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Because we are wiser together…

FullSizeRender (1)Last week, 80 leaders in Chicago opened my heart and inspired me to dream a new dream about how organizing is possible in a city. The majority of these folks use conversation as a tool for invoking the wisdom of the people, and supporting the people in organizing themselves to see the change and action they know is necessary in their communities — creating safer and more just communities, creating opportunities for healing. This group of people included folks using the World Café, Peacemaking Circles, and Art of Hosting practices in school districts, classrooms, with law enforcement and youth, to increase child protective rights and trauma-informed behaviors, to bring about social and emotional learning and restorative justice.

Midway through the day, I offered a woven poem, streaming together quotes that had been said throughout the day into one collective expression. You will hear snippets from these leaders sharing stories of their work, Juanita Brown offering insight into the roots of The World Cafe, and meaningful conversations about what we are all learning and what we hear these times calling for.

Deep gratitude to Lina Cramer and Renee Jackson and all of your mates who have been building the capacity for this inspiring network of leaders over the last 10 years.

The workshop was: We Were Made for These Times: Becoming Wiser Together (invitation here).

Here’s an audio of the woven poem.

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Fake News

“‘Fake News’ is a new name for White Supremacy. In order to keep racism going, you have to perpetuate lies.” ~Glenn Singleton

In order to dominate people and coerce them into subordination and oppression, you have to perpetuate lies.

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What Can You DO to Stop These Murders

The family of Jordan Edwards speak on the terror of police murdering their son.

Our complacency in allowing state sanctioned murders, executions and violence to go unchecked is among the many things that have paved the way for basic human rights for health, dignity and respect to be stripped away from all who are not wealthy and/or White. We who have not pressured city councils and police departments to demand the end to police profiling and murder, we who have not held these institutions accountable for concrete change, we who have not insisted on consequences for murder, we are complicit in the deaths of innocent human beings past, present and in the future. Innocent Black people continue to be murdered for the pre-existing condition of being Black. Children are terrorized and traumatized for the pre-existing condition of being Black. Restricting access to healthcare for poor, sick, marginalized people is just the next step in state sanctioned murder. It’s been happening and now more people may be included in the circle of those deemed “okay to kill.”

Every city council and police department needs to be having public dialogue with explicit actions they are taking to ensure that this HORROR STOPS NOW and instances like this are not repeated. Transparency is essential. This city in Texas is no different than any other city in the U.S. Jordan Edwards, a 15-year old child was executed, shot in the head, for being Black and his brothers were terrorized having to witness their brother’s execution and then be hauled off to jail for being Black. Black mothers and fathers, parents of Black children, are being terrorized by these public executions of their babies, their people. We are being governed by inhumane, egotistical savages and I believe that every person who is in a position of power needs to be demonstrating what exactly they are doing to change the course and govern, protect and serve in ways that are humane for EVERYONE. We who are being governed are accomplices to murder and will eventually be victims as well if we don’t act to change this course.

What can you do? Make self reflection a priority and find the place inside yourself that can accept that you are playing an active role in allowing the world around you to be the way it is. Talk to people you know in positions of power. Use your own positions of power to influence positive change. Write and call your local council and police departments and ask what are they doing to insure something like this doesn’t happen again in your city. Demand answers. Give money to Jordan’s family or one of the millions of others whose lives have been violated, either through state sanctioned murder, inhumane deportations or over policing for being Black, Brown or poor. Give money to people and organizations who are standing up for just and humane treatment of people. Give your money and time to organizations who are supporting those who are vulnerable. Call your senators and insist that they stop the vile attack on people who are sick or poor with this healthcare bill. Talk to your friends and children about race. Meet new people. Be kind to strangers. See the good and humanity in people who are different from you. Deepen your practices and abilities to navigate through anxiety, fear and stress so you can stay grounded as you deal with the horrors of our realities. Pay attention to beauty. Listen to and learn from nature. Live and love boldly. Be you while being fierce against injustice, hate, cruelty and violence.

