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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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The Horrid History of Convict Leasing

In 1865 the 13th amendment abolished slavery except as punishment for someone convicted of a crime . The crimes that people were convicted of were ridiculous (being recently “freed” from slavery, but arrested and convicted for not yet having found employment). So convict leasing as a form of slavery continued. And basically still exists. If you don’t understand this point in history, I highly recommend educating yourself. It is critical to understanding the present moment and recognizing how much of this country was literally built by enslaved Africans and African Americans. This recent finding in the article below also further illustrates the lengths those with power have gone to in order to hide and obscure the truth of this practice and the treatment of people.

From the article: Bodies believed to be those of 95 black forced-labor prisoners from Jim Crow era unearthed in Sugar Land

” The convict-leasing system proliferated across the south in the late 19th century and into the 20th, overwhelmingly targeting black Americans picked up for offenses such as vagrancy, flirting with white women or petty theft, as historian Douglas A. Blackmon reported in his Pulitzer Prize-winning book, “Slavery by Another Name.” The prisoners were then leased by the state to private businessmen and forced to work on plantations, in coal mines and railroads, or on other state projects — such as building the entire Texas Capitol building from scratch.

When the state leased convicts out to private contractors, they had no financial interest in the health or welfare of the people working for them,” said W. Caleb McDaniel, a history professor at Rice University in Houston. “And so the convict-leasing system saw extremely high levels of mortality and sickness under convict lessees. If the prisoner died, they would simply go back to the state and say, ‘You owe us another prisoner.’ ”

From sunup to sundown, convicts who were leased by the state to plantation owners toiled in the fields chopping sugar cane sometimes until they “dropped dead in their tracks,” as the State Convention of Colored Men of Texas complained in 1883.

Reginald Moore, started researching Sugar Land’s slavery and convict-leasing history after spending time working as a prison guard at one of Texas’s oldest prisons, and his curiosity intensified. He had a hunch. Based on what he learned, he believed that the bodies of former slaves and black prisoners were still buried in Sugar Land’s backyard.

For 19 years, he searched for their bodies, stopping just short of sticking a shovel in the dirt himself.

At the former Imperial State Prison Farm site, archaeologists have unearthed an entire plot of precise rectangular graves for 95 souls, each buried two to five feet beneath the soil in nearly disintegrated pinewood caskets. The 19th-century cemetery was unmarked, with no vestige of its existence visible from the surface.

But more crucially, he said, it vindicates the prisoners whose backbreaking work helped rebuild the state of Texas in the ruins of the post-Civil War era without so much as a proper burial to acknowledge their contributions.

“This is a completely rare site. It’s going to change how we think about Texas history and how we think about ourselves and how we built this state, how all of us built this state.”

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What Is Happening to Children at the Border and in the Hands of ICE Agents

This morning, the first spacious morning in awhile, I wake with the urgent feeling. I must invest time and energy in understanding what is happening to migrant children and families right now. My feeling is that this moment is like that of early Nazi Germany. Being Jewish, I was taught about the Holocaust at an early age. I’ve often wondered about the days and years leading up to concentration camps. How did it happen? How did so many people sit by and let such horror happen. So today… I will learn more about what I am sitting by and allowing to happen.

My 12-year old friend asked me this morning what I was doing. I said, researching awful things. He couldn’t understand why I would choose to do that. If my heart becomes aware, I feel a responsibility to humanity to face the truth of what is happening and listen deeply for guidance about how I am to respond. I will keep sharing what I’m learning.

Research

May 25, 2018 — There is a new policy being enacted this year to separate children from their families at the border. Some may be arriving to seek legal asylum, some trying to cross the border, but these are young children arriving with family members. MSNBC Chris Hayes reports on this with expert guests. VIDEO HERE. This process includes babies and very young children. In the past, there were children who crossed the border on their own. However, the current policy is for the U.S. government to separate the children from their families, causing significant trauma for these young children who are already in a state of trauma as many are fleeing violence seeking safety (asylum) in the U.S.

