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Solutions: Listen to the Stories. Invest.

Screen Shot 2018-02-14 at 9.42.53 AMSolutions: Listen to the stories of those who are most impacted by inequity. Invest in organizations that are informed by and lead by those who are most impacted.

In Asheville: Word on the Street/La Voz de los Jovenes is one of those organizations.

“I’ve been wanting a place where youth can just be themselves,” said 14-year-old Serenity Lewis

“It’s kinda helping youth of color get their voice out within the community. We’ve all noticed there’s a problem, and we want to go at it and fix it, or try to.” – Quantasia Williams, 18 years old

Listen to this segment about them on public radio.

 

 

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What Is This Moment Calling For?

Ashley041417-219As 2018 walks into my life, making herself at home like she’s been here all along, I’m reaching out to you, most of the people that I know, because now feels like the time.

As I see it, we are facing an opportunity of our lifetime: Can we learn or remember how to take better care of one another and guide ourselves towards a future that is more humane than this moment we are living now?

Most days, I have hope that it’s possible. In my 40 years of life, I’ve been blessed to meet thousands of incredible people all around the world. I’m in awe of how many folks from different backgrounds and life experiences are actively investing their energy and resources towards creating a more compassionate future. I hypothesize that perhaps the majority of people on this planet have good in our hearts and are capable of acting in ways that bring out the positive side of humanity.

So in 2018 – that’s a question that I’m exploring and where I will continue to focus my attention. Here are a few things that I believe which guide me:

  • People are amazing and capable of so much goodness
  • We are wiser together — the challenges that we face at this time are solvable when lead by the collective wisdom of diverse groups
  • If we face the truth of the past and present, then we are capable of imagining a future and working together to create the world we dream of
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Honoring the Homeless Community Leaders

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Every single person has gifts to offer. So many people in so many different life circumstances, dedicate their days and nights to giving their gifts and serving a greater good. My heart purrs deeply reading about these folks being honored and recognized for their service and fierce compassion.

“The awards centered on who in the BeLoved group (people who are living on the streets) has really shown leadership qualities and has been working on behalf of the whole community to create change.”

So much love and gratitude for BeLoved Asheville and the gracious souls ofAmy CantrellAdrienne Sigmon, and Ponkho Bermejo.

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Restorative Justice with Juvenile Cases

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“Our system has proven woefully inadequate, so we can’t just keep doing what we’ve been doing.” Said Jimmy Hung Chief Prosecutor for Juvenile courts in King County (Seattle, Washington). He doesn’t see evidence that jailing them changes anything. He’s most concerned about a system that funnels teenagers through detention and sees most leave no better than when they arrived — sometimes far worse.”

Last week I got to catch up with an old friend and someone whom I deeply respect and am honored to learn from and with, Saroeum Phoung. Honestly, he blew my mind as he shared about the incredible work they are doing in King county… on a systemic level and impacting the lives of thousands of people. Below is more from the articles:

Prosecutor Hung and his colleagues in King County took a risk and began implementing Peacemaking Circles, a form of restorative justice, for both misdemeanor and felony juvenile cases, working with lead consultant (and phenomenal human being) Saroeum Phoung from Pointonenorth Consulting LLC.

“The peacemaking process promises a clean start in return for hard conversations, intensive self-reflection, empathy-building and public amends.

“What people don’t realize is that this restorative justice work is harder than going to jail!” – Saroeum Phoung.

Getting the teen to connect his victim’s experience with his own feelings for family had been an essential goal for peace-circle leader Saroeum Phoung.

“There’s a solid amount of kids that this won’t work for — kids who think ‘I’m a gangbanger, and that’s all,’ ” said Vincente, now 18, who was a senior at Ingraham High School when he threatened another student, over social media, with a semi-automatic weapon.

Vincente met with the mother of his victim.

“I saw a lot of my mom in her, and I really began to understand what my actions had done to their whole family,” he said. “I thought it was just going to be why I’m a bad kid, but it turned out to be about fixing my family, too, getting at the root of why I was struggling. That’s really what it’s about.”

“If we can see kids enter the system and actually come out better on the other end,” Hung said. “That’s what we should be striving for.”

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May we place our hearts with you…

Awake in the darkness of the night… I’m feeling… my heart traveling the terrain of trauma and love erupting fiercely on this globe, erupting fiercely in the hearts of so many dear souls.