 

 

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Addressing Institutional Racism Or Not…

Screen Shot 2017-03-26 at 12.37.03 PMI highly encourage you to read this article by Korbett Mosesly. Especially if you work at a non-profit or organization that has a majority White leadership and cares about addressing racism.
10 Ways to Practice Institutional Racism at Your Non-Profit Organization

  1. Maintain White Leadership
  2. Frame the issues & lead the strategies for people of color.
  3. Limit partnerships with (and Feedback from) communities of color.
  4. Ignore complaints of bias and racism from workers and clients.
  5. Value credentials vs. the skills needed to serve diverse populations.
  6. Do not involve people directly impacted.
  7. White wash the diversity language.
  8. Maintain the social dynamic of white non-profit affinity groups.
  9. Exploit black clients in poverty.
  10. Offer cultural competency training every few years.
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Can We Dialogue?

Here is a facebook conversation I had with my cousin. I welcome your feedback on my approach for trying to learn more and also share my own perspective. May we find ways to dialogue across our differences. May we be open to hearing each other. May we be open to allowing our own perspectives to change. May the goodness in our hearts be the compass that guides us forward.

Ashley posted: Students walking out in NYC… Because their country just walked out on them by voting in Betsy DeVos?

Cousin: From what I have heard and understood over the last few years, people r screaming for a change in the school system. Now a change has been offered. I don’t get it.

Ashley:  As someone who has been very active in cultivating change in schools, I deeply value people who have experience with those directly impacted being the ones leading change. Someone who has not been an educator, has not attended or sent her own children to public schools, has not worked with the populations of students that are most impacted within our public school systems is not someone who I trust to lead change.

Cousin: Maybe someone outside the box is necessary to lead the change. Have the experienced leaders in the past done anything to help the schools? Not from what I’m hearing.

Ashley: Besides the fact that she is outside the box, what makes you think that she is a good choice for this role?

Cousin: She’s been an advocate for charter schools, school choice and voucher programs in Detroit. She’s on the board of Alliance for school choice. She heads the All children matter pac. She’s on the board of Foundation for Excellence in Education.

Ashley: I realize that these are her credentials and affiliations. I’m wondering what specific things that she’s done in any of those roles do you think will influence positive change in public education for all children?

Cousin: Ashley we will have to wait and see what the plans are. It can’t be any worse than it now. Everyone wants change. Give her a shot and see. Obama had no government experience at all. Just a community organizer. And the majority of the US have him a chance and all his supporters think he did a fantastic job.

Ashley: Cousin, one of the things that you and I have in common is that we both want to see change. As I’ve mentioned to you many times, I don’t fit within the box you try to place me in that is about Democrats or Republicans. I’m not someone who thinks Obama did a fantastic job in everything nor was I a die-hard Hillary fan. I work every single day to actively be a part of creating change in my community and country to bring about more awareness and understanding about our differences and to work towards a future that is actually fair, just, respectful, compassionate for all people. I don’t believe government was doing a great job in public schools leading up to this moment. And I don’t believe that someone like DeVos is the change that will actually make public schools start working. What I believe in more than any of these billionaires being appointed or politicians who are die-hards for their party line rather than thoughtful to the issues is PEOPLE. When it boils down to it, the question is how many decent hearted people will go out of their comfortable life to care about those that are most vulnerable, most impacted by public schools loosing huge amounts of funding, disabled students not being protected, immigrant students not being adequately taught and protected, and Black students being tracked to prison? For me, I can’t just wait and see and let more people suffer. I feel a responsibility to care for and be a part of this change. I don’t trust someone like DeVos whose family has given millions of dollars to politicians. And I very much do trust the community organizers in the world. They are the ones that have historically been responsible for influencing the most social change. If you’re not familiar with the impact community organizers have had on our country, I highly encourage some reading in that realm.

Ashley: A post from a friend of mine: I’ve been holding my tongue, but Arne Duncan, Obama’s Secretary of Education was a never-taught-in-a-classroom, privatizing education, high stakes testing champion*. Betsy is just more of the same… that appointment is actually the least troubling since it continues the trajectory Bush and Obama put us on since NCLB. So, I gotta say for all those who threw their everything into opposing DeVos, I hope you call your Senators to oppose Sessions this morning, an avowed white supremacist racist who may become our next Attorney General. Now THAT is terrifying and unprecedented.

