“If we didn’t inherit a land-based home, then how do we create that in this lifetime?” Eliana on home.

the following is an interview with my partner eliana as part of my home project. eliana gave this interview at the very end of our three-month-long roadtrip. it was a year ago we set off on this trip, and two years ago this month when we became partners in adventure, love, and making home. eliana is an organizer, activist, doula, herbalist, among other things, and i’m not even a little bit sorry for loving on them in this public way! content note: the following conversation discusses ancestral trauma and colonization.


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Who are you and where are we?

My name is Eliana and we’re currently at Fancyland, a queer artist and activist retreat center in northern California.

Do you have a place you consider your home of origin?

Thinking about my home of origin brings up a lot of different things. Being on this roadtrip for the past few months and being in so many different places, I’ve had a felt sense that my home of origin is in California, in the Bay Area, as the place I grew up and have spent the majority of my life. Thinking about ancestry and where I come from in my actual origin stories feels really different. Both of my parents moved to California in their lifetime so it’s not like I have even one or two generations of history in California, let alone the historic and ongoing legacies of imperialism, colonization, and migration patterns that have really changed the landscape of this country.

It’s a loaded question and one that I’m thinking about a lot in terms of where do I really come from. When people ask me, ‘where are you from?’ I think it’s so much more complicated than where was I born or where did I grow up. For me it’s about a history in eastern Europe of Jews migrating because of being persecuted. Relatively speaking, that’s a recent history, and I don’t even know where my family of origin came from before that. It’s an ongoing search and discovery to uncover my own origin story and the origin stories of the people whose land I’m on and occupying.

In what ways do your origin stories and histories impact your current search for home?

I used to think about the connection between my ancestors’ patterns of migrations and my own lifetime of moving — the relationship between those two things was fascinating to me when I was starting to learn about my family history. I have this inclination to move a lot and never really feel at home. When I delve deeper into that realm I realize that it is so in my bones and in my blood that for so many generations, my family was constantly moving and searching for home and trying to feel safe. Even though that’s not an experience that I have lived in my life — a real physical threat to my safety being the motivating factor for moving — I feel like there’s something in me that is very nomadic. I feel a constant impulse towards moving.

At the same time, I don’t want to just live out of my ancestral trauma or current struggle for a sense of belonging. I want to heal and find ways of feeling safe and at home that are generative and accountable to the indigenous people and stories of the land I am on.

What do you think that looks like?

It looks like digging roots in deep and not giving up or letting go when things get hard. Trusting that even in moments of tension or struggle where my stability might feel threatened, that I’m at home in my body. It looks like community and political organizing that ensures we all have access to healing and home.

When you are at home in your body, how does that feel? What is that like?

Being at home in my body feels like my face is relaxed and my muscles are just sort of hanging off my bones. There’s a sense of the neurological response of ‘rest and digest.’ I’m not in fight or flight, I’m not clenched or defending myself or pushing out into the world. It’s very much a settling in and relaxation and also an openness and vulnerability. I feel very at home in my body when I’m naked, by myself, in the bathtub, or with loved ones. I feel very at home in my body when I can see my whole body and hold myself. The different ways I’m able to connect to the wholeness of who I am makes me feel at home. Feeling the length between my feet and my head, the width between my shoulders, and just filling out the different dimensions of my body is really grounding and makes me feel at home.

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What does it feel like to be at home in the space around you?

Being at home in the space around me has a lot to do with building history with the space around me. Going back to the question of my home of origin, that’s why the Bay Area feels that way and why I feel at home there. I have history there, and I have that connection to being in the place around me. I know how to get around, I run into people, I have a sense of community. I think that’s something that can be inherited when people have long histories of land-based community that are really grounded in a particular place. I also think it can be built for those of us who don’t have histories of being land-based. That ties into the question, what does it mean to be a Jew living in diaspora, or any kind of diasporic identity? If we didn’t inherit a land-based home, then how do we create that in this lifetime? That feels like a really exciting challenge to build that history and build that community wherever I am. To find and create home that doesn’t perpetuate cycles of ethnic cleansing and colonization but instead is part of creating anti-oppressive, regenerative cultures that honor our relationships to each other and to the land. To know that I can build off of my own traditions and legacies that are connected to a piece of land, that help me feel that sense of place and belonging and home.

