16. The POWER of Dreaming: Re-Imagining Our Imaginations

Talibah Aquil MA ’19 (conflict transformation) talks about her first journey to her ancestral home, Ghana; the captivating performance art capstone that was borne of that experience; and her calling as a bridge between the North American and African continents. 

Aquil first decided to travel to Ghana after research through ancestry.com revealed that she had more ancestors from there than any other African country. For her capstone project to her graduate studies at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding, she spent three weeks there, interviewing Black Americans and others of the African diaspora who had returned to their homeland about how those experiences shaped their identities. 

Aquil used those stories to create “Ghana, Remember Me,” a poetry, dance, and music performance that speaks on healing historical trauma within the African diaspora community. The project brought together her experiences and a diverse skill set: A graduate of Howard University with a BA in musical theater, Aquil toured with a professional dance troupe after college.

Performing “Ghana, Remember Me” “brought to my attention how many people really need spaces to talk about identity … and the complexities of it,” she said. 

That work has helped Aquil face the present as well as her history. 

“Something about me connecting to the root of my identity gave me such power that when I came back to the States, it was almost like I was prepared to endure all of the racial chaos that was happening in America, because I knew where I came from,” she said. “I saw the power of my people and it gave me strength. It gave me strength. It didn’t take away the pain, but it gave me strength to endure.”

She recalled a feeling of homecoming, even on her first trip to Ghana. 

“Your cells remember … the body knows,” Aquil said. 

Aquil moved to Ghana last year, and lives in the capital city of Accra. 

“I knew in my spirit that I was supposed to be in Ghana and, again – not knowing the puzzle pieces, just like my journey at CJP – I knew that I was supposed to be here. And listening to that intuition, I’m so grateful because it has been wonderful,” she said.

Aquil is now a lecturer at CJP, where she introduced a course titled “Re-imagining Identity” that examines the intersections of identity, storytelling, dignity, and the arts. In that same vein of re-imagination, she is also developing an organization called “We Are Magic.”

“The goal is to bring diaspora people of color to Ghana – to connect, to history, to identity, and to heal from historical trauma,” Aquil explained. “I want to do this at a little to no cost for them. I want to build a place where folks can stay and it be a resting place, a restorative place in Ghana.”


Guest

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Talibah Aquil

Talibah Atiya-Najee Aquil has a rich and varied background using the arts as a vehicle for social change. She graduated from Howard University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre and earned her Masters in Conflict Transformation at The Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Whether in performances, community organizing, or teaching and facilitating, Talibah cultivates spaces for trauma healing and transforming conflicts that exist both within self and within communities. Ms Aquil has facilitated Restorative Justice Circle Practices centered around racial healing and presented her masters thesis as an arts-based independent research project  “Ghana, Remember Me,” which uses poetry, dance and music to speak to healing historical trauma within the African Diaspora community. Talibah is also an adjunct professor at The Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at EMU, where she created a course entitled “Re-imagining Identity” that examines the intersections of identity, story-telling, dignity, and the arts; in this course she created safe spaces for student-teachers to explore the complexities of identity as it relates to oneself and others. Ms. Aquil currently lives in Accra, Ghana where she co-created “We Are Magic,” an organization focused on creating healing tours for people of the diaspora who wish to travel to Ghana.


Transcript

Talibah:
So the “Year Of Return” was created in Ghana to establish, um, and bring attention and mindfulness to the 400 year anniversary since the first enslaved African was taken from Ghana. Um, and so the idea was to bring diasporans back to Ghana, right? How do we connect and build relationship?

Theme music:
[Theme music begins and fades to background]

Patience:
Hi everybody, happy Wednesday to you! Welcome back to Peacebuilder, a Conflict Transformation podcast by the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding. My name is Patience Kamau and our guest this episode is:

Talibah:
Talibah Atiya-Najee Aquil, a former graduate of the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding; and I am currently a lecturer at CJP.

