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July Livestream Follow-Up: Nation, Citizenship, and Place

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The Darkest Horse continues our monthly YouTube Livestream! Each month, we bring a timely topic that we’re getting repeatedly asked about, thinking about, or that’s a growth edge for us. We’re very excited to bring you content in a new format and hope you are too!

Our July Livestream event was held on July 29th, titled “Nation, Citizenship and Place” hosted by our Co-founder, Chanté Martinez Thurmond, TDH teammate fahad punjawni and new TDH collaborator, Hanna Kim. The trio explored the impacts of nationality, citizenship, place (and belonging) on the shaping of identities and lived experience, at work and in our greater communities.

We believe that intersectional identities with respect to nationality, citizenship and place all impact one’s ability to be included and feel that they belong in their workplace and community. As we design an equitable future, we know that these aspects of our true selves must be normalized, celebrated, and invited into conversations and spaces with our friends, family, coworkers and greater community. Please take a moment to join us in beginning a broader conversation on Nation, Citizenship, and Place and how all of these things influence our experience in the workplace and the world. 

IIn case you missed it, you can catch a recording of the July event on our YouTube page, listen to the audio on our podcast, or read the transcript from the conversation!

Important questions explored in this conversation include:

  1. How are you showing up/arriving in this space?
  2. How have you developed a sense of belonging with respect to place?
  3. Why does this topic matter and why now?

Below are just a few highlights from the conversation, some remarks on questions from the live audience, and a few additional resources if you’re interested in learning more about the topic!!

We hope you’ll join our August livestream “Inclusive Return-to-Work Strategies” on Wednesday July 25th at 11am CT.

Conversation Highlights

Q1: How are You Showing up?

Our speakers shared about how their identities and where they’ve been inform how they move through the world, how they are in community, and how they experience where they are today.

Hanna Kim:

  • Identifies as a 30 year old woman who uses she/her pronouns 
  • Her family immigrated to the U.S in 2005 and, currently, holds a South Korean passport and a U.S permanent residency card (green card).
  • Her parents’ spiritual and musical journey/experiences have strongly influenced her journey and how she showed up to the conversation. 
  • She shows up to her friends, community, and workplace with a soulful existential buzz
  • She is an artist/designer and is specifically interested in the intersection of design and policy, finding joy in exploring how art/design can heal the complex (often broken) systems that we live in. 

fahad punjwani:

  • Identifies as a male presenting person in their 30s, who uses he/him and they/them pronouns interchangeably 
  • He showed up as a queer person on an H-1B Visa and trying to make sense of the pandemic 
  • They have been on a quest of trying to find and claim belonging
  • He grew up in Pakistan and came to the U.S to study and has been living in the U.S for thirteen years 
  • They are currently holding the privilege and restrictions of having an H-1B visa, allowing him to live and work in the U.S, while limiting their ability to travel outside the country and what jobs/employment opportunities he can take. 

Chanté Martinez Thurmond:

  • Identifies as a mixed-race, multicultural, Afro-Latina, able-bodied, millennial woman who is cisgender and uses she/her/ella pronouns 
  • She showed up to the conversation with ambivalence, holding space for complex familial stories/histories 
    • She is grateful for her maternal family, who made the conscious decision to leave Mexico and come to the U.S in search of the ‘American dream.’
    • She is humbled by the experiences of her brilliant enslaved paternal African ancestors. Their resistance is her resilience 

Q2: How have you developed a sense of belonging with respect to place?

Our speakers share a complex understanding of belonging broadly, how it relates to their physical space and place, and the ways it continues to evolve and emerge in relationship with their identities.

fp:

  • As a queer person who didn’t want to fit into any gender or sexual orientation buckets, he had a tough time growing up, leading them to leave Karachi and move to the Houston, TX.
  • Later, in Boston, he was clinically depressed and didn’t want to work. One of his best friends, Elena, said: “Just come stay with me [in Houston, TX] and you can figure it out.” 
  • Now, in Houston, he is using place as a way to build community and community as a way of belonging, while recognizing that belonging is truly internal and inherent. 
    • Quote from Maya Angelou: “You only are free when you realize  you belong no place — you belong every place — no place at all. The price is high. The reward is great.”

HK:

  • I’ve always had this feeling of disorientation with everywhere I went” 
    • “I’ve moved a few times in my life and each of the time I’ve moved, you know, from Austria to Korea, to Korea to the US, it was like a complete uprooting. You know, I was just kind of tagging along with my parents and I had really no say [in] why or where I was going.”
    • “I had to really adjust to new cultures and languages and landscapes, and I have to build relationships from the ground up… and I think that’s why I can so easily tap back into the feeling of disorientation.” 
  • “when I really experienced that feeling of both being so free from judgment, and also being embraced for my uniqueness. And I think that’s when I really kind of would put my flag down and say this is when I felt belonged in a place.”
    • “You can totally feel like an outsider in a place that  you are supposed to fit right in.” And I know that this story resonates with many people because we all have experiences of being welcomed in unlikely places and also unfortunately being casted out by the very people that are supposed to accept us and protect us as our kin. And aren’t we all our kin in some sense!”
  • “I think that sense of place doesn’t really seem to exist in real physical world. And what helps me what grounds me like what grounded Fahad with the Maya Angelou quote is one of my favorite Bible verses from the book of Philippians, where Paul talks about how our citizenship is in heaven, and it doesn’t exist in this world. And I think this helps me sort of identify myself with some place somewhere beyond myself, which helps me sort of transcend the visible outlines of where I should Crossroads should not and helps me be in community with all people.”

