The UPLift with Tzedek: Real Talk for Real Change

Catharsis: Exploring the Transformative Power of Collective Healing

November 06, 2023 Ember Phoenix Season 1 Episode 10
The UPLift with Tzedek: Real Talk for Real Change
Catharsis: Exploring the Transformative Power of Collective Healing
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

Healing is a personal, as well as collective, journey. In this episode, Ember Phoenix explores the critical importance of engaging in difficult conversations with curiosity, love, and commitment as a path to individual and community liberation. Using an intersectional lens, Ember highlights a profound truth – we each hold a unique "medicine" that can expedite this shared healing.

About Ember: Afroindigenous, queer, femme-bodied visionary and entrepreneur Ember Phoenix started a healing collective to directly support community building, resilience, and resource sharing amongst local Black, Indigenous, Latinx/e, and other folks of color. Ember integrates sacred ancestral teachings and practices as key to unraveling the traumas inflicted by colonization and the ongoing effects of white supremacist culture. Using an interdependent "I am because we are" model, Ember creates deep, intentional spaces for the Collective to learn, grow, grieve, and thrive together. 

As Ember highlights, healing is not about fixing a thing; it's about being able to love, trust, and accept yourself - and others - exactly where you - we - are in this moment. From here, transformation is not only possible but probable. Join us in unpacking the traumas and triumphs of seeking collective healing in the context of white supremacy and colonialism - acknowledging that community, mutual respect, and acceptance are at the very heart of how we get free together.


We'll see you same time, same place next month. Until then, peace.

Speaker 1:

We're profoundly, profoundly interconnected. We don't always live that way, we don't always acknowledge it, but if we're going to heal, we have to live it, experience it and create institutions that celebrate it. Can we create a we where no one's on the outside of it? Welcome to the Uplift with Zedek Real Talk for Real Change.

Speaker 2:

Before we jump in, a quick reminder of why we're here and what we hope to achieve.

Speaker 1:

We're here to build authenticity, Community relationships and help fuel social transformation in Asheville, North Carolina. We believe collective liberation is not only possible but probable, as we share, listen and learn together. We're here for the process. However, the views and opinions expressed in this program are those of the speakers and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of any entities they represent. Good afternoon, beautiful people of Asheville.

Speaker 2:

This is Libby Kyle's, executive director of Zedek Social Justice Fund, welcoming you to the uplift today. Today. Today we have with us Ms Ember Phoenix and we are going to talk about a myriad of things. So, ember, michael, you guys ready to set this conversation off? Yeah, let's do it, let's go, all right. So I'm going to start with us just kind of again doing some introductions. Of course, you know who I am. You want to?

Speaker 1:

Yeah, I'm Michael Homan, the director of communications at Zedek.

Speaker 3:

And you are Ember Rose Phoenix, a troublemaker, a resistance fighter, a lover of all, just me, just a human, just a human, just a human.

Speaker 2:

All right, just human. Today we're going to talk about a few things that might involve community healing, might touch a little bit on reparations. Let's just see where this conversation goes.

Speaker 1:

All right. So community healing yeah, let's first talk a little bit about what is. What do we define? What is community healing? What does that look like for you and the work that you're doing?

Speaker 3:

Community healing to me, is based on the community so, like you know, it looks different for each community. Like you know talking about, like my core community, which is like the smaller community that I have within the larger community of Asheville, which is filled with queer, brown and black abolitionists, weirdos, who I love very much. Healing looks like to us doing our shadow work and having really hard conversations about the nuances of the different intersections that we sit in and how we're all affected by colonization, even though we're also the colonized people. It looks like having really deep, hard conversations about the roles that we play and the harm that happens. And it looks like leaning in with curiosity and love around the different perspectives and traumas that show up within our community so that we can truly see each other, be present with each other and find ways to build, grow and love each other better.

