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We Are Who We Are | A Radical Dreaming

By Joel Jr Llaban
We Are Who We Are | A Radical Dreaming

(Photo source: Joel Jr Llaban)  

Dreaming of a place and space
where it sees and centers me and you.
Our past, our present, our future.
It sees and centers our stories,
our ancestors' stories,
And the stories of our children’s children.
Here, within. It centers on the lives we live,
and the loves we have and hold.
We are brave and bold.

Where I see me and you,
It centers on our dreams and desires.
It centers our homes and happiness,
Our solidarities, our solitudes, and our joys.
It centers our leadership, our inventions,
ideations, and innovations.
Not commodified. Not consumed.
Not reviled. Not vilified.
It centers our identities and communities,
and all its intersections,
And what we bring and what we build:
Our peoples, our passions, our pathways,
our pulses and our powers.

In a place where we will be who we are:
Unquestioned and Undenied,
Beautiful. Legal.
No explanations and justifications.
Not silent, not silenced.
Existing. Resisting. Breathing.
Where we whisper, speak, and sing
And dance, and move, and create
With the languages we have,
The languages of our hearts and minds,
Of our flesh and bones,
On the lands and in the languages we own.
In a place where we are not only accepted and tolerated,
but are fully and authentically living, loved, and lived.
Caring for and carving new paths,
Writing our songs, nourishing our souls,
making our own art,
Dismantling the shackles of our histories and hearts.

Our skins and spirits
once exhausted from and castigated by
the racism, sexism, classism, and casteism of the past,
We are free from the oppressions and oppressors from within,
And the oppression and the oppressors pressed upon
That have long caused harm, hate, and doubt,
To restore and reclaim who we are,
and the joys and genius of what we are truly about!

In a place where we live our dreams,
With our lives and love,
In our homes, we call our own.
In places where we truly belong,
Where the wholeness of our humanity
Enshrined. Protected.
Safe. Sanctified. Sacred.

We will rest and play,
and build new tools, new todays,
and new tomorrows,
No concessions and distortions,
We grow up and out
of our harmful internalized socializations.

We are healed of our wounds,
From the terrors and horrors,
Of that gaze and hateful rage.
We are fortresses of courage.
No spear, No fear.
No chains, No pain.
No borders, No orders.
No quiet and blasting war.
We will live and love our truth
We are who we are.

This poem was read aloud at the Street Data workshop led by Dr. Jamila Dugan, Jessica Wei Huang, and Shane Safir. With deep gratitude to Jessica for the inspiration and invitation. Extending the same invitation for all to radical dreaming.


Joel Jr LLABAN is the Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Justice of the International Schools Services (ISS) and a member of the Editorial Committee of The International Educator (TIE) Online. Connect with him on Twitter @JoelJrLLABAN or LinkedIn.

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