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Facing Our History

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Who do you know that is 58 years young or older? Think about how recent 58 years ago was — on this day 58 years ago, the Governor of Georgia threatens to withhold PUBLIC SCHOOL funding to any school that tries to integrate black and white students. What do you know about how schools and classrooms are still segregated today in 2018? What do you know about educational and political leaders that are still using policy and power to keep learning opportunities segregated, to hinder learning for some students? If you don’t know anything about how these things are still going on, what are you doing to educate yourself? If you do know, what are you doing to change it? How are you supporting the people who are making efforts to drive change? Do you believe in the power of education, that all young people have a right to quality learning experiences?

I am on day 11 of the Equal Justice Initiative Calendar. Reading these daily reminders of history, of how we humans allow one another to act, and of the timeline of how recent so many of these things are is not a joy-filled moment of my day, but it is incredibly powerful in helping to ground me in the reality of our past and our present. The calendars are only $5. Can you take a minute each day to remember the history we were born out of?

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50 of the most impactful creators, artists, and activists in 2017

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Who are the people whose ideas you are listening to? Whose leadership are you following or respecting? Are you making efforts to seek out and learn from the perspectives and insights of people who have been oppressed (for generations)? If not, PLEASE DO. Your life will be better and collectively we’ll be one step closer to a better life for all of us.

Not sure who to learn from? Here’s a list of 50 impactful creators, artists, and activists whose imaginations extend beyond normalizing and affirming the same mainstream messages, folks who have taken risks and are pushing us closer to democracy being a practice not a hope, and racial inclusion being a basic starting point instead of a goal. Google any of them and find some media to consume. Let it touch your heart and activate your spirit.

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Children’s Books Celebrating Black Boys

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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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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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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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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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