Speaker 2:

And isn't it true that when we think about this idea of community healing, within one community there could be different types of healing? That needs to occur right, absolutely. So can you say a little bit more about that? Well, let me say a little bit more. First, as a black person living in Asheville, in the communities that I inhabit, which are multiple, there might be some need for me to do some healing work with people that I've known for a while. And there's tension, and we don't even necessarily know why the tension exists, we just know that there is tension. And then there might be, within that same community, issues across identities where we're having to do something specific so that, in order for us to all get free, we talk about collective liberation, or we can't be liberated collectively if we are still having these issues that we never really wanna put out on the table. So can you talk a little bit about the different types of healing that you're a part of in community?

Speaker 3:

Absolutely yeah. Every community is made up of a beautiful human who holds so many intersections that what's gonna show up when you come together for healing is literally gonna be a plethora of all of these things. So currently in my community and when I speak of community I just wanna be very clear that I have a neighborhood, I have friends, I have associates. My community are the people that I depend on. They're the people that I see daily that my actions affect their lives. So that's my community the people that, whether they be my people that I work with, the people that live close to me that are affected by me, or the people that are dependent or interdependent on me in some way. So just because I live in a place doesn't mean it's community. My community are the people that I see, I talk to, that I'm deeply thinking about when I make decisions for myself, because I recognize that impacts them. Currently, some of the issues that show up for us are intersections. The majority of my community is definitely queer. Not all of us identify in that umbrella, but most of us are so. Looking at the intersection of what it means to be clear and people of color, we are all indigenous black and brown humans and that is an intersection. Anti-blackness is a thing, and so, even though I'm talking to other people of color, I am also dealing with a world that has colonized us and we hold biases. So we have those conversations. We have conversations about biases around our Latinx community and like what that looks like, because, like, we hold internalized nonsense.

Speaker 3:

We have conversations often about the ways our trauma shows up and then affects each other. Like all of us are vastly different in how. Like you know, I'll tell you anything. Everybody who knows me knows Ember's just gonna speak their mind. I'm gonna let you know how I feel. If you don't have space to navigate it, that's fine, but I'm gonna get it off my chest.

Speaker 3:

I have people who don't do that so well, and so six weeks later, someone may have been treating us weird or different and then they're like do you remember six weeks ago when you did a thing like so we have introverts, we have extroverts, we have people who have different political views and people who have different, like ideas of what life is gonna be about, and so for us, a lot of the stuff that comes up between us is having those conversations.

Speaker 3:

I've had to have conversations with my other black humans about how we treat each other, and if we're talking about the larger community of Asheville, that is a thing that shows up a lot around here. There's a scarcity mindset and there's just so much underlying harm that's been sitting here for a while that even in between us things show up that we need to talk about, and the more intersections that sit there it compounds that harm sometimes, and the longer we wait to talk about it compounds that harm even more. And I'm sure that other communities have some of the same things and then I'm sure that they have different things that show up for them, because it's about person, place and time.

Speaker 1:

I'm so glad that you named defining your community and what that means to you, because I think that word or that idea gets thrown out like oh, community, community. That's not how it really like in practice, how that is or how that feels. I really appreciate that and I would love to hear, like I mean, I hear difference, difference, difference. How are you like? What is the magic that allows these humans to get together, grow together and be together?

Speaker 3:

Ah, you could have me talking all day about the magic. The magic is our love for each other, our love for wanting to thrive and not just survive, and understanding that it is our differences that make us partly magical. I was just at an event last night and one of the things that we had talked about was the medicine that each person brings to a situation. Like we are all magical, we all have a medicine. For some people, that medicine is laughter right. For some it's like their quick-witted sarcasm. For some it's like a brilliant smile that, no matter who they give it to, really just like hits and makes you feel seen.

Speaker 3:

For some it's some of the like beautiful skills or art they have, but like we really lean into the fact that we are beautiful star beings with so many gifts and love and try really hard to just lean into curiosity and lean in with loving care around how life shows up for us as beings and how we can better support each other, and so it makes it really easy at times to like, be willing. The work is not easy, the work is hard, but when you're leaning in with compassion and you're curious versus defensive, you create a whole new atmosphere of what can show up and what possibilities can be there. You know, my community deeply believes that we are the ones that are going to have to build the world that we want, right Like we are the ones that our ancestors were waiting for. There's no one coming to rescue us. It's us. And so what does it mean to dream big, to envision and to feel like there is nothing out of your reach of possibility and then figure out how to turn that into action, steps with each other.

