Living under the roof of my hope - Survivor Alliance launches today!

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My hope is to love and be loved. 

When I was 15 years old, I watched Dawson’s Creek, an American television show that chronicled the lives of teenagers in a wealthy, Massachusetts, coastal town, and I would yearn to be Joey Potter. Joey was ‘the girl next door’, coming into her womanhood and navigating a friendship turned romance with her male best friend, Dawson. 

I cried myself to sleep at the end of most shows, feeling my yearning to be loved. My cries were of the gut-wrenching type. The ones that tell you it’s about more than what you think you are crying about. Consciously, I told myself, “I hope I can love and be loved one day.” 

This is my hope - to love and be loved. This is my hope for my own life, and it is my hope for every one. 

I recently celebrated my 12 year anniversary of being free from my slave masters. While I did many things, one of them was to have a celebratory dinner with part of my new community here in the U.K. It was such a joyous dinner! This may be because it is nearest in memory, but I recall it to be one of the most joyous freedom anniversaries to date. I got to laugh and be me. I let people share their care. 

I got to love and be loved. 

As I launch something into being, I am also letting it go. 

My freedom days, the days leading up to it, and the days after have always been bittersweet. As I’ve said elsewhere, our freedom day is meant to be our birth day - the day we come out of the womb. For me to celebrate that my emancipation happened almost 22 years after my birth is bitter and sweet. I am free. I was enslaved. I am still on a life-long journey to hold this balance of my present day freedom and my history of enslavement. I can’t deny that my freedom is not impacted by my previous experience of slavery. Yet I also can’t deny that my freedom is defined by more than my experiences in slavery. 

With that, today I launch the Survivor Alliance !!! It is one of the ways that I want to share my love with the world. It is also one of the ways that I want to learn from the love of others. What does it mean to be a survivor of slavery and human trafficking in the 21st century? What does it mean to identify with such traumatic experiences, and yet use that identity to contribute positively to social justice efforts? 

This is my personal blog, and not the Survivor Alliance blog. I don’t know exactly what it means to separate the personal from professional in times like these. Of course, there are boundaries. At the same time, just like corporations are not people, organizations are not people. They don’t have identities on their own, and yet they become narrated into beings/characters by the people in them. I am learning to accept that the identity, reputation, and character of the Survivor Alliance will inevitably be shaped by my own - by my strengths and my challenges. I guess this is why some people talk about launching organizations as birthing a baby. That baby will have your DNA, and will be socialized to live and think the way you do. 

So like a potential child of mine, I am preparing to let my child go, even on the day that it is born. A few months ago, when it was becoming real that the Survivor Alliance will launch, I had a good sit down with myself. I had to say to myself, “I get to try, even if this fails.” My personal identity is in the trying. Of course, I don’t want the Survivor Alliance to fail and I am putting my heart and soul into its success. But, to practice what I preach, I want to make sure that the organization is not tied to me as a person. It is greater than I am. If I want its work and mission to live on, I need to prepare for Founder’s ‘syndrome’ now. I want all the good parts of me to go into this organization and I want to get out of the way as much as possible, when and where I need to. 

My ideas of leadership and freedom are evolving. 

What are the good parts of me? As I have grown, I’ve wrestled with whether I’m “fake good” or “authentic good,” and what does it mean to be authentically good? For 22 years, I tried to be morally “right” and “good” to hide my slave masters crimes. I successfully gave off the image that I was “fine” and I came from a “good immigrant family.” And yet, my “goodness” was hiding atrocities. My false goodness was an attempt to salvage an image of my parents, and deny to myself that they were predators. This false goodness was a survival tool. My false goodness would at times, come off with an air of righteousness and superiority. Or, it would come off as performed and inauthentic. Of course, this was off putting. 

I am told, however, that my real, authentic, genuine, kind, sassy, and silly self would come through, despite the need for a false self. As I journey in freedom, more of this self shines through. This self -  born with goodness just like every other human is born with - is the one I hope to lead with through the Survivor Alliance. 

My drive to be good and to live with integrity is now a part of my being. While I am still sorting out what parts of my false self I want to keep and what parts I want to let go, for now, I have resolved that a drive to be good in the world is worth keeping. It’s just how I go about “being good” that matters. Who am I being good for? How do I keep this drive from overtaking my life? 

I am not a saint and I don’t want to be one. 

This drive has led to unreasonable standards for how I act in the world. I am not a saint and I need not strive to be one. If a saint is someone who is purely selfless, an ideal of selfhood, whom we deem as always taking the moral high ground, is that the type of personhood and freedom that I personally want to promote? I don’t think so. 

I want to promote a freedom that is not about individual saint hood. I want to promote a freedom that is about authenticity, curiosity, growth, learning, and community. 

I want to promote a freedom that is humane - i.e. humanly, of the human nature. 

I want to hold myself to human standards and I want to invite others to join me. Standards of respect for one another, holding ourselves accountable, knowing our limits and limitations, and being open to not knowing. 

I also want to invite others to join me in growing and learning to live in greater harmony with each other, on this one planet we are living on.

I want to invite us to promote a freedom that is not individual or collective, but individual and collective. 

Let’s walk together. 

While I am very excited to launch this dream of mine, I am not blinded to the massive responsibilities I now accept. I will need the support of my closest friends and allies, and I will need to let them support me. I have already received support beyond my imagination. People have buoyed me in times of hardship, self-doubt, and internal and external critique. Those times will come again. 

This journey is not a solo journey. We are nothing without each other, so let us walk together. At the days ends, we can return to our homes to live under the roof of our hopes, and rest for another day’s journey. 

Here we go! 

Survivor Alliance Launch Information
If you are are someone who experienced slavery or human trafficking and want to contribute your voice to anti-slavery efforts, please consider joining the Survivor Alliance. All you need is a valid email address and you can enroll at https://survivoralliance.org

Minh Dang