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Reflections from Phonnica’s Seeding Change Summer

Phonnica was a fellow with Seeding Change in 2021 placed at Seeding Change. Below is her reflection with Seeding Change this past summer.

I’ve been really grateful for our Seeding Change cohort in allowing me to realign my values with what it means to organize for our community– to be intentional with my relationships through slowing down and healing together. Being a fellow under the Seeding Change cohort was the first time in a while that I’d be able to routinely engage in long check-ins that would offer us the time to practice naming our access needs and taking that time to hear where we’re coming from. Sometimes it feels challenging to prioritize time for “temperature checks” because of my conditioned responses, as a result of capitalism, to want to rush and produce a solution, but being able to be more intentional in wanting to cultivate my shared spaces with love, compassion, and care has been truly grounding. And in this way, organizing and building with one another feels more real and loving because we’re able to acknowledge these conditioned responses, but yet still hold each other with tenderness to unlearn and relearn together. 

After joining Seeding Change and being among so many different people who held such radical passion and identities, I came to reflect about my own identity especially as an individual who has always identified myself as Southeast Asian femme. I realized how much it means to me now to not want to confine myself to the lens of what a femme person is supposed to be or look like. What would it mean for myself to be referred to as they. This has led to many impulsive decisions with the desire to break such expectations, but it truly feels liberating. I view liberation to be a place and feeling like a warm bowl of stew and having access to one’s mind, body, and soul and to actively be able to express those core aspects of our lives. And being part of so many conversations within the cohort and especially being able to join a space for queer-identifying folx, I realized that I was taking another step towards what liberation will look like. 

Growing up, I’ve always felt an innate desire to bring my community together and especially, nurture intergenerational relationships that have been malnourished. Hearing my dad’s stories and the lived experiences of family separation and displacement within the Khmer community because of Western colonization, has fostered the types of spaces that I want to continue to engage myself in. As an organizer in my Philadelphia community, we actively organize with highschool youth to ultimately build youth leadership and voice, knowing that power holds its strength within our youths and to be able to actively build with them is how we can sustain our movement as we continue to inherit our movements and intentionality from our movement elders. And as a classical Khmer dancer, I continue to see this intergenerational space be nurtured with the Buddhist temple acting as a second home to our Khmer youth and elders. Then joining Seeding Change and being introduced to movement yelders and holding space and conversation with them only sustained this desire of mine. The desire and groundedness to stop the cycle of family separation and displacement that we see through oppressive practices of deportation and incarceration. How can we stop these cycles of violence while reimagining together about a world beyond the state? 

I expressed to many of my friends and peers that it feels unreal that I was able to be in such an amazing cohort. By being in Seeding Change, I feel as if I’ve met an extension of myself that I want to continue to nurture and foster in this ongoing journey of being able to express these multitudes that I consist of and am continuing to unveil. Being introduced to Ethnic Studies organizing and further envisioning liberation through Ethnic Studies were moments of learning that I hope to incorporate in future spaces that I am able to share with others.