Silver Threads

Still walking, still waking

1. Land Back & The Leading Youth - Cherri Foytlin

For the first episode of Silver Threads, carla and Eleanor are joined by Cherri Foytlin. Cherri speaks to the pivotal moments in the wake of the BP oil spill that sparked her lifelong journey as an activist and defender of the land, the water, and the people. She shares stories from her travels throughout the US in support of social movements and fighting environmental racism in her home state of Louisiana. 

She tells us about her time on the frontlines with L’Eau Est La Vie (Water Is Life), organizing along a heavily industrialized stretch of the Mississippi River known as “Cancer Alley,” which is home to predominantly Black and brown communities experiencing disproportionately high rates of disease.

Eleanor and carla also talk with Cherri about how she stays motivated to keep up the fight, finding joy in the work, and drawing inspiration from those who came before her — and from the youth organizing in the streets today.

Cherri Foytlin

BIO

Cherri Foytlin is a Black indigenous Din’e woman, author, mother, speaker, artist, direct action leader and warrior in the US to protect the land and people. She lives in south Louisiana – an area inundated by industrial pollution, the catastrophic effects of climate change and some of the highest cancer rates in the United States. She is the author of “Spill It! The Truth About the Deep Water Horizon Oil Rig Explosion. And is co-founder of L’eau Est La Vie (Water Is Life) protest camp successfully protecting the land against the Bayou Bridge pipeline.

Find Cherri on Twitter at @CherriFoylin1.

About Silver Threads: still walking, still waking

carla bergman and Eleanor Goldfield interview long term organizers about their watershed moments, what they have learned along the way, and how they maintain their hope on this path; dreaming and building emergent worlds for a present and future that is anchored in justice and freedom for all.

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Episode Transcript

[introductory music]

carla
Hi, welcome to Silver Threads: still walking, still waking. This is a show where we talk to long-term organizers and activists about their watershed moments, what they have learned along the way, and how they maintain their hope on this path, dreaming and building emergent worlds for a present and future that is anchored in justice and freedom for all. I’m carla bergman.

Eleanor
And I’m Eleanor Goldfield. And today, we are joined by Cherri Foytlin who’s a Black Indigenous Din’e woman, author, mother, speaker, artist, direct action leader and warrior in the US to protect the land and people. She lives in southern Louisiana, an area inundated by industrial pollution, the catastrophic effects of climate change and some of the highest cancer rates in the country. She’s the author of Spill It! The Truth About the Deepwater Horizon Oil Rig Explosion. And she’s the co-founder of L’eau est la vie (Water is Life) protest camps successfully protecting the land against the Bayou Bridge Pipeline. Thank you so much for being here. 

Cherri
Thank you for having me. 

Eleanor
So, well, let’s start with that watershed moment, which is aptly named considering the work that you do. What was your watershed moment that shifted your thinking when you felt like you really became an activist or a radical?

