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GTU Voices - Meet Javney Mohr

Meet Javney Mohr

By GTU Communications

Javney Mohr is an incoming PhD student and Presidential Scholar. In her recent reflection for GTU, Javney shares about her research interests, motivations for interreligious study and dialogue at the GTU, the communities that have shaped her, and her hopes for her time at the GTU.

GTU: What is your course of study, specialization, or prior experience that led you to the GTU?

Javney Mohr [JM]: Throughout my life in study and movement struggle, I have been witness to a high form of love. Though limited in daily bread, a powerful community raised me. From under the tables of neighbours labour-organizing, fortified by texts in which we were rich—spanning Bonhoeffer, Baldwin to Du Bois—I was shown a critical pedagogy of love in the face of oppression. This place is the sacred and unceded territories of the xʷməθkwəy̓əm (Musqueam), Skwxwú7mesh (Squamish), and Selilwitulh peoples, currently known as Vancouver, Canada, and the nation-state’s poorest postal code. Here, settler-colonialism, racial capitalism, and patriarchy in violent intersection is lived experience. Yet, also, this place and people are where revolutionary love and movement struggle at its best is being sown. Here, elders and youth, the criminalized poor and targeted, most sagely teach about ‘justice as love made public,’ and the militant struggle of ‘beloved community.’ The scholar-activism to which I strive is informed by and committed to those, rarely acknowledged by history, who create the conditions and stand ground for that collective—someday—freedom.

Though alert to the local impacts of global structures throughout childhood, my knowledge of their imbrications and causal roots deepened during undergraduate and graduate studies that critically engaged systemic power, politics, and culture. I am grateful to the fellow students, professors, and local communities who taught me throughout these studies at the University of Alberta, Universidad de Oriente in Cuba, and the United Nation’s University for Peace in Costa Rica. Throughout these degrees, the capacity to name, study in depth, and engage in the dismantling of the global structures of oppression was a step in a liberation. Yet, the demarcations between movement, academy, and spirituality—or, as Dr. Robin D. G. Kelley refers, “struggle, study, and love” —existing both within academia and beyond remained acute. Discerning, perhaps, an intellectual vocation, faculty directed my internationalist studies within the field of Religion and Philosophy. There, encountering Teaching to Transgress, Jesus and the Disinherited, Pedagogy of the Oppressed and Freedom Dreams, in simultaneity, was to see my community’s truth in text. The lives of the oppressed were acknowledged, powerful, and beloved.

In the following decade, my work has been based in interrelated movements. As a Fellow of the Ronning Center for the Study of Religion and Public Life, co-founder of Spirit of the Land, anti-imperialist contraminera advocacy in Latin America, and First Nation sovereignty assertion in Canada, I strive to research, teach, and practice in that transformative way where those three silos re-bind, or, in the words of Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II, [participate in] “a moral organizing.”

To have walked these decades is to have been constant witness to a high form of love. Pressed alongside the U.S.-México border wall, organizers from each side braid their hair together in resistance, forming a line stretching into the horizon. As militarized state-police advance toward, Anishinaabekwe elders kneel to the Earth with gentle care and political gravitas, raising Eagle’s feather to the sky in ceremony. Amid the highest altitudes, Aymaran youth cross the Altiplano in the secret of nightfall, transporting a water vial from their territory’s river where mercury from the Canadian mine poisons that which has flowed since time immemorial. Despite its illegality, landless peasants and rural women of La Vía Campesina save the ancestral seeds passed down, to pass down. 

Can struggle and integrity in the face of oppression be fathomed? Throughout my life in study and movement struggle, I see this force abolish empire’s highest walls and sweeping borders, (re)making the new world beyond.

I am grateful and accountable to these great teachers. These are the people and places who bring me to this work.

 

GTU: What are your research interests?

JM: My research is grounded in and informed by the traditions of liberationist theologies, critical race feminism, and decoloniality. Howard Thurman, Angela Davis, Dorothy Day, Grace Lee Boggs, and Stuart Hall are among the pedagogues, scholar-activists, and theologians who guide and shape my research and practice. Oriented by the notion of ‘justice-seeking love,’ my most pressing theological concerns inquire: the invocation of social solidarity that extends both to and beyond the human; the proximity to pain in the cultivation of moral courage; the relationship between landscapes and the human heart; societal processes of othering and belonging; the interplay of (re)enchantment and dissent; the connecting of race, class, and gender to body, land, and spirit; hope as discipline; the Earth’s inherent politics of mutuality; and the geographical effect of ‘freedom-dreaming.’ 

