Posted in Liberation

July 21, 2016

#FreedomNow

The tagline of the Black Lives Matter movement is “Free from violence. Free from oppression. Free to be our full selves. Free to love. Freedom Now.” Their rallying cry is a powerful quote from Assata Shakur. “It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains.”

2016-07-19 22.23.46

The past few weeks have reminded me that loving and supporting each other requires us not only to fight but also to mourn together. There are opportunities around us every single day. The recent shootings of police, alongside the seemingly endless list of black and brown civilians shot by police, seem to have awakened the nation in a new way. That is good, as long as we can “stay woke” long enough to do something meaningful. Still, I can’t help but wonder what hushed and gentle conversations we’d be having on television and in communities, workplaces, and houses of worship without the deaths of the police officers. Isn’t the almost daily murder of black and brown people enough to cause somber reflection? Aren’t the calls for action coming from grieving families, activists, celebrities, athletes, and everyday folks enough to make and sustain meaningful change?

In a recent workshop on racial equity in education, a participant asked “How do we win?” I certainly don’t have a full answer, but I am convinced that we have to wade deep into the complexities and contradictions. We can’t settle for simplistic or singular strategies. We have to transform the dominant race narratives in this country so that people will no longer accept the story that people of color are to blame for our condition and for the nation’s alleged fall from greatness. We can’t forget the “brown” in the “black and brown” conversation. The national media, never good with nuance, seems incapable of telling the story of racism in all its complexity, settling for an over simplified black-white binary that also typically overlooks women of color. The week that Alton Sterling and Philando Castile were killed, four Latino men and one Latino woman were killed by police. There was scant mention of their names in the national media. I wouldn’t have known but for Twitter. I don’t know about Native American or Asian American brothers and sisters, but I would not be surprised if they are also suffering similar fates under the radar of national attention.

We have a different country than 50 years ago, where systems, laws, and attitudes have indeed changed. And, we haven’t gone nearly far enough. In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Both systems/structures and hearts/minds have to be fully engaged if we are going to win—if all of us are going to have that freedom from violence and oppression, and the freedom to love and to be our full selves.

Leave a comment
July 12, 2016

On Love and Justice

This weekend I attended CommonBound 2016, the bi-annual conference of the New Economy Coalition (NEC), “…a [160-member] network of organizations imagining and building a future where people, communities, and ecosystems thrive. Together, we are creating deep change in our economy and politics—placing power in the hands of people and uprooting legacies of harm—so that a fundamentally new system can take root.”

As one might imagine given the mission, the conference was attended by people working on a wide range of projects from public engagement, participatory budgeting, and environmental sustainability to cooperatives, reparations, community land trusts, fossil fuel divestment and more. The 900 attendees were all in some way engaged in doing the very important work of organizing, shifting culture, developing alternative institutions and creative solutions, writing, resisting, and fundraising. All towards a goal of a society that is more just, more democratic, and more sustainable. NEC itself is fast becoming a network of networks engaging groups in the cooperative movement, movement for black lives, labor movement, student divestment network, environmental movement and more. Held in Buffalo, NY, the conference had all the makings of a pivotal moment in movement history, where a true intersectional approach to changing society for the better could be nurtured. The opportunities for significant connections and collaborations to develop were endless.

Read More

1 Comment
July 11, 2016

In times of anger and grief and sadness… dance

(Above: Video of a Boston #BlackLivesMatter protest)

In times of anger and grief and sadness, it is easy for me to retreat or to read endlessly or, worse, to tune out as if lives are not at stake.

There is much to depress us this week and, if we are awake, most weeks. I remembered this week that it is also possible to have joy during these hard times. In fact, as a colleague said to me, perhaps it is not just possible but necessary. We need to connect and celebrate because of all the craziness, not in spite of it. Perhaps it is a way of creating the world we want for ourselves and our children while in the midst of the world we need to drastically change.

Here are some moments of connectivity that brought me comfort or joy this horrible and regular US/global week:

Read More

Leave a comment
June 20, 2016

Love and Liberation

01_queer-liberationTonight there will be a full moon, that time every month when the sun, moon and earth are in complete alignment. It is also the summer solstice when the sun (from the perspective of the earth) is at its highest point in the earth’s northern hemisphere marking the longest number of daylight hours in the year and the official beginning of summer.

According to many this will be the first time that these two astronomical events have coincided since June of 1967, during what was in the United States, the Summer of Love for many, and a summer of continued oppression for African Americans continuing the long struggle for Civil Rights, Justice, and Equality. Yesterday many of us celebrated Juneteenth, when we commemorate the day when the last enslaved Africans in the US finally received news of their freedom.

Read More

1 Comment
June 16, 2016

Coming to Work on Monday

As I walked into the office on Monday morning – pit in my stomach, swollen eyes from too much crying, exhausted from a restless night – I wondered how we would process the horror that had happened in Orlando over the weekend. I knew we would; after all, this was an organization full of facilitators whose values statement and change lens both included the word love. But having joined barely two weeks prior, I didn’t know just how it would happen.

Our colleague leading the extended meeting scheduled for that morning made it clear from the start: today wasn’t business as usual. And, it wasn’t a day off either. It was a day to be together, to mourn, to process, to do some work, and to practice “community care instead of just self care.” Read More

3 Comments
May 26, 2016

Can We Talk? Cynthia Parker Speaks at Grace Chapel

Tonight, Cynthia Parker will present “Race Talk” at an intercultural dialogue co-hosted by Fire, Grace Chapel’s young adult ministry. Parker explores racism through key moments of personal and professional insight.

