen, and more of my posts took on spiritual overtones. Again, I didn’t mind this but I felt my focus broadening to include in my writing more than what I could do justice to about trafficking and freedom. This year I am aiming to write to both Langston Hughes and Jean Vanier. Both are worthy figures to delve into, but I would be hard-pressed to tie them in consistently with Not For Sale or ACT-Alberta (for example).
I’ve also found myself questioning faith, spirituality and my relationship with God. Struggle is not quite the word I’d use to describe it; more like an all out Cold War. This shifting of my faith involves a lot of pain and confusion, and it’s been leeching into my blogging. It’s hard to maintain a healthy perspective or focus when my own life is undergoing a bizarre transformation. I thought it the healthy choice to make a clean break. While all previous posts from The Underground Railroad can be found here, my yet-to-be-created posts will embrace this new dimension and journey.
I hope this explains my decision at least a little bit. I hope you’ll continue to come along! I like the emails I receive about piece, and I enjoy the interaction (okay, not the trolls so much but really who does?).