✦ Botánica Cimarrón ✦
Hi Cleo! I have the pleasure of knowing you almost all of my life. We are a chosen family, and we've collaborated for years holding Afro-Taino 2-Spirit space as Abuela Taught Me. How would you like to introduce yourself for those that don't know you?
✧ Cleopatra Tatabele ✧
The first thing I would share with others is that community building is the most important thing to me. I really resonated with you- cat- when you said “colonization is the myth of separation” because that’s really how I aim to embody my life.
I am a teacher, facilitator, and community organizer. As someone who is one of the first people to hold Afro-Taino 2-spirit spaces it’s always been important to be to build paths back to our ancestral practices. Sharing the knowledge I’ve learned with others has been so critical to my growth and also traditional spiritual practice.
I am Black, Taino, Dominican, and Two Spirit. I am deeply committed to restoring what has been lost in the last 500 years due to colonialism. Like the Sankofa, I look back while moving forward.
✦ BC ✦
Was there a moment in your early life that awakened you to the power of the earth?
✧ CT ✧
I suppose I never “awakened,” I just chose to acknowledge what I always knew. As a kid, I recognized a lot of my passion for earth medicine from my work in the sciences. I’ve always loved biology and I loved going to summer camps. I learned that everything was connected and cyclical. These circles have shown up in my life as a powerful mimicking of nature.
We are nature, nature is us, we are breathing, we are being breathed. These lessons came up over and over again in my studies, and in my heart. It was a consistent process that helped me see that mother earth or Atabey in Taino will always be here for me, and me for her.
✦ BC ✦
You're also very visible in the queer kink and polyamory community. Do you see any links between decolonizing interpersonal relationships and decolonizing our connection to the land?
✧ CT ✧
Kink is so powerful in my healing practices. Kink helps people who have gone thru generational trauma to restore their connections to their bodies, to consent, to self empowerment. Healthy kink practices asks the individual to do the opposite of what colonizers want you to do. Colonization wants us to suppress our selves, to ignore consent, and to not build authentic connections and communication. But healthy kink practices ask us to be honest, whole, and communicative.
One of the biggest wounds of colonization and enslavement is the impact it’s had on our interpersonal relationships and relationship to land. We need to relearn to trust, to connect, to ground in experiences that let us be our full selves without shame- and Kink helps me do this.
✦ BC ✦
What are you listening to, reading, or watching that's currently helping you stay grounded?
✧ CT ✧
Working The Roots: Over 400 years of African-American Healing by Michele E. Lee - This helps me remember that Black people of the diaspora have created so much even when so much has been taken. We still heal. We still connect to earth, we still thrive.
The Sacred Pipe: Black Elk’s Account of the Seven Rites of the Oglala Sioux recorded and edited by Joseph Epes Brown - This book tells me about the historical foundations of the communities I am a part of, there are so many mirrors in this book that reflect the practices of indigenous peoples everywhere. This reminds me that we are all connected.
The Little Book of Restorative Justice by Howard Rehr - This teaches me how simple practices can hold big healing. This book is a super simple rendition of restorative justice practices in a quick read. It reminds me that peacebuilding is possible, and it helps me learn how I can start.
✦ BC ✦
I know you're answering the call of the land because you feel it in your heart. If you could mail a love letter to the heart of the earth, what would it say?
✧ CT ✧
Honestly, life has been difficult here lately. Historical events, anxiety, and depression reign over my head like a cloud. But you remind me that time is ongoing and cyclical, and like as the weather shifts, the clouds will clear. You remind me of your timelessness, and cyclical energies that be, and you remind me to be.
As the land and sea masses shift, you remind me of boundaries, and how they can change over time. You remind me the man made sense of time is not the full picture of the universe. You remind me that healing is always possible and change is expected.
Thank you for providing all that you do. I want to express gratitude for your abundance in your ability to nourish us all and to hold us in your center as we grow, heal, and work to be in peace with you. Thank you for the wind, the water, the ability to feel and express and communicate. Thank you for allowing me to heal with you in this chaotic world.