Tell me about your tangible goals and intentions around building that.

I’ve had a vision for a long time of co-creating a land-based community and having some sort of queer land project or farm or collective. I’ve used different words to describe it over the years. I’m getting to a point in my life where I’m really ready to make that happen. I’m looking into all of the different components that are important to me in making that happen. The people who are involved is obviously a huge component, like building and creating and sustaining family, including my family of origin, my chosen family, and my community. I want to bring those people into my visions in in an intentional way, and more importantly create a collective vision together. I have my own vision of queer sanctuary and a space for healing and fueling social justice movements, and also, so much of my vision will be shaped by whoever is involved in making that collective vision together. I don’t know. I’m feeling like it’s hard to get into tangible things from big ideas.

What are your next steps into turning big ideas into tangible things?

On this roadtrip, visiting different land projects and collectives was a powerful next step. I’ve been reflecting and seeing that a lot of the intentions I set and a lot of what I needed to do has happened on this trip and will continue to happen as I process and digest all of the information I’ve gathered from people and places I’ve visited. Following this trip, I’m looking forward to moving onto my friends’ farm that they just bought in Oroville, California. It’s already a working farm and there’s a lot of work that needs to be done. There’s potential for collectivizing. I feel a sense of hope and possibility. I’ll learn so much just from living there, and whatever form it might take, that feels like a good next step. The potential of that physical place being one that I could begin a collective process of visioning and strategizing and developing a structure is really exciting to me.

When I have a deep and intimate relationship to the people and plants and animals around me and am building history over time in that place, that’s when I’ll feel at home.

Tell me about how being on the road has impacted your sense of home — everything from moving around so much and not having a literal, physical space to call home, and also visiting different homes and talking to a lot of different people about the visions they’re in the process of creating?

Being on the road for three months definitely challenged my ideas of what being at home really means. It was hard in a lot of ways to not have a physical space that was mine, that was home. In some ways I do feel like the car became that. Collecting little trinkets and stones from places we went and having those things in the car and seeing that altar be built gave me a sense of home. And realizing, yeah, I really can make home in so many ways with pretty limited resources. Finding the things that make me feel comfortable and building those in more really supported me being able to sustain myself on this trip. Getting to places and having a door to close made a big difference.

On the flip side, constantly being in motion was challenging. Some years ago, I was traveling for the same amount of time but only stayed in two or three different places in the course of three months. I was able to make home in each place I was and have a little altar next to my bed and things like that. On this trip, moving on anywhere from every day to once a week at the most, was a lot of uprooting. It was really exhausting. I can’t imagine living a whole life like that. I always knew how important it was to me to have a stable home to come back to. Not having it on this trip was hard. There’s no ways for me to touch base with myself. It’s so much harder to settle in and just get into the rhythm of, ‘I’m in my space, I’m safe, no one’s coming in, no one needs anything from me right now, I’m not on my way somewhere or arriving from somewhere, I’m just here.’ That feeling of being in my room and being at home is so deeply restorative. It feels like not that much to ask. It feels really basic to want to be in a space, not be bothered, not have to go anywhere, and just be present with myself. That feels like a human need and a human right, to safe and secure housing and to care for ourselves and each other in that way. This trip has worn on me in not having that and I’m really looking forward to settling in and having more downtime.

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me and eliana’s last day at the farm in the sierra foothills

In what ways are you seeking home, and in what ways have you found home?

Even though home is tied to a physical space for me so much of the time, I do feel like the physicality of home has and will change. The seeking and finding home has less to do with seeking and finding a physical home and more about opening my eyes to all of the ways that I do have home, particularly in relationship to other people.

