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May I Be a Worthy Servant

This past year I have written more online. I have used social media to ask the questions my heart ponders or frets over, share the news that crosses my path, and to articulate the ways I make meaning of the world around me. The responses from people reading my words have helped me see more clearly some of the ways I embody elements that Chani Nicholas speaks to in the Virgo call to service below. I am honored to be alive in this way and to show up and serve. Thank you for being on this journey with me. I always welcome feedback about ways I do below that are helpful/effective or not. May we amaze ourselves in the days to come as we recreate ourselves…

“You are our beloved nerd. Our expert. Our sincere seeker of the facts. The one who will ask the right questions. The one who can separate the truth from the rest of the information. You are discerning, unfazed by pomp and circumstance. You seek to understand the systems of nature we live within, looking for the beautiful, naturally occurring alchemy that uses every aspect of creation to recreate itself. You know nature’s efficiency. You know how to value the clean machine that is our earth. You know how to value the wisdom of the body. You teach us all manner of natural remedies. You know how to locate and remove what is unnecessary, toxic or ill-fitting. You know what is wrong with a thing because you know how to think critically about it and everything else.

This year we will need your compassionate critique. We will need your analysis. We will need your natural talent to deconstruct the ill-formed theories that have no place in a fair and just world. You are no fool and this year will have no shortage of foolish ideas. Bless us with your ability to cut them down to size with nothing but logic.

We need you to remind us that success isn’t about the applause we receive but about the quality of work we are able to produce in service of something greater than ourselves. You work for the sake of the work. You know what it is to be humble. To be wrong. To be worried about getting it done well. Help us to be thoughtful, concerned, hard-working citizens. Help us to remember that we will make mistakes so we might as well become dedicated students to the wisdom we most wish to embody.

In exchange, we will calm you when you feel like you need to fix everything. This situation is beyond broken. It is not your responsibility alone to figure out the whole mess. The future needs us all.”

 

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We Must Look at and Heal Poverty

Screen Shot 2017-01-17 at 9.21.25 PM“The well-off and the secure have too often become indifferent and oblivious to the poverty and deprivation in their midst. The poor in our countries have been shut out of our minds, and driven from the mainstream of our societies, because we have allowed them to become invisible. Just as nonviolence exposed the ugliness of racial injustice, so must the infection and sickness of poverty be exposed and healed – not only its symptoms but its basic causes. This, too, will be a fierce struggle, but we must not be afraid to pursue the remedy no matter how formidable the task.” ~ Martin Luther King Jr. from his Nobel lecture upon winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964

Transcript of the Lecture

Listen to the Lecture

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Do Whatever You’re Good At

I’m thankful for this reminder for acceptance and forgiveness from Heather Plett.

If you’re busy dismantling the patriarchy, you don’t need to know how to fold a fitted sheet.

If you’re a safe place to land for wounded friends, it’s okay if you forgot to take out the trash this week.

If you’re creating a piece of art, you can be forgiven for eating junk food for supper.

If you’re teaching somebody to read, nobody needs to know that you’re wearing the same pants you wore yesterday.

If you were kind to a stranger today, it doesn’t matter that you have no fashion sense.

Do whatever you’re good at and let the rest be “good enough”.

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What Do We Do?

Urgent messages are coming out of Aleppo, horrific violence against civilians (particularly women and children) has intensified. A genocide continues to happen and the world sits silently, including myself. I breathe and offer prayers and light a candle. May their souls escape the suffering… And I wonder… what do we do?

I will me honest, I don’t really understand all of the pieces and connections between Russia and Syria. What I gather is that people on the ground say that Russia is heavily involved in the inhumane mass torture and murder of civilians, while Russia says it is terrorists. What do we as global citizens do to join together to over-power the violence and hate-filled terrorism that is overcoming this world… and also our local communities?

Meanwhile (cause we only care when it threatens our own safety?), Trump has just announced that he has nominated Rex Tillerson, the CEO of EXXON, as the U.S. Secretary of State. Not only is that horrifying from big corporate OIL money being at one of the most powerful positions in our government, Tillerson was awarded Russia’s prestigious Order of Friendship by Putin in 2013 for his work with the Russian oil giants, further illustrating the potential ties between Tump and Putin moving forward. Is what is happening in Syria a glimpse into what could happen here? There are so many warning signs from points in history and realities in other countries that point to the possible future of the United States. Can we of good hearts find the vigilance to step out of our comfort zones, activate, and unite to truly make our communities safe against violence and terror? Starting now?