Cousin: I appreciate and respect u for fighting for what u feel strongly for and against. I just get the feeling that anyone who didn’t vote for trump will be unhappy with whomever he chooses to fill his cabinet. As your friend stated above, Arnie Duncan had no experience but yet he served as secretary. I’m sure there was opposition from the republicans but not in the way it’s happening now. People who voted for trump wanted big change and that’s what’s happening. I can tell u that the Milwaukee public schools need massive change. But then talking to teachers who have taught there say it’s very hard to keep the students going because they get no help or encouragement from home. I’m not saying this is happening to all kids, but it is a large percentage here. The graduation rate is very low in the inner city. We can’t expect the teachers to raise our children. We r the ones who have to be the advocates for the children which I am doing for my kids. And which u r doing for the children who have no voice and I respect u for that.

Ashley: People who voted for Obama wanted big change as well. And many feel discouraged at the end of 8 years as the kind of change we hoped for didn’t happen. Many of those people chose not to vote at all this election because neither Trump nor Clinton provided evidence of that change. I believe that folks who want change have a lot in common with each other and what we need to be doing is critically thinking for ourselves, asking ourselves and our peers hard questions about what will really bring about the change we want, and finding ways to work together outside of political affiliation to make that change happen.

I don’t support protesting because its popular, nor do I support accepting what Trump and his people say is true just because they say it. I think that what we are seeing in the protests and resistance is many people who are done believing politicians who make big promises that they will solve our problems but really they are acting for their own benefit and in the best interests of those who pay for their political career. Folks are realizing that the system isn’t working. What Trump is proposing and the people he is appointing to lead change have a track record of being Nationalist, discriminatory, racist and sexist. They have a long history of using corporate money to garner profit over supporting the rights of people. I think that those of us who want change don’t want to see this kind of abuse from the elite with power. That is what Trump supporters voted against. Absolutely, there are serious problems in inner city public schools and the solutions are complex. Understanding the home lives of children is definitely a big part of solutions. It’d be a whole nother post for me to talk about schools and change in that realm. Thank you for the dialogue here, cousin.

Ashley: Hey Cousin, One more thing keeps circling around my head. I believe you and I had a conversation about choosing the lesser of 2 evils prior to election. On my end, that meant voting for Clinton and preparing what my plan of action was going to be to resist and push back against her policies that I heavily disagreed with. I would love to see where there are Republicans who voted for the lesser of two evils in Trump and are pushing against aspects of this administrations decisions that they don’t agree with. If you see this, are living this, please share things with me. I heard so many people make that statement during the election and I’m so curious how those folks are navigating now.

Also, a year or 2 or 3 or 4 from now, I am totally willing to recognize and celebrate if our country has undergone positive changes and the majority of public schools are getting quality education that matches their needs, the people I see being violated against and discriminated against are feeling protected and included in our governance and law enforcement, the inequities in access to jobs and healthcare are dramatically limited, etc. And I pray with all my heart, that folks like you who support Trump and his administration will be equally as open to recognizing and resisting if we actually are moving into a fascist regime. I have a very diverse community of friends and I see when people are being targeted by law enforcement and legal attacks. I pray that people who don’t have as diverse of communities will listen when folks are calling out for help and will not stand by when rights are being taken away. I pray that our country won’t repeat a Nazi Germany era. From the research I have done myself, I do see it as a possibility. On that note, if you or friends of yours have links to articles that you respect about Bannon, I welcome those as well. He is one of the people I am most concerned about his influence on the direction our country is headed.

Cousin: Yes I know a lot of people who voted for trump because they didn’t want to vote for hillary and he was the only option. I also know a lot of people who voted for trump because they liked his ideas, policies etc. I will have chats with these folks and let u know what their thoughts r about him and what is going on so far with the admin. I’m glad to hear u say that u will recognize good things that could come from this president. And I hope that the sweeping changes enacted do help all people of this country. I am absolutely against fascism and would stand up against it. I will keep an eye on Bannon too. I am finding it difficult to keep an open mind towards democrats with all the anti trump protests and riots. It’s clouding my judgement. Sorry to say.

Ashley: Thank you cousin. I invite you to be careful about where you get your media from and who is telling you the stories of what is behind the protests. I know very few people who are only anti-Trump protesting. Most I know are standing up for specific causes and actions that they are for or against. Part of fascist techniques is to pit sides against one another and create a media narrative that is stated as absolute truth. If we can’t think for ourselves and talk to each other, then people are much easier to control and rule. If folks are made to think that Democrats are protesting violently and for no reason, then it helps to make sure that those of us who really want change and want it to happen in legal and just ways won’t talk to each other or work together.