Speaker 1:

How does, if it does, queer experience lend to that willingness, that curiosity? Because, right, I'm white but I'm also a trans man and for me I mean it's like forced to do that, right, what is gender? Who am I? Is gender even a thing? But why do I feel this way, like all right and wrestling with social constructs and making sense of that? And so for me, that queer holds a superpower, because it has been through leaning into that and questioning and challenging my own self, my own, what I think I know about who I am, even In your experience, is queer lent anything to that?

Speaker 3:

Absolutely. And queer is just like one of the words, because for me, I use the word queer because it fits into the construct of the society that we live in. But actually, culturally, I am too spirited, or many spirited, and it's the norm. Like you know, gender is not a binary, it's fluid and there's so many ways to like, show up. But, yes, queerness is a superpower, it absolutely is.

Speaker 3:

If you look at the history of queerness pre-colonization and then you look at the history of queerness post-colonization, you see the struggle of what it's had to be to create a community in a world that erased queer identity, because it was around so much longer than people understand. It's been here since the dawn of time. Biology is queer, if we want to go all the way into that, but we've had to create our own families because so many of us have had to navigate harm around, whether it be religion or belief systems and morals, about what it meant to be OK and to be queer. We had to look to each other and create our own foundations. And so, like I think the superpower in queerness is that the world was trying to deny, isolate and visibilize us, and so, instead of trying to fight for our right to be seen in our humanity all the time. While we were waiting for people to get their stuff together and realize we're humans, we went and looked to each other and started building brand new foundations, and so queer family is a construct that you see a lot now as we move out of the binary of your nuclear family. We and especially Black and Brown queer people literally created that construct.

Speaker 3:

Family is not about bloodlines as much as it's about the people that you depend on, that you rely on, that are going to have your back, that are going to fill you up, that are going to sit in the dirt with you when you've fallen and be there to help you get up when you're ready. And that superpower allows us to take all of the many differences and nuances that we're already used to because, as you said, gender, who I am, what I am. We can do that with each other because we're all just doing it together and we're like, eh, it could change tomorrow. So I'm not going to expect you to sit in this box. I'm going to let you change. I'm going to let you be fluid and I'm going to be fluid with you. I'm just going to flow. We're going to lean in with curiosity and we're going to figure it out with love.

Speaker 1:

With love, with pleasure, with pleasure, with joy, with play.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, absolutely, we play a lot, a lot.

Speaker 1:

Thank you so much.

Speaker 3:

Thank you so.

Speaker 1:

I'm seriously like I needed that. So we're talking about community healing. We're talking about, right now, ashlet, we have reparations, we have calls for land back from indigenous communities. How do we make those two things fit? Now, I'm not asking for you to have all the answers to that, I'm just interested in your perspective.

Speaker 3:

Yeah, I definitely don't have all the answers, but I will say I think they already fit. They are the same fight, it is the same thing. Injustice and harm has been done and accountability, repair and healing are necessary, like way necessary. And I don't think it's possible to talk about reparations for black people without talking about land back for indigenous communities, Because we are all whether we are settler colonists, enslaved like this land was cared for and stewarded by indigenous people we would be invisibilizing that struggle if we don't connect those conversations.

Speaker 3:

Black and indigenous people are the reason that this country is alive and I'm not going to call it thriving, because I actually don't think we're thriving with the way that we're behaving, but the power and the construct and the reason that we are here and the way that we are is because of indigenous and Black hands, right, so our struggle has always been tied. I was just actually saying this the other day. I actually find it quite offensive whenever I see a land-backed acknowledgement, because it's like people are like I'm acknowledging I'm on stolen land, but not giving the land back. That's a little gaslighty, hey.

Speaker 1:

I took this.

Speaker 3:

Like, yeah, it's OK, I know I took it.

Speaker 3:

But then also the same thing. Like I'm going to pay reparations, but wait, let me tell you exactly how you can use them. Like it's like the same intertwined things. Like if you know reparations are owed, pay them. Stop telling people what they need to do with that money and trust the communities to care for themselves the way that they need to and let it be between them. If you know land was stolen, return it.