August 2017 -ACLU Report https://www.aclu.org/blog/immigrants-rights/ice-and-border-patrol-abuses/ice-plans-start-destroying-records-immigrant

“ICE has asked for permission to begin routinely destroying 11 kinds of records, including those related to sexual assaults, solitary confinement and even deaths of people in its custody. Other records subject to destruction include alternatives to detention programs, regular detention monitoring reports, logs about the people detained in ICE facilities, and communications from the public reporting detention abuses. ICE proposed various timelines for the destruction of these records ranging from 20 years for sexual assault and death records to three years for reports about solitary confinement.”

“Keeping these documents available is necessary for the public to understand and fully evaluate the operation of a system that is notorious for inhumane and unconstitutional conditions affecting hundreds of thousands of people every year.”

“Recent reports by advocacy groups document sexual assaults in detention without adequate investigation or remedy, sub-standard medical care, the overuse of solitary confinement as well as threats and physical assault by custody staff. Since October 2016, there have been 10 deaths in immigration detention. Many of the records used in these reports and analyses would not have been made available without sustained public pressure to force ICE to maintain and divulge this information.”

An April 26, 2018 report from Children and Families U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to Subcommittee on Investigations Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs United States Senate

UAC = unaccompanied alien children
ORR = Office of Refugee Resettlement

2017 – 40,810 children were referred to ORR from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

2018 (through March) – 21,574 children referrals.

March 2017, ORR had 755 referrals; while in March 2018, ORR had 4,204 referrals.

Facilities

  • At this time, we have no temporary facilities open at Department of Defense locations. The last one closed in February 2017.
  • As of March 2018, we are operating one temporary influx facility at a Department of Labor site.
  • ORR now has its largest permanent shelter capacity at over 9,800 beds, and we continue to maintain the majority of our shelter capacity along the southern border.
  • In FY 2017, children typically stayed in ORR custody for 51 days and so far in FY 2018 (through March) average length of stay has been 56 days.

Teenagers

  • 83 percent of referrals in FY 2017
  • 87 percent in FY 2018.

“Children who migrate to the U.S. are particularly vulnerable to being exploited by human traffickers en route and at their destination.”

From Custody to Sponsors

2017 – ORR released 93 percent of children to a sponsor.

  • 49 percent to parents
  • 41 percent to close relatives
  • 10 percent to other-than-close relatives or non-relatives.

2018 – ORR have released 90 percent of children to individual sponsors

  • 41 percent were parents
  • 47 percent were close relatives
  • 11 percent were other-than-close relatives or non-relatives

“The report outlines ways that ORR has decreased the ability of potential sponsors to use fraudulent documents during the sponsor assessment process. Which must mean that there was a high degree of fraudulent documents being used by sponsors to acquire children.”

Losing track of at least 1,475 children

“From October to December 2017, ORR attempted to reach 7,635 UAC and their sponsors. Of this number, ORR reached and received agreement to participate in the safety and well-being call from approximately 86 percent of sponsors. From these calls, ORR learned that 6,075 UAC remained with their sponsors. Twenty-eight UAC had run away, five had been removed from the United States, and 52 had relocated to live with a non-sponsor. ORR was unable to determine with certainty the whereabouts of 1,475 UAC.”

Department of Health and Human Services & Office of Refugee Resettlement currently not responsible for children taken into custody and then released to sponsors.  

“It has been HHS’s long-standing interpretation of the law that ORR is not legally responsible for children after they are released from ORR care. However, considering the importance of the post-release period, we are taking a fresh look at that question as a matter of both legal interpretation and appropriate policy.  Specifically, we are exploring the question of ORR’s responsibilities in relation to children who are released to sponsors, and whether the level of responsibility would differ depending on the child’s relationship to his or her sponsor. Based on what we have learned so far, if ORR were to remain legally obligated for the welfare of UAC after their release to a sponsor, or took on additional protective measures even if not legally obligated, those procedures would require a significant expansion of the current program structure and an increase in resources, and possibly additional legal authorities to further clarify ORR’s role.”

