I’ve decided that I wanted to more openly share some of the journey I’ve been on in terms of questioning, shedding, and challenging the colonial frameworks that I operate within the systems of oppression that I benefit from. One path forward that felt accessible to me was to start by looking at knowledge. Whose knowledge counts as credible? Where has discipline knowledge come from? I started this journey many years ago but became conscious of it during a graduate course about interdisciplinary approaches to knowledge. During this course I created a spoken word poem to mark where I was on my journey at the time. It’s now been a year since I created the poem and I’m feeling ready to share it, unedited. The poem is a winding reflection on knowledge, research, what I believed to be ‘reconciliation’, and music. The poem is purposely long, with little regard for time or efficiency.
Here’s a short rationale about writing and sharing the poem:
“This poem was created to help me gain confidence in presenting academic ideas through art. It is not a destination, but a landmark on my learning journey of decolonization and reconciliation as a scholar. It is both a call-to-action and a self-reflection that is intentionally non-linear and redundant, representing my current feelings towards academia, knowledge, efficiency, and rightness.
I have a more refined sense of where I am, who I am in relation with, how I engage in knowledge seeking, and who I am not….. In the poem I consider the things/beings I am in (shared) relationships with, and I speak directly to/with fellow graduate students, faculty, Indigenous individuals/communities, and myself. I also introduce myself to “all my relations” in an effort to identify where my personal and professional commitments lie.
“Finally, this poem pledges that my knowledge-seeking endeavours will not be completed in isolation. They will be playful and expansive and equity-seeking all at once, as I listen and contribute simultaneously. They are, in part, communal acts, two-way conversations, with all involved relations, through call-and-response engagement, expression, and communication.
As is reconciliation.
As is music.”
“I knew it!” I’ve said, only to feel regret,
once I find out I’m wrong.
have I been wrong all along? How do I respond?
and how do I shape this to song?
knowledge as rightness, determined by whiteness
and colonial structures of college
I ponder my wrongness to resist in honest
attempts to unsettle and resolve this
the trust in precision, is stifling rhythm,
fixation with facts is so loud
turn it down, I’m not proud, it overpowers the crowd
we’ve forgotten how to play with sound
we discuss, relate, debate, agitate
and approve whose knowledge is true
we read books and papers dissect the layers
to decide whose knowledge gets moved
do you feel the groove?
is this even good science? tby rightness?
how can I make a transition?
from regurgitation to conversation
how can I learn to listen?
what’s my role in this, am I complacent, worse –
my developing praxis
co-opts ways of being so I don’t stop reflecting
on each of my actions
do you hear this?
yet I put my head down, say nothing out loud
settle into the academic
ways that exist in mentorship process,
calibrating to scholarship
“grad schools lonely! But never boring!”
is what I have heard all year.
but I thrive on my own (see my first canoe solo!)
so… won’t I shine here?
only to find that again I’m not right,
so how do I relate to this sense?
of place and wonder and stories and blunder
perhaps all pretense and nonsense.
I feel like a starving solo artist.
to reconcile my feelings of intuitive believing
with not always being correct
is an act of resisting the structures and systems
that regulate knowledge as fact
where’s the music in that?
what we know grows, it comes and goes
and flows in a rhythm we prose
as conversation, tiny revelations,
that never exist alone
and spark revolutions in each institution
to reimagine our futures
and ignite something fiery to undo the binary
and provide some resolution
can I make a musical contribution?
you know that feeling when time is twisting
and you’re so engorged in the process
plans become abstract, bending to match
a rhythm undistorted by facts
we need more of that
there’s no finish or start to this, stop rushing knowledge
these paths are winding and infinite
no linear progression in life lessons
they’re just interconnected
to think in relations means intimacy and faith in a
two-way conversation (Breen, 2019)
a dance of equity and accountability
with edits of refinement and persuasion
sound is much more than entertainment
my knowledge is one piece, you may have another,
and neither alone may be whole
but together we weave a cohesive story
that creates a little home
maybe I’m not playing solo
hah, but home, you see, that’s again where we’re wrong
we’ve been telling lies all along
home is the problem, only some beings blossom,
when we’re singing a stolen song
this predisposition to ask questions
of ownership and acquisition
unsettle institutes and dig up the roots,
to unoccupy the settlement of wisdom (Tuck & Yang, 2012)
remain responsive, relocate as wanted
reposition again and again
be slightly nomadic, flexible by habit
home is created and recreated when
I pick up and move, unearth my roots,
maybe I’m meant to pass through
I see where I have harvested, exploited, and marketed
in places that I am not native to
while there’s no place like home, and I can’t do this alone
who I am to think I’m of service,
to groups I’m not part of, I don’t hold the knowledge
and to think otherwise is a disservice
so I recalibrate, reroute, and migrate
to some space in-between
comfort and a front door, my thirst for more
means I find new ways of being
‘cause I won’t play along, when I don’t like the song
and nothing really resonates,
it’s too big or too small, doesn’t fit at all,
then it finally it begins to dissipate
rodent models of schizophrenia
my lived experience with mania,
my research and knowledge converge
from big data privacy
to interview anxiety
new interests mean I feel heard
nature-based pedagogy to Mad Studies
self-compassion and musicality
these things I know, although I may outgrow
my learning it emerges indefinitely
knowledge comes as we need it (Breynton, S, personal communication, December 3 2020),
no need to master it
just trust in the process
it is a forest (Interdisc Class, 2020), no need to engorge in it
let curiousity be your compass
while unlearning is unnerving, unsettling, disturbing
it’s birthing new ways of being
a yearning for learning that trusts in the journey
of investing in our shared meanings
I hear a tune in building
my ears can’t yet decipher such sophisticated cultures
of beings all interconnected
that linger in dependence a fermata suspended
to know who we are is all relative
so to all my relations, future generations
and ancestors, it’s so good to meet you.
