by Jasmine M. Pulido
There’s the phrase, “Together we can move mountains.” But in Filipino/a/x culture we start even smaller. There is a word for the long-held custom in which a village comes together to literally carry on their backs the home of a neighbor, to move it from where it was to where it needs to be. When I told my Filipino father-in-law what I was looking for in Seattle over dinner one day, he responded, “Ah, yes. Bayanihan.”
Bayanihan. It’s when you inherently trust a village with your sense of belonging. Your home.
Growing up in a predominantly Flipino/a/x community I had that feeling, but I couldn’t seem to find it here in Seattle. More specifically, I couldn’t seem to find this as a Woman of Color living amid a sea of overwhelming whiteness.
And then I started writing for the South Seattle Emerald (the Emerald).
At first, I approached writing this column like sending letters to the community. Whiteness surrounded me in almost every passing moment of the day and making sense of it often left me feeling disoriented and confused. Isolated. Each article was a step toward liberation for me because it gave me a public platform to practice taking up space without apology. My intention was for these notes to make readers feel connected to this experience, because connection is an antidote to white supremacy.
A month into writing this column, the pandemic hit. I now viewed my role as a self-reflective writer to be even more critical than before. Not just for the Emerald’s readers, but for myself, too. The column gave me something to be accountable to in my waking hours when I sometimes felt untethered from reality. Detailing my thoughts bound me to something bigger than myself: the readers who might be struggling like me.
And then I started feeling those first initial inklings of community again.
I began to see people respond to my articles. Some wrote me letters. Their words were like little Post-its telling me I really did matter. Other Women of Color writers began to reach out to share space and wisdom with me. I now conducted interviews and covered stories that allowed me to delve deeper into other people’s stories. Interacting with local folks made me feel like I was carrying a tiny piece of their homes on my shoulders without them even knowing who I was. I liked being dedicated to this task even when it felt like a ton of pressure. It was crucial to me that I channel my strengths to get these stories from where they were to where they needed to be. And where they needed to be was in the prime real estate location of highest visibility, with the respect and dignity they inherently deserved.
The Emerald started to feel like its own village, one I didn’t know I could belong to. I still hadn’t even accepted my place as a writer when I first took up the invitation to be a regular contributor. Yet I had the fortune of working with a managing editor who looked like me, regularly called me “Sister,” and treated me with huge swathes of understanding and flexibility. I started collaborating with co-writers and illustrators. I received texts and emails of support and encouragement from other staff members and editors. I might have started this endeavor mostly alone, but it grew into this larger network of interdependent relationships.
Recently, a person ended their interview by asking if I’d like to chat over coffee sometime. “Yeah, you’re community now,” she said. It prompted me to think of Kendrick Lamar who said, “I’m not speaking to the community. I’m not speaking of the community. I am the community.” I realized it’s why I’ve made a point to sign my emails with the closing salutation, “Yours in Community.” It reveals how my heart is devoted to this space because I am integral to its existence.
In a year of writing for this publication, South Seattle and the Emerald helped me remember what my ancestors knew — that interconnectedness is a way of fully embodying life. Bayanihan wasn’t something I found, but a way of being, a tradition I connected into by continually investing in lifting up others and vulnerably pouring myself into that action. It was letting go of carrying my own load alone too. I am so grateful for this lesson and for the many hands that raised me up and helped settle me back into it.
A new home.
Ready to move mountains.
Jasmine M. Pulido is a Filipina American writer-activist living in Seattle, WA. Her writing has most recently been featured in the 2020 Working Human Festival through Velasco Arts and in the Seattle Department of Neighborhoods’ Reimagine Seattle Storytelling Project. She is currently writing, “The Master’s Tool,” a full-length play that examines what can often happen to BIPOC folks who are passionately engaging in racial equity efforts at white-led institutions. She also intermittently writes in her blog “Shameless Jas.”
Featured illustration by Jiéyì 杰意 Ludden.
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