May 15, 2018 Hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee

“Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen testifying May 15 before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee where she said evades what the policies are for causing the least amount of trauma for children and admits that more must be done to protect children taken at the border.”

“I couldn’t agree with your concerns more,” Nielsen said. “We owe it to these children to protect them.”

According to the article, HHS operates more than 100 shelters across the nation for children seized at the border.

  • Video of the hearing: http://launch.newsinc.com/share.html?trackingGroup=93075&siteSection=inform_oembed&videoId=33812458
  • Article: https://www.azcentral.com/story/news/nation/2018/05/16/homeland-security-chief-defends-policy-separates-families-entering-u-s/614505002/

May 23, 2018 – Claudia Patricia Gomez Gonzalez,  a 20 year-old woman from Guatemala was shot & killed by US Border Patrol. NYTimes and CNN report on this. Evidently the story from officials has changed sinced the incident.

“Guatemala condemns violent acts and any other use of excessive force by the Border Patrol. We urge authorities to respect the rights of our citizens, especially their right to live, regardless of their immigration status,” theGuatemala’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a statement.

May 25, 2018 – excerpts from the article: What Separating Migrant Families at the Border Actually Looks Like

“The Trump administration is now going even further than the Obama administration in its attempts to deter asylum seekers, as it seeks to terrify mothers from coming here with their children. The prosecutions have already started flooding border courts, and this “zero-tolerance” policy has only just begun. Meanwhile the refugee crisis of Central America’s Northern Triangle countries continues apace—16 times the number of people from the region were displaced in 2017 as were in 2011, the the UN refugee agency noted in a recent report. The families have a legal right to seek asylum here—and as devastating as the consequences may be, they will not stop coming. The terror they leave behind is much worse.”

“In early May, Attorney General, Jeff Sessions, said he will take a stricture stance on illegal crossings of the Southern U.S. border, prosecuting 100% of people crossing, and making it an official policy to separate children from their parents. Already, 658 kids in the first 13 days of the programhave been ripped from their families, Customs and Border Protection disclosed in a Senate subcommittee hearing on May 23. (Video of the hearing below)”

“This policy is intended to punish the adults by criminally prosecuting them for entering the country, thereby deterring others from making the journey north. But it does incalculable damage to the children at an already traumatic moment in their lives, often stripping them from their mothers when their mothers are all they have.”

“There’s a real trend towards trying to put all asylum seekers in the same category as gang members even when all this young mother was seeking was to protect these young boys by bringing them to the US.” ~ director of University of Texas’s Immigration Law Clinic

“Time and time again, the women say they only brought their children here to save their lives.”

“Mothers convicted of illegal entry can be sentenced to up to six months in jail and be dealt up to $10,000 in fines, while the youths are shipped off to Office of Refugee Resettlement shelters around the country—and ORR and the US Marshals Service, which prosecutes the mothers, do not communicate, Jennifer Podkul, policy director for Kids in Need of Defense, told me.”

“Even once the parents are out of jail and transferred to immigrant detention centers, they remain divided from their kids—meaning some parents are deported before their children even know it, said Lee Gelernt, deputy director of the ACLU’s Immigrants Rights Project.”

“Already the ORR shelters equipped to house unaccompanied minors—which until now have been children traveling without a parent—are 91 percent full. To quickly make more room, the Trump administration now plans to put kids on military bases—which the Obama administration did in the past with unaccompanied teens. But this setup is only meant for kids 13 and older for temporary emergency stays. And while the vast majority—83 percent last year—of unaccompanied minors entering the country have been older than 13, children traveling with parents tend to be far younger, often babies.”

“These children may have to wait for their parents to get out of detention, or they may seek another adult sponsor already in the US to claim them. But those adults are now more fearful to come forward, since the Trump administration just two weeks ago announced a proposal to collect information on potential sponsors’ immigration status, information that could be used for enforcement purposes. As Carey told me, “It appears we’re setting up a long-term incarceration system for children.”