“In Hebrew, “pay attention” is literally translated as, “place your heart”. Placing our hearts requires effort. It requires us to focus beyond the chaotic white noise that fills so much of our lives… Placing our hearts means imagining a world where we see people for who they really are, where we seek to understand the lived experience of those around us, from their perspective. Not with judgement, but with compassion.” ~ Rabbi Will Berkovitz

Under the gaze of this new moon, I feel the grief and warrior-ship of my trans and non-binary community after the loss of Scout Schultz this week and Derricka Banner last week. May we place our hearts with you. May we see you as you are, whole and beautiful. May we love you as you are, courageous truth tellers.

I feel the dark and confusing places that the human mind can travel to, those moments when purpose and peace and connection feel stripped away, when we are struggling with our mental and emotional and physical health. May we place our hearts with those of you who are in this struggle. May love seep into the cracks, overshadowing the pain, and illuminating the light of your own precious soul, igniting the places where you can feel the divine breathing through you, where you can feel lightness and see how incredibly valuable your presence here on this earth is.

I feel the fear and trauma as storm meets earthquake meets fire meets flood. As people?’s lives are uprooted, loved ones lost, homes demolished. May we place our hearts with you. May we continue to turn to one another and extend a helping hand. May we build home together. May we see beyond our differences and awaken to our abilities to help make this world safer for one another… in times of crisis and also in the ordinary moments.

I feel the weight of exhaustion, the personal toll taxed upon those who daily are impacted by forces of oppression — systems that are trying to hold you down, trying to keep you from fully expressing the profound aliveness of who you really are, dampening the opportunities for your genius and gifts to be contributed to this world. May we place our hearts with you and tell the truth about these systems of destruction. May the fierceness of our gaze cause these systems to incinerate. May the power of our imagination and our commitment to one another grow brilliant webs of relations grounded in love, justice and equality. May we all know freedom and liberation. May we cultivate a more loving and compassionate world for our children to grow up in.

Thank you for traveling with me into these feelings and prayers. Thank you for being willing to sit with the dark and the light. Thank you for placing your heart and gifting your attention. Thank you for dreaming into the power of our togetherness… May it be so. <3

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Shout out to the Badass LGBTQIA+ Folks

Keep shining. Wear those capes, live your dreams, and let’s together grow a better world. Please and thank you!

Lena Waithe became the first Black woman to win the Emmy for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series

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Youth Transformed for Life – YTL

We have gems in our communities. Libby Kyles is one in Asheville. Not only is she a 5th grade teacher at Isaac Dickson (one of about 10 African American teachers in all of Asheville City Schools – ACS & ACSF have not been able to give me an exact number), she is also the co-founder of YTL – Youth Transformed for Life, among other ways she gives to this community. Please take a moment to read her words below. If you are looking for hope for our future, consider investing in opportunities for all youth to experience the richness of life.

YTLFrom Libby:

Having just returned from a DC trip with my fifth-graders, I know now more than ever how important it is that children of color get outside of the walls of Asheville and see other successful people of color and experience activities outside of their realm of knowledge. The African-American population in Asheville has decreased by half from a little over 12% to 6%. Our children are suffering and struggling through the public education system. I cofounded a nonprofit. Each summer we take participants who might not otherwise be able to take a week and go away to horseback riding camp or Clay making camp or soccer camp, and we provide for them eight weeks of enrichment using various activities such as therapeutic horseback riding, experiences with artist in residence, a continued partnership with Clay works in the River Arts District, and lots of other fun summer activities. This year we provided an afterschool program and would love to take seven amazing young men and women to Atlanta for three days of their spring break. Our youth need these opportunities!
For all the people who are asking what they can do this week to combat what’s happening with the presidency, who can we call and where can we march — consider making enrichment and summer fun for children of color in Asheville a part of your political agenda.
We are working really hard to provide opportunities of enrichment and to create programming that is consistent and follows them through the school year so that we can aid in their ability to advocate for themselves.
Consider sponsoring a student for the summer at $800, a week of camp at $2,000, or a hotel room stay at $180 per night. Whatever you choose to give, we will greatly appreciate it!

 

Donations are always welcomed – even if you’re reading this post much later than it was posted!!

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