Cherri
So back in, let’s see, it would have been like 2010, they had the BP oil spill and I was a reporter working in a small town little paper. And I got the opportunity, or was called out by BP, to go out on a boat so they could show us around so that we can see the spill, take pictures and all that. And they got us out there and they just really didn’t show us anything. We barely saw oil, and mostly we talked to the governor and the coaches from the local football teams and things like that. So I’m a features writer, I write about people. So I went down to the gulf that very next weekend and I jumped on a boat with a fisherman and he really showed me what was going on out there. One point we came up on an oil slick there was as far as you could see. And it just kind of encapsulated, went all the way around the boat so we couldn’t go very fast. And in that oil slick, there was a pelican that was having convulsions and stuck in the oil. So we pulled it out onto board and we thought, at first, that we could take it to Fort Jackson to get cleaned up because that’s where they were cleaning the birds at that time. But as we started to go, we realized we couldn’t go very fast. And we also realized that the bird was dying. He just idled down the boat, the fishermen, and him and his little boy, he just started crying and he kind of fell to his knees because he didn’t know at that point what the future was gonna hold for fishing and he had lived there his entire life and his little boy started crying because he probably had never seen his dad cry. We’re talking about a 250 pound Cajun dude like, you know, and so I start crying because people were crying and because this poor pelican, you know, we were all just kind of idled down the boat and sat around this pelican. And I remember going home that night, we end up burying him, and I remember going home that night and just feeling like, man, I looked in the mirror and I just remember asking myself, “What have you been doing?” Like, you know, it’s all so fragile. And it’s not enough just to write a check to Greenpeace every once in a while, you know. You got to get out there and get on your feet. And I bought some solar panels for the house. I just, it was just a complete change in what I felt like was my responsibility to the earth, but mostly to my children. Like, what was I going to leave for them? What was what was going to be left? And what does it mean to be a good mother? What does that mean? So, coming at it from that perspective, and that’s kind of self thought, I decided to put on a little art. We had a little art exhibit, and with you know, pretty pictures from Louisiana and we collected money and we helped people who were down there. And the next thing you know, I was on this walk to DC. I walked from New Orleans to DC, over 1,200 miles, to try to raise awareness about the spill, because once they said the spill was over, everybody stopped looking at it. But the problem was we still had oil coming in every day and tar balls the size of SUVs, you know. So I did that walk, and when I walked, that was the second part of that moment because I walked through town after town dealing with environmental issues, whether it was coal, whether it was uranium mining, or it was sewage, raw sewage in their backyard, it didn’t matter. It was always, always came from poor Black or brown communities. And I could walk, I go to one town and they’d say, “We fought off the bad guys. We won here.” And I go to the town 80 miles up where that very same company was putting in the same thing that they had stopped there. They were putting it in at the new place, you know, and time and again, it was a Black and brown community. So, that’s when I really opened my eyes to the fact that it wasn’t just the BP oil spill, that we had some real problems here as far as like clean water, getting clean water to communities, and as far as the the environmental racism that I was dealing with, or that I was looking at was just so obvious and in your face. So that’s why I decided to put most of my work was to help with environmental sites where I live. I live about 40 minutes or a place called Cancer Alley, which has so much industry there and so many cancers there, that it really was more of a situation of survival, once I started looking. Because, next thing you know, in 2016 and 2017, we had a flood and we lose about a football field every hour, in Louisiana, of land and because of rising sea waters, because you know, the stuff that’s coming down the Mississippi all kinds of stuff. But yeah, I mean that so it all became a situation of just “Are you going to survive this?” You know, are we going to be able to make it? How is the community going to be able to, to deal with everything? So that’s what started it. All that.

Eleanor
So I want to, like following on that. I want to dig into more of the story. Like, you say that was like the watershed moment was the BP oil spill. Like, what was what was part of that story where you realize that you needed to, like, embrace the fight and do more and when you needed to grow? Or, looking back now, is there a part of like that path where you look back and you’re like, “Oh, that’s not a good thing that I thought,” like, I told you, yeah, like, I was a Democrat when I was younger.

Cherri
I was definitely a Democrat at that time. When it started. Yeah, I was trying to think back when I saw this question. I was trying to remember, but I remember this one time somebody had held an event it was called the Battle of New Orleans. And I really supported that event and picked it up and passed it all around not understanding that it was an event based on Andrew Jackson, who basically marched my people across the country and killed them. So yeah, I remember just being like, “Oh.” Yeah, that was the one that I still look back on and I get a little red faced about. Yeah, well, it happened.

Eleanor
Also, like, because part of, you know, part of what carla and I wanted to do with this is like, kind of get rid of some of that some of those feelings of like, you know, always having the right answers and that our spaces have to be like, they’re like purity tests, like everyone knows all of the things already and has like the perfect politics and stuff. So I’m curious like when you first started your journey, what did you feel unsure about? Or what made you feel a little scared or nervous? And do you still have those?