“While each family makes up a single asylum case when that family is kept together, when parents and children are in different locations different courts handle them.”

“This spells trouble for a legal system already overwhelmed by a backlog of nearly 700,000 cases—and since immigrants don’t have the right to free legal help, we’re likely to see more young children representing themselves in immigration court.”

Video of the  Senate hearing to the Subcommittee on Border Security and Immigration. NOTE- the presiding Senator is Senator Tillis from North Carolina:
https://www.judiciary.senate.gov/meetings/tvpra-and-exploited-loopholes-affecting-unaccompanied-alien-children

May 2018 ACLU Report
Looking at 2009-2014

“Children crossing the United States’ southern border are primarily from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. Many migrant children from these countries are fleeing gang violence, social unrest, and endemic poverty.”

“Despite binding federal laws and agency policies to protect children at our borders, inadequate enforcement and oversight mechanisms have left this vulnerable group unprotected and without access to justice. A new report by the University of Chicago International Human Rights Clinic reviews one subset of the records—and documents shocking child abuse.”

“U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has the authority to detain migrant children for a limited period of time to determine whether the child should be transferred to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) or qualifies for immediate removal from the United States.”

“By law, unaccompanied migrant children may only be held in CBP custody for 72 hours and are entitled to various basic protections, including: dignified and respectful treatment; safe, secure and clean facilities; adequate food and drinking water; and proper medical care. Federal law further requires personnel working in federal facilities to report possible child abuse to law enforcement, child protective services, or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).”

“CBP officials have often ignored these legal obligations.”

“The records obtained reflect rampant abuse. Children describe excessive force: being stomped on, punched, kicked, run over with vehicles, tased, and forced to maintain stress positions by CBP officials. Minors also report verbal abuse: being called a “dog,” “piece of crap,” “son of a bitch,” and “prostitute,” and being told they “contaminate this country.” In complaints, children describe being deprived of edible food and potable water and held in freezing and unsanitary cells with inadequate bedding and no access to personal hygiene items. Children report being threatened with rape and death, being told to remove their clothing before they are subjected to questioning, and being touched inappropriately by CBP officials.”

“Children’s complaints of abuse have been ignored and mishandled, allowing CBP officials to act with impunity. DHS does not appear to have reported alleged child abuse out to the FBI. The records provide no indication that DHS has taken any remedial or disciplinary measures to hold any individual accountable for these abuses.”

One Pager: https://www.dropbox.com/s/kx3zey3b6s5hmbu/CBP_1-Pager_final.pdf?dl=0

Full Report:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/lplnnufjbwci0xn/CBP%20Report%20ACLU_IHRC%205.23%20FINAL.pdf?dl=0

Appendix:
https://www.dropbox.com/s/vsf7io4tb1tawsp/2018%2005%2022%20APPENDIX_MERGED%20Final.pdf?dl=0

Social Terror, Social Manipulation

Before enslavement Africans were called

  • “Every time Trump says “MS-13,” he wants you to think “Latino.” He wants you to think “immigrant.”Then he wants you to think back to “criminal.” Then he SAYS the word “animal,” until, in your mind, criminal-immigrant-animal become like one word. One idea.Folks, this is obvious.” ~Drew Dellinger

What to do?

