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Out of the Shadows into the Fire

What good was being empowered to raise my voice if what I had to say didn’t matter?

I often asked myself this question as I tossed and turned through another sleepless night, wondering if it could ever be possible to break through the centuries of conflict coloring my friendship with Maria. As an indigenous Aleut woman living in Alaska, she had a very different perspective on how things should be, than I as a British woman living far from her could.

Before I met Maria, I was oblivious to the atrocities wrought upon her community. Long before British Petroleum (BP) spilled its guts over the Gulf Coast, it was quietly hauling its equipment on trucks through the night, ripping up her land for greed. She was justifiably angry, though I was unprepared for the rage that came directed at me, for not taking responsibility.

I strongly protested. I did not see how I could take responsibility for the forced evacuations from her land, for the subsequent imprisonment of Aleut women, for the continuing need for oil that kept her family away from their ancestral land today. I had no part in what happened to her. I became overly defensive. Then after weeks of failing to forget I had learned anything new, I asked if I could help.

My platitudes were no match for Maria’s fierce visions for a more just world. As her voice rose up out of the shadows into the fire, mine became quickly extinguished. It didn’t seem to matter what I said, to Maria’s mind, if I showed interest in her life I was studying her, if I offered help I was being superior, if I said nothing I did not care. I hoped to hold her hand in friendship and had no idea how.

It was months before I understood. I no longer see myself as having more or less than anyone else. Instead I prefer to see all our selves as being differently privileged. I no longer reach out to help, I extend my hand to support and partner, as true friends should do.

As more women’s voices rise to the surface, shining light on every dark corner of the world, I realize now how we in the west cannot let ourselves stay in the shadows. To hold hands, we must enter the fire and learn how to listen.

Comments

JaniceW's picture

Beautiful

"We will surely get to our destination if we join hands."
Aung San Suu Kyi

Tina, how wonderful to read from you again. Your story brought a smile to my face as I recall Maria's strong stands on issues. As you point out, it is our unique perspectives that enable us to pool together our special gifts to bring healing to the world and support our sisters, no matter what their background. It is because of our differences that we can help, can gather and collectively change the world. Big hug to you,
Janice

Tina's picture

Joining Hands

Dear Janice,
It is so good to hear from you. Thank you for your comments and the wonderful quote.

I agree, it is only through our differences and our unique perspectives that we can come together for a better future, especially as we all learn how best to live alongside each other in this increasingly interconnected world. It is increasingly imperative that we all find the courage to take honest and passionate stands on the issues we care about. I have learned so much from Maria and will always be grateful to her for inspiring me to step up to her charge and meet as equals in friendship. She is an incredible woman and we are continuing to support and motivate each other in both our personal writing dreams and goals for a better future for our sons and daughters.
Love
Tina

Carri Pence's picture

I am glad you learned from

I am glad you learned from her angry and gained a positive outcome. It is hard to understand what we bring to the table and I am glad you have figured that out. Furthermore, I am glad you placed what you figured out from this even on all women, where we all need to help each other our and better yet learn from each other. Thanks for this amazing outlook and may we all take a step, holding hands, forward.

Tina's picture

Thank You Carri

Thank you Carri. Yes, I learned it is not always easy to transform our anger into a positive outcome, or indeed to find the courage to listen when it feels as if we are under fire, yet for me it was worth it to do. Maria and I are friends today and understand each other and our different perspectives more clearly.

I hope that many more women will find the courage to step up to discuss their concerns and issues with the same passion and courage and inner fire that Maria brought to the table for me. How else can we better accept and respect each others difference, if we don't hear each others truth first?

Nusrat Ara's picture

I was unaware of this side of

I was unaware of this side of Maria, She is an amazing woman and I have been missing her writings. You put it so clearly, so beautifully especially

It didn’t seem to matter what I said, to Maria’s mind, if I showed interest in her life I was studying her, if I offered help I was being superior, if I said nothing I did not care. I hoped to hold her hand in friendship and had no idea how

And it is really great that you are friends now who have accepted their diffrences. That is wonderful.

Love to both.

Nusrat

Tina's picture

Thank You Nusrat

Thank You Nusrat, It is always good to hear from you. I have forwarded your message to Maria in case she hasn't seen it yet. I'm sure she'll appreciate your sentiments as much as I do.
Much Love
Tina xx

Nusrat Ara's picture

Hey it reminded me of

Hey it reminded me of something ; the British are also blamed for delibrately keeping the Kashmir pot boiling for India and Pakistan . Besides people also hold them responsible for the India Pakistan partition among so may other things, and Kashmir division but u wont find any resentment here neither in India I guess.

Nusrat

Dear Nusrat,
Firstly, my apologies for taking so long in responding to your comment. Thank you for making the comparison between this experience I wrote about and the British relationship with the conflicts on your side of the world. It is a terrible situation and I for one hope very much for an end to the needless suffering in this region. I understand that Partition is one of the greatest root causes of the conflict, and one of many that keeps the conflict simmering over today, though it is sad to me that the British people are still being held accountable for keeping these conflicts alive, as you say.

