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Learning to See the Truth

We are not all free. We are not free unless all of us are free. Don’t convince yourself otherwise. This is what institutional racism and modern-day slavery look like. How do more of us move from caring in our hearts, to not settling down until transformative change has happened?

In this article, the author Casey Blake illustrates how psychological manipulation is used in intstitional racism: Shameful Police Brutality Isn’t “All In Your Mind” Now.

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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.

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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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Thanksgiving Holiday Reflections

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Being a “true” American (legal citizen or not) means that we get to constantly live with, sit with, feel the complex contradictions of living on this land, in this country. Today is an epitome of that experience — an opportunity to give attention to the trauma and genocide of the way this country was founded, to honor the original people of this land, to reckon with the lies many of us were taught in school, and to walk courageously forward holding a greater awareness of the truth. AT THE SAME TIME, we can celebrate an opportunity for millions of people to focus on the spirit of gratitude, giving thanks for our blessings, being granted a day to pause and celebrate love, connection and food with family, friends, ourselves, neighbors, strangers…

I am deeply grateful for these days when “business as usual” takes a bit of a pause and I can make space for what is most important in my life. I’m grateful for all the loved ones who touch my heart and help me be a better, more loving human being. I am grateful for all the sacrifices that people have made to allow me this moment to live. I have reverence for all the suffering that has been endured to allow us this moment to live. I pray that I am honorable in the ways I live my life and I ask for forgiveness for any ways that I am disrespectful, insensitive or have caused harm.

Blessings to you as you walk the path of this day and this season. May we be awake to the complexity of the human experience, able to be with the joys and the suffering, able to recognize the past while co-creating a more compassionate and just future. May we find and be the medicine for one another.

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Strategies to Reduce Stress

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Research shows six major strategies for mitigating stress: sleep, nutrition, exercise, mindfulness, mental health care, and healthy relationships.”

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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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Reflections on White Supremacy on the Rise

So many feelings around this

Nazi’s and White Supremacists are willing to be violent and kill people. Period. They also feel emboldened right now.

This feels like an instance where police acted fast and used their resources to stop actual violent perpetrators (With the partnership of a community member that knew to remember the license plate in a time of crisis). I’m grateful for that.

I was traveling last week. One of the things that I noticed and mentioned to my white male friend was that I kept noticing myself being suspicious of a certain type of white men (clean cut, polished and pointy ones) when I passed them in the hotel. Many times I caught myself wondering what was under their suit? Is he one of the alt-right folks? My friend encouraged me to continue listening to that thought, let it warn and protect, and at the same time, to also hold the awareness that my mind is recognizing patterns and making generalizations.

In writing this post, I kept deleting my thought that — their sunburns feel symbolic. Then I went to learn more about the conference and read the NYtimes article that quoted Richard Spencer, a leader amongst the alt-right and the keynote of their conference:

“But now his tone changed as he began to tell the audience of more than 200 people, mostly young men, what they had been waiting to hear. He railed against Jews and, with a smile, quoted Nazi propaganda in the original German. America, he said, belonged to white people, whom he called the “children of the sun,” a race of conquerors and creators who had been marginalized but now, in the era of President-elect Donald J. Trump, were “awakening to their own identity.”

As he finished, several audience members had their arms outstretched in a Nazi salute. Mr. Spencer called out: “Hail Trump! Hail our people!” and then, “Hail victory!” — the English translation of the Nazi exhortation “Sieg Heil!” The room shouted back.

And from the article about the 3 men arrested:

“In a coincidence, two of the men who were arrested spoke to the Gainesville Sun before the shooting. Said William Fears to the newspaper: “Us coming in and saying we’re taking over your town, we’re starting to push back, we’re starting to want to intimidate back. We want to show our teeth a little bit because, you know, we’re not to be taken lightly. We don’t want violence; we don’t want harm. But at the end of the day, we’re not opposed to defending ourselves.”

I wonder about all the men who are trying to show their teeth right now, what is the healing that they need? All the white people who feel threatened by changing power structures and are also trying to show their teeth or actually firing bullets at people, actual bullets or the ones dressed as laws and policies. What do they need to start acting differently?