  • Do your own research, be an informed consumer of media — Look at the dates of articles that you read and share. Read the whole article before sharing it. Click on the links to the sources that the article references. If there aren’t any sources, question it. If the links are broken, question it. If it’s an old article, investigate more to see if it is current. Realize that this issue is not new. The new aspect is the current administration’s policy to separate families at the border, causing more trauma and terror. However, misconduct, high numbers of deportations, and such was a problem during the Obama administration also. We as a country face many humanitarian crises that are getting worse with the current administration, but are not new. Catch up if you are not aware of this.
  • Take action (contact legislature) and raise awareness about the separation of children from their families at the border. (Do NOT focus on the missing children. While best beauroctratic practices are to keep track of people, we do not want the current enforcement agencies to be tracking down these missing children as many are likely intentionally hiding from the authorities. And the methods being used to track them down are perpetuating terror and discriminatory deportation.) Focus on the fact that children, very young children, are being separated from their parents when there is no reason that threatens the well-being of the child. This causes extreme trauma to these young children. Tell the representatives to intervene to insure that these people have legal rights, that they are allowed bond while they move through the court system, that they are not locked up in detention centers for indefinite amounts of time.
    • Comments from 2 lawyers about what to and NOT to focus on
    • How to contact your elected officials
    • Asheville, Buncombe County, and North Carolina
      • Contact U.S Congressman Mark Meadows and Senator Thom Tillis — express your concern about the national policies for separating children from their families. You can also make a local ask that they pressure ICE to allow the people from Buncombe and Henderson County to be allowed out of the detention centers on bond. Don’t make them stay locked up as they wait for trial, allow them be released on bond.
      • If you are a business owner or work for a business, sign this petition. These legislatures consider themselves pro-business and thus are more likely to listen to the demands of business owners. Petition (source CIMA and Ami Worthen)
  • Ruby Sales is organizing caravans across America that will start out in different cities of America and will end up at a designated space. If you are moved to stand, please email me at info@ spirithouseproject.org or call 718 601 0235 — “We can no longer remain silent or we become collaborators in a new system of captivity, sexual violations, psychological terror and deliberate acts by ICE to separate them from their parents. These White travesties echo acts by White Americans during enslavement when they captured Black children and sold them from their families. Now once again the evil that bred these actions during enslavement never died and lives today in the pathology of White supremacy.I woke up this morning knowing that we cannot remain silent as this government presides over and engineers a predatory system that separates Black and Brown immigrant children at the border from their families even selling them into the hands of White sex traffickers!”
  • More suggestions from Liz Gumbinner  (I have not vetted all of this)
    • Gain a better understanding of the law at  the Informed Immigrant website and see a list of legal support services who could use your help.
    • Support the ActBlue Charities initiative to Support Kids at the Border. Funds raised will be split among multiple charities.
    • Support charities and organizations dedicated to helping children –  The Young Center for Immigrant and Children’s Rights focuses on the rights, safety, and best interests of unaccompanied immigrant children. United We Dream is the first and largest immigrant youth-led organization in the country. KIND: Kids in Need of Defense is effective in supporting children’s protection and upholding their right to due process and fundamental fairness. The Florence Immigrant and Refugee Rights Project supports detailed adults and unaccompanied children who have been detained in Arizona, often illegally. Asylum Advocacy works to prevent the deportation of refugees fleeing violence and war, who have come here seeking legal asylum, provides emergency legal services, and a lot more. Lutheran Immigration Services has been helping resettle refugees and reunite families since 1939. The UN Refugees Agency isn’t specific to US refugee and immigrant issues, but they support victims fleeing from conflict in myriad ways. (h/t Amanda Litman on Twitter who continues to share a crowdsourced list of organizations that are helping.) The National Immigrant Justice Association of the Heartland Alliance ensures human rights protections and access to justice, including legal services, for all immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers.
    • Donate to the ACLU which is actively fighting these injustices in court. You can also sign their petition to Kevin McAleenan, Commissioner of Customs and US Border Protection to demand a stop to the physical, sexual, and verbal abuse of immigrant children.
    • Vote. Vote vote vote vote vote. Vote for candidates in November who will take a stand for human decency in every possible way, and especially around this issue.
    • Write about it. Use your social platforms. Use your website (that’s what I’m doing, right here). Every voice amplifying this makes a difference.
    • Attend or host a rally on June 14Wherearethechildren.org is starting to coordinate local marches for stolen children — if you don’t feel comfortable leaving an address on the form, which is light with details, just keep your eye out for developments on hashtags  and 
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People Are Murdered and Criminalized for Speaking out for Justice

Berta Didn’t Die, She Multiplied! 30 Minute cut from Sam Vinal- Mutual Aid Media on Vimeo.