Cherri
Yeah, I was terrified. I mean, I remember going, I spoke at something called the Rally for Economic Survival, which was about the moratorium. And I was the only person to speak on environmental issues. And I remember coming back home and just being like, what the hell did I just do? Like I spoke to 50,000 people, they all knew my name now. Like there was no going back, you know. Yeah, it was scary. It was really scary. But the scariest part was like, just the people that I knew around me. It wasn’t they changed, but I definitely changed, and I was seeing things completely differently. I was traveling to places I had never been before and eating food I’d never eaten before and I was expanding my library and reading a lot. And these people were kind of staying in one place going to work coming home, you know, and they couldn’t understand her life. And then what was happening, and I couldn’t explain it to them, except that, “Have you been paying attention to this? Have you noticed this?” You know, and, and they’re like, we don’t want to notice that. We want to just stay in our bubbles. And so it was really difficult. I remember people really put me down about leaving the kids. I have six kids and, and that was a big one because they know how to really pluck that string, because like any working mother, you want to stay home with your kids, but you got to go to work and you got to get out there, you know. And I consider this work, whether I’m getting paid or not. Because it is. And yeah, so I remember them coming and saying, “you know, you should be home with your kids, you shouldn’t be out.” And I remember being like, this is all for my kids. Like I couldn’t understand it. Well, one night I went to sleep, and I had a dream and somebody came up in my dream and I was just really trying, I guess, to work this out in my head. And I was saying, you know, the people keep telling me I shouldn’t be doing what I’m doing, you know. And whatever it was in that dream in my head said, well, are they coming to help you mow your lawn? No. Well, are they coming to help you teach your kids, so that you can go out and make the world a better place and do the things that you’re doing? Like they want to say, you know, it wasn’t they weren’t against what I was doing, at that point. They were saying I was leaving my kids, but what were they doing to help me? And I really struck me in my dream. I remember waking up and thinking, yeah, what are they doing? They’re talking a lot of smack, but when it really comes, like they, they’re doing it from a way that they act like they really care. But if they did, why aren’t they here, helping me? You know? Or helping me to organize, one or the other, you know, so I can have more time at home with the kids. So, I took the criticism with a grain of salt. I made sure, when we would go somewhere I would take a kid with me just to make sure that everybody got that alone time with mom. And it kind of turned into a thing that we do together as a family and if nothing it deepened and strengthened our relationships in a way that is much more solid now, from my perspective than, than it was when I was asleep. We really felt like I was asleep. Like I didn’t, I don’t know, it was all right there, but I couldn’t see it. And then once I saw it, there wasn’t anything I could, do but do something about it. It wasn’t something you could just walk away from, least not me, and not feel like I was a whole human being, you know?

carla
Yeah. That’s beautiful. I’m also a mom. And when I saw your bio, that you had six children, I was hesitant to even bring it up. Because every time I’m interviewed, interviewers spend a lot of time on that issue of like, “How did you do it? How do you do the work?” And I always wonder, and I’m pretty certain that men don’t get asked that question.

Cherri
That’s it exactly. I remember, early on people would come to me and say, “where’s your kids?” And I wanted to say they’re in the car, or I lost them along the way. Where do you think my kids are? Nobody asked them, my male colleagues, nobody, where their kids were, they just assumed that they were with their wife, you know? All my kids were with my husband. That’s, you know. It’s very discouraging. If you’re going to start this work, you should realize that you’re going to get discouraged at certain times. And you just got to kind of work through that, and stand on your own feet. Because sometimes there’s going to be people that are just going to try and trip you. And some people, it’s not because they even don’t like what you’re doing or whatever. It’s just I think people cannot fathom for the life of them that people would do something not for money, or just with good intention. And sometimes they just, they just cannot wrap their brain around it. So they think that you have to have some ulterior motive or something like that, you know? Or they have to try to find ways to discredit what you’re saying. And sometimes it is on purpose and people coming out to trip you up, but sometimes it’s your own people, you know? I mean, take it with a grain of salt. You know what people say, and really, I like to, whenever somebody says something that’s like discouraging or critiquing, I truly think about it a lot. I can’t not do that. That’s in my nature, you know? But I also realized there’s this point where I have to go, nope, they’re wrong. They’re just wrong, or they’re not thinking about it. Right. And in my own head, just continue to go forward, you know?

carla
Yeah, sounds like you had a lot of trust in yourself and in the cause. How is the journey evolving? I mean, do you feel like you still have things to learn? How are you still remaining curious and open on how to maybe engage with the struggle with the movement?

