Tuesday, December 31, 2019

One Word 2020: Power

One of my all-time favorite teacher truisms is, "The kids with the most words have the most power." I believe this with my whole heart—yet recently, I've begun to see potential problems in this small, but mighty phrase. You see, power is complicated. It's a loaded word full of nuance, intricacy, and dynamism. A quick look at associated phrases certainly illustrates the complexity of the five-letter word.

Power With
Power Up
Power of Good
White Power
Power Nap
Power Within   
Power Down
Power of Evil
Girl Power
Power Trip
Power Over  
Absolute Power
Black Power

As a new decade unfolds, my context has kicked into high gear. I'm hungry to understand systems which dictate how power is both hoarded and shared. When this word first began to percolate, I rejected it—mostly because it made me uncomfortable. I probed for alternate words like advocacy, reformation, and transform. Yet, none of these captured the stirrings of my heart. As I considered all the ways this word could shape my year, I continued to study, read, view, think, wonder, and question. And then I stumbled across these two videos. 

📽 The Work of the People: Power With featuring Brené Brown

Even after viewing each of these thought-provoking messages, I still wasn't convinced I could embrace power as my word for 2020. As small children, my siblings and I experienced physical and emotional abuse, which rendered us powerless. Thankfully, my grandparents rescued us, and we've each spent a lifetime attempting to regain a sense of control. My troublesome relationship with power kept me quiet, compliant and scared for many decades. In my twenties, I found my way to Al-Anon where I learned that acceptance was the answer to all of my problems today. In these meetings, we were taught to embrace powerlessness as a path toward healing. This worked for a while, and I came to understand that the cunning, baffling, and powerful disease of alcoholism had far-reaching effects. 

Fast forward to my forties, and I'm now ready to wrestle with the word power again. Over the holidays my 11-year-old niece, Mabel (who happens to have extremely conservative parents), asked me, "Tenille, when and how did you become a liberal?" I chuckled a bit and proceeded to explain how my lived experiences have shaped my world view. I've spent a lot of time thinking about the intersectionality of literacy and liberation. Words, did, in fact, give me power. Thanks to my education and white privilege, I gained social mobility which provided me access to a wealth of opportunities I never dreamed possible. These experiences brought to light the bigotry, ignorance, and inequities I'd been blind to for years. Speaking truth to power still scares the hell out of me. I'm not brave or courageous enough, YET. But I'm ready to take a journey. 

Ultimately, I decided to accept power as my word for 2020 after discovering the simple photo pictured a the top of this blog and now displayed on the cover of my FB page. The power button is a symbol of hope in my life. It represents choice and fresh starts. When my laptop acts up and the screen freezes, I can push the power button, resetting the entire system. Sometimes it fixes the glitch and other times it makes me want to throw my device against the wall. Power is perplexing—as are most humans. 

I'll close with these two profound quotes—one from a superhero movie and one from the greatest Presidents to ever live. 

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