I have a deep knowing that I’ll never be without a home, and that there’s so many people who would hold me and host me and show up for me in that way. I mean, whatever, maybe not. Maybe I can’t say I’ll never be without a home. The apocalypse could happen, you know. things happen. (laughs) I just feel like I have such a loving family and community, and my relationship to you — my partner, Freddie — is a huge way that I’m both seeking home and feel like I’ve found home. That was also really clear on the road. There’s so much more work to be done in building this relationship that we have and making it be one that is a source of grounding and home. And in times where I was struggling or felt homesick or felt unsafe in any varying degrees, I could really call on that relationship and just feel held in it, and loved, and that made all the difference to feel at home in my heart and in my body.

healing in nature & relationships as resistance

between periods of nonstop rain, we’ve begun to have warm, sunny days of thawing out, and it feels like springtime is emerging. it feels good to be living in sonoma county, both for the healing properties of the redwoods and ocean, and for the proximity to my loved ones and community in the bay. oroville, the town eli and i just moved from, has been in the news lately due to a recent evacuation order and fears of flooding from the dilapidated spillway of the oroville dam. i have been thinking of our friends at the farm tons. they are safely positioned above the dam, but taking serious precautions to prepare for an emergency, just in case. it’s so intense to think about the thousands of mostly poor and working class residents dealing with the uncertain safety and stability of their homes, at the same time the newly appointed leaders of the executive branch are ferociously denying the impact of climate change.

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a panoramic photo from the sonoma coast

i have begun my work as an in home support person for a couple of different folks in the area. the duties include everything from housekeeping to running errands to more creative endeavors, and it feels like unique and important work. over the years i continue to find a lot of power and strength in relationship building across lines of identity, ability, and oppression. i don’t mean for that to sound lofty or self-important. it’s not glamorous work by any means and i don’t kid myself that the support i offer is some all-encompassing solution to these folks’ problems. but as i’ve written before… enacting structural change feels super daunting most of the time, while relationship building both helps me step into my own power and transform, and has the potential to do the same for others as well. so, it’s work i’m learning a lot from. i am grateful and humbled to be doing it.

while my process for finding my place in this moment and movement of resistance feels slow, it is in motion. i am trying to balance showing up for action with finding ways to contribute and support grassroots efforts in more sustained ways. i would like to share the inspiration, excitement, and even hope i felt while joining with many hundreds of others at SFO a little while ago to shut down the airport and demand that the people detained due to the xenophobic, islamophobic travel ban be released.

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brooke anderson photography

first of all, it was amazing to see the airport filled with resistance, as airports are places i associate closely with heavy security, policing, and being on one’s best behavior. not to mention the ways that protesting in an airport makes things so much more accessible for families with kids, disabled folks, and elders — there are ample bathrooms, water, food, electrical outlets, and physically accessible means of getting around. there is lots of good information and resources floating around about the necessity of making movement work accessible, please do yourself a favor and read some if that’s not already an integral part of your work! i’ve found sins invalid and the icarus project to be great resources on this front.

one amazing thing about being a part of the SFO shutdown and protest was seeing the wide swaths of people who seemed totally willing to participate in civil disobedience and direct action under the leadership of AROC (arab resource and organizing center) with support from APTP (anti-police terror project). like many others i have my critiques about culture/politics around the women’s marches, but was so pleased and excited to see folks in their “pussy hats” ready and willing to lock arms and stand their ground to prevent police and angry passengers alike from passing through. it made me feel hopeful — perhaps in spite of the very valid critiques around inclusivity (particularly in relationship to race and people who don’t identify as women), the mass mobilization the women’s march provided can really lead to a popular movement of inclusive, effective resistance in this era of a fascist regime. alicia garza wrote a great piece related to this called, “our cynicism will not build a movement. collaboration will.” here’s a short excerpt:

“Hundreds of thousands of people are trying to figure out what it means to join a movement. If we demonstrate that to be a part of a movement, you must believe that people cannot change, that transformation is not possible, that it’s more important to be right than to be connected and interdependent, we will not win…

I remember who I was before I gave my life to the movement. Someone was patient with me. Someone saw that I had something to contribute. Someone stuck with me. Someone did the work to increase my commitment. Someone taught me how to be accountable. Someone opened my eyes to the root causes of the problems we face. Someone pushed me to call forward my vision for the future. Someone trained me to bring other people who are looking for a movement into one.”

one moment i witnessed: a line of about 15 riot police approached a small group of folks banded together to block an airport escalator, and ask them to move. they refused, and someone from APTP told the riot cops to leave. after a few moments, the riot cops turned walked away. i have never seen that happen before. it was powerful. (view democracy now’s coverage of the SFO protests here.)