Cherri
Absolutely. When we did the Bayou Bridge frontline deal, I had to just pull out all the stops, you know? I learned so much. And I’ve learned so much doing what I’m doing right now, which I’m right now I’m at the Governor Baker Institute in Detroit, talking with folks about police violence here. And I’ve had this just amazing lifetime opportunity and privilege that I’ve been able to go around to all these different places and meet with different people and all these communities and learn from them. And I remember early on, one of the people at the Tuskegee, one of the Tuskegee Airmen had said, maybe you should go to SLCC. And like, you know, the school that Dr. King started, you know? And I thought about that really hard but then the next thing you know I was going from place to place and meeting with all these very same people that had been through it. People who had not been through it but who had like years, decades of understanding on how to organize. And I just watched them and listened intently and got a lot of great ideas. So when we were able to do the Bayou Bridge project, we did everything, we threw everything at them. And we, thanks to that creativity that I had just seen across the nation, we did Crawfish, the musical, on the easement. I mean, it was a full musical on the easement, and people I mean, the workers would stop and clap. I’m not kidding. We would shut them down all day doing the musical. And then we had beach parties. We went to the communities and had art parties with all the kids. We did Juneteenth. We did Christmas celebrations. That’s just to organize before any direct action ever started, ee did those things and really, really connected with that community and deep down. I would never have known how to do any of that except for people like Marian Kramer, people like that who were able to lift us up and really teach us as younger people. Anyways, that’s 10 years ago now, I’m not so young. But really teach us how to engage with people and what to expect. I remember simple things like people saying to me, make sure you have food at your events to make sure that people in the evening time so that people can eat and stay there. Just little simple stuff like that, to, you know, are you engaging with people in a way that is equitable? Are you being ableist? Just, you know, those kinds of challenges and questions that make you really think and turn around like, well, what was I doing that the right way? And then you got to go back and, and whatever it takes to fix that and to do it the right way moving forward. And you just learn, it’s like anything, you know, learning to ride a bike. I don’t know everything. I am learning all the time. People are teaching me, young and old. You don’t have to be an elder to be a teacher. And I’m learning from these young folks that are out in the street right now, going down, kicking ass. I’m so proud of them. Like, I just want to step back and watch. They’re doing such a great, amazing job right now. You know, those are the people that inspire me to do good, to learn and do better. And I always have more things to learn. There’s always going to be more things to learn. It’s not like the injustices are going anywhere, you know? So we just make ourselves better and better to try to defeat those where we can and how we can.

Eleanor
And I mean, I know that there’s, I can think of one who’s related to you that would fit the bill for this next question, but an organizer, you know, you mentioned that you pull a lot from young folks just as much as elders, but like is there a newer organizer or activist that really inspires you?

Cherri
Yeah, my baby girl Jaden, she’s one of the climate kids that’s suing the government for inaction on climate change. And she keeps me going. She’s just a happy-go-lucky kid that, you know, really, really cares about the environment. But if I had to say one person right now that I’m crazy about is Justin Jones out there in, let’s see. He’s in Nashville, Tennessee. They’ve had an occupation there, for I think 46 days now. They stayed right outside the Capitol. They got the Bedford, Nathaniel Bedford bust taken down in the Capitol building. And they’ve just been out there, they have had their ass kicked. People went out there and they were physically assaulted, thrown off of things, you know. And they had their stuff confiscated. But they keep coming out every day. And I was at one of their general assemblies, and they asked the question, “Who wants to come out tomorrow? And almost everybody raised their hand and they said, “Who can stay 24 hours?” And almost everybody raised their hand. So, and we’re looking at you know, 50 to 100 people out there every day. And they’re not getting no news crews out there. Ain’t nobody watching them. But they are making a difference because they’re, we know because of the reaction of the police. The way they’re making their governor sweat, but they’re trying to take down those statues that are there, and they want to meet with the governor and I think they’re gonna be able to do it if they keep up the work that they’re doing.

[musical interlude]

Eleanor
You’re listening to Silver Threads, part of the Grounded Futures multimedia platform. For more information and to donate to our totally ad-free show, check out groundedfutures.com. You can reach out to us with thoughts and suggestions at silverthreadsshow@protonmail.com. You can find out more about our host, Eleanor, via artkillingapathy.com, and our host carla via joyfulthreadsproductions.com. And now, back to the show.

