Poem: Ode to Community Workers Oppressed by the Oppressed

We lost our sister in the fight,
She was silenced when she spoke out against injustice,
Pushed aside and denied traditional leadership roles,
A heart without a home,

We lost our brother in the fight,
No one knew he was in the dark corner of generational trauma,
Name badge for work torn and shirt on the floor,
It is heavy and that stench,

We lost our Two-Spirit brother/sister or sister/brother in the fight,
Cast aside,
Gifts ignored,
These assumptions alienate,
Instead of gifts being acknowledged these individuals are misunderstood,

Community workers walking up and down Woodward Avenue asking for coins,
This is all the majority culture will give them is a few coins,

Community workers listening to those in recovery,
Helping to choose another way,
Who just do the work without little recognition,
Because we keep meeting those who need us at the table,
Because "environmental justice" includes recovery of the soul,

Community work is not accumulating "followers,"
Feeding your ego because so called "fame" is more important than the gripping statistics that we can't seem to break,
To look at the underbelly of "community" or lack thereof requires looking inside your own soul,
When right now a Native youth in Nunavut is on the verge of suicide because they are caught between worlds where there are no resources for them,
Community work is honoring the work of of those who broke down the walls to help that youth live,
Self promotion and narcissism didn't help that youth but maybe one who lived to tell,

Community workers walk miles to reach a community member,
In the way up north parts of Anishinaabe Aki,
They are carrying prayers and dreams,
They are carrying messages and medicines,

Community workers have scars from this work,
Community workers have called crisis lines dozens of times,
Community workers have sat on street corners with brown paper bags folded and torn,
Community workers made decisions to survive and so they rise,
Community workers lived to tell these stories in poetry,
Community workers survival is resistance in the persistence of a racist culture,

Reworking is decolonization not in an industrialized sense,
Reworking is remembering and allowing blood memory to percolate,
Reworking is honoring the cast-away and ostracized,
In order to do the work while understanding the multitude of layers of generational trauma,
The trauma still continues from the oppressed to the oppressed,
We can no longer just name it but work on it,

If you say you are giving voice to the voiceless,
Then why ignore the injustice committed by our own people to our own people?
There comes a time when labeling things as "lateral violence" must come to an end,
It is fear that the voice of those oppressed by the oppressed will break down patriarchal control,
Will break down the disgusting and intoxicating infusion of Christianization,
We don't believe it for a minute that these harsh gender roles are traditional,
Or that "leadership" represents the "community,"

When are we going to choose to return to the circle?