And always, I wonder what we do to shift this. In this case, I can only look to all the other white folks I share this planet with. These are our people. These are our fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins, sons and neighbors. It is also many of our ancestors who did, in fact, create an America that was initially only for white, wealthy people. In that way, I think the first part of what Richard Spencer says has truth:

“America was, until this last generation, a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity,” Mr. Spencer thundered. “It is our creation, it is our inheritance, and it belongs to us.”

American governance is indeed the creation of white people. In most other ways, America was nourished and built by people of color.

I think that the rest of us white folks have a responsibility to help the future of America be one that is created by the vast diversity of people who inhabit this land, to share what we have inherited with those who are not white, and together, to recognize that this land actually belongs to Mother Earth.

Phew… so many feelings…

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A Note to White Women about White Supremacy

Screen Shot 2017-12-29 at 11.27.32 PMPeople often ask, what can I do?

Layla Saad has written this letter to spiritual white women. But it’s relevant to anyone who genuinely wants to be an ally and stand in solidarity. I think it’s worth a read if you are white, male, or wealthy. I’ve pulled out some snippets…

“Saying ‘yes’ to doing this work is only the first step.

If you’ve given your YES, then you need to know what your YES means.

Your YES means:

YES to constantly doing the work within myself of identifying how I oppress others and myself, and doing the work of calling myself out when I do harm – whether I meant it or not.

YES to doing the work of educating myself instead of expecting people of colour to tell me what to do or expecting them to make it comfortable for me to unpack my own privilege.

YES to constantly educating myself around issues of social justice, intersectional feminism, sacred activism and conscious leadership.

YES to listening to people of colour and other marginalised folk when they are taking the time to educate me for free, and not telling them how I think they should see things or what I think they should do.

YES to speaking up as often as possible in my personal and professional environments about this work and to calling out / calling in white privilege and oppression when I see it.

YES to supporting POC and other marginalised folk by reading and listening to their work, buying their services and products, inviting them onto my summits, podcasts and programs, and cultivating relationships with people of colour that are ‘transformational and not transactional’ (hat tip to Desiree Lynn Adaway for this quote). In other words, not using POC as tokens, but having real and respectful relationships with them of mutual support.

YES to taking an honest look at my business and the way that I may be perpetuating white supremacy through it (e.g. through cultural appropriation, mainly highlighting white people, refusing to speak on social justice, etc.) and doing what I can to change that.

YES to setting my ego and fragility aside so that I can do what’s right instead of what is easy.

YES to not letting guilt or making mistakes get in the way of me continuing to show up.

YES to apologising when I get it wrong and taking accountability for the harm that I’ve done.

YES to forgiving myself and educating myself, so that I can do better next time.

YES to not just doing this work when it is convenient or comfortable for me, or because I think that talking about social justice will somehow enhance my business brand, but because it’s the right thing to do.

YES to seeing my spirituality as a way to engage deeper into this work rather than as a way to bypass this work, and to recognising that being devoted to Spirit means being devoted to social justice.

YES to doing this work every day, even when I get it wrong, even when it’s hard, even when it feels like I’m not good enough at it – because it’s not about me.

YES to bringing my anger to the table and using it in conscious ways to call out spiritual-bypassing, white-washing, light-washing, racism, misogyny and microaggressions when I see them happening.

YES to calling out and not engaging in cultural appropriation – which is rampant in the world of spiritual entrepreneurship.

YES to staying in my own lane and using my unique spiritual gifts to show up in sacred activism – whether as a writer, an artist, a facilitator, a speaker, a healer, a teacher or a guide.

If you cannot be with your own rage, then you cannot be with the rage that arises when a POC is getting frustrated with you because of your white privileged behavior.

If you cannot be with your own grief, then you cannot be with the grief that POC feel as a result of living with the constant trauma of being oppressed and discriminated against.

If you cannot be with your own power, then you cannot make space for POC exerting their power through their voice, their boundary-setting and their no bullshit truth-telling.

If you truly want to do this work then saying YES to all of the above is a non-negotiable.

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