[musical interlude]

carla
So just thinking about the time we’re in right now and the pandemic, and if there’s anything about this current crisis of covid changing how you’re engaging, or, yeah, like just speak to maybe this moment in time. 

Cherri
Yeah, I’ve been doing mutual support in Cancer Alley and mutual aid support as much as possible. And then also on the Navajo Nation, we had delivered some food down there. One of my greatest successes, things I’m most proud of is Indian Bayou Food Forest, which is the land that Bayou Bridge was supposed to go through, but they didn’t. We made them reroute around us, and now we turned that into a 11 acre food forest. It’s feeding people in Cancer Alley, feeding people in New Orleans. And we’re just growing using Indigenous techniques to try to grow food. Yeah. And so that’s been really helpful. I didn’t realize that the covid was going to happen, when it did, or how valuable that it would be to have that as a resource. I mean, we knew it was going to be valuable, but it just came so quickly that people needed food. And we collected sanitizer and masks and we were able to deliver all those. But like I said, we knew we were going to have food, we just didn’t realize that the covid was going to come and make it so… We also give away plants for people to grow their own food. So we didn’t realize that it was going to come so soon and that we’d be needed so much.

Eleanor
I actually spoke with Yam down at yeah, yeah to get some tips on urban farming, because we’re trying to do something similar in DC. So, in line with that, like, does the current crisis, like what we’re going through now give you more or less hope for the future?

Cherri
Gosh, hope is such a scarce commodity these days, isn’t it? We say that, and then people are still on the street. So, I mean, it’s there, right? People are still fighting. I don’t know if covid gives me hope or not. I worry about the people that we’re losing. And I wouldn’t consider it a joyous thing for sure. But I will say, it’s the kids in the street that give me help, you know? They’re all masked-up and being smart about it, and I really appreciate that. But yeah, I’ll think about that a little bit. I think I have more hope now than I ever had. And that’s just because of seeing these young kids out in the street and seeing them stand up for themselves and be smart about it. They’re so freakin’ smart. Like, you know, when they see tear gas and they’re throwing cones on it in the pouring water in it, and they’re lobbing them, the tear gas canisters back and things like that, you know? That’s stuff that they’ve learned from all over the world, and that they’ve picked up and it’s truly inspiring just to see their tenacity. So I don’t know, I probably talked all the way around that. Does covid give me hope? No, people give me hope.

carla
That’s beautiful. I mean, I’m just I’m still stuck on you’re feeling more hope now than ever. That’s just beautiful.

Cherri
Yeah, I love these babies.

Eleanor
So, like in terms of radicalism is like, well, I mean, I’m a word nerd. Words carry so much weight. And so when you say something like radicalism, it means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. So what does radicalism mean to you?Just in general, but also like specifically to where you are?

Cherri
It’s a word that people, radicalism is a word that people have labeled me with on many occasions. But I don’t see what I’m doing as radical. I see what I’m doing as just the need for humanity, injected into my life and injected into this into this country, you know. Is it radical, was it radical, like, you know, when Dr. King was fighting years ago, or Malcolm X, or it was at the time, wasn’t it? But now we see it as just justice, just justice being served, you know. Thinking back 500 years, people in my ancestry have been fighting and standing up and surviving, and to just be a drop in that little bucket, to be a little link in that chain is an honor to me. It really is. I feel good. When I’m in the street, I feel good when I’m standing up for our rights, I feel good. I think there should be joy in activism. And even though sometimes it does feel like a burden, I know it does to people out there. If it doesn’t bring that joy in your heart, then you really need to rethink where you’re standing. Because it should make you feel, like, it should make you feel proud. It should make you feel strong. If it doesn’t, then you need to rethink what you’re working on.

carla
What do you think gets in the way of that collective joy or that collective thriving?

