When showing up for civil liberties and human rights takes priority over training

As you can probably tell, getting to Nationals well-prepared is super important to me. I consider my training a part-time job and am as committed to my work in the gym as I am to my work as a therapist. Inside me, they take up the same quality of space and energy, and I am equally as dedicated to being a good therapist as I am to being a good lifter.

But sometimes, the rights of the greater community take precedence. I recognize that I work, lift, love, play, and persevere in a society that is unjust and commodified, where the prison industrial complex profits off the mass incarceration of primarily black and brown people, and where borders and nations are increasingly rigid and punitive, while body sovereignty is eroding. When families seeking refuge are being torn apart, I will speak up.

On Saturdays, I usually train Strongman events with my team and during open gym. It’s the one time of the week when I see my community and can get support with the lifts and implements that are more challenging to set up. I benefit from the experience of the group, and our diverse ways of approaching challenging experiences. And because I work full-time while pursuing a doctorate degree in psychoanalysis, I have limited hours during which I can practice some of these more uncommon lifts.

However, this past Saturday, I chose to skip my Strongman class even though it meant I would have to modify my training program for the week and potentially skip some of the programming. It’s a small tradeoff, really, to exercise my privilege to attend the Families Belong Together demonstration outside the West County Detention Center in Richmond, CA. It is my civil right to demonstrate, and when someone organizes against oppression and injustice, I will do my best to show up.

Around five thousand of us positioned ourselves in the parking lot of the detention center, sandwiched between manzanita bushes, the sparkling bay waters, and the two-story cement jail. Dozens of police officers stood in the shade of the beige building while thousands of us chanted, “Families Belong Together!” Music, posters, revolutionary messages, personal stories of immigration detention and the appellate process, and protest speeches moved my heart.

Boundaries between people keep us healthy. Borders between nations are fictional and arbitrary. We are all shaped by where we are born, and that is no fault of our own. To seek out a better life is part of the “American Dream,” and if this opportunity was open to my ancestors, it should be open to all. Speaking of my white ancestors: I have a lot of ancestral repair to do and part of that is to become someone who can see things differently from them. Unlike my ancestors, who believed that only some should be considered human and therefore some lives were more valuable than others, I believe that what is open to some, should be open to all.

Part of that belief has me calling into question, was America ever really open to me and my ancestors? In fact, I think we just took what we wanted and started making decisions about who gets what.

America is not mine to take; it is not mine to own; and it is not mine to say who gets to come and who must leave.

No Ban. No Wall. Sanctuary for All. Decolonize NOW. I have a lot of work to do on myself as a colonizer- and that work is just as important as anything else I do in my life. In fact, I doubt I could do any of this (psychotherapy, weightlifting, life) without simultaneously working on my own historical status as a colonizer and beneficiary of slavery.

Lifting weights helps me get stronger to hold all the truths I must uncover. Being a therapist helps me navigate complex emotional territory. Staying awake means staying aware of how I am always in a position of structural power- and that I must learn to let that go, no matter the “inconvenience” or if it jeopardizes my plans for myself. I’ve benefitted for much too long from other people’s pain, whether I know it or not. Better to know so I can start to un-do.

I’m training for more than just making the lift. I’m training so that I can own my shit and stop myself and my lineage from perpetuating harm on susceptible and marginalized communities. I’m training so that others can have a chance to be better, and be more themselves, just like I can.

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Me holding a sign that reads, “No Ban! No Wall! Sanctuary for All! Families Belong Together”

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