I just had the unbelievable privilege of facilitating the leadership convening of the Gathering for Justice at the Stone House in North Carolina. The experience left me with a powerful sense of being “on purpose” of doing precisely what I’m supposed to be doing in the world. I can only wish that more of us have that experience as we go about our work and our lives. There is more to say than I could possibly capture with a single blog post, but I’m not speaking in hyperbole when I tell you that this is the closest I have come to the potentiality of real movement.
The Gathering looks at juvenile incarceration not just as an issue, but as moral calling (this article just out today in the New York Timesand if you are outraged, be sure to check out CJNY). Incarcerating our children is a counter-evolutionary move, it is indicative of a systems break down at the heart of our society. So the Gathering is not just about a compelling issue, it is about a daring to rethink how we go about movement. Read More
First things first!We learned last night that the Senate Foreign Relations Committee has approved the nominations of Bonnie Jenkins as State Department Coordinator of Threat Reduction Programs (an Ambassador level position) and Eric Schwartz as Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees and Migration.IISC has worked closely with both Bonnie (currently at the Ford Foundation) and Eric (currently at Connect US) for a number of years and send our congratulations!Both are highly qualified and deeply connected to the community of nonprofits working on foreign policy and peace and security.Very good news.Now, onto the full Senate for confirmation!
As for reflections on social media, there’s a new Clay Shirky TED video describing the shifts based on the new forms of media – the ways that new media allows for a whole new many-to-many communication.He gives examples of the ways the Chinese government has tried to maintain control (in new ways).He also talks about the Obama campaign demonstrating a new way of operating – encouraging and allowing for participation on its website even when the views and organizing were going against Obama’s position.Take a look:
At the 2008 White Privilege Conference, I went to a workshop on Critical Liberation Theory, led by Barbara Love, Keri DeJong, Christopher Hughbanks, Joanna Kent Katz and Teeomm Williams. I was recently re-reading the piece they gave out at that workshop. Their workshop talked about the ways that we can each take daily actions toward liberation. This, they suggested, requires first clearly articulating our own theory of liberation, through which we can then build a praxis of liberation – daily work that brings us in the direction of liberation itself. I was remembering that during their workshop, they talked of the need to know fully where you’re coming from (understanding oppression), but to look forward toward liberation. Otherwise, they described it as if one were leaving on a car trip from Massachusetts to drive to California while looking out the back window instead of looking at the road ahead.
Rereading this, I started trying to think about how to actually articulate a theory of liberation. What would be in it? And I began to see that while I know what I don’t want, the vision of liberation is a little more challenging for me. This, I’m sure, is the legacy of internalized oppression, internalized supremacy and white privilege. The system has put limits on my ability to fully see what liberation looks like, and I’ve internalized these limitations. I know bits and pieces, but a clear articulation seems a bit of a challenge. So I’m making the commitment to start really attending to this in my life, to a clear articulation of my theory of liberation so that I can start taking daily actions toward its realization.
At the same time, I began thinking of Damali Ayo’s piece on five things white people can do and five things people of color can do to end racism. At her workshops on racism, she was constantly getting requests from people wanting to know what they could do. So she sent a request to her mailing list asking people to send in five things white people and/or people of color can do to end racism. About 2000 people responded and she condensed it into a guide (the Fix It Guide).
So I started wondering what would happen if we did a similar thing here – put it out there and ask you: what would be included in your theory of liberation?
Here are some random thoughts from a long plane trip I took yesterday – please add!
relationships and society would be demonstrations of fairness and equity
sustainability would be demonstrated in all our actions
love and compassion would be at the root of our thinking and our actions – and would help guide our creativity
all people would be able to fully participate in and have voice about decisions which affect their lives (directly or indirectly)
all people would be able to express their full humanity and potential
I’m proud of us, we are just getting started, but I’m still proud of us. The IISC staff just wrapped up four facilitated days (over a number of months) on the question of race and oppression and how these affect our organization and our work. The conversation wasn’t always easy and no one believes the rest of the process will be easy either, and yet we know that we are committed and I think that fact came through. We have so many ways of looking at this thing, so many stories, experiences, wounds, reactions, aspirations, hopes, demands and dreams – but there was one thing that was clear, and that’s that we are ready to shift.
I feel like I’ve had such a long and contentious relationship with this topic, like race consciousness helped me to become more free me but it has also been a lens that held me back. I’m still grappling with it, and I’m evolving as it does, but it feels good to do this work in the context of IISC. I know that here we can make headway and wherever we succeed we will be able to give forward to the people that we serve.
I’m looking forward to making the right structural adjustments, and to helping develop a space where we can all do our own work while also tending to the collective that we are. I’m looking forward to doing those things that we know work as well as to finding new approaches that will allow us to innovate in this field. I am looking forward to an expansion of my own heart in this process, to holding the awareness that we live in a social context where oppression still strives while also reaching forward to the liberation that must also become mine.