(Film in Spanish)

DJs2UM8VYAA4AAQAround the world, including in the US, North Carolina and even Asheville, activists are harmed, harassed, murdered, incarcerated, or wrongly convicted for standing up for the rights of the people and the land — they are criminalized for speaking out for justice and exercising their fundamental rights to free expression and assembly.

Knowing this threat, people continue to risk their lives to protect their people, the earth, and the well being of future generations. These are people who are deeply devoted to the common good and the well-being of people living now and in the future. These are not folks who want to look like they are committed to a better world, but people whose actions and lives reflect their actual devotion.

Today I am praying to those who are now ancestors to guide and protect those who are still alive and are walking this path today. I am praying that more of us will release from the fog of denial, open our eyes to the fact that so many rights are being threatened all around the world and in our own neighborhoods, and find concrete and courageous ways that we can join the struggle to stand for freedom for all.

Screen Shot 2018-03-02 at 11.08.37 AM2 years ago today, Berta Cáceres, a Lenca organizer, activist and leader  in Honduras, was assassinated in her home. From 2010-2017 in Honduras, 124 environmental activists were assassinated for their grassroots efforts to defend indigenous rights and the environment, fighting against the Honduran oligarchy and international corporations that are stealing and trying to steal indigenous land to build dams, gated communities, refineries and more. The activists standing up to these government and corporate powers are fighting against the increase in militarism and military spending as education and health go unattended to (sound familiar) and the earth is extracted for profit. They are standing up against patriarchy, homophobia, the stealing of land, and discrimination against indigenous people. They are defending the rivers. These indigenous communities are fighting for the future.

The military force and brutal repression being used against them is funded by US taxpayer dollars, and US companies are profiting from it.

The below video is a beautiful and informative window into this situation in Honduras and a mirror for situations all over the world. These indigenous people are calling on us all to build societies that are able to coexist in a way that is fair, dignified and for life. These are examples of alliances of people coming together to defend rights. “The people united will never be defeated.” Their resistance includes songs, theater, drums, and community.

The question for me these days is not so much “what can I do?” But, more so, who are the people that are with me, sincerely devoted to taking action together for the rights of all people, the well-being of current and future generations? There are many different roles we can play, there is so much to do, not acting is not an option for me.

In honor of the 2 year anniversary of Berta’s assassination, please consider a quick phone call to your House representative asking them to sign the Berta Cáceres Act. Details below.

——
The Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act is a landmark bill introduced by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) and currently co-sponsored by 70 Members of the House of Representatives.

Find out if your House Rep has signed it.

The bill states: “The Honduran police are widely established to be deeply corrupt and to commit human rights abuses, including torture, rape, illegal detention, and murder, with impunity” and that the military has committed violations of human rights. Therefore, the bill asks that the United States suspend all “…security assistance to Honduran military and police until such time as human rights violations by Honduran state security forces cease and their perpetrators are brought to justice.”

Note, two of the accused murderers are former Honduran soldiers trained by the United States in Ft. Benning, Georgia, home of the School of the Americas

Please call your Representative NOW and ask to speak to his/her Foreign Policy Aide! Because the bill has been re-introduced, all of the bill’s co-sponsors will need to co-sponsor again! If your representative has not yet signed, call them and ask them to add their support as a sponsor of the bill!

Script:

“My name is _____. I’m a constituent from (your town/city) in (your state), and I’m calling to ask Rep. _____ to co-sponsor H.R. 1299, The Berta Cáceres Human Rights in Honduras Act, calling for a suspension of U.S. security aid to Honduras until human rights violations committed by the Honduran security forces cease. Has Rep. _______ seen this bill? Can I count on him/her to sign on? Please call me this week at (your phone number) to let me know if you have seen the letter, and if Rep. _____ will sign it.”