In scholarship and as an organizer, I am inspired and gripped by the role of solidarity, sacredness, and sacrificial love in movement struggle, and its proposition as critical praxis. Situating ecological collapse as symptom and most scopic consequence of systemic oppression, my research looks to the vision, statement, and demand of abolitionism, Indigenous ways of being, and the Earth’s aliveness as counter-narrative force to all structures of domination. This inquiry draws from and is compelled by analytical frameworks such as King’s ‘beloved community,’ Freire’s ‘pedagogy of the oppressed,’ Akomolafe’s ‘sanctuary,’ Betasamosake’s ‘land as pedagogy,’ the Combahee River Collective’s black feminist project, and Highlander’s organizing principle as articulations of revolutionary love and struggle led by ‘the least of these.’ 

What do the clarion calls of frontline protectors that the “Land is Sacred,” “All my Relations,” and “kinship” mean as internationalist politics and theological ethos, the de-anthropocentric freedom-dream of this hour? In the face of structural violence strengthening and suffocating the world, how do we hold a horizon of hope in nothing more, nor less than love as panacea to empire? Through scholarship and activism, I seek to contribute to the understanding, legitimization, and envisioning of love as sophisticated politics, ancient knowledge(s), and inherent human calling.

 

GTU: Why did you choose the GTU?

JM: The reasons of which I am aware are already numerous! For the many more to be learnt from the GTU community in the coming seasons, I am dearly grateful. 

At the core of my discernment, however, was that GTU reflected the question at the heart of that which I most sought for in an institution wherein I might deepen in scholarship and work. For me, this means an institution that understands itself as located within a community of people and place, and is committed to the actualization of justice. Or, in other words of bell hooks as she defines a place where “education is the practice of freedom.” For it must be. 

Across the intellectual commitments of the GTU faculty and in the lived ethic of GTU, I saw many of my most pressing theological concerns and pedagogical yearnings critically engaged, as well as significant research alignment (and incredible opportunity!) to study under the supervision of Dr. Cynthia Moe-Lobeda in the concentration of Theology and Ethics. The prioritization of mentorship, illuminality of cross-disciplinary discourse, and multicultural interreligious community are primary reasons why I saw GTU as where my learning could be most expansive and my work most contributive. Of utmost importance in this discernment was that in the GTU, the rare but essential takes place: movement, scholarship, and faith converge. I see GTU as a vibrant community of critical scholar-activists, dedicated to the urgent work of justice, liberation, and hope.

In addition to GTU specifically, the broader community of the so-called San Francisco Bay Area, the territory of Xučyun, is a significant reason I am profoundly grateful for this opportunity. As a settler of Irish and Norwegian descent, I am committed to the responsibilities of upholding and supporting Ohlone law and jurisdiction. Critical resistance struggles, organizing, stewardship, and revolutionary artistry has occurred and occurs here. The Sogorea Te’ Land Trust, the first urban Indigenous women-led land trust, is resisting and transforming the violent legacies of colonization, genocide, and patriarchy, doing the work our ancestors and future generations call us to do—which begins with the return of Indigenous land to Indigenous peoples. 

Indian People Organizing for Change, an organization of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, advocate for social and environmental justice within the Bay Area. Critical Resistance is building an international movement for PIC abolition, challenging the belief that caging and controlling people creates safety. Here, land restoration, reclamation, and rematriation is (re)emerging into corporeality. Here, the vision of beloved community, justice, and freedom is being demanded and practiced. Here, the cultivation of reciprocal relationships in balance is a profound process, the simultaneous rooting back and reaching forward. 

Prior to settler occupation and extraction, the landscapes and lifeways of Ohlone territory were richly abundant with acorns, grass seeds, wildflowers, elk, salmon, grizzly bears, and berries (Sogorea Te’/ For The Wild website). The Xʷməθkwəy̓əm, Skwxwú7mesh, and Selilwitulh Nations have taught me that these lands and waters, too, once brimmed with wild salmon, journeying under the shade of ancient red cedar mother trees. Since time immemorial, diverse Indigenous Nations have walked Turtle Island and walked in a good way, harvesting foods and medicine and making good ceremony here. Despite all that has and is still being taken, people are standing ground for the ground, for each other, and for all relations. As a sacred place and site of resistance, movement, Indigenous governance structures, and freedom-dreamings, I am/we are indebted to the work of this community, their example, and solidarity to all other struggles. Here, indeed, we are taught about justice-seeking love, presence, and dissent.  

 

GTU: What are you most excited for?

JM: To learn from and alongside every member of the GTU community, in awe of the depth, expanse, and richness of cultures, traditions, languages, knowledges, vocational pathways, intellectual curiosities, and inmost passions for the better world.

Dismantling the imperial metropole.

Revolutionary strategizing meetings amongst overflowing bookshelves in professors’ offices.

Sharing foods and stories. Learning the names of the people and places who bring my fellow students and teachers to their life’s work.

To strive to teach in that transformative way of praxis others have practiced to me, the way shown to us by scholar-activists and pedagogues across time and space, and the way of ancestors before us.

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