Patience:
Talibah Atiya-Najee Aquil has a rich and varied background using the arts as a vehicle for social change. She graduated from Howard University with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Musical Theatre and earned her Masters degree in Conflict Transformation here at CJP at Eastern Mennonite University. Whether in performances, community organizing, or teaching and facilitating, Talibah cultivates spaces for trauma healing and transforming conflicts that exist both within self and within communities. Ms. Aquil has facilitated Restorative Justice Circle Practices centered around racial healing and presented her masters thesis as an arts-based independent research project “Ghana, Remember Me,” which uses poetry, dance and music to speak to healing historical trauma within the African Diaspora community. Talibah is also an adjunct professor here at The Center for Justice and Peacebuilding , where she created a course entitled “Re-imagining Identity” that examines the intersections of identity, story-telling, dignity, and the arts; in this course she created safe spaces for student-teachers to explore the complexities of identity as it relates to oneself and others. Ms. Aquil currently lives in Accra, Ghana where she co-created “We Are Magic,” an organization focused on creating healing tours for people of the diaspora who wish to travel to Ghana.

Theme music:
[Theme music fades back in and plays till end]

Patience:
What is your journey? What was your journey to EMU, to CJP, which is nested within EMU? How would you describe that?

Talibah:
So, if I had to describe my journey to CJP, I would use two words. So the first word will be unexpected. Um, and my second word will be purposed. And what I mean by that, I actually grew up in a Mennonite church in Bronx, New York called King of Glory Tabernacle. So I grew up, um, predominantly in a Mennonite community. And so I heard a lot about Eastern Mennonite university. In fact, when I was 16, I went to, um, the Mennonite world conference in Zimbabwe with, um, EMU. Um, but I never had a desire to attend, um, EMU and it wasn’t until I was I’ll never. Okay. So I was a Peace Corps volunteer in Rwanda, and I remember I made a vision board and one of the things on my vision board was grad school. And I was like this no way I really want to go to grad school.

Talibah:
Well, let me just put this up here because I feel like I’m supposed to right? never forget the grad school kept falling off of the collage. And I was like, Lord, what are you trying to tell me? And so by the end of my two year service, I just got this fire to attend grad school. And I was looking for programs abroad actually that, um, kind of share the intersections of healing and the arts, and CJP kept popping up. And I have no idea why, but something in my spirit knew that I was supposed to apply to CJP and the rest is history. And so my journey at CJP, honestly, even from the first day, I did not know why I was there, but I knew I was supposed to be. So, yeah.

Patience:
And when did you graduate from CJP?

Talibah:
I graduated in 2019

Patience:
Did you eventually make sense of why you were there, even though you were feeling, you don’t know why you’re there, but you’re supposed to be, did that ever come together for you in your two years of residency there?

Talibah:
Yeah. Um, definitely. I, my time at CJP was a journey. I feel like I was like finding my voice. I was finding purpose. I was trying to figure out why I was even in the program. And it really was around graduation where I realized all the puzzle pieces really of my life came together at CJP.

Patience:
What’d you mean by that?

Talibah:
So I feel like I’ve always been a person who was sensitive. Right. I was always been sensitive. I always knew I cared about trauma, but I didn’t have language for it. Right. And so I feel like all the things that made me Talibah, I discovered language for it at CJP. I discovered that there was a place for it in the world at CJP, um, found community of other folks who believe that movement was, was just as important as academia and like connecting to the body. And it became something where I knew like, okay, I can actually bring my gifts and parts of myself to the world and it be valued. And so I really would say my time at CJP in hindsight, even now I’m so grateful for the experience, because I feel like I found my voice and I found myself. Oh, yeah. Yeah.

Patience:
And you had just graduated from, uh, your undergraduate degree was from… where was it from? I keep wanting to say Howard.

Talibah:
It was. I graduated from Howard University in ’09. I was a musical theater major. So performing arts.

Patience:
Yeah. How was that experience of you attending an HBCU?