Thursday, May 26, 2016, 7:00 PM – 9:00 PM

Grace Chapel: 59 WORTHEN RD., LEXINGTON, MA US 02421

Courtyard Room, Main Building

“There are many useful guidelines for productive race talk,” Parker says, and many practical tips are included in the talk. Yet even with best practices, some moments of race talk do harm or feel unresolved. Parker shares her personal tips for connecting with her faith, and her faith in humanity, to continue moving forward with love.

 

Read More

Leave a comment
April 12, 2016

The 4th Box Sparks Imagination

Start a Conversation

Remixers and meme-makers, we have a tool for you. We are pleased to be partnered with Center for Story-based Strategy in the release of an illustration kit: the4thbox.com

Imagery is a huge factor in framing the terms of a conversation. This kit is meant to inspire imagery that provokes new interactions between people. We believe these interactions will help open up imagination towards the liberated, equitable society we want.

The4thPanel_Preview

Artwork by Angus Maguire: http://beclouded.net/

Read More

2 Comments
March 22, 2016

Love While Challenging Racist Behavior

This post contains a true story and a Facilitator’s Guide for handling situations like this.

A True Story

At a recent training I was leading for an all queer and multiracial group, an older white man “John” took offense to my use of the word queer.  As an icebreaker, I had asked the group to share in a pair, when did you first know you were queer?   During the debrief, John took time to explain how the Q-word brought back painful memories of the many ways he was shamed growing up.  As he explained, he got emotional and then said “using the Q-word is like using the N-word for me.”  And he actually said the N-word.

The air in the room suddenly got heavy and many people shifted uncomfortably in their seats. The three black men in the group looked stunned, and the rest of the people of color in the circle turned to me to do something.  The white man kept talking, completely unaware of that this micro-aggression had caused a change in the room.  I waited for a white person to address what happened.  But folks remained silent, so just as the next person began sharing, I stopped the process.

“I want to stop and check something out with you and the group. Is it ok if I do that?” I asked John and turned to the group to seek their approval.   “John, thank you for sharing the impact that I had on you when I used the Q-word in this circle.  I want to account to you for that.  I also heard you use the N-word and I am wondering if you would be open to hearing the impact that that word could have had in the space?”

Read More

9 Comments
February 25, 2016

On the Evolving Nature of Community

Ikeda Center Podcast Episode 5: Ceasar McDowell – On the Evolving Nature of Community

Here is Part 3 of The Ikeda Center Podcast’s interview series with Ceasar McDowell.

Listen here

In this final segment of our three part interview, Dr. Ceasar McDowell introduces some early experiences that have inspired his work in community development.  He also discusses the evolution of how we organize ourselves as human beings in community.  He comments that while in the past we were born into specific communities or chose communities that were local and familiar, now “all of that has changed.”  He adds that “we often find ourselves in places where we can’t then build an integrated community, so we look at how do we then take care of that other part of ourselves, which we can say is spiritual, relational, whatever it may be…For some people, they start to do it around work, or they do it around their habits, or they do it around church…All of that still keeps us separate, because now you’re holding this multiplicity of the places where you’re finding your identity and yourself and your connection, and it ends up being fragmented in some ways.”  Dr. McDowell continues by exploring this new space that we find ourselves in, one of transition and change.

Leave a comment
February 3, 2016

The Transformative Work of Big Democracy

Here is Part 2 of The Ikeda Center Podcast’s interview series with Ceasar McDowell.

Listen here

In the second of this three part interview, Dr. Ceasar McDowell details his vision for democracy as an ongoing process of interaction and engagement.  He shares that the work of democracy is “how people come to know and understand both each other, the issues that are important to them, and how they want to make meaning together.”  He adds that his current work is focused on the idea of Big democracy which he describes as, “an aspiration. And at the core of this aspiration is the belief that the public is fully capable of working together to create sustainable, just, and equitable communities. But to do so the public must have ongoing, peaceful ways to interact around traditions that bind them, and interests that separate them, so they can realize a future that is an equitable improvement on the past.”

Leave a comment
January 13, 2016

The Work of Community Reflection

The Ikeda Center Podcast is releasing an interview series with Ceasar McDowell.

Listen here

In the first of this three part interview with Dr. Ceasar McDowell, he describes the central focus of his work in the development of community knowledge systems and civic engagement.  He also shares some examples of how that focus has manifested.  In his words, “I can boil it down to one thing. My work, my research interests, my life, is about voice. And particularly how people—and specifically the people who are at the margins of society–are able to both name their experience in the world, have that naming be recognized, and also open themselves up to the experience of others.”

Leave a comment
September 18, 2015

Notes from the field as a White racial equity facilitator and trainer, or what the heck I do every day

These three moments with these three individuals in recent months have stuck with me. Each of them is part of a multicultural group of folks working to integrate racial equity in their work – whether it be for youth in the juvenile justice system, for children and adults to get quality and affordable dental health care, or for people with HIV. They got me reflecting about what it takes to move racial equity work forward in multiracial, mostly white, collaboratives and institutions. And about how much I love the challenge of moving this work forward in settings where talking about race and racism is NOT the norm.

“I was taught not to say the word ‘white’ in front of white people; you’re the first white person I’ve heard talk about being white and challenging racism.”
— Youth activist (Native woman) in New Mexico

Read More

4 Comments