Speaker 3:

I understand and do not expect that all land just be up and giving back. Right, that'd be great, but that displaces people and displacement is not what needs to happen. What needs to happen is equitable solutions and healing to the harm and if we're going to talk about reparations, the same equitable solution needs to be talked about about land back. There's plenty of disused, unused, mismanaged properties all over the place and there is a way to just slowly give back some of that to be used however those communities feel they need to use it. It's actually not that hard of a concept. It's just really hard to do in a place where people hold so much fear and scarcity around what it looks like to let go of what they think is their control over something right.

Speaker 1:

And in terms of Black Lives, decision making on reparations in Asheville, there's an opportunity to do it differently than the model of white supremacy. Right, even that grab and they're like fine, we get what we're owed, because that is true. And there are people who are here the way before anyone came over on their little trip or was forced over, and so it's complex. But I do think that in that humanity is that answer, how to do and be better, and so let's talk about that. We all know there are things going on all over the globe. We still cannot seem to hold difference without being divided. What is the line? Is there a line, hotlay? I just want some hope Three of us sitting here talking together that the work that we're doing really does matter.

Speaker 3:

I would love to be able to give you hope, but I don't know if I can do that. What I can do is tell you that for me, what helps me get up in the morning is my relationships. Knowing that I got to come hang out with you in Libby today was a reason to get out of bed. Right, like that I guess we could call hope. Like my hope is in the humanity of those I love and in our collective struggle.

Speaker 3:

There is a lot of stuff going on in the world right now and there are so many ways that we divide ourselves to keep ourselves separate but also to protect us. Right, like the majority of it. For me and this is a larger lens and it may piss people off, but like it's all trauma, to me it is trauma, and trauma hits differently for different groups of people. I always say when I think about, like white supremacy, culture and colonization, that you know I get very angry at the actions of where we move in society around that framework. But I also recognize that most colonizers came from places where they were colonizing each other for so long before they started colonizing others that I cannot imagine that if ancestral, like we hold ancestral trauma, what extra they must be holding, having literally harmed each other for so long, how do you even begin to start to see the humanity of others when you've let go in order to dissociate of your own humanity and haven't begun to look at the harm you were causing your own people for so long? And I think that is where the hope is for me, and that trauma can be healed if people put in the work. And while I don't specifically have the skills or the time to like be deep in the healing of colonizers as they do their work, I can hold space for that. I can continue to see their humanity and I can do the work that I need to do with my brothers and sisters and my kin to heal and continue to work towards thrival while that work is being done, because the reality is we're not all gonna go at the same pace. That is misnomer that I think is very dangerous. Not everyone is gonna be on the same side, have the same politics or be on the same place in their healing at the same time.

Speaker 3:

What needs to happen in my head is that we need to be more open to the fact that people are going to do the work as they do the work, that healing is not something that any of us can control and that the only thing we truly can control to an extent is ourselves. So look around you. Find the people who are healing in the places that you're healing. Do that work with them, recognize that permanence is not a thing and be more open to the spirals of change. Like you may be on the path with somebody and do some work together and then you may separate. You can separate with love and know that you may come back together or you may not. You know that, like this group over here may be focusing on this issue and that's what feels important to them, and you're over here focusing on this issue other issue that feels important to you Both groups are doing the work. All of the work is valid and there are many ways to do it.

Speaker 3:

I think we get stuck a lot because we keep trying to force people into positions that feel right to us. If people are traumatized and if we're talking about harm, you cannot force a harmed person to see what you see, because they need to look at their own shadow and do their own work and come up with their own praxis. The same thing happens when our children leave us and go to college. They've spent their whole life learning about life within a tiny construct of their own community, and then college usually blows them wide open, because they're exposed to so many different people and thought processes from different cultures and different things, and their horizons widen, their souls expand, their brains and their neurons start firing in ways that they would have never had access to because they weren't exposed to those things. Healing is the same thing. We need to allow people the exposure and people need to allow themselves to open to that. And so, instead of trying to argue with someone who hasn't yet had that neuron fire, binding the people who already have those neurons firing and doing what you can do together, while leaving a door wide open for those to come through to catch up, to turn and weave and just be moving like weaving. It's like a weaving. We're all gonna move around in different directions and just be open to that.

