December 20, 2021  •  By Christine Pasalo Norland

On Position

Centering the margin. Standing where it's said we exist in relation to a mainstream narrative. Standing with the expectation that people meet us here because where we are is central to us. Because where we are is vital. This is a practice learned from the late bell hooks.

In her essay "marginality as site of resistance" from the 1990 anthology "Out There: Marginalization and Contemporary Culture," hooks writes that marginality "offers the possibility of radical perspectives from which to see and create, to imagine alternatives, new worlds."

This mindset encourages us to accept that we are not to be erased, that our work and contributions are in service to us first and always, and deserve reverence, recognition, and nurturing. To be on the perimeter and (re)claim it as valued. To live here with confidence and as a reminder to those who share this space, whose voices exude from it, that it is a place of worth, not because there are those who seek it out to learn from it, revel in it, profit from it (without reinvesting in it), but simply because we are worthy. We are worthy. 

Drawing breath from hooks’ outlook, the term “mainstream” becomes cellophane–a film that loses strength when cut. Flimsy and transparent and clingy as all get out, but unable to grip to all. Yes, it is possible to resist attachment when we view the term as fallible. As outdated. As code for prolonging a social hierarchy that levied assignments we didn’t sign on to.

What if we took away the value given to "maintstream"? What if we allowed ourselves to transfer its meaningfulness to where we are rooted? Where we have known deprivation, yes, but where we also feel our humanity flow despite a "mainstream" aggressively working to convince us that humanity doesn’t come from where we are? Despite intentions to speak for us, over us, to silence us? Despite a narrative that is bent on normalizing the idea that security and acceptance is only found in a center we did not make?

We become our own validators. 

As we end this year and approach the next, hold onto this idea by the late bell hooks and know: We are positioned for radical possibility.


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