Cherri
Gosh, I mean, sometimes it seems like there’s been times before that we’ve had winds and the winds were taken away, like immediately. We put a stop to the pipeline, and then like, well look at what happened with Dakota Access Pipeline. Just recently, we had a major wind that said, drain that pipeline. And what did Kelcy Warren do? He said, No, he’s not going to do it. And no one is forcing him on any kind of state federal level to demand that he does that. That right there can be demoralizing when you see that. They make the rules. We play by the rules and we win, and then yet we still lose. But that to me is just something, I try to turn that into something that pushes me to move forward or to go farther or to just break that damn system. It’s the whole system that needs to come down. I mean, that’s why I’m not a Democrat anymore, you know.

Eleanor
Yeah, I wouldn’t when you were talking about being like a link in that chain. I thought of the story. I don’t know if you want to share it, but it’s this story that you shared about suffering from the disease called colonialism.

Cherri
Oh, colonization, colonization. Yeah, that was funny story. I tell you, we were in… Where was I at? Oh, I was in Dallas and we had just disrupted a shareholder meeting and I unfortunately got arrested. I rarely try to get arrested, to be honest, but it just happens. And when I was taken to, I don’t remember. But I remember when we got to the jail, they had you go see a nurse right away, you know, and I was acting up, you know, silly and she said, she said, What do you have any diseases, or any any chronic diseases? And I said, Yeah, colonization, she and the lady just wrote it down and I thought, well, she’s gonna go with it, I’m gonna go with it, you know. So I just kept saying, so, we get back to the other, because that was the intake person, get back to the nurse, and the nurse is like, it says here you have ‘colonization.’ And was like “what the hell is that?” I said, Yeah, it’s when white people crawl up your ass and they won’t leave you know, just joking, just being funny. And I thought it was the funniest joke I’d ever heard my life. You know, I thought she would laugh but she did not laugh. They put me in solitary. Ended up staying there for a day. But I remember sitting in solitary saying it was worth it.

Eleanor
I think that’s my favorite arrest story I’ve ever heard.

Cherri
Yeah, for sure. There’s been some crazy ones. I remember one time and it was in St. Martin parish. Actually, I was in jail for a felony. They passed a law in Louisiana that you could get a felony if you trespass, their quote, their words, trespass on “critical Infrastructure” and that’s all their words, which meant the pipeline. And so we got arrested and I got taken in the back and all that stuff they do. And then they brought me back. I stayed there for the night and the next morning they brought me back out. And he puts the handcuffs on me and says you’re arrested. I said, I know I’m in jail. I figured that part out, you know, they’re like, no, you’re arrested again. I think I’m the only person that’s ever been arrested while I was in jail. Re-read me my rights and everything and then charged me another felony, signed up for two felonies. 

carla
Some more colonization illness.

Cherri
Yeah, definitely. That guy had some colonization happening.

carla
Well, I was actually just looking you up a bit. And I saw this quote, and feel free if you don’t want to talk about it, but you had talked about your ancestors, “I would have liked to have known them when they were alive. I know how they died. I want to know how they lived.” And it made me really curious to know if you’ve been exploring that more. And if you want to share a bit about that.

Cherri
You know, yeah, I mean, one of the things that we do in my culture is, when we first start to bring everyone together, a lot of times I’ll ask everyone to think about their ancestors and bring them into the room. Because no matter where you come from, somebody had to have some grit to get you there. And this is a hard ass world to live in. So if they made it this far, then somebody who was fighting real hard to make sure that you made it into this world. I believe that every person is special, every single person. And I think that every time we end up, like cutting life short that we’re cutting off all of humanity’s opportunity to learn and grow from that person and for that person to be a part of us. We never know what anyone’s potential is, it doesn’t matter who they are, we don’t know. Only they do, and our job as society is to bring out the best of that potential so that we can move forward together in our humanness and humanity. So for us, we call the ancestors into the room, or I do, very often in order to remind people where they came from, so that they can know more about where they’re going or where they could go, right. I haven’t been doing a lot of genealogy or anything like that. But I definitely do feel connected to the people who came before me and in particular, people within my family who I’ve come from a long line of strong women, and luckily, they’re all in me and I tell the kids to like on the daily like all those women, strong women are in you too, especially my daughters, you know. And, just, you can reach out to them, you can call out to them and ask for help and ask them to come help you and they will. 

