Activist takes holistic view: ‘Joy is important, rest is important’

click to enlarge Tai Simpson
Tai Simpson

By Justyna Tomtas

For Inland 360

As an advocate, Tai Simpson said her work is tireless and endless.

The Boise resident has various social issues that are “nearest and dearest” to her heart, like decolonization and land recovery initiatives that aim to get Indigenous lands back into Indigenous hands. She also works toward dismantling capitalism, patriarchy and white supremacy from social and political systems.

click to enlarge Tai Simpson
Tai Simpson

Simpson is a member of the Nez Perce Tribe and also is Black. Her two identities inform her work as an advocate, activist and organizer.

“The assumption based on stereotypes and prejudices is that I’m a Black person, but not mixed race,” Simpson said. “It comes with its own challenges. Most of the oppression (I’ve dealt with) is in the face of anti-Blackness versus anti-Indigenous.”

Simpson will deliver the online keynote speech for Lewis-Clark State College’s Black History Experience event at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Her talk will focus on decolonization and liberation.

“I’m making sure to have open and honest conversations about being better to each other and our neighbors,” Simpson said. “I talk about how joy is important, how rest is important, because capitalism would make us believe that bodies are for labor and production. But we should be celebrating the ability to move, if we have it; to create, if we can. Those are the things we don’t talk about much in our revolutionary work toward liberation.”

Simpson’s talk is titled “My Joy is the Revolution: Experiences as a Black Indigenous Storyteller in Social Movement Spaces.”

Telling stories is important, Simpson said.

“(Storytelling) is the most direct connection between two people, between two communities,” Simpson said. “It’s always in our shared stories and experiences where we can find commonality, where we find shared purpose. If we lean into those stories, it creates spaces for stories to be told, and we’ll ultimately have a much more unique and much more multifaceted community, as we should.”

Sharing stories also can be liberating for others. Some of Simpson’s talks focus on gender-based violence. The idea of sharing her own experience is to remove the shame from stories of sexual and domestic violence.

“Healing is sometimes harder than the trauma itself,” Simpson said.

Healing can be more approachable when someone opens up and shares their story, she said.

Simpson, who is 37, said she hopes people celebrate Black life as much as people empathize and sympathize with Black death.

“Activist work isn’t singular trends or hashtags but an actual way of living and being,” she said. “We don’t have to be in a constant state of mourning, trauma or crisis.”

Simpson attended LCSC from 2002-05. She later went on to attend Boise State University, where she studied political philosophy and public law, as well as sociology. She has lived in Boise for about 16 years.


WHO: Tai Simpson, “My Joy is the Revolution: Experiences as a Black Indigenous Storyteller in Social Movement Spaces.”

WHEN: 7 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 25.

WHERE: Online live and for later viewing on the Lewis-Clark State College Humanities Division YouTube channel via the shortened link

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