Talibah:
Oh, amazing, amazing. Oh, Patience. It was really the, some of the best years of my life, honestly, especially, um, I’m trying to find the language to it’s something about being in space, um, with like-minded and just beautiful black, powerful souls. Um, that really just inspires, especially when you’re coming out of high school, you’re on your own. You’re finding yourself and just being in that space really was it was magical. It’s magical. And even now those relationships that will cultivate it during my time at Howard, I, I still have that. And a lot of them, the work that I’m doing now, a lot of it is, is because I had those partnerships and relationships with people from Howard university. So,

Patience:
So right now, as we speak, you are in Ghana. Which city are you speaking from right now? Akra?

Talibah:
Yes. I’m, I’m based in Akra right now.

Patience:
Tell us about that. How did that come to be? Um, it’s yeah, it’s a fabulous story. Can you share it with our listeners?

Talibah:
Yes, absolutely. So for my practicum project, for CJP, I decided that I wanted to travel to Ghana. I had just did ancestry.com, which was both exciting and traumatizing at the same time. And I discovered that most of my African ancestry came from Ghana. And so I wanted to learn and connect. And re-imagine my identity outside of the confinements of the U.S. Right. I wanted to travel to Ghana on my own, um, and learn about my history, learn about my identity. Um, and it was the same semester. I took research class with Roxy and I learned that, um, research could also look like putting on a show. It can also, you can also encourage your readers to feel the research, right. And that just was such an exciting thing for me. And so I decided to go to Ghana and I interviewed, um, other black Americans or diasporan who moved to Ghana and how that shaped their identity.

Talibah:
Um, and then I came back and I put together a show called Ghana Remember Me that, um, took place, um, at EMU and their main stage theater. And it just really, really became bigger than anything I could imagine. And it just really reminded me, um, it brought to my attention how many people really need spaces to talk about identity, um, and safe spaces to talk about identity in it and the complexities of it. Um, and so Ghana was so transformative for me, Patience, during this time of 2020 when depression and anxiety, and so many emotions, um, was very present for me. And I know countless other people, I wanted to turn home. And so I knew in my spirit that I was supposed to be in Ghana and again, not knowing the puzzle pieces, just like my, my journey at CJP. I knew, um, that I was supposed to be here and, and listening to that intuition, I’m so grateful because it has been wonderful.

Patience:
Oh, um, talk more about Ghana Remember Me. Um, I have watched it at least twice. I’m guessing, I’m thinking maybe three times. Can you tell our listeners about what Ghana Remember Me is if you can take us through the process of, uh, creating it, writing it and putting it all together and the impact that you just hinted at that it became bigger than you. What was all that? Yeah. How did that all transpire for you?

Talibah:
Um, so I traveled to Ghana. I was in Ghana for three weeks. I’d never been to Ghana. I only knew one person, um, in Ghana at the time when I decided to travel and I literally came to Ghana, I had no idea it was the year of return. So the year of return was created in Ghana to establish, um, and bring attention and mindfulness to the 400 year anniversary since the first enslaved African was taken from Ghana. Um, and so the idea was to bring diasporans back to Ghana, right? How do we connect and build relationship? And so I had no idea I was going to kind of during that time. So it just really was the best time. And I was able to connect with a lot of African-Americans who moved to Ghana and I interviewed them. And, um, it really was a time of just, okay, this is what I would associate it with.

Talibah:
So there’s something about being Christian, right. And, and I know the Christian walk and your relationship with God. It, it, it, it, it changes in seasons right. Sometimes when you feel close to God, as sometimes when you feel far away, you need to hear his voice. And I know that I’m my best self when I remember who I belonged to what kind of remember who my father is, when I remember that I’m a child of God, there’s some confidence and ower that I walked with. Right. And so I would compare my time in Ghana to that feeling. It was l something about me connecting to the root of my identity that gave me such power Patience, that when I came back to the States, it was almost like I was prepared to endure all of the racial chaos that was happening in America, because I knew where I came from.

