Dancing with Justice

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Tammy's Headshot It came to me in the quiet moments of my Sunday morning meditation. Justice. I have spent most of my adult life working for justice, mainly around issues of race, gender, and class. I have helped write policies and collaborated with community groups on campaign strategies. Justice was something that I strove for from sun up to sun down. But Sunday I sat and pondered this question: What does justice look like in my own life, especially now?

Like many, I have been trained to think of justice in grandiose terms; as a law, a mandate or universal right restored to the oppressed. But I have come to see it differently now. Justice is not simply an end point or a singular action. For me, justice is a process. It is the restoration of the humanity of the oppressed and the oppressor, while finding peace along the way. It’s soul work, the expression of true love for all of creation.

Tammy at Rakkasah in 2009

Well that sounds like a grandiose statement, indeed. So I come back to the question of what does that look like in my life? Justice starts with me. That appears to be a selfish statement. But I think that it’s more about starting with what is real and true in my life. Asserting my own humanity means that I have the right to honor the whole of who I am. All of my life, the mainstream media and cultural norms told me that I could not be a professional bellydancer. But the loudest voice screaming out that message was my own.

So, my first step toward justice took the form of honoring my life’s purpose and passion by saying out loud, “I am a bellydancer.” This simple but powerful statement still brings tears to my eyes. Making this claim was key, because it forced me to recognize and validate the whole me. If I could not treat myself, my dreams, the very core of who I am with dignity and respect, how could I extend it to others or compel the naysayers to respond in kind? My pursuit of happiness is a justice-based endeavor. For me, right now, it’s about dancing.

Dancing. Dancing. Dancing. For many women, a dance class, much like the workplace or society at large, can be a place full of competition, judgment and devaluation. The Your Body Raks principle of Body Justice is about recognizing the humanity in each other, dancing with purpose, with the goal of being at peace and happy. Body Justice creates space for self-definition in the context of community building. We dance with compassion and clarity, and somehow find ourselves stepping in time with the women around us. Each one claiming her space and making space for the other: that is justice with a shimmy.

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