Speaker 3:

I think that is the work, because I don't wanna be arguing. My time is finite. I'm not gonna be in this body forever. Right, I know my energy ain't ever going anywhere, but I do recognize that my body itself is only gonna be in earth school for a while. I want more joy, I want more fun, I want more healing and I want more time to just be. If I'm arguing all the time and trying to get someone to see a thing, I'm not able to access that. But if I'm in community with the people who are already moving in some of the same ways, being open and saying yes and having boundaries to what that looks like I have more time for joy, I have more time for healing and then I have more time for patience, more time for compassion, more time for love, more time for understanding and more space to sit with people who have different intersections and hear them and see them and honor them and value them, despite any similarities or differences.

Speaker 2:

That's so beautiful and it's absolutely beautiful. I really love how you talk about leaving the door open and recognizing. That sounds so cliche is but, like everything else, healing moves at the speed of trust. Dealing with trauma moves at the speed of trust. So at the core of all the work that we wanna do, there's a recognition that we can only move as quickly as we can trust those folks that we are in these processes with, and ourselves Exactly. And how much are we willing to open and leave exposed and weave in and out of in order for us to deal not just collectively with our trauma, but individually with our trauma? Ooh, that's huge, that's a whole word. I'm just saying that's huge.

Speaker 1:

That's a whole word. We struggled to do that with our individual selves within our families.

Speaker 3:

Yes.

Speaker 1:

I mean, we were getting it right with our families and we can start writing the books, holding the curriculums right.

Speaker 3:

And you know what the reality is. You're not always gonna get it right. That's true, recognizing, like you know, in the work that I do one, I don't believe that other people have the power to heal one another. I think we can collectively heal together. But healing for me is two things. Like healing people heal themselves. Everyone has within them the tools that they need to be on that journey. Do we need support in outside resources? Yes, but like it's within you, I will never take someone's power away like that and be so much in my ego that I think that I'm actually healing a person. I'm healing alongside them. But people have that power.

Speaker 3:

But it's literally about being willing to turn inward. We live in a world that tells us that's dangerous in so many ways and we live in a world that tells us we have to be so productive we don't have the time to turn in, or like we'll feel an emotion, come up and be like I have 1800 things to go. Do I can't right now? Like doing your inner shadow, work is so necessary. But also, healing for me is not about fixing a thing. We are all perfectly imperfect, just the way we are. Healing is about being able to love, trust and accept yourself exactly where you are in this moment. If we recognize that we're all traumatized, then we recognize even when our behaviors are not in alignment with where we want to be. They are a byproduct of trauma. They are usually a coping skill that we adapted to protect ourselves and to keep ourselves safe, and if we shame ourselves about them, we will never heal them. But if we can look at them, accept them for what they are and say thank you for protecting me when I needed protection, things are now changing. We can learn something different. How do we lean in curiosity with ourselves and figure out why I behave this way and what I can use to replace it, to still feel secure and vulnerable and safe, but do different? Like that is healing.

Speaker 3:

Healing is not about like yours, gonna wake up one day and be a whole different person. Healing is literally like this is me, I matter, I'm valuable because of my existence, my trauma, my messiness, my love. None of it, one piece of it, defines me. I am nuanced, I am the universe, I am the galaxy, I'm the stars and so much more, and I get to be all of me. That is healing, and healing in community is the same thing it mean when you can see the people that you're surrounded with, that you love and accept them for exactly who they are. Recognize all of those nuances and make space for things to show up. That is healing, because you know what happens.

Speaker 3:

When you do that. People are more willing to listen, people are more willing to be accountable when they realize something that they are doing is causing harm or doesn't feel good. But if we're always shaming each other and telling each other we're wrong and this isn't right and there's only one way to be, we just lock up inside of ourselves and we don't have space to be open, to hear and to see those things. You can be a mirror for the people in your life, but that mirror literally shouldn't be like you trying to shove it down. It literally needs just to be a reflection, because if you're seen it in somebody else, I guarantee you a part of it's in you. That's what the mirror is. How do I reflect inward?

