15 Years of Writing Publicly

15 years ago when I started this weblog, the fact that I am easily amazed was more evident in an effervescent and silver-lining kind of way. As a 26 year-old school teacher, it felt totally appropriate at the lunch table one day when a 9-year old student looked up at me with wide eyes of knowing and exclaimed,  “Ashley, you need a tee shirt that says Easily Amazed!” I said, “You’re right!” as he had simply and clearly reflected back to me the passion and enthusiasm I had for life… and named this blog. I was quick to amazement in those days, awe tingling in my cells.

In addition to teaching at a Montessori school, I was in graduate school studying child-centered play therapy, school counseling, and transpersonal counseling. I was also having my own spiritual awakening (with all its own darkness and light) while being rather socially isolated living in Denton, Texas. Life was filled with reflection, depth, investigation, and I was in love with and curious about the unique expressions of being human, in awe of the living world, fascinated by our meaning-making, intelligence, and the unknowable, and excited by opportunities for connection and positive development.

Today, 15 years of life later, having followed the path of my calling and continued my inquiries into the ways of existence, I might say that I am more deeply committed … to truth, to healing, to justice, to love…. than easily amazed. My fierce commitment to seeing and healing from the truth has shifted my quick response from effervescent awe to a familiar feeling of heart-brake and bewilderment by the effectiveness and strategies of those who cause or perpetuate harm and inequality, and have been doing so for generations.

While my awe and reverence for life and the living world (which includes humans) and our interconnections is still a bright light within me, I definitely recognize that actively pursuing and facing truths that I was previously oblivious to has zapped out of me some of my effervesce… for now… and sharpened my ability to see more clearly what is going on around me. I trust that as I continue to wake up from the slumber that was socially granted to me along with my white skin and middle class socialization, as I re-ground and realize who I am, where I come from, and what it means to be responsible in this body and legacy I was born into and this purpose I am here to live, that as I root, my effervescence shines forth in new ways.

The other side to this anniversary that I want to mark is that today is also 15 years of my writing publicly. I remember the hesitancy when I decided to write a blog. What should I share? Who am I writing to? What is the line of what I share publicly, what is just for my own journaling, and what is for my intimate circle of relations? I know that at many stages of my life there were specific people in my mind who I wrote to. As I wrote, I would feel family members, loved ones, friends, colleagues, and people I didn’t know but whom I knew read my blog. I would imagine that I was writing to them personally, hoping that the time and effort I invested in bringing words to my perceptions and experiences would bring value to others in addition to myself.

In honor of this anniversary and journey of finding words that make visible the shapes and queries inside my head and heart, I want to thank some of the people who inspired and encouraged me in those earlier years. I have so much love and gratitude for the ways you helped me find confidence and commitment in writing — thank you, Chris Weaver, Thomas Arthur, Chris Corrigan, Christy Lee-Engel, Jeff Aiken, Meredith Krugel, Brandy George.

And thank you deeply from my heart to anyone who has read my words and let me know that you appreciate my writing voice.

 

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May They STOP and Find Healing

Today is hard. Gentleness and love to all the women and all the souls who are also feeling that. I’m at the laundromat and there is a man that has a t-shirt on that says “Only YES means YES”. It’s striking to me how much it affects my nervous system to see a man walking around with a statement about consent and against sexual violence.

May we be evolving as a human race, may compassion and justice seep deeper into our practice of being human, may those that are wounded in such ways that they cause harm and use acts of violence and abuse of power STOP and find healing. May we grow in our abilities to be in loving, intimate and respectful relationships.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

 

Heroic

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May we Dismantle Oppressive Behaviors and Embrace Mutuality

A prayer for every person who is devoted to social change that leads to a more just and humane world… May each one of us strengthen or develop our capacities to address tensions and conflict, receive and give feedback, and learn and grow from our encounters… may we stay focused on the goals of change for the greatest good and those most vulnerable, as we dismantle patterns of oppression and embrace healthy patterns of mutual relationships.

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Confronting Racism and Classism

“Hard: Confronting Nazis.

Harder: Confronting everyday racism practiced by loved ones, colleagues, and people you share community with.

Hardest: Acknowledging and confronting your own racist tendencies.

All are necessary if we are serious about ending oppression.”
Maurice Moe Mitchell

For my own practice, replacing the word racism with classism is also true and important. I’m not sure what the parallel to Nazis is… Greedy Capitalist, Exploitive Capitalist?

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Qualities of a Powerful Conversation Across Differences

Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to host 42 folks from Charlotte in an Art of Participatory Leadership 1-day taster around questions like: “What might we discover if we take a collective pause and slow down enough to learn together about where we are as a city? What difference do our differences make?” The theme of the day was around being a more equitable city. At the beginning, we spent time focusing on how we want to be together, our group culture. I am really interested in the difference between these two lists — between the qualities of a good conversation and the qualities of a good conversation with people who are different. What do you notice?

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Professors Who Were Part of Desegregating UNCA Retire

In the summer and fall of 1984, as part of a statewide mandate that the UNC system hire more black professors, Dr.’s Dolly and Dwight Mullen and Dr.’s Charles and Deborah “Dee” James began teaching at UNC Asheville. This year the four are retiring. Here is a great interview and article sharing about their experiences being part of the small handful of African American professors at that University and the legacy that they have created. I have so much respect and appreciation for the Mullen’s (I have not gotten to know the James’). And I wonder what other ways the efforts of creating a colloquium, a community within a community, might be replicated in Asheville? What can programs and initiatives like My Daddy Taught Me That, My Sistah Taught Me That, and YTL Training Program learn from these initiatives of the past?

From the article:

“James taught a variety of chemistry courses, like molecular spectroscopy, and humanities, and he remembers students writing very comfortably on their teacher evaluation forms that the school needed to “stop hiring just another n-word”.

Mullen taught political science, and he regularly received death threats. Sometimes students would check to make sure he made it home OK.

“I was part of the apartheid movement of ‘88 and there were also klans in Madison County who knew my name,” he said. “I would come in to work and find things plastered on my classroom walls saying ‘go back to Africa’.”

In addition to teaching a couple of classes at UNCA, Dolly Mullen taught night classes at Mars Hill, as the first and only black professor at the school in 1986. She was pregnant at the time. Her husband would never let her go to the school alone, and he would wait in the car for hours while she taught.

The need to address the setbacks and high dropout numbers [for African American students] motivated the four of them as they established the African-American Colloquium in 1991.

‘Black students were failing out at horrifying rates when they shouldn’t have been’

Dolly Mullen felt the real problem was a social one, with many black students repeatedly hearing racist taunts at sporting games and on-campus events, she said.

“If you were acknowledged in class at all you were treated as remedial or pointed out as the representative of all the black students in the school,” Charles James said.

It was a bold idea – to require that all black freshman students take additional classes with them with the hope they would have a better grasp on their identity and what they wanted to accomplish at UNCA.

The colloquium include field trips to historically black cities, like Charleston and New Orleans, and included a mentorship component that often led to students going to the Mullens’ home after hours to keep discussing their future.

“I never had a black male teacher before coming to UNCA,” said Gaipher-Eli, an entrepreneur. “So for me to see a black Ph.D. like Dwight and watch the way he handled the classroom, it was like seeing superman for the first time. He was like a superhero to me.”

The colloquium allowed him to access resources he never knew were available and to stay enrolled in school.

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Diversity, Inclusion, Equity, Justice

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