More info about the situation:

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Reflections on Power: In the Role of a Facilitator & the Body of a White Woman

john-dewey-reflection-quote-16vbfv9I recently facilitated a session where someone shared in the closing reflections that they felt dehumanized. For anyone to feel dehumanized by my actions is, for me, a fail. When I mess up, it’s imperative for me to own it, learn from the experience, act differently in the future, and make amends as best as I am able. My hope is that this public reflection will help me integrate what I am learning and potentially be valuable for people reading this (as I know I am one of many who carries the identities of a facilitator and a white woman). I am committed to facilitating with integrity and humility. Reflecting in depth on the feedback I receive is an essential part of my commitment. What follows is my perceptions and analysis. I’m sure that there is more to see from the perspective of other people who were present.

Perceptions About Power that I had Walking into this Session

When I am facilitating a group, I always hold power in the room. I guide where a group goes or doesn’t go. I hold the actual or symbolic microphone, making decisions about whose voices are heard or not heard. I take up space. I am the center of attention at times. I have influence over what is or isn’t happening in the room. Sometimes I use my power in ways that are contrary to how a person in the room would like the time to be spent. I take very seriously this facilitator’s position of power and influence and strive to use it to make equitable spaces where people are respected and able learn from each other.

problem-of-whitenessI am a white person and a White Woman. I share these identities with many other people that have historically and still currently hold social power simply because we are white. We act in all kinds of ways, intentionally or unknowingly, that hold us as superior and others as inferior. We have and still do cause trauma and harm towards people of color. Historically (and currently), white folks and White Women had the power of being listened to and believed, our word would be taken as the true word when in relationship with people who did not have as much social power as someone who looks like me. I would be listened to while others weren’t. And many, many folks who looked like me used that power to not only get what we wanted and control other people, but to actually harm other people. When I show up in a room, I am showing up as myself in that moment, and I am also showing up in the image of other people who looked like me and were allowed to be abusive, harmful, and inconsiderate, to name just a few things, towards people who did not look like me.

When I’m facilitating (and in life), sometimes people will be responding to my direct actions. Sometimes people will be responding to my actions that resemble those of people who looked like me in the past.

Another identity that I can embody is that of a White School Teacher, an archetype that has historically been abusive with its power (along with the education system at large). 80% of teachers in public schools in the United States are white and it is well researched that white teachers and the education system that white folks have created have not been fair, kind, honest, or effective in educating students of color (and some might argue all students).

As a white facilitator, particularly when working in a multi-racial setting, I must be hyper aware of my whiteness and all the ways that I am using or releasing my power and even the ways that those who looked like me have used and abused our power in the past.

What I learned in the Experience I Facilitated

  • Knowing all of that above — There was a 15-minute section of time where I forgot that I was white. I was centered on the task of facilitating a process and learning experience. I slipped into the role of a teacher. I used my power as the facilitator to teach the group something that I thought was important for them to learn. I did not realize that when I was the facilitator interrupting participants (an act that felt appropriate for what I was teaching in the moment), I was also a white woman, perhaps a white teacher, interrupting and shutting down people of color — a behavior that is very common for white people to do. In hindsight, I think if I had been holding in my awareness that I was white in that tense moment, I would have used my facilitator power in a way that did not replicate patterns of white folks using our power to oppress and silence people of color. But I forgot that I was white (a privilege and pattern that happens often for us white folks). It was a harsh reminder about how much diligence it takes to consciously disrupt habits of whiteness that are alive in me. I’ve grown up in a world that allows me to not know what it means to be white, but to just exist as “a person.” That ignorance is unacceptable if I am facilitating multi-racial groups and working towards racial justice and healing.
  • As a facilitation team, we were teaching something that the group did not give us consent to teach. This is contrary to how I like to operate, how I believe education is effective, and to my own sense of respect for learners. But I did not realize I was living that until it was too late.
  • I am reflecting on the wounds people carry from up to 25 years of schooling with white teachers that were abusive with their power. When I am facilitating and “teaching” something, how often might I be summoning up past experiences of trauma or mistrust from the white teachers of someone’s childhood?
  • I am also reflecting on — what could it have looked like for someone to interrupt and name the ways my whiteness was showing up and influencing the moment?

