Who are you? What do you believe?

I Believe in My Body

I was the first person in my family to go to college in 1981. During the first week at school, I found myself alone for the first time in my life. To assuage my anxiety about making friends and fitting in, I got drunk at a party hosted by a young woman in my dorm. I was followed back to my room by a guy with the pretense of helping me open my door. In what  had been intended as my first act of self-determination, I quickly found myself drunk, raped, and unmoored.

Disassociating from my body was part of the fallout from being raped. When I finally started seeing a therapist, she told me trauma that lives in the body needs to be released from the body. What would I like to do that would provide a physical outlet? I remembered Habib, a belly dancer I’d seen perform. Her warmth and dynamism made me think about her performance long afterward. I knew what I wanted to do.

Now when I put on my hip scarf, I can’t help but think about all the things I’ve tried to release and save. I imagine walking through a doorway with the people in my life, the striking and extraordinary things about us suddenly seen in a luminous light. 

— Patricia Cumbie, author, “The Shape of a Hundred Hips”

I Am Everything

My name is Binta and I am everything: I am a daughter, sister, friend, and a resource. I am a proud Gambian-American Muslim woman who will manifest a life for herself that will defy all expectations. Each day I evolve more into the woman that I’m proud to be by growing confident in my beliefs. I believe in not being held back by the weight of “But … what will people think?” I believe that we can defy expectations if we are given the resources to free ourselves from economic disparities that are rooted in all of the worlds constructed ‘isms,’ and if we are able to heal that which keeps us from our best selves. I also believe that if we implement legislation that allows for equitable access to wealth-building mechanisms, we will be a better Minnesota.

— Binta Kanteh

I Believe in Home

Home is not a place; home is a state of the heart. Home is where my spirit settles. In my nomadic life, I’ve held more library cards than I can count (all libraries are home). I have found home in startling places: A village in the mountains of Crete. A spirited inner-city church. The gaze of a newfound friend. Some homes are full of their own life and power, drawing one back again and again — where Summit Avenue meets the Mississippi River; virgin prairie of Pipestone, where native nations return to quarry the sacred stone; the gentle white pines of central Minnesota. No place on earth is perfect, but some come closer than others.

— Jan Wiersma

I Once Believed in Heels and Girdles

I am a 100-year-old woman and they tell me I still have all my “marbles.” But I don’t have anyone my age to play marbles with. I’m the oldest resident of Lakewood Care Center in Staples. I became a teacher, I married when I was almost 30, and I raised two daughters. I would take the streetcar to downtown Minneapolis, peruse the fashions at Dayton’s Oval Room, and then go home and duplicate them.

I believe in God. I believe in family. And I believe in myself. I used to believe in girdles and three-inch spiked heels. Now I wear sensible great-grandma shoes (although I do have a fashionable red pair) and let my stomach fall where it may. I eat what I want (three servings of ice cream most days) and I say what I think (as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone).

— Beatrice Olson

I Believe in Myself

People tell me I’m a unique person. One of the reasons I think they say that is because I’m a B-girl — a female breakdancer. I compete around Minnesota with Break Fluid. I’m the only girl on a team of six. I heard someone once say that B-girls shouldn’t do power moves when they break dance — power moves are really challenging acrobatic skills — and I thought that was extremely disrespectful. I’m proud of showing off my skills in competition, and dancing as an equal with my male teammates.

It’s sad to me that females are not in power in a lot of places here and around the world. Women are struggling to support their families, they often aren’t treated fairly and get paid less in their work, and sometimes they can’t even choose who they marry. I want to show girls my age that they can support themselves. Why should gender ever stop someone from an opportunity? That’s crazy. 

There’s a world championship for breaking, and only one female has ever made it. I hope I’m next.

— Avi Schaffer

I Believe in Transformation

My name is Amanda and I am still working on who I am. I am a mother, a wife, a friend, a sister, a runner, a poet. I am a teacher and educator of Spanish, culture, women’s studies, and social justice. I am authentically brown; Mexican-American or American-Mexican, you can decide. I suppose these are also all things I inextricably believe in. Like all teachers I know, who we are are and what we do are a blended and cohesive one in the same. I believe in the power of listening and stories to educate, to humanize, to (re)connect with one another honestly. I believe in the winning wisdom and activism of Sister Joan Chittester, Winona LaDuke, Oprah, and all women who support the world with their feminism. I am propelled forward by the strength of their transformative voices. But enough about me. Who are you?

— Amanda Rosas 

I Believe in Vibrancy

I am a self-declared Vibrant Old Woman (75 years) who lives in Minneapolis with my husband and dog in a small 7th floor condo. I make paper collages, write blogs, read, have coffee with friends and neighbors, avoid cooking as often as possible, do leadership coaching for a few non-profit leaders, do granny-things with my grandchildren … and take a cozy nap everyday! 

Even though aging has challenges and brings much change, I believe that even when our bodies begin to decline in agility and function, our Spirits can soar and get stronger. We keep learning, and continue to make contributions to the lives of others and the world around us. 

I believe that each human being is significant, no matter how old or young, what religion or not, what color of skin, what race or creed, and deserves to be noticed, heard, and encouraged. I believe we are all connected, need one another, and affect one another.

— Norma Bourland, vibrantoldwoman.com

I Am Summer and Winter

When I think about my most authentic self, I think of myself in summer. My “winter self” is just a fraction of who I really am. My winter self is errands and car problems and early darkness and chilled to the bone. My “summer self” is reading and walks and birds and nature and journals and travel and early mornings. In summer I am who I really am. But I know that I cannot have one without the other. If I had no “winter self” I doubt that my “summer self” would feel so happy. For without the winter to darken and quiet the world around me I wouldn’t be so alive and awake as I am in summer. So able to appreciate everything around me, and enjoy my “summer self.”

— Pam Owen