"We need to be weapons of mass construction, weapons of mass love.
It's not enough to just change the system. We need to change ourselves." - Assata Shakur
Born in Indonesia, I was raised in an immigrant, working-class family and have lived in Australia, the U.S., and Brazil. My family fled to the U.S. to seek opportunity and escape ethnic conflicts as a minority group in our home country, only to settle in a segregated Black and White city. Throughout my life, I have been a witness to racial conflict and inequality, rooted in colonialism and imperialism. But these experiences have equipped me with deep empathy, radical love, and a conviction for justice and healing.
A Calling to Center Community
In my early teenage years, my brother was separated from my family due to immigration administrative complications. This heart-breaking experienced helped me to understand and articulate that the people in power
designing our laws and policies clearly have never experienced the real impacts of discrimination, poverty, nor displacement. Studying International Relations and Sociology only expanded my understanding of this reality to be global and rooted in systems of power, privilege, and oppression. I dedicated my next chapter to raising the voices of marginalized communities in policy-design and decision-making. Community organizing throughout college around environmental and racial justice issues, I eventually went to graduate school to become an urban planner, focused on community development and racial equity. I worked as a participatory planner for seven years, working with low-income communities of color in New York City. I most recently served as Deputy Director of Neighborhood Planning at the NYC Department of Housing Preservation and Development.
A Calling to Help Institutions Transform towards Justice and Equity
Simultaneously, I was active in transforming the urban planning profession to be more representative of the diverse communities that we serve, and to be accountable to planning's racist history. For my Master's Thesis, I conducted a comprehensive study on how to overcome barriers to recruiting and retaining planners of color. I collected over 300 survey respondents and 40 interviews and focus groups with planners of color on their experiences. I learned that collective action on the individual, interactional, and institutional level towards anti-racism as necessary for communities to heal. In 2015, I co-revived and co-chaired the Diversity Committee (DivComm) of the American Planning Association New York Metro Chapter, together with Tiffany-Ann Taylor. We cultivated a fierce community of multi-racial planners working towards equity and justice. We started Hindsight - an annual all-volunteer-run conference on urban planning through an equity lens that draws over 1,000 participants. I eventually found myself in the position of professionally consulting and coaching social-sector organizations in social justice transformation.
A Calling to Turn Inwards
My early life experiences led me to struggle from mental health challenges and chronic pain since I was a teenager. In my adulthood, my experiences as a person of multiple marginalized identities led me to adopt perfectionism and workaholism, to survive in a white hetero-patriarchal, capitalist world. I centered my self-worth around my hard work. No matter all my accomplishment, I still felt so much imposter syndrome and dis-belonging. On top of it all, intergenerational trauma as a colonized people still lingers in my body. For years, I ignored the dissonance between my body, mind, and spirit. I pushed forward, dedicating all my energy to the pursuit of justice and equity, justifying its urgency. I experienced anger, fatigue, depression, and burn out more than once. I came to understand that unless we each individually turn inwards, seek counsel in community, and heal from our own traumas, we will only continue to re-traumatize each other.
In early 2020, I decided to take a life sabbatical and go on a healing journey. I left my job, lived cheaply, and solo-travelled through South East Asia (pre-COVID) and across the country (living out of a car and social distancing in National Parks and Forests). I immersed myself in reading, nature, journaling, bodywork, therapy, friendship, and creative practice. I came to develop a new relationship with myself and the universe, recognizing her abundance, reciprocity, and unconditional love. I trust this personal healing work has impacts that reverberate beyond my body, and ultimately, help my community, my ancestors, and future generations to heal.
A Calling to Support Others' Healing and Liberation
I came to understand that when we have inner peace, we naturally spread light and healing to the people around us. I recognized that at the core and truth of my being is LOVE, and that my purpose is to share this love, and help other restore radical love and compassion with themselves and each other. I believe that the journey of decolonization and healing is a lifetime of learning and unlearning. And this inner transformative work within ourselves is necessary to transform society at the structural level.
I have personally benefited from the wisdom and community of my therapist, friends, and bodyworkers, and want to be that support for others in their journey. I hope that my deep listening, lived experiences, and somatic intuition can be helpful for you, wherever you are on your journey to healing and liberation.
Giovania Tiarachristie is a Certified Massage Therapist in the state of California, trained by the National Holistic Institute, and a certified Reiki Level 1 and 2 practitioner from Connect Within. They hold a Bachelors in Arts in Sociology from Dickinson, and a Masters of Science in City and Regional Planning from Pratt Institute. They are Giovania is a Paul and Daisy Soros Fellow, an Urban Design Forum Forefront Fellow, and Udall Scholar. Giovania loves hiking, biking, baking, travel, watercoloring, and illustrating. They are also the artist behind Coded_Toons - an Instagram comic about society, self-care, and self-sabotage. Support their learning and creative journey by contributing via venmo @gggtia or to their Patreon linked here.
"Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.
Because what the world needs is people who have come alive" -Howard Thurman