I hear your songs: can’t wait to sing along
in a tune rings true for you too.
so who am I? and what do I do?
I’m Kim, not Kimberly, except for my family
and I play/work/live on the lands
of Dish with One Spoon, an Educator who
belongs to tributaries of the Grand
and what does it mean for me to be an ECE
and occupy space as student
my roles have oppressed, and I feel unrest
in honouring that I am still human
while I’m no soloist I try to make the most of this
seeking serenity in solitude
a recovering positivist (Akers, T. personal communication, Dec 1, 2020),
exploring alternative avenues
extending towards my energy source
what’s my connection to land
“Through unity – survival, all flourishing is mutual” (Kimmer, 2013, p. 20)
(there’s) no sustainability in a one-woman band
for as far as I can see, when I die my body
will feed many more beings (Elrick, 2010)
may my creations outlive me,
art, music, and stories
you can call me creative but I kind of hate it
the romanticization of novelty
to know it by heart is part of my art
seeking the free flowing, softly
yet with the pressure to achieve,
I am constantly wondering
what this means for my own identity
to share ideas liberally,
am I still appealing
to the academy?
my aim is to deviate but also celebrate,
those who have allowed me to be free
to make space for more changes and liberation and
know my positionality
by disrupting discourses and dominating forces
and offer restorying lessons
a retelling of history, new ways of thinking
and address ongoing abjection
in this conversation
I ask that we widen
the range of human responses (Barton, 2020)
considered normal and not just neoliberial
understandings of concepts
intentional erasure of experience and nature
don’t think it’s beneath us
to centre research on whiteness is an act of violence
the silencing is so insidious
so how do I collect, analyze, and protect
complexity of researching communities?
recomplicate play through a commitment to name
experiences are not captured through binaries
maybe thinking in metaphors (Kimmerer, 2013), expressing through symbols
& narratives not to just benefit me
to investigate connections and the 100 languages (Edwards, Gandini & Foreman, 1998)
of experience captured through story
literacy of place at a poetic pace
and grace for BIPOC students
and new immigrants and research participants
and the more than human
mindbody spiritual and the emotional (Kimmerer, 2013)
cultural teachings and sovereignty
I cherish your company offer space for exploring
there’s always time for tea with me (Imai, R., personal communication, November 29, 2019)
well-being expression engagement belonging (Ministry of Education, 2014)
how to foster these but not police
From Teaching to Thinking (Pelo & Carter, 2018), listening to possibilities
that’s my commitment within the academy
that is not to say that we’re all the same,
or that we can melt the past away
but if we can at least play in the same game
or maybe in the same key
then, I imagine we are all just passionate
players in floral orchestras
choruses of dissonance, can you hear us?
aligning in harmonic performances
I think… I may not be right,
I’ve been so protected by white,
I aim to know things differently, a gesture that learning
is never ending in life
it’s symbiotic, entrancing, melodic, expansive
with evasive solutions
synchronicity, in many of ways being through
research as reconciliation (Wilson & Dupre, 2019) as music
so we dance and we play, listen and create
in rounds that build in crescendo
conversing through harmonies, like little symphonies,
in call and response like a tango
and I stumble my way down pedagogical veins,
admiring roots and leaves
I follow, I lead, everything in-between
as I realize that knowledge is breathing
it’s coming and going, ebbing and flowing
iterative and evolving
sense-based and spiralized, enduring over time,
it’s living, too, so be kind
it’s alive (Breen, A. V. personal communication, Dec 3, 2020)
and it’s mighty,
but I must tread lightly,
for it is not mine
it’s passed down by folks
I’ll never dance with or know,
so, I must know, responsibly.
just like rightness and wrongness
not binary opposites
neither are unknowing and knowledge
both oppressed and oppressor
student and professor
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