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We Need to Microdose on Liberation

Illustration: Shelby Ticsay

What is liberation to you?

For some, liberation can be a new-ish concept. Because you only need to become liberated if you are oppressed by something. Right? And if you feel free, then you don’t need to “get free.” For this logic, we need to microdose on liberation.

We can all have our individual notions of what liberation looks and feels like. Perhaps you have achieved liberation in parts of your life. That’s freakin’ awesome. Maybe you are working to liberate more areas of your existence and impact. Go you!

If liberation were a drug and microdosing were the method, allow this community to be your dealer, to liberate your mind little by little. Bob Marley sang it best, “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds.”

Be gentle with yourself if healing and liberation work is new to you if you define and redefine and expand what liberation means to you. We are not competing in the Oppression Olympics. There is no prize for being the most “woke.” Woke-est is not a thing.

I hope you feel held if you are continuing on this journey (moment by moment, decision by decision) and that you deeply understand that our liberation is bound together.

While we may be microdosing on liberation during this season of our adult lives, it is only because we have been puff puff passing oppressive systems since childhood. And guess who was the one rolling it up, lighting it, and putting it into rotation?

The sacredness of childhood underscores the importance and urgency of investigating, dismantling, and disrupting thought patterns that no longer serve us. How are we modifying adult behaviors so we can raise good ancestors? Whether you are a birthing or non-birthing parent, we must collectively raise liberated kids.

Dr. Ayesha Khan, an Infectious Diseases Scientist and Clinical Microbiologist, abolitionist, and grassroots community organizer, says childhood is the period of time the state has the most control over us. We become obedient and compliant, conditioned with oppressive norms and prevented from “imagining possibilities outside the realm of what feels ‘familiar.’”

So, what is familiar?

White supremacy culture is what’s familiar. As author Tema Okun explains, this widespread ideology teaches us overtly and covertly that whiteness holds value and is value, pervading the values, beliefs, and norms of our communities and pitting other races and racial groups against each other.

Our culture informs what we hold to be true and familiar — maybe even safe or comforting. When things feel familiar, we tend not to question them or imagine living in an unfamiliar culture. To begin microdosing on liberation, we must question what is familiar.

When you layer the intersectionality of being Filipinx in America, an immigrant, or a child of an immigrant, navigating identity and belonging in this third culture is far from familiar. But this journey toward liberation is your own and no one else’s. You own it. You decide how to navigate. Decision by decision, one gut feeling to the next.

Why microdose?

Clearly articulating oppressive and manipulative systems creates a heightened sense of awareness. You develop language, filter through frameworks, examine patterns of thought and cultures, and connect with others who operate on the same frequency. You consume books, articles, thoughtfully curated social media posts, podcasts, and dope-ass Filipinx newspapers (wink wink). You begin to see differently. Your sense of familiarity is questioned, and cognitive dissonance creeps in because the curtain has been pulled back. You can’t unsee things. It can be overwhelming, depressing, demoralizing, and heavy. This is why we must microdose on liberation.

Overnight change is not a thing. Any drastic departure from your baseline is not sustainable. Honor your starting point. Get clear on how you want to lead with love and freedom, the namesake of this periodical.

Now pause and think about something joyful and happy; look at nature or move your body. Then start thinking about what liberation means for you. What small changes can you make to your daily life that can liberate you and us?

Family Boundaries

According to Roanne de Guia-Samuels, a Marriage & Family Therapist, “utang na loob” in Filipino culture is “the sense that a past or recent good deed or favor must be remembered (and repaid).” Utang is “debt,” and loob is “inner self.” Filipinos are collectivistic in nature, she said.

Examining our beautiful collectivist cultural values has been eye-opening. On the one hand, I have embraced that I tend toward a collectivist approach versus a more individualistic approach that can feel very American. However, while microdosing, I have started asking questions that get to the root of this unwavering or blind “obligation” or “duty” to our family. Am I being disrespectful? Am I being a bad daughter or daughter-in-law? Should I just do whatever they ask of me? I owe them for x, y, and z.

That is when I started learning more about boundaries, specifically those within families, as this was a foreign topic to me. Boundaries? What are those? I did not understand this concept of boundaries because I was not raised to set them. In fact, I was probably raised to overlook them and place family above everything, including my own inner peace — buong loob. Shout out to the Buong Loob Internship created by the Filipino Mental Health Initiative-SF.

When I learned the language to name feelings I already knew were true, I felt more empowered to act.

I stopped excusing inexcusable behavior within our family structure and talked about it with my partner, our children, and together. We created some very significant boundaries in the form of physical space, access to us, and monetary contributions. It was the hardest thing we have ever had to do. It was a family-size microdose, or probably more like a deeeeep inhale and exhale of liberation.

Teaching myself and kids words and phrases in our native language

I am a daughter of generation 1.5 immigrants. That means my parents immigrated here when they were younger than 13 years old. That also means they went through the American school system during the 1950s and 60s.

Even growing up in the Mission District in San Francisco, my mother remembers children in her elementary school having to sit in the corner with a dunce cap for speaking their native language of Spanish — a clear signal that you must speak English and speak it without an accent in order to assimilate. My grandparents spoke different dialects, so English became the default language she and her eight other siblings grew up speaking.

I have been teaching myself and my children Tagalog and Kampanganan words and phrases — more than bad words and food, thank you — to liberate myself and my children from the separation from our native language.

With my older child, I hopped on the early childhood and parenting train about teaching my baby sign language to communicate without spoken words. When I birthed my second biological child (I am mothering five humans), I decided to very intentionally throw in words and phrases in Tagalog and Kampanganan to go along with the signs they were learning: more please; all done; milk; mama; papa; ate; kuya; various foods, fruits, and vegetables.

This practice has expanded to children’s books, labels, and visual cues around the house and, eventually, online classes. Another shout out to the Filipino WLES program at Longfellow Elementary and Pin@y Educational Partnerships.

Reclaiming our language, one word at a time held a lot of shame for me at first. I wasn’t “Filipino enough” to speak or understand growing up. I had a lot of questions about my Filipinx identity. I wanted to equip myself to address those feelings of belonging and (in)adequacy by learning alongside my children.

Curate spaces for parenting folx to raise liberated kids and practice being free

Being free is not something most of us are taught growing up. We must practice this skill in community with others who are also practicing. We must build safe and sacred spaces in our homes for our children to practice within the systems that seek to dim their light.

It is in these spaces that we can be liberated enough to operate as candles. When one shines bright, light can be passed to another, allowing them to shine bright enough to pass their light on to the next. Becoming liberated from something that has oppressed us can be dark. We need to create light constantly. Luckily, you do not have to do it alone.

If you are seeking a space like this, there are likely ones in your community. If one does not exist, let me empower you to create one. One where y’all can microdose on liberation together. If you want to join me in raising liberated kids, reach out, I’d love to welcome you to our community.

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