Tonye Patano, a black actor in New York City, was so consumed last year by reading a script about minstrelsy, she was late for an audition. The story had rattled and repulsed her. But she couldn’t put it down. The day when she finally headed to the audition, she heard a group of young black teens on the street riffing in racially charged language.
“It was their way of relating to each other,” said Patano. “My response in my spirit was: ‘Young man, do you hear what you’re saying?’ But they were owning who they were, not caring about anyone’s judgment. Even if I don’t agree with it, they had made the language their own.”
We at IISC have the privilege of witnessing heartful, sometimes heart wrenching dialogue about critical issues in our world from multiple perspectives. We work with passionate laypeople and professionals focused on education, environment and sustainability, public health, peace and justice, youth development, racial justice, city planning and community development, to name a few disciplines.
I’m encouraged by a few themes that are coming up more and more in our work. And, I’m even more encouraged that increasingly, they are emerging as imperatives, not just “nice ideas.” As we facilitate processes and bear witness to the struggle to bring forth justice, here are some of the voices we’ve heard calling out: Read More
In her keynote address at Boston’s Martin Luther King, Jr. breakfast, Dr. Melissa Harris-Perry invited us to consider the meaning of Dr. King’s 1967 book, Where do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community (excerpt here) at in this political moment. She reminded us what was going on in 1966, as Dr. King wrote. The Freedom Movement had achieved many legal and legislative victories by then, (Brown vs. Board of Education supporting school desegregation and the Voting Rights Act to name just a few). The Movement and its victories created justifiable hope that the lives of people on the margins of our society could improve. At the same time, poverty and racism still created the need for continued struggle. By 1966-67, many felt their hope was no longer justifiable in the face of violent backlash and intractable injustices. In the face of withering criticism including charges of cowardice, Dr. King continued to urge the country toward community rather than chaos, without shrinking back from the justice issues before him. Read More
Vote Today! It does matter. But you probably already knew that. I’m down on the state these days. And I don’t mean Massachusetts. I mean “the state,” the dominant organizing structure for human affairs. But I still think we should vote – wield some of the influence we have. Read More
|Photo by marcomagrini|http://www.flickr.com/photos/marcomagrini/698692268|
“We don’t talk about what we see,
we see only what we can talk about.”
– Fred Kofman
This week I’ve been rereading Donella Meadows’ Thinking in Systemsand really savoring it. Each time I look at it, I pick up something new, not just about systems thinking but about life in general. I’ve been focused primarily on Meadows’ chapter “Living in a World of Systems,” which considers how we can work with complex systems while acknowledging that even when we understand them better, we cannot predict or control them. One of her suggestions is that we learn to pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable. This is not a question of throwing out what we can quantify as being somehow overly reductionist. Rather, it is a matter of not giving up on what we cannot measure and making quantity more important than quality. How important this is for our social change work! Read More
Beautiful and timely video. Historically, we have shown and unbelievable ability to dehumanize one another. We seem to like dehumanizing one group at a time. In the United States today, it seems like Muslims have become the latest target – this video goes a long way to bring our beauty into perspective. Art leads.
“Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love.” Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
This often quoted comment by Dr. King forms the foundation of Adam Kahane’s new book, Love and Power: A theory and practice of social change. Melinda Weekes and I attended a recent book talk by Adam, attracted to the topic because, at IISC we’ve been thinking through and practicing the connections among power, love, networks and collaboration for years now. Much of what Adam shared resonates with our thinking. The book builds on the thinking of theologian Paul Tillich. His definitions are worth taking a closer look:
This past weekend Samantha and I went to what I would call a “movement wedding.” Our friends Justin Francese and Doyle Canning, who co-founded smartMeme, decided it was time to tie the knot. It was a beautiful event and there are many highlights to share, but there is something in particular that has stuck with me since. Towards the end of the ceremony they invited us to join them in praying “the liberation theology version of the Lord’s Prayer,” and I feel like I’ve been contemplating this line since – Read More
It’s happening! Tens of thousands of people are just arriving in Detroit for what is an incredibly important and incredibly hopeful gathering – The United States Social Forum. It feels like all my friends are there and while conflicting responsibilities will keep me in Boston this week, I do want to send a blessing to all the courageous souls that are busy dreaming up new ways of being with each other. Read More
It’s the beginning of a new year, and all the treadmills are occupied at the gym. It’s hard to find any space in the locker room because so many people are set on establishing a new healthy routine for 2010. I’m not a new year’s resolution person, but I am thinking about fresh starts, renewed commitments to be good to myself, and shifts in the projects I’m going to put my energy towards. At IISC, we’ve committed to a new strategic direction for the next three years. Perhaps you’ve been mapping out your personal workplan for 2010 or doing some beginning of the year reflection with your peers, about how you want to work together this year to achieve progress on whatever social justice project you’re working on.
Martin Luther King has been on my mind over the last few days. I’ve been contemplating his prophetic voice, and how every age needs its prophets. I’ve been contemplating the relationship between his belief that “the vision of where we’re going is the reality we have to claim,” Joseph Campbell’s work on the power of myth, and @EmergentCulture’s recent tweet proposing that “we need a new myth for our time, a story that will serve us as we encounter a time period unlike any before.” It is all coming together in ways I’m not fully ready to define. Read More
Recently I was asked for a quote about the messiness of collaboration. In response to the request, I noted that because at IISC we are “Collaboration R Us” we tend not to think about the messiness of collaboration (though we do view messiness as part of any emergent and creative process). Rather we focus on the elegant design and facilitation that will ensure success. The quote that I submitted is the following:
“Collaboration takes more than well-meaning people with good intentions coming together to determine a set of outcomes. Successful collaboration requires solid process design and skillful facilitation. This is what builds the scaffolding for multiple and diverse stakeholders to create a shared vision of impact, agreement on goals and strategies for achieving that impact and a plan for collective action. The process itself is what catalyzes the critical shift of mind and heart from believing that the right answers and expertise are held by a few to an understanding that it is the collective wisdom of the group that determines right action and greater impact.”