And then moving closer to home… yesterday a black man was found on the side of the road here in Asheville, beaten on his morning jog, and left there with a chord wrapped around his neck. This is terrorism. This is unacceptable. How do we stand up against the increase in hate crimes?

Last week Bryan Stevenson spoke about 4 things that are essential for us to do at this time in history. One of them is to STAY HOPEFUL, that we have to protect our hopefulness because when we become hopeless we become part of the problem. And it is our hopefulness that will motivate us to stand up when others say sit down, or speak up when others expect us to be quiet. My hopefulness rests in the power of all of us with good hearts… all of us who believe in human rights, in treating all people with dignity and respect, and in caring for our planet in ways that support its ability to be alive and healthy for our children’s children and their grandchildren.

And… those with good hearts have to be ACTIVE and ORGANIZE ourselves and do all that we can to connect with the good hearts in other people, particularly those who might be vulnerable to following orders of violence. As Renku sen said, “If you have some privilege, then you must risk it.” What sacrifices are we willing to make to protect the dream of freedom for all people?

 

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Indigenous Peoples – Keepers of the Library of How to Be Here on This Mother Earth

A very powerful account of the significance of what has already happened in this Indigenous peoples led movement, history that has been made. So much has been accomplished. So much to learn from this moment… and to apply to the other areas where resistance and courage in the name of peace and Life is needed. How prayer and nonviolent direct action and profound stepping in to support and stand up for one another and for the life of Mother Earth, how together we can create change and impact. And how the struggle is no where near over… we are just beginning in this long process of waking up from the deep slumber we as a collective peoples have been in… and we are so fortunate that there are Indigenous leaders showing us ways forward. Keep your eyes open… the leaders are alive now and showing the way. They are living amongst the people.

From Pat McCabe on Facebook:

I can’t help but notice… For the first time in the history of the planet that I am aware of, there was an international outcry, first, on behalf of the rights of indigenous peoples, who are the keepers of the library of how to be here on this Mother Earth, and who need their place on earth with its accompanying water, food, mountains, animals, etc., in order to keep being who they are, and to keep making their relationship, with this critical knowledge. Second, the international outcry rose to meet the tactics of the extraction industry with truth, outrage, grief, protest, donations and finally, with prayer. For the first time in ?the history of the United States, a.k.a. Turtle Island, all of the indigenous peoples banded together bringing their deepest ceremonies, on behalf of their neighbors, and on behalf of Water, and on behalf of Life for ALL. Then, indigenous communities from around the world, also came to support this prayer. Then, peoples from all nations worldwide came to join this prayer. Then, as if that? weren’t enough, ?entities such as the entire city of Los Angeles, as an official entity, sent their official seal of support, not only on behalf of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation, but in support of all of the activities that were opposing the petroleum pipeline, and for the protection of water, far outside of their immediate concern. Then, 500+ multi-faith clergy showed up, for the first time ever, at the request of an Indigenous, spiritual, and government leader, Chairman Archembault, to put themselves on the line, their physical being endangered on behalf of Indigenous Peoples rights, yes, but also on behalf of Water and Life, and yes, against the extraction industry, and corporate and government interests. AND, as if that were not history making enough, these clergy from all different faiths, were trained in non-violence action, made ready for other actions, conceivably. AND, THEN, they participated in a ceremony in which they BURNED THE DOCTRINE OF DISCOVERY, renouncing it, as sacred law, renouncing it as “God’s will” and saying outright it was WRONG. (For those of you unclear on what this doctrine is, in a nutshell, it came from the Vatican, the Pope, in which it was decreed as a kind of divine law that any peoples on any part of the Earth that were “discovered” and who were not “of the one true faith” were humanus animalus I think was the term, meaning they were a form of animal, and therefore had no soul, and therefore could not possess, own, land and who could rightly, with divine blessing, be taken into perpetual servitude, aka, slavery. The Pope has been approached probably every year for the last 50 years by indigenous peoples worldwide, asking for the Vatican to rescind this doctrine, and acknowledge its error and falsehood. So, far, has not happened, although the current Pope did meet with Indigenous peoples this spring, and promised to continue the conversation. What may not be known, is that many governments worldwide, including the US government have based their relationships with indigenous peoples and their rights on this doctrine. But I digress…) After the 500+ clergy from the full-spectrum of faiths, turned their back on their institutional rhetoric on behalf of Indigenous peoples’ rights, Water, and Life, U.S. VETERANS showed up! They showed up, saying that they were sworn to protect and uphold the safety, the Constitution, and U.S. citizens, against enemies foreign and domestic. This means they were calling the petroleum Corporations as well as North Dakota law-enforcement, as well as a sleeping U.S. Government, “domestic enemies” that needed to be stopped. How freaking huge is that?!?! Under death threats, and deep scrutiny by their peers, in an unprecedented, shall I say again, historic act, they came to protect Indigenous peoples- what?!?!- as well as the thousands of “non-indigenous” peoples fighting this petroleum corporation that is all but government sanctioned. They could have stopped there and still they would have stunned the world, but no, they took it a HUGE step further, they surprised the Lakota, Dakota, Nakota Sioux nations by getting down on one knee, and attempted to name all the harms committed by U.S. Armed forces on the original peoples of this part of the Earth, even including the destruction of their languages, the stealing of their children, and more. And… they asked for forgiveness… I don’t think there is another place on the Earth where this has happened. EVER. They also called upon the treaties to be acknowledged and upheld by the U.S. Military- as well as the U.S. Government. AND THEN… when law enforcement from eight states would not allow the Dakota people to attend to their ancestors’ disturbed burial sites, repelling the people in full-riot gear, with gallon-canisters of pepper spray and rubber bullets, one morning, hundreds of women made their way to the frontline, and this militia, parted, allowing the Women’s Nation to approach the water to pray. The sheriffs, police, military, national guard, hired guns, etc., FULLY ACKNOWLEDGED THE AUTHORITY OF THE LIFE-BRINGER LIFE-BEARER. And all of this doesn’t even address the fact that native youth in South Dakota and North Dakota had devastating suicide rates, the reasons systemic, and now they can know that their people and their ways were instrumental in showing the entire world that there is no such thing as “inevitable.” It was their people that woke a sleeping giant. No one will ever forget who the Lakota, Nakota, Dakota nations are ever again. This changes everything, for not only other Indigenous peoples, worldwide, but for humanity at large. For humanity at large because, what has taken place could not have been possible without all races stepping out of their comfort zone, creating an unprecedented interracial collaboration, and human solidarity that withstood gale force storms of every nature.
Once again it has been proven, and in our time, at this critical moment, that nonviolence is the way that creates, deep, lasting, widespread, inclusive, change on this Holy Mother Earth. In the lineage of Gandhi, and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., these events will also be noted. These events are the proof, and guidance, that we needed in order to understand how to move forward in the face of overwhelming odds of brute force and economic and political power. Oh, and it is definitely worthy of mention, that after the brutal attacks that took place on the front lines, 700 people, native and non-native (it is hard to explain how huge even this interracial unifying is in the part of the world known as North Dakota) walked from Mandan to the municipal legal complex, encircled it by joining hands, and let law enforcement know that they forgave them. I don’t know about you, but that’s not something I witness very often.

So have a little patience friends, we’re moving as fast as we can… And quite honestly, from where I sit, it looks to be downright miraculously fast??

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29th People of Color Conference

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29th People of Color Conference

Sponsored by The National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) as part of their commitment to equity and justice in teaching and learning.

This will be my third year facilitating the White Affinity Group Sessions at this phenomenal conference.

The mission of the People of Color Conference (PoCC) is to provide a safe space for leadership, professional development, and networking for people of color and allies of all backgrounds in independent schools. It equips educational leaders with knowledge, skills, and experiences to improve and enhance the interracial, interethnic, and intercultural climate in their schools. It also focuses on academic, social-emotional, and workplace factors that impact equitable and just performance outcomes for students and adults alike. Programing attends to the fact that human beings are complex, with needs and concerns informed by multiple identities and intersections.

Unlike most independent school settings, the majority of the PoCC attendees and presenters are people of color. The wisdom and perspective of people of color tends to be a “minority” view in independent schools (and other businesses and organizations in the U.S.). The NAIS People of Color Conference offers attendees the empowering experience of an interactional space that more closely mirrors world racial and ethnic demography.

This year’s conference is in Atlanta, GA, a fitting location given the human and civil rights challenges we face today. This event is a call to action for schools in society, calling on educational leaders at all levels, from teachers to trustees, to work together to solve the challenges we face, recognizing that collaboration is fundamental to innovation. The conference invites critical thinking about the concerns of today. Working together magnifies the capacity to confront and eliminate the implicit and explicit structures that thwart the wellbeing and performance of all members of (independent) school communities and helps to ensure the relevance and success of people of color.