I hope one day that none of us will be negatively judged for the country we happened to be born onto. I was born British, but I think of myself as a global citizen working for peace, social justice and empowerment as many other women on Pulsewire are. I hope that we will all be able to come together to forge a greater understanding and acceptance of each other both as individuals and as collectives for the way we are and endeavor to be in the world today.

My very best wishes,
Tina x

jadefrank's picture

friendship

Dear Tina,

Your story is honest, beautiful and satisfies my hunger for Tina journals... i do miss your beautiful writing and it's wonderful to read this story today. It also reminds me of dear Maria and makes me miss her fire, passion and brutal honesty, forcing everyone to look within ourselves and look around us, to be more aware of ourselves and of each other. I miss her dearly. If you are still in touch with Maria, please give her my love. And if you see Busayo and Anjana this week, give them big hugs for me, and one for you too!

Love,
Jade

Tina's picture

Connect and Befriend

Hi Jade,
Sorry it has taken so long for me to respond to your lovely comment. Yes I miss Maria's journals too but I am sure she will be back. I passed on your message of love in case she had not seen it here.

Pulsewire is providing a great opportunity for us all to connect, learn and so move through cultural barriers of misunderstanding to befriend and understand. I have made many great friends here including the lovely women you mentioned. In fact I wasn't able to meet up with Anjana during her visit to this country, but Busayo was able to come to my house and spend an afternoon with me and my family! Incredible!
Tina xx

jadefrank's picture

Friends

Tina,

Wow, it's exciting to hear that Busayo was in your home with your family. That very image in my mind fills my heart with warmth and joy as I picture the two of you sitting together in your home, like two old friends. I'm so glad that the two of you could connect again, in such an intimate setting.

Love,
Jade

Maria de Chirikof's picture

Hi there

Wow, so long since i have been online it seems!!! Life has been both good and crazy here and I sure miss everyone!! Send everyone my love!! I hope to be back sometime soon!!

Hope everyone is doing good and hope your writing, etc is doing good!! Hugs and love,

Maria

Andrea Arzaba's picture

I loved it

THis is a great post. I agree with you in your conclusion!

We need more people who would "extend" their hands rather than just take and take... :)

Hi Tina! We were colonized by the USA for four decades ... between the first and the second world wars, but we managed to preserve most of what we are as Filipinos ... and that includes our colonial mentality. It's not really just the behavior of the "superior" that matters ... it's also the attitude of the "inferior" that makes things complicated. Sometimes we feel the world is operating on an electro-magnetic field of paranoia and myopia ... all because we don't have the courage to exchange notes , share our views and expose our vulnerabilities - even if it be fear or anger or hatred. It's awe-inspiring how you and Maria came into bonding the way you did. That's what we all need and that's what we are doing here ... we can never be true to the rest if we are not true to ourselves. We are now joining our hands across the skies ... and somehow it feels like this is really meant to be and it's amazing...

Always,
Emie Zozobrado

Tina's picture

Oh My!

Dear Emie,
Thank you so much for this beautiful comment my Filipino Sister!
I am moved to tears by your response. You have so completely understood what I was saying and where I hoped this very short piece would take people... to inspire others to break through our fears, our angers, our suspicion and our hatred to share our views and expose our vulnerabilities. Because when we do so, we begin to see the shared humanity in each other and foster peace and security for all. You are exactly right, that is (for me) the best of what we are all doing here on World Pulse, and what we as women are most capable of achieving. It is why I wanted to become a VOF correspondent last year and why I chose to be a listener for the same program this year. It has been an honor and a joy to listen to all of your beautiful stories, to feel the excitement and the wonder as another new woman from across the world is inspired and encouraged to step out of her shadows and feel the same pulse from each other.
I want to echo again your final sentiment because I believe every word of it as much as you do...

"We are now joining our hands across the skies... and somehow it feels like this is really meant to be and it's amazing..."

Many blessings Emie
Tina

Emie Zozobrado's picture

Cheers!

Hi Sister Tina!
I have many friends and relatives scattered in the United States of America... some living and working there for over three decades now (remember the exodus of Filipino nurses, teachers and accountants to the USA in the seventies and eighties during the Marcos tyranny?), while others joined the ones ahead more recently. We have been sharing our lives through the years despite the distance. Sometimes they come home as "balikbayans", or sometimes friends and families visit them there as tourists ... at other times they assist fellow Filipinos going there or leaving the USA. I have worked with Americans here, too. This world is getting smaller everyday! Who could ever imagine sharing her life with someone who's totally a ghost, someone you know you may never even meet in your whole lifetime, the way we do at World Pulse? Web 2.0 is really an amazing experience! I have made a lot of very close friends here, soul-mates practically, with whom I will forever hold dear and interact with as long as online technology allows me to! You're one of them, of course!

Always,
Emie Zozobrado

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