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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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Indigenous Youth Leaders & Man Camps

These indigenous youth are badass. So much important information here. Their analysis, leadership and journalism is powerful and clear. They have updates about Keystone as well as other significant things to be aware of. Worth listening to all 27 minutes.

Do you know any farmers in Nebraska?

Keystone XL Pipeline Update from the NoKXL Gathering 2017 in Kul Wicasa Territory -Lower Brule, SD.
Youth voices from:
Seeding Sovereignty
Indigenous Environmental Network
International Indigenous Youth Council – Denver Chapter

I did not know about “man camps” until these videos and their correlation with missing Native women. This is disgusting and unfortunately extremely easy to imagine a sex trafficking industry and violence surrounding temporary housing for oil workers. More about Man Camps.

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Largest HBCU in the Nation Loses 50 Year Old Political Science Department

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Black folks are needed in politics and the power grabs that are happening in this country continue to be atrocious. Two conclusions that I jump to in reading this news.

NC A&T State University is the largest public HBCU in the nation. Its Political Science Department has existed for about 50 years. They just announced plans to collapse this department into another one. I imagine that move will, in various ways, involve a shift in power and resources. This seems intentionally manipulative to me. Especially in a state that appears to be the testing ground for government to explore how much they can get away with that impacts how society exists… without people noticing.

Derick Smith is a professor of political science and speaks highly of their department, “We’ve produced a lot of great students. We have a reputation for speaking truth to power, for strong advocacy and social justice. We still get students elected to office. A lot of them go on to law school.”

This move by A&T makes me think that those who currently hold power do not want black folks to be educated and wise in areas of political science. They want to disrupt social and educational systems that are addressing poverty, civil rights and civic engagement. It’s easy to jump to this conclusion as it follows the trends of US history, so many efforts to limit black folks from having access to education and participation in government.? And so one of my conclusions, black folks are needed in politics (for so many reasons).
. . .
?May we notice what is happening in institutions that shape society. May we shift the quality of leadership that holds power in these institutions. May we see more and more people stepping into this experiment of democracy and discovering if it’s possible to create a government that is accountable to serving the public interest of the greatest good.

Thank you Derick Smith for allowing the public to see that this is happening.
Thank you Joy Boothe for drawing my attention to this.
Article about this news
Derick Smith

BREAKING NEWS! After a 50 year history of serving the University, the State, Community and Nation as a highly credible, extremely competent, remarkably active academic department; the Department of Political Science and Criminal Justice at NC A&T State University will be COLLAPSED after this semester.

NC A&T State University, the largest public HBCU in the nation, committed to its “Preeminence 2020” goal of cultivating an environment of high civic engagement is dismantling its POLITICAL SCIENCE department.

The Margaret Spellings, Betsy DeVos, UNC Board of Governors trends continue. Long live the dismantling of the Academy; death to the NC A&T Political Science Department…death to the UNC Poverty Center…death to the UNC Center for Civil Rights…death to the NCCU Center for Civic Engagement…death to the ECU Center for Special Education….DEATH to the ACADEMY!

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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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Equity Cafe @ Center for Nonprofit Excellence

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Last week I also had the opportunity to work, play and learn with Sarah Nuñez. Sarah walks her talk — a compassionate, strategic, heart-centered intersectional organizer, healer and divine human being who is living the future now! The Center for Nonprofit Excellence asked Sarah to give a keynote speech. Rather than saying yes and taking the stage, she helped the conference organizers see that more value could come from the people present being in conversation around the importance and relevance of equity in their work. She pulled together an intergenerational, interracial team including Marcos Morales and Lettie Johnson and we hosted a World Café on the theme of Being Bold. Being Equitable. I am so grateful to have these role models and co-consipritors in my life.

Sarah Nuñez shared: Thanks for being a part of all the design, process, and execution of the program, AC!!! We needed you with us and are super grateful for your wisdom, guidance, and reminders of all the ways we are brilliant! You brought many moments of mindful transitions and creativity to the day! Thanks for being our anchor to the roots of love, connections, and visions we are living through! #itstime #wedeserveeachother

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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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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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