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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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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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Reflections on White Supremacy on the Rise

So many feelings around this

Nazi’s and White Supremacists are willing to be violent and kill people. Period. They also feel emboldened right now.

This feels like an instance where police acted fast and used their resources to stop actual violent perpetrators (With the partnership of a community member that knew to remember the license plate in a time of crisis). I’m grateful for that.

I was traveling last week. One of the things that I noticed and mentioned to my white male friend was that I kept noticing myself being suspicious of a certain type of white men (clean cut, polished and pointy ones) when I passed them in the hotel. Many times I caught myself wondering what was under their suit? Is he one of the alt-right folks? My friend encouraged me to continue listening to that thought, let it warn and protect, and at the same time, to also hold the awareness that my mind is recognizing patterns and making generalizations.

In writing this post, I kept deleting my thought that — their sunburns feel symbolic. Then I went to learn more about the conference and read the NYtimes article that quoted Richard Spencer, a leader amongst the alt-right and the keynote of their conference:

“But now his tone changed as he began to tell the audience of more than 200 people, mostly young men, what they had been waiting to hear. He railed against Jews and, with a smile, quoted Nazi propaganda in the original German. America, he said, belonged to white people, whom he called the “children of the sun,” a race of conquerors and creators who had been marginalized but now, in the era of President-elect Donald J. Trump, were “awakening to their own identity.”

As he finished, several audience members had their arms outstretched in a Nazi salute. Mr. Spencer called out: “Hail Trump! Hail our people!” and then, “Hail victory!” — the English translation of the Nazi exhortation “Sieg Heil!” The room shouted back.

And from the article about the 3 men arrested:

“In a coincidence, two of the men who were arrested spoke to the Gainesville Sun before the shooting. Said William Fears to the newspaper: “Us coming in and saying we’re taking over your town, we’re starting to push back, we’re starting to want to intimidate back. We want to show our teeth a little bit because, you know, we’re not to be taken lightly. We don’t want violence; we don’t want harm. But at the end of the day, we’re not opposed to defending ourselves.”

I wonder about all the men who are trying to show their teeth right now, what is the healing that they need? All the white people who feel threatened by changing power structures and are also trying to show their teeth or actually firing bullets at people, actual bullets or the ones dressed as laws and policies. What do they need to start acting differently?

And always, I wonder what we do to shift this. In this case, I can only look to all the other white folks I share this planet with. These are our people. These are our fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins, sons and neighbors. It is also many of our ancestors who did, in fact, create an America that was initially only for white, wealthy people. In that way, I think the first part of what Richard Spencer says has truth:

“America was, until this last generation, a white country designed for ourselves and our posterity,” Mr. Spencer thundered. “It is our creation, it is our inheritance, and it belongs to us.”

American governance is indeed the creation of white people. In most other ways, America was nourished and built by people of color.

I think that the rest of us white folks have a responsibility to help the future of America be one that is created by the vast diversity of people who inhabit this land, to share what we have inherited with those who are not white, and together, to recognize that this land actually belongs to Mother Earth.

Phew… so many feelings…

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A Note to White Women about White Supremacy

Screen Shot 2017-12-29 at 11.27.32 PMPeople often ask, what can I do?

Layla Saad has written this letter to spiritual white women. But it’s relevant to anyone who genuinely wants to be an ally and stand in solidarity. I think it’s worth a read if you are white, male, or wealthy. I’ve pulled out some snippets…

“Saying ‘yes’ to doing this work is only the first step.

If you’ve given your YES, then you need to know what your YES means.

Your YES means:

YES to constantly doing the work within myself of identifying how I oppress others and myself, and doing the work of calling myself out when I do harm – whether I meant it or not.

YES to doing the work of educating myself instead of expecting people of colour to tell me what to do or expecting them to make it comfortable for me to unpack my own privilege.

YES to constantly educating myself around issues of social justice, intersectional feminism, sacred activism and conscious leadership.

YES to listening to people of colour and other marginalised folk when they are taking the time to educate me for free, and not telling them how I think they should see things or what I think they should do.

YES to speaking up as often as possible in my personal and professional environments about this work and to calling out / calling in white privilege and oppression when I see it.