Eleanor
Yeah, and I totally feel that especially, because right now I’m home in Sweden. And I feel like every time I come back here, I feel like a plant that’s, like, finally in her own dirt. I’m just like, ah, yeah, that’s it… So kind of, in terms of like, the creative thing that you’re mentioning, is there like a specific like book or a song or even like a creative action that was a spark for you as well, or like something that you’d recommend to people who are also on this journey?

Cherri
I read “An Accidental Activist” by Diane Wilson out there in Texas. And that was right before I did my first arrest. And I just remember and I couldn’t quote words for you, but I can say that, paraphrase, she basically was just saying that it’s not enough, you know what we’re doing. And then it’s going to take mass arrests and mass action to get people to get into the streets and to give up. And she also talked about what that sacrifice looked like, and how you could give your body and give yourself in that way, you know, and I believed her. And that’s the first time I went out. I tried to take some tar balls back to BP and ended up getting arrested. Sitting down waiting for them to get there, ended up getting arrested in the meantime. And it was all just because her words were just so inspiring. So it’s “Accidental Activist” by Diane Wilson out there in Texas.

Eleanor
Kind of in line with that, like, what would you say to folks, because I’ve had some conversations recently, which is exciting that more and more people are looking to get trained and to, you know, work with mutual aid or whatever it may be. But they say that they’re, you know, they’re afraid because they don’t want to get tear gassed, they don’t want to get arrested. And it’s not like I enjoy getting tear gassed or anything. But like, what would you say to them if they feel that like, they kind of want to fight, but they’re afraid.

Cherri
Back when I was doing the Bayou Bridge fight, I had a situation where I came home late one night, and some people lured me out into a field and just beat the crap out of me with a bunch of belts. And I came back in, I started to, it’s the first time I ever lied to my kid. And I told him, I just fell down, you know? And he was like, Whoa, how did that, you really fell, you know, and I went in and took a shower and I said, well, that happened. So now I got two choices. I could have let them beat the fear into me. And I could have left then, or stop doing what I was doing. But I said, I’m thinking I’m gonna let them have beat the fear out of me. And so when I got up that next morning, I remember that we went straight to an action and we did over 100 actions in the next few days, the next month or two. And I remember just feeling like I wasn’t afraid anymore. They they, they lost that. So yeah, it’s a scary thing. You get out in it and you realize it’s not quite as scary as you thought and you really begin to see your own strength and your own tenacity and your own joy in the struggle. And it’s not as hard as you would think, to stand up. It’s really not and we need people of all kinds too. We don’t necessarily need everybody to be on the line. It’s great to have bodies on the line. That’s important to have bodies on the line. But we also need people doing jail support. We need people who are making the posters that we carry. We need people who are setting up the website, the social media, and all of those things, the medics, oh my god, I don’t know what we do without the medics, you know. These people who are, who are educated themselves, mostly in understanding how to protect people and how to deal with all these, you know, any accidents or whatever happened to give water to people, you know. All those people are important. We don’t need to, I mean, they’re just all important. We have to have them in order to do the work that we’re doing. So you don’t have to be out there on that line. But if you are going to be on that line, you’re a warrior. And your spirit is strong, and you have your ancestors with you. And you just got to be brave. I’m so sick and sad that these people are getting killed at these protests. And I’m so sick and sad that we have a president, other administrators that align with the people who are doing the killing. They basically put a target on the back of all protesters, but especially Black and brown protesters by saying things like, just run them over, you know, or carrying guns to a protest. Like we had someone shot in Austin just a couple days ago, you know. It was, for my understanding a good person, doesn’t matter.  He didn’t deserve to die. I don’t know. We’ve also seen a lot of joy, and a lot of solidarity. And we’ve seen a lot of people stand up in ways that they never thought that they could before. And we’ve seen very little COVID come out of these, because people care enough to wear masks and to social distance and to be real smart about it, sanitize correctly. So yeah, I guess my only advice to you is, if you’re made for the line, you’ll know it and you’ll get out there and if you’re not, there’s plenty of other things to do. Get in there and ask and people will tell you.