CT:

  • “I went through a deep spiritual evolution, as I got a little older and started to mature, I…just started to question a lot of things around me. I came to the realization that belongingness, or my sense of self, and being grounded in relation to a space or a place was actually through a transpersonal, spiritual, embodied experience. I started to realize, yes, my race and my ethnicity in my cultural upbringing does influence me. But, I’m literally a spirit having a human, embodied experience.”
    • “I want to see more people hone in on that emotional intelligence, that spiritual intelligence and have those embodied experiences alone, but also together in community because I think that’s how we’re going to change the future.”

Q3: Why does this topic matter and why now?

Our country, our world, and our workforce has a great richness of lived experience with respect to citizenship and place. Our individual and collective healing, growth, and innovation depend on our ability to expand our notion of who belongs and how we support individuals across identities.

fp:

  • “One of the best gifts of being queer is that…you have to define yourself outside of the system of heteropatriarchy, and then you have to define yourself again, and then you have to define yourself again. Ans, that’s what being an immigrant is as well.  You’re really intentionally defining and choosing place and the role of nationality and citizenship and not taking it as it is given to you.”

HK:

  • “When will this topic not matter?” 
  • “I am currently working with stateless people and helping them to pass the Stateless Protection Act. I am dreaming of the time when…they will have their safe pathway to become protected people in this country.”

CT:

  • “As a leader, as a proud business owner, as a parent, as a community partner, I think it is my responsibility to be more than a global citizen, to be a universal citizen…I have  obligation to try to make sure the future we’re building that we consider this [issue] when we’re hiring new people, looking for new vendors or for global partners… because if I don’t do it, who will?”

Audience Q&A 

Below are a few of the questions that members of the audience shared during our Livestream event. Please feel free to send yours to [email protected]!

Do you identify as “American”? What does that mean to you?

  • fp: Legally, I can’t identify as “American”. Some days I do feel “American” it though. I’ve lived here for 13 years – studying, working, building community, paying taxes, celebrating American holidays.
  • HK: I identify as American in a sense that many Americans have been, are, and will be wrestling with this very question. I think America, a country of immigrants, is a unique context where asking this question is part of its national identity. The real question is, will America ever see me as one of its members?

Given so many identities here, curious to all panelists, how do you define home? Where is home? Is it a place? A feeling?

  • CT: Home is a place and feeling. It’s where I feel welcome, loved, supported, seen and invited to stay as myself. 
  • fp: Home is within me, my body, my spiritual, creative, and love practice. And I transform my physical space with that practice… and then that physical space also becomes home.
  • HK: To me, home is where you ultimately belong. Sure, home is my street address where I can rest and build community around. But I consider my time on earth as a journey, a temporary residence. I firmly believe that I will reach my ultimate home when I return to my Creator. So yes, it is a place, a feeling, but for me, it’s a sense of orientation.

What are things that people in your community (neighbors, coworkers, friends, etc) can do to support these complex identities?

  • CT: Be curious and invite storytelling. Listen for the unique difference I bring to the workplace or neighborhood and invite me to share the parts of my story that have shaped me thus far. 
  • fp: I echo what Chanté says – curiosity! & along with curiosity comes being open to being moved by the other’s truth. Believe me when I talk about the complexity of my identity. And believe me tomorrow when I change my stance, grow and evolve. Catch yourself when you sense doubt. 
    AND bring this compassionate, empowering curiosity to ALL your community with complex identities — not just the ones who you think are exceptional. Love the undocumented mother who may not speak fluent Spanish. Love the recent migrant with their unique accent, refusing to blend into the American accent. Love the person who had to break the law to survive. Love the person breaking your rules to thrive.
  • HK: Treating me as their equal and worthy of belonging. We are all humans, who can choose to welcome or shun. I would feel supported if I could see that people are choosing to accept me. My response would be to do the same and extend my welcome.

How do you feel about trans-national adoption? 

  • CT: It’s complex — there are pros and cons that come with this practice that need to be discussed openly. There needs to be an on-going dialogue, especially with children (adoptees) who feel resourced enough to share the complexities and nuances of their own lived experience. Blindly supporting transnational adoption can be harmful as it tends to perpetuate a “savior-mentality” that is deeply rooted in white imperialism. 
  • HK: When I think of trans-national adoption, I think of many orphaned Korean children who were adopted to the U.S. after the Korean war. I think it’s an issue that requires utmost caution, sensibility, responsibility, and wisdom.

Additional Resources 

  1. Shapeless Shapes: A graphic narrative that explains statelessness and what we can do about it. Also available in Arabic!
  2. Watch the Shapeless Shapes video again
  3. United Stateless
  4. Hanna Kim’s portfolio
  5. Refugee Matters: Stateless People Highlight (Facebook Live featuring Hanna Kim)
  6. “Merciless Savages”: July 4th, Mt. Rushmore, and the Theft of Native Lands
  7. Could the Blackfoot Wisdom that Inspired Maslow Guide Us Now?

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About the Author(s)

Rada Yovovich, MBA
Chanté Martinez Thurmond, MA, BSN, RYT-200

Co-Founders of The Darkest Horse™