Talibah:
And I saw the power of my people, and it gave me strength. It gave me strength. It didn’t take away the pain gave me strength to endure. And so if I had to sum up my time in Ghana, that’s what I would, that’s what I would say. It was restorative. It was empowering. Um, and again, folks who did not have, um, the experience of traveling to Ghana with me, I feel like they felt that in Ghana Remember Me and it empowered them to go on a journey of talking about identity. Um, and so basically to me, so long story short, Ghana Remember Me was comprised of 12 interviews. Um, I recorded interviews, video recorded, voice recorded. I came back to the States. I listened to every video, every recording and I found themes. And so my goal was to listen to what other folks said, but also to use my experience and what I took from the experience as well. Um, and so I have a really close sister of mine named Simili Jamia Koji, who lives in Kenya. And her and I shared a very similar experience of, of being a bridge between two worlds, right. Going between the continent and America and, and sharing the experience. And so, um, some of her poetry was the through line of Ghana Remember Me. And, and I basically took all of it together and, and created a show using my theories of change and speaking from the heart.

Patience:
What is it to be a bridge between the two, you know, between the African continent and the North American continent?

Talibah:
It is really a calling Patience. It’s really a calling. Um, it is hard, it’s hard. Um, but, um, but I’m grateful for the calling. I think a part of my passion, one of my biggest passions, and it was also a part of my theories of change. Like, how do I bring, or how do we bring, cause it’s already a community of people. How do we bring those of us who were taken from the continent? And those of us who were born on the continent together, what does it look like to decolonize our relationship, right? What is it realized to, what does it look like to remember that we are one? Um, so that it has been 400 plus years of undoing that relationship and it’s going to take time to bridge it back together. And so, um, I think also honoring that it is a privilege to be able to go to the continent. It is expensive to travel, right. And so, what is it also look like to become a bridge for folks, specifically people of color, um, to provide access back to the continent because that in itself is not easy.

Patience:
Um, as you were describing, um, you’re going there and just finding your roots, just the power of finding your roots and just feeling a sense of being at home. And it infuses a sense of confidence in you. I recognize that very much so because when I go home, when I go back home to Kenya, there is something that myself just recognize as, Oh, I am home. And it’s in the smell in the air, you know, the smoke from all the exterior kitchens and the sounds and the, you know, the noise and the hooting of the cars all over the place in the cities. And this s something that is recognizable by the cells in a way that is inexplainable or even articulable to anyone else. But I see you shaking your head because you recognize it very, very empowering.

Talibah:
Just adding to that. It’s also connecting to what you just said. I’ve never even been to Ghana, but I still had that feeling, right.

Patience:
Because your cells remember your ancestors were stolen from there, from there.

Talibah:
And how powerful it is that our body knows. And so I always tell people, because I’m considered a foreigner here, folks call me a foreigner. And I say, no, I’m relearning because I already know this stuff. We already know this stuff, but we’re relearning and undoing systems and structures that were intentionally created to help us forget. And that yes.

Patience:
Make us to make people forget.

Talibah:
Yes.

Patience:
It wasn’t even like a helping. It just was like, this was very intentional. And it was a stripping of humanity obviously to justify whatever means that they needed to get to…

Talibah:
Yeah.

Transition music:
[Transition music plays]

Patience:
Let’s talk about the power of dreaming and reimagining our imagination. What is that to you.

Talibah:
Yes, I am so passionate about this and this season. And I first want to start off by thanking, um, Johannah Turner and Tim Seidel for even introducing this concept and foundations to when I was a student, um, the power of dreaming. And I think what encouraged me to even want to talk about this is 2020, the year 2020 was a year full of just… for me. It was a year of realizing all the things that I was a part of that just kind of debilitating my dreaming, I felt stuck. Um, there was confusion and it was like, I couldn’t even think of the things that made me happy. Right. And when I gave myself permission, right, when I, when I was able to sit in that stillness and really be intentional, um, about what are the things that I feel passionate about and dreaming, Ghana kept showing up. And so I think for me, it was a year of saying, I no longer want to participate in this capitalistic society. And that seems huge. And I don’t know exactly how to do it, but I know I’m going to try because it’s not making me happy. And I’m going to dream and reimagine a world where I’m living in ease and I’m living in purpose and giving myself permission to do so. Um, and I just feel led to talk about that today because I know so many people had similar realizations and so many people have so many dreams laying dormant inside because the parameters of our worlds comment world and reality doesn’t seem like it gives us permission to follow those dreams. Right? Something happens. The cells become activated similar to how, when we go, something happens to yourselves. When you start dreaming and doing work that feels life giving, you know, and it doesn’t just transform you, it transforms systems and transforms society. It transforms generations to come, right. When you think about Martin Luther King speech, I have a dream, right? Literally we are sitting here. We are the manifestation of his dreams because he was able to dream and reimagine a society outside of the parameters of his life, his current being. Right. And so what is it look like to take that speech that we referenced every January, right? What does it look like to take that and apply it to our lives and realize it’s possible.