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What Happened — The Facilitated Experience

A social justice fellowship hired 3 consultants (a multi-racial team) to guide the Fellows (majority people of color) in a process to co-design the rest of their programming and curriculum with an allocated amount of money to work with. We facilitated:

  • Pre-session: 1-on-1 interviews
  • Session 1: Connecting, understanding the mission, the kind of learning environment that they want to experience and create
  • Session 2: Relationships with money, capitalism and collectively shaping a power analysis of what they want to amplify, interrupt and innovate
  • Session 3: Collective Decision-making process and begin designing

Session 3 is the session I’m reflecting on here. Our goal was to give the Fellows an overview of a collective decision-making process and then facilitate them through the process, highlighting the process in action along the way so that they could take over the facilitation and facilitate themselves as our contract ended after session 3. In session 1 we asked if anyone had experience with a collective decision-making process. No one raised their hand so we proceeded with the assumption that we would be offering them a process that would be new to them, something for them to experience first hand and then they could choose to use or not use it. We chose a consent-based decision-making process as the tool that we would offer.

Some mistakes that I and we made:

  • We did not explicitly get consent from the Fellows to teach them and guide them through the particular consent decision-making process.
  • Before we began practicing and using the process, I was assigned the role of explaining the process. We had created a handout and I explained the elements of the handout. My approach was very didactic teaching. In session 1, the majority of the Fellows indicated that they did not like learning in a lecture type environment. At least one Fellow indicated that they did like more traditional teaching styles sometimes. I was not listening to their request to learn by doing, but was instead taking 45 minutes to teach and explain.
  • I used my power as the facilitator and the assumptions that I had made that they were open to receiving the process and forced them to participate in the process, at times interrupting an organic flow so that I could fit their organic reactions into the process and highlight for them how to follow the steps. While I knew why I was making those choices, they did not and I think it felt like me inserting my power to control the process in the way I wanted it to go, disregarding their wishes and efforts towards shared leadership.
  • When I was using my power as a facilitator to interrupt people while they were talking and connect what they were saying to the process, not only was I forcing participation into something they didn’t consent to, I was also wearing my white skin, in a position of power, and interrupting people of color and exerting my power over people of color.

Some comments made in the closing reflections that particularly stood out to me:

  • Over-explaining is a form of Anti-Blackness
  • To point out process feels dehumanizing
  • Trust us that the work you’ve done is effective and we’ve got this
  • It felt like we were being blocked by the facilitation

I apologized for the mistakes I could see in the closing circle and I will continue to listen for ways that I can make amends for any harm that I caused. And, I think the best way for me to repair from these mistakes is to be diligent in myself about not replicating the same mistakes. I know as a white woman, my whiteness will continue to be revealed to me, and my inability to see how I am part of the problem or perpetuating problems will be illuminated. My prayers are that I keep learning, unlearning and embodying my growth and that I cause as little harm as possible. I know that I am on this journey of racial healing and racial justice for the long haul and I pray that I show up with humility and integrity, contributing in places where my presence is of value and is not a disruption to healing and justice.

P.s. This article was shared with me as a follow-up to this group: Consensus is a means, not an end.

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Freedom School with Desiree Adaway

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I see a lot of people who are feeling anxious about the state of things, want to do something, and aren’t sure what to do. To really be involved in making change, we have to do our homework and understand the complexity of the situations we find ourselves in. If you are committed to ending a pattern of caring-but-not-really-knowing-what-to-do — Freedom School might be the next step for you.

Desiree Lynn Adaway is a powerful leader and educator and is offering a great service by creating this introductory exploration of the ideas and topics most relevant to understanding and navigating our current social and political landscape. Freedom School will help you develop your self-awareness and capacity to take action in ways that will create lasting impact. Check it out. Spread the word. And let me know if you sign up!

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