In July 2019, Cat Murcek, worker owner at Samamkaya Yoga and Scoliosis Collective attended the Roots and Remedies conference on behalf of the USFWC.
At this year’s Roots & Remedies convening organized by Praxis Project in Seattle, WA, the connection to community and the variety of local indigenous and immigrant cultures was truly powerful. The theme, “celebrating, healing, and futuring,” addressed some of the most essential ingredients necessary for any community to thrive and served as a guide for the weekend that brings together social justice organizers and activists from across the country.
On our first day together we had the privilege to attend different sites around Seattle with particular significance around social justice. To make the experience even more colorful, there were two vintage, colorfully decorated and built out social justice buses to deliver some of us to our destinations! I was grateful to have attended the site visit to the Benson East apartment complex where a community of predominantly immigrant renters were able to achieve collective ownership of their apartment complex which they democratically manage together to this day. That evening we were treated to gluten free halal plates by Lish Catering at the Southside Commons, a hub for many social justice efforts in the Seattle area. An inspiring plenary including Estela Ortega (El Centro de la Raza), Mike Tulee (United Indians of All Tribes), and Violet Lavatai (Seattle Tenants’ Union) followed by an open mic night closed out the night.
Our second day together was full of workshops and plenaries focused around healing. We were hosted by El Centro de la Raza, a space with an incredible story of being an abandoned school building that local community members of many races together occupied and were able to achieve ownership to run community programs. It was hard to choose which workshops to attend because there were too many great ones. The morning alone offered Power mapping led by the Native Organizers Alliance, Popular education by the Highlander Center, “Embodying Liberation” Eagle Evolution Consulting, and several different healthy cooking kitchen workshops. These morning workshops offered alternative ways to think about healing not only oneself but to help support our communities. After lunch provided by local food vendors, at the afternoon plenary on what “healing together ” could look like with Oyatune Amakisi (Detroit Women of Color), Lai Wa Wu (Chinese Progressive Association), and Guy Reiter (Menikanaehkem), Councilmember Larry Gossett– who was one of “the Four” influential patrons in the Seattle area who laid the groundwork for much of the organizing work the today– graciously stepped in briefly to offer some words of inspiration. The afternoon workshop choices ranged from “Songs of the Movement” by Freedom U to tai chi, to traditional dance and more healthy cooking options, all providing options for healing ones own body and spirit. Complimentary one on one mini massage and yoga sessions were also available for sign up. That evening after a delicious dinner provided by the Daybreak Star Indian Cultural Center–another grassroots community organization obtained via a community- driven occupation– we were blessed with the opportunity to witness a variety of cultural presentations by Seattle local groups including CeAtl Tonali, Northwest Tap Connection, Haida Heritage, and Massive Monkeys.
During our last few hours together on the last day we spent time on an exercise in smaller groups using our collective knowledge and experience to put together a timeline of organizing in this country from the time of the first European settlers all the way through to the future, imagining what the world we could create together might look like.
For the entire weekend, Praxis Project went to great lengths to ensure that–wherever possible– local community venues and vendors were supported. This was an effort they made based on feedback from prior years and the appreciation from everyone present was palpable. As a yoga therapist, worker owner, and organizer, I felt truly honored to have had the opportunity to share a weekend with some of the most inspiring people I have ever met, brought together to help us support and heal each other so that we can continue our work in the most powerful and sustainable way possible.