Patience:
And live it. As, as you were saying that I am reminded not too long ago, I was watching, um, Henry Louis Gates presentation. It’s a, it’s a show, a new one on PBS called the black church. And they were talking obviously about the history of the black church and how it began, obviously from the moment, you know, 400 years, 400 plus years ago from when the first enslaved people landed here. But one part is something that I learned about that speech about Martin Luther King’s I have a dream speech was that it was impromptu on that day that he gave it up on those stairs. Mahalia Jackson reminded him he’s, you know, apparently she said, tell them about the dream Martin, tell them about the dream. But the background of that is that the origin of that thought was actually Prithia Hall, who was a woman who was praying. Apparently it was an event in Georgia and she was praying and her prayer had the cadence and the repeat repetition, the poetic repetition of I have a dream and then she would name it. I have a dream, this, and then she would name it and I have a dream about this, and then she would name it. But you’re talking about, you know, just imagining something outside of what was actually the life in the moment. And apparently, uh, she drove him away to the airport or something like that. He asked, can I use that? You know, he was inspired by that. That’s where he got that inspiration from Prithia Hall. And then he started making sermons about that and he would preach about them. And Mahalia Jackson had heard about that. And so especially reminded him on that day when they were marching on, on Washington. And that’s where I came from background. Wow. Kudos to Prithia Hall.

Talibah:
Yes, absolutely.

Patience:
So what is your dream going forward? What, what is your dream? What are you dreaming that is beyond you? That is probably going to benefit generations to come. What is it that you hope for?

Talibah:
I have a few dreams happening right now. One, a personal dream for myself is to continue to create a life for myself full of ease.

Patience:
What does that mean?

Talibah:
Um, I feel like, I think a lot of times, and I, there was silence because I wanted to correct myself and then I was like, no, don’t correct yourself. I never give, or I haven’t in the past given myself permission to rest and to live in ease because I associated it with, um, laziness and, um, not being productive. Right. And so for me, a life of ease, um, looks like doing work. That that is life-giving, um, that is done on my own time. That gives space for rest. That gives space for building relationships and community. Um, and that also invites other people to come into the space, to use their gifts. So I don’t feel overwhelmed. That’s what ease looks like for me. And it’s not, I’ve never been a person that, that is driven by money, but I realized because I’ve had bills and had to survive, I shifted from a person who wants to be led by service to a person who is literally led to, uh, as it relates to survival. And I no longer want to survive. I want to thrive. I don’t want to survive. I want to thrive. And I wish that for every person and speaking as a person, as a black woman, I felt like a lot of my life has been connected to pain, connected in survival connected in so much. And I, and I no longer want that narrative. I no longer want that narrative, so dropping it. Yes. Um, and then I guess that also is attached to my collective dreaming for everyone. But I also, as we talk about a bridge, um, being in Ghana, um, I am working on an organization or a co-founder of an organization called we are magic. Um, and it’s in the works, it’s at the beginning stages, but again, I’m dreaming big and I’m speaking it and manifested it into existence. But the goal is to bring diasporans, people of color, for Ghana to connect to history, to connect, to identity and to heal from historical trauma. I want to do this at little to no cost for them. Um, I want to build a place where folks can stay and it be a resting place, a restorative place in Ghana. Um, and so that’s the goal we are magic. Um, and so you’re hearing it now here first, I’m just excited to see how the dream will continue to grow and even surprise me. Um,