POCC is designed for people of color, relating to their roles in independent schools. The programming supports people of color as they pursue strategies for success and leadership. Its focus is on providing a sanctuary and networking opportunity for people of color and allies in independent schools as we build and sustain inclusive school communities.

This event is a distinct professional development experience in the national education landscape. It provides an opportunity for educational leaders to refocus their work and learning through an equity perspective. The conference includes general sessions with keynotes, dozens of practitioner-led workshops, extensive affinity group work, and dialogue sessions.

NAIS sponsors PoCC to support the complex dynamics of independent school life and culture and the varied roles people of color play and experience in these settings.

The first National Conference for Teachers and Administrators of Color in Independent Schools was in 1986 in Reston, VA with about 100 participants. 2016 will be the 29th PoCC conference with over 3600 participants.

Affinity Group Sessions

PoCC hosts affinity group sessions to provide an opportunity for sharing and exploring your life and experiences within safe and supportive spaces defined by membership in a specific racial or ethnic identity group. Affinity group sessions are designed to help conference participants engage in conversations that matter, share successes and challenges, celebrate identities and engage freely within a space defined and protected by and for those who share race and ethnicity in common. Unlike all other conference programming (which is open to all irrespective of race and ethnicity), affinity group space derives its meaning, integrity, and transformative power from participation by same-group members. NAIS recognizes nine identity statuses for affinity groups. NAIS recruits facilitators from each of these groups to support the process.

It is important to underscore that affinity groups are not places to go “to learn about others,” even when the “other” is a participant’s child, friend, or colleague. Each of us is welcome in the affinity group space that matches our self-identified race or ethnicity. Entering any other affinity group extinguishes the safety and trust that defines them.

The overarching vision for PoCC affinity group work includes

  • facilitating opportunities for affirming, nurturing, and celebrating lived experience of affinity group members

  • discussing issues related to racial/ethnic identity development in a safe environment where people who share that racial or ethnic identity can generate community, fellowship, and empowerment

  • modeling a structure that acknowledges the complexity of race and ethnicity by encouraging affinity groups to affirm, explore, and examine intersectionality (e.g. race and gender, race/ethnicity and sexual orientation), within each community.

Student Diversity Leadership Conference (SDLC)

At the same time as POCC is SDLC, a multiracial, multicultural gathering of upper school student leaders (grades 9–12) from across the U.S. SDLC focuses on self-reflecting, forming allies, and building community.

 

***All of the text on this page is taken from the NAIS POCC website.

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The Power of a Single Prayer & People Banded Together

I cannot express how much gratitude I have for the indigenous leadership of this movement… at this moment in time. I am learning so much. I am humbled. Please listen to Lyla June Johnston. I pulled out some of her words from the video, but you should listen to the story directly from her. It’s theatrical and she’s speaking serious truth. <3

“The people banded together to create a historic wonderful model to the rest of the world about how a single prayer can change everything. The people decided together that they would choose to use their prayers as a way to heal their own waters, their own people, and the waters of even those who chose to oppress and beat them.

These leaders, indigenous peoples, have created a blueprint which the world can follow which says that we do not need to lift a weapon or arm to change the world. Further more, our deepest strength comes from praying for all our relations. We can actually create a massive change when we adhere to the principles of non-violence, forgiveness, and prayer.

This is a model to the rest of us. Our strength comes from stepping out into the darkness against all odds and saying, you know what, I’m gonna try anyways. No matter where we are, if we are motivated by prayer, kindness, and the audacity to try against all odds, that we might just create a world wide movement.
We must take a moment to celebrate.

We must take a moment to celebrate the fact that we have united things that have never been united. We have united the Federal government with indigenous peoples. We have united Christians with indigenous peoples. We have united war veterans with non-violent peacenics. We have united Muslims with Christians.

The world has come together to put their stake in the ground and say, “Yes. We love our planet. We love the water. And we believe in creating some sort of solution to the century’s long issue of the oppression of indigenous peoples of Turtle Island.” This my friends is a victory, the first step to many more victories that we will have in the coming years and decades.

We have made history today by creating a critical mass where even the most Right-winged news sources cannot ignore the power and the beauty of this movement.
We have proven the efficacy of:

  • the strategy of nonviolence
  • the strategy of compassion and unconditional love for our enemies
  • having hope in the middle of the dark night when nothing seems possible, and stepping out and giving it a shot anyway.

Please, let’s all give a prayer of gratitude.
Together we have created a beautiful demonstration of human unity.

Lyla June Johnston

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