Speaker 2:

Yeah, I love that too. I often work with people, and one of the concepts is the thing that you detest the most in one person is something that also is evident and prominent within yourself, right, and so this idea of healing also is a concept of self love being able to love every part of yourself, even though it's parts of yourself that you don't desire. So, before we wrap up, is there anything that you wanna highlight?

Speaker 3:

right now. I'm always doing healing work and so if people wanna have conversations or they just wanna come sit in the backyard and be in nature, come holler, because my yard is available to everybody who wants to be out in nature. But not out in nature because people like.

Speaker 2:

Well, how do we contact you if we wanna come and sit in your backyard?

Speaker 3:

Yeah, absolutely, I can be currently contacted on Instagram, my handle on Instagram. I have two of them, so Thrive Apothecary is the first one, because I'm also an herbalist, so I make sure that there's always free and accessible medicine and healing supplies that go out to our people in need. And then my other one is melaninrisenco, cause. The melanin is rising and it's just like my business handle, cause. I make a lot of things and try to sell them, so people can contact me there. Those are also my handles on Facebook if people want to get in touch, and hopefully soon I will find people with the resource to build me a website and then people can contact me through the website.

Speaker 3:

Or you can just come find me at Southside, because I literally, even in the winter we'll just sit on the farm and just be, because it's peaceful and it's beautiful. So for people who don't know, southside Community Farm is right in the parking lot in the backside of the Eddington Center and it's a beautiful space that has free food. We have a free fridge in conjunction with the one on the French broad. We try to keep them stocked up. People can just come get food whenever they want. When there's food in there, we want to make sure our people are fed.

Speaker 2:

Well, ember, I want to say thank you so much for joining us on the uplift today. I doubt that this will be your last time. I know it's your first, but I doubt that it will be your last. We really appreciate you, the way that you show up and all the many talents that you are sharing in community.

Speaker 3:

I really appreciate that and I appreciate both of you and I appreciate that the work that we're all doing. And I just want to say, like you know, people, I'll get woo-woo now Like I don't.

Speaker 2:

I like woo-woo.

Speaker 3:

It's not me, but I also just think I'm a channel, like I really feel a lot of the message that come through. Come through because I'm tapped in to like larger sources, like our ancestors, creator, whatever, but also it lives in all of us. There's nothing that I say or that I have that I can do. That is not medicine that somebody else has. It may show up differently, but again I just want to hit back to that place that we're all medicine.

Speaker 3:

A very good friend, danielle, said that the other night when we were doing our event and building an altar and talking about ways to support each other. But we all are medicine, we all have gifts, we are all worthy and the things that like light us up inside. Those are the things that we should be sharing with each other. Because I'm learning, the same as I'm giving Right, like it's a give and take.

Speaker 3:

It's about reciprocity, like I am a student in life, just like everybody else, and sometimes I'm a teacher, but I'm also constantly learning from my people and from the world and I just want to highlight that because I really think that, yes, I have the gift of gab and I'm really good with words, but there are some people that are just good in so many ways that I don't use that skill. I may have it, but it's not the thing that I like to fire under me. I have friends that can hold me in ways literally just put their hands on my body, that make me feel safe, just automatically. I have other friends who literally light up the world with their artwork, with their singing. So, like we all have a gift and we all deserve to shine bright. And if anyone has a problem with that, I suggest they go get some sunglasses, because I am looking for a world where we all get to shine our brightest.

Speaker 2:

What a wonderful world it is. So, people, here's your charge today it is to find your medicine that you have within, it is to share it and to let it shine, and it's to have a spare set of sunglasses on hand for those people that might be bothered and might need to borrow yours. So, again, I say thank you so much for joining us today, and may we all leave this place and continue to shine. We will see you all again. Well, we won't see you, but you'll hear us.

Speaker 1:

Same time, same place. That's right until then, peace.

Healing in community: Conversations, Growth, Love
Navigating Difference and Harm
Queer Experience and Excellence
Humanity - The Key for Healing
Embracing Change; Prioritizing Joy
Shining Bright and Sharing Gifts