Patience:
So basically you want to create a large kind of situation that allows people, black people in the diaspora who wants to go back to Ghana and rest can come and spend time there. And it depends on so little to no cost. What does that mean for you? So that

Talibah:
Little to no cost. So even if that means we cover your flight, even if that means you cover your flight, but you know, that housing is free. Um, it’s also not just the living situation, but it’s also healing tours. So Ghana, um, really has a rich, um, historical, um, history. And so the goal is also to travel to different places. We have the slave castle Dungeons where a lot of our history, um, took place. There’s also the history that happened before we were even enslaved. That’s important. I think that’s a big thing. A lot of times African-Americans I aspirants our history always begins with slavery. So what does it look like to learn the history pre slavery to add to the story? So I think that is a big part. And then what does it look like to have a space to connect with those who are from the continent and have a space of healing, a space of conversation, a space of dialogue. So all of those things are, are, are, um, attached to, we are magic. It’s not just a place of rest and lodging, but it’s also a tour, a healing tour of, of the imagining and reconnecting to identity.

Patience:
I’m glad to hear you say that. It’s also part of that will also be a learning about what life was before slavery became such an all-consuming part of the continent, because it was actually, it’s actually a really short history of the continent of Africa. It’s a really, really short by comparison. The continent was thriving way before the Portuguese showed up and had this idea about, um, exporting well and, and, you know, it gets very complicated because actually, um, elite Africans were involved in creating this culture of selling people, but it was, yeah, it gets very complicated. Uh, but it is lovely for people to learn this because it is how a lot of tribes within the African continent dealt with one another, when they would conquer one another, they would enslave one another. Um, and so that when the white, especially the Portuguese showed up, um, then they started making a lot of money by saying, okay, here we can sell you these people. And then it became an completely unwieldy creature that just swallowed up the whole continent. So that’s an important history for people to understand that it was a profoundly developed and thriving continent before it was made into this caricature that people think of today. I’m very passionate about that.

Talibah:
Yes. Patience. Yes, absolutely. Yeah.

Patience:
The deep, deep history we are told that Christianity was brought by the white people. Oh no, no, no. Christianity was in Ethiopia way before Europeans understood what Christianity was about.

Talibah:
Yes, yes.

Patience:
Anyway, I will get off this soapbox now and let you talk about Afrofuturism. What is Afrofuturism?

Talibah:
Afrofuturism. Okay. So I was first introduced to Afrofuturism when I saw the black Panther, I was in love with the film and I really didn’t know why I connected to it. So, and so I decided to write one of my blogs for foundations two, on the black Panther and Dr. Joanna Turner introduced the term Afrofuturism, um, to me and basically Afrofuturism, um, intersects, um, science fiction technology and ancient African mythologies. So with the intersections of all of those things, I think what really spoke to my heart and why I connect Afrofuturism to dreaming is because as a black people, as, as a black people who experienced, um, oppression and slavery, one of the only things we had was hope, one of the only things we had was re-imagining and, um, re-imagining a life outside of the life that we lived in. Right. And so Afrofuturism gives us permission and provides a space for us to re-imagine our identities. It’s almost like dreaming of a world that looks totally different. I mean, when you look at, um, the black Panther and you look at, um, the, I don’t even want to call them costumes because the costume designer drew from actual, um, countries on the continent. So I wouldn’t even go as far to say costumes, but that’s what Afrofuturism is. It’s pulling from the past, pulling from something that’s already there. And then re-imagining a whole different, um, thing. Right. And so when I think of Afrofuturism, I even talked about that. It was one of the topics in the class that I spoke. I had taught with, um, co-taught with Barry Hart re-imagining identity. It was such a big part of it because it’s like, how do we draw from Afrofuturism? Right. What is that? What does it look like to, to recreate right. Reimagine, rethink, you know, so, yeah. Yeah.

