Q&A with LaToya Maria
February 2020–February 2021, Black With Plants will publish Q&A’s on generating socioecological value in landscapes of exclusion, and on instituting—in historically emarginated environs—networks of decentralized survival programs rooted in African Diaspora agrarian and liberation strategies. Black folx (artists, Earth workers, plant-based healers, emerging revolutionaries) from across the thirteen hardiness zones in the United States—a global settler colonial project—will share their points of view.
Can you introduce yourself to readers without describing yourself or history using neoliberal capitalist identities? Who are you outside of the white gaze/white supremacy culture?
My family calls me Star. Star meaning: a fixed luminous point in the night sky which is a large, remote incandescent body like the sun. That is a fitting description of who I am. I’d add infinite, boundless, ever evolving and divine to that definition. I love plants and connecting to the magic that is deeply seeded in Mother Earth. I seek wisdom beyond knowledge. I prioritize ease and moving slow with an awareness that is rooted in liberating the Divine Feminine within and without.
What do you want readers to know about the African Diaspora? Black history in north America?
I want you all to know you are more than suffering. More than your mind and body. More than you are told about yourself. You are truth. An infinite soul with a deep inner knowing yearning for you to listen. You are supported by your ancestors and connected to source. You exist beyond the constructs that you perceive are limiting you. You and your ancestors are so much more than systemic racism and hatred that has attempted to diminish you. Your ancestors were more than slaves. Yes. They were enslaved, however, they were healers, creators, cultivators, mothers, fathers, resilient beings that deserve to be honored through your commitment to liberate your mind and body.
What is the role of fellowship and mutual aid in anthropogenic, secular environments?
We require unity and community to thrive. This is non negotiable. In order to not only protect and honor ourselves, but also Mother Earth. I believe the role of fellowship and mutual aid is to explore a new way to live. Through exploration, query, and safe spaces to express thought without fear of being rejected, judged, or “cancelled.”
Draft a laundry list of societal elements that make it difficult for Black + nBpoc to decenter whiteness in their daily walk (identify five to seven barriers that discourage the affirming of Blackness)?
- Monogamy (and other traditional relationship constructs)
What about the contemporary movements for Black liberation/joint solidarity holds your attention before and after Black History Month?
I feel so much joy while observing and experiencing the remembering that is taking place within our collective consciousness. We are prioritizing our wellbeing and that looks so good on us. Black Womxn are gaining agency over our bodies. Rejecting the idea that we are the mules of society. Black Men are learning the importance of healing and separating from the idea that he needs to align or have approval from the white man. Collectively we are engaging in radical care for one another while allowing space and support to heal individually. I love it. I support it!
Would you be willing to share a memorable moment from 2019?
2019 was the year I committed to understanding my relationship with boundaries. I explored, defined and expanded my boundaries. Through that commitment, many of my own limiting beliefs fell away and I began to call into my life people, experiences and energies that are in alignment with my divinity. I also deepened my connection to my divine power.
Your perspective is invaluable. Thank you for distilling your pov, sharing your time, and contributing to collective healing. Can you tell readers a little bit about your perspective on land acknowledgment, decolonizing, indigenizing, settler colonial landscapes, especially post- the 2016 election?
My perspective is very simple. It may not be easy, but is worth it. We have to first gain agency over our bodies. Understand that decolonizing is not just something that we should talk about or explore only in land and food, but also our bodies and minds. Settler colonial landscapes require more time for me to discuss. However, I’ll say this; if we are for all Black and Brown people we should understand there is so much more happening collectively. I live abroad, I’ve been to many countries on the continent and islands in the carribean and there is A LOT of colonization happening and it is horrific. We’ve spent so long looking at white supremacy that we are bypassing the fact that CAPITALISM isn’t just a white man’s agenda. All of these constructs are to gain sovereignty over people’s minds, their lands, and resources. We need to take a good look at ourselves and see the ways we may be contributing. I’ve taken a look at the way I consume everything and acknowledge what harm I am bringing to myself and to others. Lastly, Black folx need to understand there is a MAJOR difference between currency and commodity … “they” certainly do.
White supremacy culture is prominent in locations of exclusion as well as in sectors that directly impact public health (e.g., the nonprofit industrial complex and the incarceration industrial complex). What are the dangers associated with allowing white supremacy culture to percolate uncontested?
Everything just stated is true. I feel that white supremacy is also prominent in our journey to healing and liberation and it is EXHAUSTING. My greatest desire is for us to center our liberation around Black Folx exclusively. Literally giving zero energy to the exhaustive discussion of the ways that white supremacy has and is causing us harm. Not ignoring the very real issues that we face of course. But we need to focus our attention and energy on the solutions. We all have them living deep within us. Not only in the information and knowledge we consume, but in our intuition, imagination and wisdom that we experience. Our collective power would shift the world as we know it. We see it everyday. Nothing moves without Us. So where are we trying to go?
Does Black Power in 2020 mean: communal living? Self-directed and decentralized support systems building grassroots survival programs in affirming locales?
Black Power means all of that and more. It may also mean an exodus. That idea can be unsettling for people, but as a Black Womxn living abroad I’ll tell you, it gives you a lot of space! Space to breathe, to gain clarity, to see things anew. Black Power also means deep love and passion. More joy, laughing and dancing. At times there is such a somber and heavy energy surrounding our movements. It is time to let that go. To celebrate and to feel power rooted in love and an open heart!
Final thoughts from LaToya Maria (@yoga_enchantress):
Take a moment everyday to sit in silence and consciously breathe. Breath is the bridge that connects your mind and body. Use it to experience ease and comfort. Remind yourself of the power of your breath. It is regulated by the autonomic nervous system. Yet we can find ease by consciously deepening and taking more expansive breaths. Take a 6 count inhale and a 3 count exhale do this for 6 cycles. See how you feel after that exercise. Peace to you all. Gratitude to D’Real for this platform. Love to you.
There’s so much here! I love that LaToya encourages us to avoid giving anymore attention or energy to the “white” stuff and focus on ourselves. That is long overdue! I believe too much focus on it, gives way for excuses and can be debilitating.