YES to supporting POC and other marginalised folk by reading and listening to their work, buying their services and products, inviting them onto my summits, podcasts and programs, and cultivating relationships with people of colour that are ‘transformational and not transactional’ (hat tip to Desiree Lynn Adaway for this quote). In other words, not using POC as tokens, but having real and respectful relationships with them of mutual support.

YES to taking an honest look at my business and the way that I may be perpetuating white supremacy through it (e.g. through cultural appropriation, mainly highlighting white people, refusing to speak on social justice, etc.) and doing what I can to change that.

YES to setting my ego and fragility aside so that I can do what’s right instead of what is easy.

YES to not letting guilt or making mistakes get in the way of me continuing to show up.

YES to apologising when I get it wrong and taking accountability for the harm that I’ve done.

YES to forgiving myself and educating myself, so that I can do better next time.

YES to not just doing this work when it is convenient or comfortable for me, or because I think that talking about social justice will somehow enhance my business brand, but because it’s the right thing to do.

YES to seeing my spirituality as a way to engage deeper into this work rather than as a way to bypass this work, and to recognising that being devoted to Spirit means being devoted to social justice.

YES to doing this work every day, even when I get it wrong, even when it’s hard, even when it feels like I’m not good enough at it – because it’s not about me.

YES to bringing my anger to the table and using it in conscious ways to call out spiritual-bypassing, white-washing, light-washing, racism, misogyny and microaggressions when I see them happening.

YES to calling out and not engaging in cultural appropriation – which is rampant in the world of spiritual entrepreneurship.

YES to staying in my own lane and using my unique spiritual gifts to show up in sacred activism – whether as a writer, an artist, a facilitator, a speaker, a healer, a teacher or a guide.

If you cannot be with your own rage, then you cannot be with the rage that arises when a POC is getting frustrated with you because of your white privileged behavior.

If you cannot be with your own grief, then you cannot be with the grief that POC feel as a result of living with the constant trauma of being oppressed and discriminated against.

If you cannot be with your own power, then you cannot make space for POC exerting their power through their voice, their boundary-setting and their no bullshit truth-telling.

If you truly want to do this work then saying YES to all of the above is a non-negotiable.

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Rosh Hashanah and Being Alert to the Raw Truths

Yesterday was Rosh Hashanah. Thanks to Phyllis Utley I was able to attend services. The Rabbi spoke of the symbolism of blowing the shofar (a ram’s horn). Its sound is raw and piercing. It sounds pained, like crying. It is also a triumphant sound of joy and celebration.

She told us that it’s meant to remind us to pay attention and be alert to the raw truths happening around us. To listen to people when they tell their own stories.

To hear the cries of those who are suffering. To hear the mothers wailing for their lost children, even if their children are your enemy.

In her sermon, she connected this to the need for us to hear the declarations that Black Lives Matter and the accounts of how Palestinian people are suffering. We must listen to their stories in their own words. We must allow ourselves to hear and feel their cries.

I had thought I would write more about this sermon, but life took another turn. Here is a letter that she read fully during her sermon.

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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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Jesus is Coming – Will you Recognize Him?

Driving through rural Georgia I passed a hand written sign in someone’s yard that said, “Jesus is coming.” I wanted to ask the people — How will you know when Jesus arrives? How will you recognize Jesus? What-if Jesus is here and because Jesus doesn’t fit your description you can’t recognize Jesus? This post about a Jesus who is saving lives and taking care of his community, while those in power want to destroy his life, made me think of the other Jesus.

Screen Shot 2017-12-29 at 11.53.15 PM“This young man is named Jesus Contreras. He’s a paramedic from Texas who just spent six sleepless days and nights saving lives in Houston — rescuing countless strangers from rising flood waters.

(Have you ever done that? I’ve never done that.)

This is what a hero looks like.

But there is a strong possibility that Jesus — this generous-hearted hero of a young man — will be among the 800,000 young people whom President Trump would like to deport soon from the United States.

Jesus’s family came to this country illegally when he was child, but because of DACA protections, he has been able to gain a limited legal presence in America. He has recently been able to live his life in productivity, rather than living in the shadows. He can have a driver’s liscense. He can have a legal job. He can save your life in a disaster. He’s a decent and religious young man, who prays for the President. He is GOOD. He is leader, and a positive force in his community. He is exactly the kind of person this country needs. Getting rid of him doesn’t make this country better; it makes this country dumber. This young man is no threat to you. In fact, he would happily save your life.” (more in this article)

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