Patience:
And I just want to mention here, you mentioned, uh, Roxy being in a class that was taught by Roxy a research class, and that’s the Roxy Allen Kyoko. Um, I just wanted to insert that, but talk about this class that you talked with, uh, Dr. Barry Hart, uh, what was that about? How did it go? How did it come to be? Yeah. How did it, yeah. Tell us about it.

Talibah:
Um, I’m so grateful for that opportunity and experience to, um, teach that class with, um, Barry. It was, it was the first class I ever taught at CJP. I had just graduated and Ghana Remember Me. I don’t even want to say it was birth from Ghana. Remember me, but I just know that there was so the, the talk back after Ghana Remember Me, the conversations that emerged around identity and trauma and collective healing, um, felt really, really needed. And so Barry and I, um, connected, he was already teaching a class similar to the same, um, topic of identity and, and, um, healing, historical trauma. And so we kind of came together and created, um, this class re-imagining identity. Um, and in the class we spoke about, um, Afrofuturism. It was a very, it was, it was an untraditional class. I would say. I think we were very intentional about creating the space.

Talibah:
We in turn, I remember sometimes we brought pillows and we had snacks and music and certain things just to also create a space where folks felt comfortable to even talk about identity. Right? CJP I will say one of the biggest things that I’ve taken from CJP is we’re talking about lived experience, right? Conflict and violence and restorative justice. Those are things that are lived experiences. And so you have to hold them with such care, even in the classroom space. Right? Because even the things that we talk about and learn about in the systems and skills and tools, our lived experiences of students in the class, right. And it’s around identity, everything is identity, everything is identity, everything. And so re-imagining identity. It was like, okay, who are you now? Who are you? What has the world proclaimed you to be? What narratives have the world told you that you are? And then what parts of your identity do you want to reimagine and recreate and dream of? And that was felt to me, like the premise of the class, who are you now? What are some of the things the world says you are? And then what do you want to reimagine in the future looking forward.

Patience:
So you’re basically asking people to name themselves outside of what the world has named them, you know, because the world puts on us an identity label, then we can name our…

Talibah:
Label.

Patience:
Exactly. Then, but we can name ourselves as to how we feel and see ourselves and how we move in this world. So what sort of, do you have any specific examples of maybe any, very moving or stand out conversation that happened in that class about re-imagining identity that you would be able to share with us?

Talibah:
I pause because a lot of it was really, really personal. Um, and so I’m mindful of that, but I will speak of for myself, why I even wanted to go to Ghana in the first place, because I was overwhelmed by the labels that America placed on me, that I was minority. Right. Um, that I was less than, um, and I was tired of seeing the image of my, my black brothers and sisters murdered. Um, and so that narrative of feeling like I am a part of an identity that is disempowered, I needed to reimagine a new identity for myself. Right. And so that’s what Ghana, so speaking for myself, I feel like that. Um, yeah.

Patience:
Yeah. Oh, how did it change you? How did the class change you? How is Ghana changing you?

Talibah:
That’s a really good question. Um, and I don’t even know if I have the words, to be honest with you, Patience, it’s it’s, it’s a feeling I don’t, I’m not the same woman. I was even when the class even came. I feel like we talk about like professors and lecturers and students, but honestly the whole space is a learning space. We’re all learning from each other, right? Like when we talk about power, like I learnt so much from those who took the class. Um, and I still, I think I was will share this. I still get messages from people who took the class, who constantly shared things that they learned from the class. Um, and that feels so amazing to learn. And to know that the learning is continuous and it literally just planted a seed, it planted a seed, as an African proverb that goes each one, teach one. And so the goal is you build these relationships with people that you come in contact with, and you just hope that those seeds planted will then go to the next person and go to the next person. And eventually you’ll have a whole forest. Right?

Patience:
Yeah, of course. Hm.

Transition music:
[Transition music plays]

Patience:
You mentioned earlier about being a bridge and that being a calling, which sounds to me very spiritual, what is the spiritual resonance of, um, taking people or bringing people to Ghana and taking them on these healing tours? What is the spiritual resonance for you? How does this feed your soul?

