Turtle Tank: An Incubator for Radical Love and Freedom
Turtle Tank is an old love and freedom story. One that started with a sleeping dream.
I’m standing in a white and beige bathroom. I look out the window and I get the sense that I’m in Harlem, New York. I wash my face and stare at myself in the mirror until something catches my eye. This dark green rock sits right by the faucet. I get the feeling that I should pick it up, so I do. As I turn it over, I realize it’s a baby turtle the size of a quarter. It’s frozen and I wonder if it is dead. Then I see them–indistinguishable brown insects eating into its flesh. I pull them out one by one and flush them down the drain. Right as the last one twirls into the abyss, the baby turtle flinches. Now, it is moving. Arms and legs going strong in a wobbly freedom dance. The phone rings. It’s Ije. I’m running down the stairs. I turn the corner and walk into a cafe to meet her. That’s when it all begins.
After leaving an abusive job, I had put out notice that I was taking clients interested in growing their radical enterprises. Ije answered the call and quickly decided to work with me. Soon after, I realized that she was here to teach me about love and freedom.
I met Ije at a time in my life when I had let shame, like insects into flesh, ravage parts of me to the bone, into oblivion. Shame? Me? Hell no! I was out, queer, and proud practically from my mother’s womb: a rebel with many lives spawned through magical adventure. An artist and a survivor with a powerful sense of purpose driven by unstoppable willpower—I could do anything.
Anything? Not really. I was coming to the realization that, for most of my life, I was just trying to prove to myself and others that I was worth staying alive. I was still wrapped in the terror of ancient shame. A shame so insidious that I pretended it was an expression of love. I saw myself having an impeccable sense of accountability and responsibility to the fight for justice at my own expense. Ashamed of taking up any space or owning any power. Ashamed of existing lest I cause harm. I had dissolved myself into raw, moldable, unrecognizable energy to be used in the name of the freedom of the most marginalized. I had disappeared myself in the name of duty and service, trying to support other people’s work over my own, my music, my self-care. I was truly Radical. And I was alone in a well of pain.
On one of our calls, I mentioned the turtle dream to Ije and asked her if it meant anything to her. She wasn’t sure. I remember saying, “The baby turtle was cute and it was free,” which made Ije smile wide. Soon after, in our work together, we would land on the truth that her work was to set herself and our people free. And from that day on, I would call her: Freedom.
Freedom became my teacher. We exchanged support and a deep friendship. I started to pick out the life-sucking insects in our sessions together and she would balm the wounds with, “That’s just who you are; there’s nothing wrong with that.” I was learning exactly how I was made, how I worked, and how to love and use all of that. I was in the process of remembering who I was, and I set course into the freedom of my truth. My understanding of my own work as a strategist had radically transformed. I knew that Freedom and I would work together, collaborate on some sort of project. I asked her, and she said yes. We became Love and Freedom.
I had a knack for igniting people’s deep purpose and desire, and she could create the environment to sustain that flame long enough to manifest the expression of that purpose and desire.
On July 7, 2016, Turtle Tank was first born in the form of a virtual collective incubator for Radical Entrepreneurs that would “make way for economic justice.” Soon after, some 40 Radical folks would walk through our virtual doors, looking to grow their Radical Enterprises.
We rolled up our sleeves and got to work for a good two years. Our community (like me) peeled the layers of guilt, shame, and fear around accepting and manifesting their deepest desires, which often seemed in opposition to their definition of justice, of being Radical Entrepreneurs. And as they peeled and emerged into their power, growing their work from the inside out, we realized that our work was much bigger than Radical Entrepreneurship—that we were using Radical Entrepreneurship as a gateway to collective transformation. Our work was so deeply impactful that close to 60% of the people who joined us over the last two years are still here. The industry statistics are abysmal in comparison, especially when it comes to long-term retention.
Why did they stay? Our community wasn’t looking for economic justice, per se. At the root, they were looking for Love and Freedom. And in that looking, their whole lives would change, along with those of their communities.
At this two-year mark, we are expanding our work into the realms of Love and Freedom—with Radical Entrepreneurship being one expression of that work. We revolutionize how people live and work to create sustainable systems of radical wealth and well-being.
Love: the truest expression of our deepest desire. A sense of purpose driven by an inexplicable reason to stay alive. Trusting that our deepest desires are not here to deceive or hurt us but to unravel us, disarm us, and set us free.
Freedom: the creative power that emerges out of love-centered structures. A truth born of great sacrifice. The sacrificing of the parts of ourselves that no longer serve our evolution into a more loving world.
This is the new us, Turtle Tank: An Incubator for Radical Love and Freedom.
Turtle Tank is for creatives, educators, activists, healers, and the like. Learn more about them at www.turtletank.co.