As a current intern with Serve-Learn-Sustain and the West Atlanta Watershed Alliance (WAWA), I’ve been given many opportunities to learn about equity and how our work should encompass that as we address sustainability. Because of this, I was given the opportunity to attend the micro-session titled “Challengers | Healers | Creators” hosted by AYA Institute at Trees Atlanta for the Thrive Outside monthly meeting on May 19th. This was just a taste of what it takes to tackle oppression, but it truly opened my eyes on how to address the intersectionality of oppression as both an oppressor and a member of an oppressed population.

The session began with a general overview of what this lesson could provide for us, delving into why we wanted to be there and what we could offer each other in the four hours we spent together. The conversation then transitioned into rethinking the ways we deal with oppression currently which induced a lot of introspection on my end. The idea of internalized versus injected oppression was raised, arguing that internalization brings up a question of who internalized this oppression? How does this differ from victim blaming?   From one lens, it can appear as though we’re practically saying when those who are oppressed start espousing those same views that weigh them down, they themselves are to blame, rather than the systems that caused this internal turmoil.  I realized, this meant for myself as an oppressed person that it’s more a question of who caused me to think this way and what can I do about it? This isn’t to erase anything I may have done while under this spell but rather to open my eyes to what is better to focus on, what I can do rather than what I should have or could have done.

The workshop also gave guidance on how to facilitate emotionally heavy discussions about oppression: how do we talk about what may be uncomfortable to mention and how to do we hold ourselves accountable for how our actions may cause others to feel? It was an interesting couple of hours, though, learning how to empower youth and ourselves with a sense of ownership in our identities, knowing where we came from, how we came to be, and all the work our ancestors did for us to exist as we are right now. I think this will help inform my work for this summer at WAWA, since their work focuses on the history and layers of a space and the importance of remembering where we come from and my work will be focused on ways to ensure those values are integrated into an ongoing project that will have an outdoor stage which can be used for a variety of storytelling and educational uses.

Overall, I think this workshop served to enlighten me and allow me to see past the surface and dig into “the why” behind what is done. I also think this workshop will serve me in my work and guide me towards greater outcomes that will help WAWA with their future projects.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Georgia Institute of Technology, the University System of Georgia, or the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia.