I went to synagogue last week to support friends who were leading the service and I got a gift in return. My friend Hilary shared some words that really resonated with me. I’ll translate them here as “this space is sacred.”
We create and move through spaces every day and all the time, at work as well as at home and in community. And, we are in times that can feel challenging, frightening, or even dangerous. And so how do we nourish ourselves and find the belonging that is a basic human need? Without being trite, I left synagogue reminded that I am already in those spaces and that I can do more to notice when the spaces I am in have elements of the sacred: belonging, grace, wonder, possibility, joy.
Here are some of the spaces I’ve been in just in the last month that I realize now were sacred, even if only for a moments:
At the dinner table in western Massachusetts, surrounded by the laughter of family who have only known one another for at most eight years, creatively weaving our connections as we anticipate the next generation
Floating in the ocean, swaying in the waves
Recently at a staff gathering where we were together in person for the first time in two and a half years…feeling the presence, seeing more than just the faces.
In a zoom room of white anti-racists sharing vulnerable stories of failure and intentions to be in deep partnership and sibling-hood in multi-racial spaces
In a zoom room of mostly strangers exploring generative conflict
Perhaps harder to conceive, and problematic if held in the wrong way, I wonder how we can find or create sacredness amidst a world or workplace that feels challenging. One way I saw that was in a beautiful interaction between two clients. One is leaving their job; another, in tears, processing the endless change and loss, spoke to how much they appreciated that person and how in seven months the departing person had pulled them into community and increased their capacity for important work.
I know that I, and many of our clients, yearn for and need wonder and sacredness as we move through a world full of challenges, violence, and fear. And, in discussing how we sometimes choose what we see, I would be remiss not to also name that it is a world full of beauty, changemakers, and organizing, with much to celebrate.
At IISC, we try to bring joy and foster belonging as we work on challenging issues, thereby creating and noticing the sacred space in which to do our work. Please join us and share your stories of sacred space.
When the Patriot Front marched in Boston earlier this month and assaulted Charles Murrell, a Black artist and activist, city officials and residents alike were taken by surprise. The Patriot Front was back in Boston over the weekend, this time in Jamaica Plain, spewing their vile ideology on the LGBTQ community. We can’t claim to be surprised any more. According to the Boston Globe, the Patriot Front has been building a constituency right here, in one of the supposedly most liberal states in the country. And they have spent more time in Massachusetts than other places over the past few years. This isn’t in our “backyard” folks. This is the front yard, where we can’t deny it any more.
I used to think of the visible, vocal, and sometimes violent displays of racism as the death throes of a dying beast. But white nationalism is reproducing itself, finding support among a whole new generation of young people. We’re told that these extremist groups offer the allure of physical discipline, gun-toting machismo, community, and ideological unity. It’s frightening to me, though not surprising, that this ideology has such allure; an ideology laden with hatred and lies that obscure the real drivers of economic insecurity and political polarization and instead scapegoat people of color and LGBTQ people. It’s literally a page from the Nazi’s playbook.
If nothing else, January 6, 2021 should have taught us that it’s time to get behind efforts to prevent and intervene on the radicalization of young white people. Since 911, law enforcement has had a relentless focus on monitoring radicalization of young Muslim men, trampling civil liberties and demonizing whole communities in the process. Police have been monitoring Black and Brown street gangs for generations, also often trampling civil liberties and justifying police violence in the process. When young white men become radicalized, the strategy seems to be “do nothing,” and to explain away any crimes they commit by focusing on their mental health and social marginalization. I’m not calling for a trampling of their civil liberties, or justifying the abuses of Muslim, Black and Brown youth at the hands of police. But I am calling on us as a society to take the radicalization of young white people seriously. In the words of Wajahat Ali, author of Deradicalizing White People, “I have lost count of how many times I have been asked as a Muslim, ‘Where are the moderate Muslims?’ So allow me to ask, ‘Where are the moderate whites, and what are they doing to combat extremism?’”
What are we – those of us working for social justice – doing to combat extremism in our communities? It’s not a problem over there, in “red America,” it’s right here, in our front yard.
“Your generosity is more important than your perfection.”
Over the past 20 years of working with a variety of social change networks, I have observed a common dynamic surface after the initial enthusiasm and launch phase. As happened recently with a place-based network about a year into its development (navigating COVID and political uprisings along the way), some members started to bang the “What have we actually done?” drum. Contextual crises notwithstanding, this is not an inappropriate or unhelpful question. As important as relationship and trust-building is, there can come a time when people want to know … “So what?” Sometimes this comes from what we might call more “results-oriented” people in the network. Or it may come from the more time-strapped and stressed, those from smaller organizations, or those who just genuinely don’t see the return on their investment. When this has come up, and people are either holding back (“folded arms”) or threatening to walk, I have witnessed and facilitated several different ways of moving through the real or perceived lack of progress.
“If you want it, thenyou better put a ring around it” – In one instance, the convening team of a state-wide network essentially drew a line around all of the network participants and started claiming their successes as network successes. This might sound a bit shady, though it was not done in that spirit. By celebrating “your success as our success,” people felt appreciated and started to turn towards one another and see themselves as a bigger we. They didn’t have to wait to get to mass action. Smaller subsets having success counted.
Get a quick win – In another state-wide network, fraught at the outset by folded arms despite the fact that people would regularly physically show up for meetings, a network coordinator seized upon a timely policy advocacy opportunity that surfaced, which resulted in a mass outpouring and a legislative win. Nothing sells like success. That early victory got people eager to see what else they might be able to accomplish and they settled in for some more relationship-building.
Collect and share connection stories – We know that relationship-building is not just about the relationships. It can lead to new partnerships and projects. Often this happens at the start of a network, but is not tracked. We worked with another place-based network that intentionally set out to track the results of connections made in and through the network, and then shared these with the network as a whole. More about connection stories here.
Highlight the unusual and adjacent conversations – What makes many of the networks we work with unique is that they bring together people who do not often work with each other. Highlighting this and also what emerges out of novel interactions across fields can make “just talking” into exciting explorations and engines of innovation. For a little inspiration on this front, see “Why the most interesting ideas happen at the borders between disciplines” from Steven Johnson at Adjacent Possible (!).
Pump people up, individually and collectively – Let’s face it, in these times (and really all times), expressing genuine appreciation can go a long way. We work with a network convenor who does this wonderfully, tracking and celebrating people for their individual contributions outside of network gatherings, and constantly speaking to the power and potential of the collective. She just makes people feel good! This can make the proverbial “marathon, not a sprint” more enjoyable.
Get a super weaver going – Having a really adept and energetic network weaver can make all the difference in the early stages of a network. We have seen the impact this can have when ample capacity is created to regularly check in with people, listen to them, make connections between different needs and offers in the system, and encourage people to share more with one another. When those exchanges start happening, the “there” there is often more apparent.
Lift up the network champions – Generally there is a small group of people who really appreciate and lean into the value of the network from the get go (gratefully receiving and using resources that are shared, following up with new connections, testing out new ideas, leveraging the network as a platform), making it happen and not waiting for it. Observing this, capturing it, and sharing it with the network can help make the point that the network is what people make of it and give ideas for how to make this happen.
What have you done to successfully navigate impatience and intransigence in impact networks?
There’s never been a more important time to claim your full power in philanthropy. We need you – your authentic and most daring selves during these times. This is the moment to relinquish power and exercise deep trust in the field. This is the moment to recognize the important role we need you to play as a catalyst for transformative and progressive social change.
Remove and redefine the boundaries of what a funder or program officer should be.
Resist rolling out long applications and grant reports again. The field is working and we can’t be overtaxed as we fight the many battles that have been placed upon us. We need you working alongside us, not reading proposals and reports.
Avoid reverting back to prioritizing program grants. We need unrestricted general operating funds to apply what we are learning each day to what must be done.
Fund movement organizing and capacity building organizations so that we can work together to unlock profound social change during this period.
Make strategy with us, not for us. Together we must be emergent and adaptable to our challenges and opportunities. Change is not always linear. Like COVID-19, further attacks on social and racial justice will be unpredictable and hate and greed will produce new variants.
Please…come now out of your homes and offices to toil alongside us. You are not apart from us. You are us. And we need you.
We need all hands on deck. Come as you are, but come, and please do all that you can to make justice easier for us.
P.S. I share these words as someone who has spent twenty years in philanthropy – leading a charitable foundation, working with foundations, and advising donors. Discard the constraint of what you think philanthropy is and was. Philanthropy, a Greek word, means love of humanity. That’s your job now – to love humanity – and it’s urgent.
June 24th, 2022 was a dark day in our fight for liberation of Black bodies and for Black power. Reproductive justice is centrally linked to Black liberation: it is our right to know our bodies, make decisions about our bodies, and feel safe in our bodies. Self-determination has been challenged, disregarded, and disrespected. To my Black sisters, trans brothers, and gender-non-conforming kin: I rage with you, cry with you, and continue the work of building a world in service of our liberation with you today and all days.
The Supreme Court’s conservative decision to overturn Roe v. Wade is a calculated attack on our bodies, our freedom, and our personal sovereignty. This is not the first action taken by the courts in what has been a long history of reproductive control rooted in classism, sexism, and racism. It is class, sex, and race-based violence designed to further oppress, control, dehumanize, delegitimize, and imprison. I stand in opposition to this decision and in solidarity and support of Black Lives Matter’s calls for expanding the court, ending the filibuster, and passing the Women’s Health Protection Act.
I recommit to centering Black voices, to fighting for Black freedom, and to standing in solidarity with Black organizers, activists, and communities of color. I stand with you.
“If one really wishes to know how justice is administered in a country, one does not question the policemen, the lawyers, the judges, or the protected members of the middle class. One goes to the unprotected – those, precisely, who need the law’s protection most! – and listens to their testimony.”
In previous posts (see “Life (and Power) on the Resilient Edge of Resistance” and “At the Heart of Regeneration is … the Heart (and the Gut”), I have written about my experiences with the Weston Network and the Respectful Confrontation training and apprenticeship program and more recently with the Fierce Civility teacher training program, which I began in March of this year. This most recent experience, including a 5 day retreat with a small and racially diverse group of skillful practitioners from around the US, again drove home the importance for me of embodied practice generally, and specifically to manage our nervous systems and engage in interpersonal “co-regulation.” To me, Joe Weston is a true magician, a masterful teacher and coach, and someone that hashelped me to develop deeper reverence for my body and its wisdom (along with very adept healers, Dr. Eve Capkanis and Gwen McClellan).
A few weeks ago, Joe gave me a draft of his forthcoming book, currently titled Fierce Civility: Transforming Our Global Culture from Polarization to Lasting Peace, and asked that I do a critical review. I came away with more appreciation for what he and The Weston Network are trying to achieve in these fractured and fractious times. “Civility” has (almost) become a dirty word, seen as naive and impossible by some (at least when considering certain cultural and political divides), and as harmful by others, if “being civil” means not speaking or hearing truths or working for social justice. Joe appreciates all of this (writing at one point – “Even our passivity has taken on a tone of aggression”), and holds the concept of civility in dynamic tension with fierce-ness.
Fierce civility is not about “chronic niceness” or conflict avoidance, but rather advocates for stances of assertiveness (as opposed to aggression) and receptivity (as opposed to passivity). Fierce civility is not about glossing over systemic and structural injustice and oppression, even as it does not shy away from promoting personal responsibility and accountability. This delicate and sometimes difficult balancing act was definitely a topic of conversation this past weekend when our Fierce Civility cohort (whom Joe has dubbed “love ninjas”) gathered on the heels of Friday’s US Supreme Court decision on Roe v. Wade. That is a discussion that will continue, no doubt. Joe writes in his book, “We are technologically overfed and spiritually malnourished,” and encourages people to intentionally change their diets (quality and quantity) as a means of effectively making both personal and systemic change. And best if this is work is done with supportive community.
There is much more to say about the book, as well as the practices that the Weston Network teaches (though better to actually read the book and engage in the practices), but for now, I wanted to share (with Joe’s permission) some particular quotes that struck while reading the draft and that have stayed with me.
“True martial artists would say that they learn how to fight so that they can pivot away from conflict and aggression and prevent fighting, and that is true power.”
“Imagine in a conversation if the goal on both sides was to protect yourself, the other and the conversation itself from unconscious reactivity and the lack of civility that can unexpectedly seep in.”
“When we give the extremes all of our attention, our focus is turned towards them and away from the larger majority of people who hold more nuanced, less reactive views of the same issues.”
“What if the most courageous, revolutionary and impactful thing you could do at this time is to cultivate a daily practice of aligning with your humanity, embody a deeper level of resilience, avoid burn out, as well as maintain and deepen authentic relationships?”
“This is what true freedom is: freeing yourself of unexamined beliefs and biases; gaining confidence to stay regulated in challenging situations; opening your heart in safe and empowered ways, and protecting against any threats to civility and non-violence.”
“Many of us have forgotten that debating issues can be fun, not a life-or-death experience. We have become frightened and turned off by the messiness of human interaction and the process of creating something new.”
“The two halves of the heart pump with and against each other. This dynamic interplay might look pretty volatile to the human eye, but the body knows that that level of assertiveness is necessary to keep the system healthy and vital.”
“We are seeing a shift to cyber and economic warfare. The techniques may change, but the primitive impulse for war has not. And while we may have peace treaties, we are not seeing the global cooperation needed to sustain life.”
“If only hanging out with people who already agree with you were going to solve our problems, we would have already solved them.”
(Quoting Gabor Maté): “Safety is not the absence of danger; safety is the presence of connection.”
When I am feeling overwhelmed or disheartened, I remind myself that amidst the violence, many people are leading gorgeous campaigns for change. I also remind myself that there are white people who have done the work for freedom and anti-racist futures over the last 200 years. As white activists and consultants, we don’t always acknowledge or see our own lineages. So, here I name here a few, including some women and Jews, my ancestors, who stood up and took risks for their beliefs, acting in their historical context, often against the grain.
Peter Norman stood with John Carlos and Tommie Smith while they raised their fists and donned black clothing in support of Black Americans and Black power, and they all wore Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR) badges (also calling out white supremacy and indigenous policies in his native Australia) at the 1968 Olympics.
Vito Marcantonio, an Italian-American congressperson from NY in the 1930s and 40s who stood with Blacks and Jews and against anti-communism.
Lydia Maria Child, an author who wrote “An Appeal in Favor of that Class of Americans Called Africans” where she raised the complicity of the north in maintaining slavery and was a member of the Boston Female Anti-Slavery Society, which called for the immediate abolition of slavery (as some call for the immediate abolition of prisons).
Ernestine Louise Rose (early 1800s) who was a Jewish abolitionist and suffragette and (from a short reading of Wikipedia) a general badass who won a court case against a forced betrothal, traveled the world, married a non-Jew and sold perfumed paper.
These are just a few white anti-racists who I found online or had heard stories about. Who would you add to the list? Either white activists or people from one of your ancestries?
A personal blog about the power of the Juneteenth holiday to foster Black joy and freedom.
I woke up to a text from my community health center that it was closed for Juneteenth, something I wouldn’t have thought possible just a few years ago. This started my week of JOY and FREEDOM! I cleared my eyes from sleep and imagined my Black ancestors on the plantation celebrating their freedom after the Emancipation Proclamation reached most corners of the country.
Black people still experience deep racism and racialized trauma and yet we are living dreams our ancestors could never have envisioned. Running organizations and businesses, taking our rightful place in elected office, saving lives during COVID as doctors and nurses, and seeing our children off to college and on to planes to places in the world our ancestors were forbidden to see.
This week alone, I walked freely in the streets, sat in the front of a bus, ate at an integrated restaurant, and hugged my husband and child who will never be sold away from me to a white person in the middle of a town square.
This week I participated in the Embrace Ideas Festival sponsored by KingBoston, a program of The Boston Foundation, one of our racial equity change clients. On a panel of Black leaders of arts organizations, one leader shared that while white people must do the work of anti-racism, what’s really needed is for BIPOC leaders to embrace and experience joy and fun.
I co-sign this belief so where will you find me this weekend of Juneteenth? I will be wearing traditional African clothing, line dancing with my Black friends, eating scrumptious soul food, kissing my child, and praying for greater forces of justice to prevail in our future.
Over the course of the last few years I have been delving deeper into the trans-disciplinary science of energy systems, largely thanks to my colleague and mentor Dr. Sally J. Goerner. Earlier in 2022, Dr. Goerner and I offered a session to The Weaving Lab on energy systems science for network weavers. A summary of that session can be found here. Since then I have been working with a few others to explore,identify and build out resources, practices and tools at different “levels” (individual, group/organization, and larger system), all within the context of the planet that sustains us, in the four different domains of Energy System Science. Together, these domains support systemnic saluto-genesis – the capacity of living systems to reproduce resilience and wellbeing. The four domains are:
resilient and balanced structures
common cause culture
The Energy System Sciences (ESS) see all “living” systems as “flow networks” or structures that arise from the circulation of resources, information, nutrients, etc. Thinking through the lens of flow, systemic health can be seen as being based on things like:
investment and re-investment of key and diverse resources,
healthy outflows (not polluting or poisoning “the host”),
the velocity and spread of resources in the system,
cross-scale circulation, etc.
The nature and quality of these flows determines how systems are able to adapt and evolve in healthy and health-promoting ways.
The image above offers a sample collection of resources, practices and tools, that transcend specific sectors (economics, education, etc.) and that I look forward to bringing to a group later this fall. Certainly incomplete, these practices also do not all neatly fit into one category, even where they appear to in the graphic – that’s life! If you go to this link, you will find the above image as a clearer PDF document that has hyperlinks for some of what is listed (items that are underlined) that will take you to additional information. And I am always eager to hear what others would add!
I am grateful for the many teachers and collaborators, in addition to Dr. Goerner, who have guided my thinking and practice along the way: Joe Weston, Gwen McClellan, john a. powell, Eve Capkanis, Melinda Weekes-Laidlow, Rev. Dr. Jacqui Lewis, Joel Glanzberg, June Holley, Resmaa Menakem, Katya Fels Smyth, Tanya Tucker, Verna Allee, Carol Sanford, Robert Peng, Maya Townsend, Father Richard Rohr, Dorn Cox, Sherri Mitchell, Harold Jarche, Nora Bateson, Marty Kearns, Tara Brach, John Fullerton, Marilyn Darling, Daniel Christian Wahl, Anne Marie Chiasson, Dr. Chris Holder, Tyson Yunkaporta and Steven C. Hayes, among others.
These days, folks love to hate Zoom as much as they used to love to hate meetings in general. And “Zoom fatigue” is a problem most folks didn’t even have until the last couple of years. I know from experience how taxing it can be to interact with people through a computer or phone screen all day long. AND, for a minute, I want to sing the praises of online gatherings.
Online gatherings can be powerful. I’ve born witness to deep heart-opening moments and moments of relational repair in online meetings. I’ve seen people have important moments of insight and learning. I’ve seen folks inspire one another and discover their power to speak into difficult situations and confront unjust dynamics within their organizations. And, I’ve seen folks share important information and make really strategic decisions. It’s all about how you create and hold the space. When we bring the best of what we know about creating containers for meaningful engagement, designing for the whole person, the magic can still happen.
Online learning can be more fruitful than in-person learning. Before the pandemic began, most of our workshops were in person for two or three days at a time. As we transitioned to online learning, we broke the content up into smaller bites (typically 3 hours) and spread sessions out over several days or weeks. We’re finding that participants enjoy taking in content in smaller doses, absorbing the information, and practicing a little before layering on the next set of ideas.
Online gatherings can reduce the time, effort, and resources needed to participate. Since 2020, I have been able to participate in waaaay more conferences, convenings, and gatherings than I would have in the ‘before times.” I’ve been able to gather wisdom and inspiration from the Movement for Black Lives, Race Forward, and the Othering and Belonging Institute, to name just a few. I’ve participated in somatics workshops and disability justice workshops, and connected regularly with peers who are committed to deepening our practice of equity. I’ve been co-learning and co-leading a peer exploration at the intersections of racism and classism. And as a volunteer, I’ve been able to get deeply involved with the Poor People’s Campaign and both learn from powerful leaders from across the country and plan with leaders from across our state. On the flip side, while the cost of an online gathering isn’t zero, it can cost a lot less and make it possible to engage more people. While an online meeting does expend energy, I’d be surprised if the carbon footprint of a Zoom meeting exceeded a trip by car, train, or airplane.
Online gatherings have been good for my health. Because I haven’t been traveling for work and because full-day events are rare, there are rarely multi-day stretches where I’m 100% involved with only one group. This has meant much less late-night hustling for one group before an all-day in-person event for another. And I’ve done literally no late night work on train rides between NYC and Boston after a full work day (a regular feature of my work life before COVID). As someone who is chemically sensitive, it was not unusual for me to have to wear a mask to deal with chemical exposure in hotels and offices long before the pandemic. As someone with food allergies, eating on the road is fraught with difficulties. In the world of online work, it’s been a blessing to work from spaces where I can control fragrances and chemical exposure as well as my own meals. I have heard from others with chronic conditions and mobility challenges that online participation has enabled them to participate more fully in things that matter to them, with an important caveat. While we’re getting good at using features like chats and breakout rooms, we haven’t done as well with accessibility needs like ASL, spoken language interpretation, captioning, or other aids for folks with visual challenges.
Of course, there are caveats to all of these upsides to online gatherings. They can be boring, taxing, and even exclusionary. They can make it possible to sit still for too long, strain our wrists and hands, and spend too much time with our screens. They can make it possible to say yes to too many good things and thereby fail to carve out space for other meaningful things in our lives. They can create real accessibility problems for folks without a reliable internet connection or device. And, given the limited ability for participants to engage with one another as they would choose, there are a lot of power dynamics to address and manage. Still, the rise of online meetings in response to the pandemic has taught us that if we design carefully, facilitate attentively, and address equity and access issues, they can be a vehicle for more participation, less environmental damage, and more powerful thinking and action.
I love frisbee and have for as long as I can remember. Recently, as I was entering into a few weeks of sabbatical time away from work, a friend asked me what I thought would be most regenerative of my mind, body and spirit during this time. In addition to rest, slowing down, being generally mindful, and taking a break from screens, social media and the news, one of the things that came top of mind was playing frisbee. I have memories of my teenage and twenty-something self in utter bliss and a sense of timelessness, hurling a disk across a vast expanse at a corner lot in our neighborhood in Flint, Michigan or at a lakeside park in upstate New York with my dad or a friend, feeling the breeze, watching the frisbee glide and rotate against a backdrop of brilliant blue sky and feeling the grass massage my bare feet as I ran to make a catch. Heaven.
This is a love that I seem to have successfully instilled in my three daughters. And one of them, our eldest, has taken it to another level this season through her involvement in her high school varsity ultimate frisbee team. I have only played “ultimate” a couple of times, and very informally, in my lifetime. Growing up in the Midwest US, this was not “a thing” the way that it is here in the northeast. And it turns out that at the high school level in this community, it is taken quite seriously and is played with great skill. Having said that, the culture and success of the ultimate frisbee boys’ team here has been particularly striking in that it seems so different from what one usually thinks about in terms of high performance athletics. The more I have learned and experienced this current high school ultimate frisbee season, especially in the context of these times, the more I have appreciated what is happening right under my nose, forall that it gives to the teenagers involved and would seem to offer a mainstream culture hurting for lack of alternative ways of being, well, more human(e), especially in adolescent and competitive contexts.
My oldest daughter, Annabel, also plays varsity volleyball, which takes up a lot of her time in the fall. When she got involved in frisbee during the spring, one of the first things I noticed was her overall upbeat attitude and holistic appreciation for her teammates and the ultimate culture. “There just isn’t much drama,” Annabel explained to me at one point, “and people are really kind, supportive and frankly mature.” In a sense, ultimate to her is not just a sport, but a way of life. She went on to explain how in ultimate games there are no referees, that players take responsibility for calling fouls and then talking it out if there are any differences of perspective. I’ve witnessed this a number of times in games and have been impressed that even when there is clearly tension and disagreement, the players manage to work it through – some beautiful self-organization and respectful confrontation/ fierce civility on display!
I also came to appreciate early on in this recently completed spring season, the joy-full, heartfelt, and creative expression that comes up during and around games. After one memorable game, the two competing teams sang songs they had composed to one another, conveying appreciation for the adversary. In another case, after one team scored, the other team gave them a standing ovation as a salute to the level of play and skillfulness on display. In a recent tournament finale, the boys’ team was down a couple of points with not much time remaining and called a timeout. Instead of getting down on one another or into a heated strategic conversation, they played music and engaged in a playful dance circle for a couple of minutes, then went on to win the game. And when someone accidentally hurts someone else during play, they make sure to stay engaged with the injured person, showing genuine care and making sure the person gets the support they need.
The camaraderie and respect on display is really remarkable. The boys’ and girls’ teams come to one another’s games and cheer each other on. “You just don’t see this in other sports at the school,” says Annabel. Each time someone scores from either team there is an outburst of celebration from whoever is cheering from the sideline. If someone makes a mistake on the field they are supported by players on and off the field, and the invitation is for everyone to move on. It is not unusual to see the boys come together in a game to hold hands and take a deep breath together to gather themselves, and for both teams to engage in a mindful moment before a game. Annabel says to me, “We genuinely love each other and enjoy being with one another.” This shows and comes through time spent outside of practice and games building relationships and rapport, including through community service projects. (the most recent being at the local survival center).
There is also a core element of mindful inclusion and paying attention to privilege. The boys’ team recently made the decision not to go to a “by invitation only” national conference because of its exclusivity and tendency to only include mostly white teams and privileged schools. The girls’ team, in light of its multi-racial make-up, has had open conversations about anti-racism and anti-sexism. And there has been an attempt to create across programs an authentic and welcoming community for LGBTQ+ team members, including an open embrace of trans athletes.
One last point worth making. There is a very mature invitation by members of the ultimate teams to take personal responsibility and, as Annabel explains it, “focus on controllables, not uncontrollables.” In other words, to enact the serenity prayer, knowing when to push for change and when to let go and just flow with what is. I can see how this is impacting my daughter and her teammates in a time that begs for this kind of discernment.
In a world that can seem at times so unmoored, this spring ultimate frisbee season and the remarkable leadership of these local teens has given me hope for the present and future.
Ok, you know the way the movie starts about the state of this country.
Opening scene. Racism is deeply embedded in communities and every institution, our world is at war, reproductive rights are crumbling, COVID has weakened our health, our economic system is collapsing, and climate change is wreaking havoc on the planet. Among these and other crises, Black people, Indigenous people, and Latinx and Asian & Pacific Islander communities are the first and last to be impacted. They are trying to stay alive, protect their children, and hold onto their bodies, lands, and dignity.
Scene 2. You get out your cape. A really nice fitting, fabulous, super hero, version of a cape that ties around your neck while you stand effortlessly on top of a mountain. You’re a hero for this moment. You’re living in this mess so you might as well join with others to make the movie end better than the first draft of the screenplay.
Scene 3. Imagine the faces of people who are in your sphere of influence. Who are they? Go down the mountain and get them! Build power through collaboration. Join organizations and networks and train up your skills together.
Final scene. You pack your social justice emergency kit. It’s a gorgeous cool suitcase that matches your cape. It’s got everything you need to make change:
A bowl of laughter for the tough days
Fulfilling relationships with people who care about you and will also support change
A mutual aid handbook that helps you find rest, money, food, water, and shelter as you work for justice
Good nights of sleep and putting your feet up on the couch
Movement of your body, exercise, and breath
And, lots of cuddles!
You stroll out to the road and your cape billows in the breeze as your suitcase rolls behind you. Your favorite power song comes on cue as the credits roll. It’s the kind of walk, the kind of music that comes at the end of a movie and makes you feel connected to something greater. You feel ten feet taller, you feel – and are! – more powerful and wiser. You got this!