Welcome Program Director Olivia LaFlamme!
Dear ELM Community-
Join us in welcoming new ELM Program Director Olivia LaFlamme! Olivia (they/them/theirs) comes to ELM with a rich background of social justice work and spiritual practice, and we are excited to welcome them to the team. You can learn more from Olivia’s writing below, and read their bio. Olivia lives and works from Chicago, IL. Say welcome: firstname.lastname@example.org
Rev. Amanda Gerken-Nelson
Executive Director, Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries
“No Coincidences: Following Knowledge, Time, Ancestors, and Queerness”
By Olivia LaFlamme, ELM Program Director
I’ve made academia my home. The classroom was the birthplace of my intellectual curiosity, my understanding of my identities, and my passion for liberation. I felt like I could never know enough, could never read enough, and always pushed myself to integrate every piece into my larger worldview; constantly evolving. Then it became time for me to shift to become a knowledge-producer. I had to ask myself what do YOU think? What are the connections YOU are seeing? How do you articulate something that hasn’t been said before? This process tested everything I thought I knew about myself. It was really hard. I realized that I didn’t trust myself or what I knew and I definitely didn’t believe that I had something unique to contribute (hello, imposter syndrome!).
It was around this same time that I began to build a relationship with my ancestors; inviting them to assist me and guide me. I asked them for confidence, inspiration, and motivation. I felt their presence, I saw signs, and I trusted that there were people who had my back at all times. With this energy, I began to critically engage the combination of queerness, time, and spirituality. How are queer people living out a different experience of time? What does engaging in an intentional relationship with the past (or those who have come before us) do to heal queer people today? Can spirits speak to us and can we speak to them?
It was like BOOM! One day I woke up and just realized that I have something important to say. Thanks to the faith that I have in powers bigger than this world, I know it was no coincidence. Extraordinary Lutheran Ministries came to me on the coattails of that moment. I finally felt like I could say 100% yes, I have something to offer here and I’m confident in casting a vision. I’m still an academic at heart, but I think that takes many forms. Knowledge is everywhere, and I want to practice what I know in as many ways as possible. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to learn from ELM as well as contribute to its strengthening and growth. Thank you!
I’m excited to work with ELM because: I get to combine my professional life with my already fused personal and political commitments to centering marginalized experiences. I know it is my mandate to contribute to the movement for positive social change in any way that I can, and ELM’s work brings together faith and anti-oppression frameworks in powerful ways that I’m ready to learn from as well as be a part of building.
I’m inspired by: queer people of color that are blazing a trail in the name of our ancestors and demanding liberation and visibility! Intersectional queer feminist theory! Spiritual practice as self/communal-care!
These three things bring me joy: going to the beach with my partner, crafting for someone I love (knitting, crocheting, collaging, painting, anything really), and eating huge amounts of delicious food with friends and family.
When I’m not working, you can find me: listening to a true crime podcast, pondering good ideas for my next film, attending a lecture/book talk/discussion, or wandering around the contemporary or impressionist section of an art museum.
Bio: Olivia LaFlamme (they/them/theirs) is a Black queer feminist. They have an M.A. in Women and Gender Studies with an emphasis on queer theory and a B.A. in Comparative Women’s Studies with a concentration in Social Justice. Olivia is a budding filmmaker (focused in documentary) and their thesis project, entitled “Spirits Speak,” is an experimental documentary exploring queer temporality as it is demonstrated through ancestral/lineage projects (spiritual, archival and artistic). They have a background in organizing, administration in the university, and teaching.
Raised in the Assemblies of God Christian church, they have since cobbled together several religious traditions that inform their own spiritual identity. Olivia views faith in the Supernatural as crucial to their ability to move through this world that would seek to destroy their gender non-conforming, Black and queer body. They have an amazing and supportive partner, three younger siblings, and loving parents. They are looking forward to working and building community with everyone involved in ELM.
Pictured: Proclaim Members welcome and bless Olivia at 2018 Proclaim Gathering
Photos by Emily Ann Garcia