Talibah:
Hm. Um, that’s such a deep question and I’m going to answer it very honestly. Um, like I shared, I, I grew up Mennonite, um, for a large portion of my life and I think learning all, so many things, all the amazing things I learned from CJP, I’ve also learnt, um, how to ask questions and also decolonize my faith. Right. And I only share that because coming to Ghana, when I first came to Ghana, I would share about my faith. And so many people shared, um, and spoke about how Christianity too played a large part in the slave trade. Right. And I share that because just that awakening and that, that, that, um, that reminder for me, um, I went on a journey and I still am on a journey of like building my personal relationship with God. Right. Um, and undoing and relearning and decolonizing my thoughts around other spiritual practices. And so I share this why I feel like this answers your question, is I, my ancestors and feeling even confident to name this, because I feel like before I wouldn’t have named that, I spent time talking to God and my ancestors. Right. I wouldn’t have named that cause I didn’t feel comfortable, but for me, it’s important to share. Like I know that those who came before me are a source of spiritual, um, um, um, spiritual guidance for me as well. And so I feel like I’m being led by God and I’m being led by my ancestors. Um, and it just, there’s a knowing. So Patience like this is the thing about dreaming, like you dream. And sometimes you don’t even know what the next staircase looks like. Right. But you just know that this is the dream and I’m going to just keep putting one foot in front of the other and trust the process. Right? So I’m in a season of trusting God, trusting my ancestors, trusting myself in that knowing, and just committing to that dream, committing to that dream. And so it is a spiritual practice. Absolutely. Um, yeah. Yeah. And it’s complicated and it’s difficult conversation and I think it’s conversations and more spaces, um, needs to be held around. What does it look like to talk about these heavy topics? Right. What does it look like to talk about spirituality and to talk about the role of the church and to talk about God and your personal faith, like spaces need to be created for these conversations of healing.

Patience:
Is that happening currently as we speak?

Talibah:
No, I think I’m more so having my own process and then writing things down. Um, because along with the dreaming, it’s also timing too. Right. So I think I’m just taking note and then hopefully when I feel led or if I learn of other spaces where I am, where these conversations being had, I’m looking forward to participating in them.

Patience:
Okay. Okay. Nothing else is coming to mind. Thank you so much Talibah for taking the time to talk about this. Um, the importance…for highlighting the importance of dreaming, the power of dreaming and reimagining our lives in a different way. Have a good afternoon in Accra.

Outro music:
[Outro music begins to play and fades to background]

Patience:
All the music you hear on this podcast has been composed by the one and only Luke Mullet audio mixing engineer. Extraordinary is Steven Angelo. And I’m the podcast executive producer, audio recording, engineer, editor, and host patients come out. As you are able, please remember to subscribe, rate and review this podcast so that other peacebuilders may find it. We’ll be back with a new episode in two weeks. Thanks so much for listening and join us again next time.

[Outro music resumes and plays till end]

6 comments on “16. The POWER of Dreaming: Re-Imagining Our Imaginations”

  1. Merwyn De Mello says:

    Thanks for this powerful interview. A diaspora that is not often spoken about, is of those that originated in India, the Indian diaspora. How the lives of these people often the scapegoats of the 'colonial masters'. I wonder whether if somehow Reimagining the Dream will bring in these voices as well.
    How do I connect with Talibah?
    Merwyn De Mello

  2. Ruth Yoder Wenger says:

    The interviewer refers to watching the video of her capstone. How can I access that?

    1. patience says:

      Yes, Ruth, the recording of "Ghana, Remember Me…" will be aired on June 4th, at 4 p.m. as part of CJP's anniversary celebration events. Talibah will introduce it and also lead a talkback afterward. Please see https://emu.edu/cjp/anniversary/schedule for more information/details.

  3. Joanne Boynton says:

    This was a wonderful podcast. Talibah’s creative energy and her openness to finding a deeper sense of identity are inspiring. Thank you

  4. Marian Chatfield-Taylor says:

    Wonderful. Thank you!

  5. Elena Huegel says:

    My dreams connected deeply with Talibah's…dreaming, too, in southern Mexico… thanks so much…

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