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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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Earthseed Series with adrienne maree brown

Screen Shot 2017-12-29 at 10.07.02 PMSo much goodness in this podcast about Octavia Butler, her books, particularly the Earthseed Series, Emergent Strategy and fierce guidance for liberation movement work. Continued gratitude to Adrienne Maree Brown.

Key Questions in the podcast:

  • Who was Octavia Butler?
  • What are the lessons of Acorn, the post-apocalyptic community that was created in Parables?
  • What does it mean to shape chaos?
  • How do these books teach us about resilience? survival? Love?
  • What can people do to practice radical compassion and empathy?
  • What does it mean to practice humility and create space for everyone when it might also mean that we let in potentially harmful people?
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Restorative Justice with Juvenile Cases


“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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Staying Engaged in Local Politics

Black_Lives_Matter_And_Occupy_Wall_StreetI’m at fault. For the majority of my 8 years of living in Asheville, I was not involved in government politics. I was absorbed in my own life and work and field of perceptions and not paying attention to the laws and policies being passed, enforced or not enforced locally. I paid my taxes, but paid little attention to how city officials voted or how city staff performed their jobs. I trusted that other people were paying attention while I was paying attention to other things. And here we are.

Now I wake up at 5am imagining how hotels could be transformed into affordable housing and staffed with the healers so prolific in asheville, folks providing services to those living in financial poverty instead of just financial wealth. I think about all these hotels that don’t pay a living wage. I think about the rapidly decreasing numbers of people of color in the city and the rapidly increasing numbers of white folks flooding in. And reading an article like this one, how our city manager and police chief wouldn’t step in to help when their help was requested, I have to reckon with the fact that I, and people like me, are at fault. We who are comfortable enough in our life bubbles rationalize not paying attention. That said, while I will take some of the blame. I won’t stop there. I won’t get stuck in my emotions, feel ashamed of my inaction, overwhelmed by the truth, and thus continue not to act, not pay attention, or not be involved.

I invite you to join me in paying attention and placing our hearts upon these issues in our city, if you aren’t already. We could really be a remarkable, model city for innovative solutions to some of the toughest challenges cities across the country are facing. Or we can be a beer, tourist city for white folks while increasing the numbers of children living in poverty and families living on the streets and move from the #2 most gentrified city into first place. The choice is made in each of our actions and inactions. My vote is for innovative, radical change that is rooted in moral actions that further the wellbeing of all humans, that looks at the nuances of our history and makes decisions about the future that take into consideration that history… and much more to this vision of what could be, but this post is long enough.

Article that inspired some of this sharing and reflection: Mt. Zion says hotel encroaching on church property

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Liberation Theology

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“When I feed the poor, they call me a saint, but when I ask why the poor are hungry, they call me a Communist.” Dom Helder Camara, twentieth-century bishop, one of the prophets of Christian “Liberation theology”

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Rev. Barber Speaks Truth on Systemic Racism and White Supremacy

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What We Can DO


What can I do?
I hear so many people voicing their concern for these times and asking, “What can I do?”

Are you one of these tender-hearted people who believes in love, peace, and honoring the good in all humans? Are you afraid and possibly even paralyzed by the violence and hate that you are seeing and hearing around you? It’s real what you’re feeling. AND if your beliefs are authentic to who you are — you have to ACT also. Feeling the fear and sadness, talking about your concerns or sharing your beliefs on Facebook or with friends is not enough. We must ACT if we are serious about confronting the hate, violence, oppression and discrimination that is clearly alive and active in our local, regional, national and global communities.

Char Adams offers 4 very important things to DO. I’ve expanded on her words with my own comments.

1. Educate yourself – Google before you ask someone else to guide you. There is sooo much information on the internet – from how-to guides, the top 5 things to do, educational resources, to personal stories that show you a window into the lives of people who are different from you. Most likely you know what you are ignorant about and where you could use some education. Wether it’s what White Supremacy looks like in 2017, the racial disparities that exist in your local community, what someone means when they say they use “they/them” pronouns, or what Muslims actually believe… take time to learn.

2. Get involved locally – I have 2 big requests for locals in Asheville and I’m hoping my friends reading this will offer to help. 1. PLEASE donate money now to the Black August Bail Out Action to bail out Black women, queer and transgender folks who are still in prison only because they can’t afford bail. Info in comments. 2. Direct message me if you are free this Friday from 4:45-7 or 7-9:15 to volunteer at Downtown After Five to sell wrist bands and help raise money for a local organization, My Daddy Taught Me That. Beyond those two immediate requests, there are so many local groups wherever you live that are doing the important on-the-ground work of caring for, protecting, and nourishing people who are impacted by oppression. Wether you make calls to local people in positions of power, show up at civic meetings or the offices of public officials, volunteer on the ground, give money, or partner in another way… get involved.

3. Talk to your friends, families and peers about systemic oppression and privilege and how it effects people daily and address oppressive comments and behaviors when they come up (I amended this one) -

677625a3588698144ea69e24d52de82d425e62e1So many people think that White Supremacy is just the KKK and overt hate crimes. Yet the reality is that White Supremacy is profoundly alive in our schools, health care system, justice system, housing and transportation systems, etc. Talk to people about how the denial of home loans and housing discrimination has perpetuated poverty and allowed certain groups of people to prosper and accumulate wealth from one generation to the next. Discuss how racial profiling in policing and the judicial system and thus the disproportionate numbers of people of color and people in poverty that are incarcerated is effecting the lives of good people and destroying families. Talk about the impact of our segregated education system, the biased curriculums that so many learn from, and the impact this has on children’s lives and society at large. And be direct with your friends, family or peers when they say or do something that is racist or oppressive. Start acknowledging the jokes that are offensive or the off-handed derogatory comments. Don’t be silent. Don’t hide from difficult, uncomfortable conversations.

4. Constantly evaluate yourself – We have all been raised in a society that is steeped in ideology and behaviors of racism, superiority, oppression, privilege, etc. I seriously doubt that in the life time of anyone reading this, you will be healed from the impacts of oppression and privilege. The patterns of systemic oppression, White Supremacy, paternalism and patriarchy are powerful and insidious and we are all effected. It is a process of constant self evaluation to discover where these patterns are alive in me and how I can keep learning about myself, my beliefs, my sometimes hidden from myself biases, the ways I act that are offensive and oppressive and so much more. Don’t stop. Be courageous in your self-reflection. It may be hard to see parts of yourself that you didn’t know were there, but the liberation on the other side of that insight is so life-saving, both for you and for those in the world around you.

I thank you for caring enough to be asking yourself, “What can I do?” And I am profoundly grateful for your concrete efforts to join with others, to unite in action and grow in strength the numbers of us who are courageously committed to the liberation of all people from oppression, hate and violence. Together we can do this. May it be so.

Additional resources:


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