I saw she was me.

Capoeira has existed as a healing song in my life for over ten years. She has been my mother teaching me rituals of my ancestors, my sister sharing lessons of courage, and comrade in struggles against oppression. She be my warrior, my cleansing, my joy.

And then there were her brothers.

In my journey training and eventually teaching this powerful art developed by Africans to combat slavery and oppression in Bahia, Brasil, I endured my own battle. It brought itself to a precipice when the father I had come to know in the art – my then Mestre of 6 years - sexually assaulted me in my home. In an instant, he joined his brothers, the other Capoeira teachers I’ve had, who taught me that learning to protect myself was something I must employ inside and outside of the roda.

As a childhood sexual violence and rape survivor I found the dichotomous relationship of my silent mother, Capoeira, and abusive other, my teachers, as familiar and triggering. Yet, a year after I was assaulted in my home I remained. Angry. Silenced. Scared. Told not to speak on what happened. Obedient.

And then I saw she was me.

After witnessing a violent domestic violence attack on a woman by her male partner, I cried as she walked away from the police with him. I was afraid for her. I was angry at the lack of resources, at what I felt was my own helplessness. Then I realized she was me.

That night I wrote a lengthy letter to my then teacher leaving the school. I had spent a year continuing to walk with him after his assault, subjecting myself to violence by carrying the shame that should have been his; and cutting myself off from my own power and healing by staying in a situation that only served to bury me. My mother taught me better.

I have since opened an independent Capoeira Angola project called Capoeira pra Gente. It serves as an anti-oppressive space for womyn, queer/LGBTQ and trans people, communities that have historically experienced discrimination and silence in an art that of itself does not value these things. Capoeira pra Gente is a home for all Capoeiristas committed to a vision of the art that honors the spirit of resistance with which it was birthed. My humble offering back to her.

É hora, é hora.

Treinel Ni’Ja de Ferro

Take action! This post was submitted in response to My Story: Standing Up .

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