thanks to the folks at protests and online who have pointed out the fundamental error in the sentiment, “we are all immigrants.” we are not all immigrants. notably, native people and black folks whose ancestors were brought here forcibly as slaves are not immigrants. i am a white settler, the descendent of great grandparents who immigrated from ireland to turtle island (aka the U.S.), which was stolen from indigeneous people. there is power in unity, but it is equally important and powerful to highlight the difference in our histories and experiences — and how if anything, that should serve to strengthen the collectivity in our struggles.

btw — i’ve done some re-organizing of my small monthly donations to include AROC. please do the same if you can, even $5-10 a month makes a difference for grassroots organizations. even better, seek out a muslim/arab led organizing group in your community, if you are not in the bay area.

on a personal note, i celebrate two years in my loving partnership with eliana this month, and am so grateful for the exploration, support, laughter, transformation, and love our relationship continues to bring me! this might be a little embarrassing for them to read. but rad, queer love is resistance and i am proud and grateful to be in it!

“love is an action, never simply a feeling.” (bell hooks)

til next time,

xo freddie

ps – !!!!!!!!

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“i have three hearts”

what’s going on? j20 and beyond

waking up at four a.m. to pounding rain and dramatic thunder and lightning was a bit cliche for what felt like the doomsday of a certain neo-fascist’s presidential inauguration. miraculously the storm cleared in time for the people to gather in the streets of san francisco and far beyond, all around the globe. i am deeply honored to have been able to stand with resilient and inspiring activists and community members to take a stand not just against the new u.s. administration, but against the country’s legacy of white supremacy, colonialism, and violence that made it possible.

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blocking off the parking garage entrance for 555 california street, the second tallest building in san francisco, 30% of which is owned by the new president. photo by brooke anderson photography.

the atmosphere throughout the day felt strangely celebratory, in spite of the terrible event we were there to protest. but i realize that is is imperative for people and communities overlooked and oppressed by those in power to gather to celebrate survival, resistance, and our commitment to love and support one another. i’m not talking about feel-good “love trumps hate” stuff. i’m talking about standing together in the face of danger to defend the lives of the most vulnerable against a regime which is only becoming more hostile to us all. i’m talking about acknowledging the labor and struggles that are invisibilized and diminished by white supremacy, patriarchy, and capitalism. i’m talking about fighting for each other like we were family. all of us — with different identities and experiences of race, gender, class, and ability — need each other to thrive. we need to lift each other up to win.

we did some singing in the streets today and although i’m exhausted i was inspired to record this cover of “what’s up” by the four non-blondes. please note i am still learning how to use my voice, both literally (thanks T) and in a woo-woo sense…

i know today is just the beginning of this particular regime of violence. i’m seeing lots of loved ones and strangers who have never hit the streets before now, out and about and planning to keep at it. i sometimes bristle at seeing messaging that doesn’t feel quite right, or feel annoyed at someone’s shock to learn about police violence and state repression. but i, too, am learning every day. it takes all kinds. one thing i remain resolute about is my firm belief in the importance of taking leadership from populations most likely to be impacted by discrimination and violence — black and brown folks, muslims, transgender women of color, immigrants and refugees, and disabled folks, to name a few.

that said, i have to speak out about one thing and i hope that folks newer to attending protests will consider it: it’s okay if you don’t want to be around window smashing, and it’s okay if you disagree with it as a tactic (though, it’s worth learning why many consider it strategic in certain situations). but, do not conflate property damage with violence. think about who defines violence and who gets criminalized. i repeat — it’s okay if you don’t approve of window smashing, and if you don’t want to be at risk for experiencing police violence, it’s a rather good idea to find an exit strategy  if that starts happening. but, do not take photos of property destruction, do not ‘snitch,’ do not do anything that incriminates people (this includes posting on social media, which we know law enforcement relies on for policing). if you’re committed to observing and stopping violence, learn some principles of copwatch and turn your camera on the police.

we’ve got a long and hearty fight ahead. please join me in seeking to be humble and open to learning and strategizing how we can resist oppression and defend all communities at risk.

shoutout to everyone i have been fortunate enough to learn from, in relationships and in action and in writings and by example. i am gratefully indebted to you.

xoxo freddie

ps – would very much welcome articles/additional resources that are more in-depth explanations of how/when property damage may be considered a strategic protest tactic. i know i’ve read ’em, but i can’t find them now. thanks!