carla
I think that’s just so important, too. I often, people, think they have one vision of what an activist or an organizer is. And it’s just so, it’s so I mean, in a lot of ways, it’s the most horizontal playing field of any, any other social gathering of colonialism. I think then I think we haven’t even reached our potential what people could offer in the movements. So it’s really good to bring that home and we also need tons and tons of bodies on the frontline. Need those warriors. So, thank you. That’s beautiful. Thank you. Well, I just I mean, I’m just so intrigued with how much joy just comes through this phone line, this distance, through, you know, the pandemic where we’re all kind of zoomed in with each other. And I just, I can feel your joy coming through and I would love for you to speak more about how you cultivate that, how it’s there. Yeah. Is it with your ancestors, is it? I don’t want to put words in your mouth. So yeah, how do we keep the joy alive in all of us?

Cherri
Keep watching those kids, those kids who are in the streets now. And, these are kids I used to babysit. Some of them are the same age as my kids. They’re still out there. Some of them are my kids! They’re still fighting. There’s no way to be sad about that. They’re just an amazing group of people that are in the streets right now. I’ve been so glad and proud to support. I’ve just been doing a lot of travelling and supporting people in whatever way they ask, or don’t. No, I’m kidding. In whatever way they ask. And just show up. I just try to show up. And that makes me happy.

Eleanor
Yeah, and I think that’s really what you said earlier, if you don’t feel the joy, you’ve got to sit with that and figure out what’s going on.

Cherri
Yeah, rethink it.

Eleanor
I often tell people that the work that I do has made me see some of the worst parts of humanity, but the other side of that is that I’ve seen the best that humans are capable of.

Cherri
No doubt, no doubt. I see, you know everything from water distribution sites to people here in Detroit, to the people holding down in Nashville. We went to a place just recently where people, the Give No Fucks Coalition, if I remember that correctly, did a march, you know. And I’ve never seen so few cops. There was nobody there. Times are changing, for sure. It’s exciting and a little scary.

carla
We’ll put up your details of how people can reach you, but is there anything you want to take this last minute to say, or how people can help or support your projects, or websites.

Cherri
Give native people their land back. Land Back 2020. That’s the number one thing. And stop policing the movement yourself, you know. Let people, I feel like everybody has their own way they’re going to interact with the movement, or interact with the actions. Allow them to do that. Allow them space to learn and grow, and don’t be so criticizing or so damning to people who make mistakes. That’s my biggest thing right now. Especially when you’re dealing with young folk. They’ve got to figure this out themselves, and that means they need space to figure it out without someone older than them telling them they’re doing wrong beforehand. Let them fail sometimes. It’s okay. They’ll get back up. They’ll dust themselves off and they’ll be smarter for it. So, don’t try to over-police the movement, is my number one thing. Give land back to native folks, because we know what we’re doing with it. And we’ve always been protectors of this land. It’s the right thing to do.

[musical interlude]

Eleanor
Silver Threads is recorded in different places, across borders. carla is located in Canada, on Squamish, Musqueam, and Tsleil-Waututh lands. Eleanor is located here and there, usually either in Sweden or on Pas land, now known as Washington, DC. And our guests join us from around the world. You can find out more about us and our guests at groundedfutures.com. To learn more about Eleanor’s work, visit artkillingapathy.com and follow her on Twitter and Instagram @activisteleanor. And carla, please follow her on Twitter and Instagram @joyfulcarla. You can also reach out directly to us at silverthreadsshow@protonmail.com. And lastly, if you want to support the making of the show, you can donate over at groundedfutures.com, write in Silver Threads. And a special thank you to the Grounded Futures team for supporting us, with post-production and promotion. All those snazzy graphics y’all see online, those are created by Jamie-Leigh Gonzales. Grounded Futures is a multimedia platform and is produced by carla bergman, Jamie-Leigh Gonzales, and Melissa Roach. Post-production audio for our show is done by Jamie-Leigh Gonzales with support from Chris Bergman and Eleanor Goldfield. Thanks for listening. Now, let’s go rattle thrones and topple empires.

[musical outro]

End of transcript.
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