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Listen to the Women

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January 31, 2017

On one hand, we are experiencing a corporate take over. A proposed Cabinet of 15 people has $4.5 billion dollars of financial worth. As Trump said, “I want people that made a fortune!” Perhaps to him, it is a game of hiring and firing people to establish a new order of business where he is the boss. This is different from political transition of power, when people with experience and expertise are appointed to do the complex job of governing a nation.

In the meantime, his closest advisors (a small group, not a large system of checks-and-balances) are helping him lead a fascist regime takeover. A shift of power towards radical authoritarian nationalism. Think Hitler.

STEP ONE for a fascist ruling is to attack the media, discredit it.
Controlling the media allows you to control information. messaging. perceptions. reality.
Steve Bannon is the chief White House strategist and was Trumps campaign chairman. It seems he may be a master at shaping perception. Prior to the White House, he was the Executive Chairman of an online media publication for white nationalists, anti-Semites and racists. He has significant experience igniting the fire in people who are fueled by hate for other people. He can stir their passion with streams of angry ideologies. He knows how to run a propaganda machine, how to control the flow of information that is used to shape perception and reality. And now, as the chief strategist, he is shaping what we believe is real or fake, truth or lies, legal or illegal. To achieve this, the first step is to isolate people from the media. The media must not be trusted as a source of truth, facts, or accurate accounts of what is happening in order to be able to control public perception.

STEP TWO for a Fascist ruling is to silence scientists and government employees.
Scientists must go because critical thinkers are a threat to authoritarian control. The administration quickly silenced  the Environmental Protection Agency and other government officials. Yesterday Trump fired the sitting Attorney General because she did not agree with him. Traditionally in the United States of America, we value something called checks and balances. Disagreement of opinions is tolerated as part of the process of determining what is the constitutional rule of law. However, in this corporate, authoritarian take-over that is no longer necessary.

This weekend Trump removed the nation’s top military and intelligence advisers from being regular attendees to the National Security Council. The Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Director of National Intelligence are no longer regular attendees of the National Security Council’s Principals Committee, the highest official group that deals with national security matters. Steve Bannon, someone who has no government, intelligence, or high-level military experience was added to the National Security Council. Two senior military positions were downgraded and an online publication editor was put in their place on matters of national security. With his permanent seat at the NSC meetings, Bannon has been elevated above the director of the CIA, Mike Pompeo, who was not offered an open invitation.

In addition, last Thursday the majority of the State Department was made to resign. These are career officials who are generally committed to the position and the State Department and who remain in their positions for at least a few months in a transition of power to insure a smooth and safe transition. Their removal now leaves the State Department entirely unstaffed during these critical first weeks when orders like the Muslim ban (which they would normally resist) are coming down.

Meanwhile, on Friday Reince Preibus, the White House Chief of Staff, released a statement for Holocaust Remembrance day (as is custom for the White House to do). In his statement, however, he failed to mention Jews as part of the list of people who are remembered from that horrific time. And then defended the choice to not include them. Friday was also the same day that the refugee ban was put into affect. Both of these actions are a wink to a White Nationalist base (remember the folks at Breitbart, the online publication that Bannon ran) who also claim that the Jewish genocide of the Holocaust was fabricated and are in favor of White Nationalist policies such as the discriminatory executive orders.

This administration is trying to create power by creating chaos. One “shock and awe” event after another. Orders that are ambiguous or ridiculous, causing people to scramble to react and protect the vulnerable. If they can throw the people into a state of chaos, if they can tire us from anxiety and fear, we are easier to control. The hope is that with one atrocity after another, people will become desensitized. We will retreat into our safety or despair bubbles. The masses will stop noticing and stop responding to abuse of power. We cannot let them wear us down. Don’t be surprised that there will be more to come. Take care of yourself. TAKE CARE OF EACH OTHER. Don’t hide. Stand up. Live love and compassion with a fierce commitment to peace and justice. Get creative in how you speak out against what is unjust and create new ways for us to govern and care for each other. Find ways to process what you are feeling and experiencing, talk to your friends and neighbors. Build bridges across differences. We need one another. We are all in this together.

WhatYouDO
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