Taking A Stand

What can you no longer accept?

I think about this question a lot. What am I no longer willing to sit by and watch happen? What is totally unacceptable for me at this point in my life?

We are born into a specific set of social identities and that they predispose us to unequal roles from day one

We learn to accept these roles and are taught they are normal through our interactions with parents, teachers, colleagues, peers and other folks that love us.

We learn that power and privilege are organized according to race, class, and gender.

What we consider to be ” normal” is just as much a social construct as what we determine to be “different”

This socialization tells us what is beautiful, what is good, what is evil, what is healthy, what is educated, and even what determines a family

This socialization tells us things like only white people swim or  folks that belong to another religious group are weird or wrong or dangerous.

We are inundated by these unquestioned messages throughout our life. These messages shape what we believe about ourselves and what we believe about each other.

Our culture and institutions have been built to reinforce our divisions and justify our biases and prejudices.

We don’t have to accept this anymore. We can change the things that we no longer can accept.

What does it really mean to make change?

If we do this know that there is a price to be paid when we buck the system or status quo. You might be deemed a trouble maker, considered “mouthy”  or told you are too much. You might get a reputation for not being a team player, or someone that can not follow the rules or hard to manage.

People who go against the grain are considered to be a problem that needs to be fixed or handled. You might be held up as an example.

We are rarely taught how to speak up and interrupt systems that are oppressive and unless you have learned these skills this process may make you feel insecure about standing up and being heard.

But everyday people do it…. they show up , they speak up and they help to break chains of oppression.

What can you no longer accept?
Racism?
Classism?
Heterosexism?
Ablesim?
Sexism?
Religious Oppression?
Disparities in the Justice System?
Disparities in Education?

What do you know that you can not unknow anymore?

Name it. Claim it. Own it. 

Whatever it is that you can no longer accept, I ask that every day you take one step towards liberation.One tiny thing that helps work on that issue. On step towards freeing yourself and freeing others.

Change happens with intention…..one step at a a time.

Let’s go get free y’all

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Diversity is where we start not where we finish.

Diversity helps us understand ways that we are similar to and different from one another, but it does not necessitate us to do anything with that information. It is a basic level of understanding that does not require connection, collaboration, or compassion.

Enter social justice.

Social justice refers to a concept in which equity or justice is achieved in every aspect of society rather than in only some aspects or only for some people.

Since this term is being used a lot these days, here’s a more robust definition:
“The goal of social justice is full and equal participation of all groups in a society that is mutually shaped to meet their needs. Social justice includes a vision of society in which the distribution of resources is equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure. Social justice involves social actors who have a sense of their own agency as well as a sense of social responsibility toward and with others, their society, and the broader world in which we live.” -from Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice.

Social justice work asks us to build coalitions and solidarity, teaches us to be accountable and responsible allies and helps us to build and sustain inclusive communities.

Social justice work is multi-faceted, requiring you to develop new ways of thinking, to seriously challenge yourself –which is exciting and necessary but can also be daunting. Developing these skillsets is best done in community, which is why Ericka Hines and I designed a new course that is centered on social justice.

This is the work that needs to be done and the Social Justice Intensive will give you the tools, support, accountability and the community you need to do it.
Social Justice Intensive
Get ready to learn:

  • How oppressive systems really work
  • The social and moral cost for maintaining privilege
  • Strategies to challenge oppression
  • How you can take action and create solidarity with marginalized communities
  • What past social movements you can learn from and use to guide your current work

The Social Justice Intensive starts April 2nd. We hope to see you there!

Click HERE to learn all about it.
(Not sure if the Intensive is right for you? We’re also launching another section of our program, Diversity is an Asset in April -you can check that out here.)

Let’s get free together y’all.

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Who’s Got The Power

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Power

Racism is not a problem to be fixed by an individual. It won’t be fixed by the awakening or enlightenment.

It can only be fixed by understanding power- who has it, and how it gets used.

Power-The ability to decide who will have access to resources; the capacity to direct or influence the behavior of others, oneself, and/or the course of events

Always living deep within questions of inequality and injustice is the question of power. We are born into a specific set of social identities and that they predispose us to unequal roles

Unequal roles = Unequal power

Racism, transphobia, xenophobia, homophobia, islamophobia, sexism and all the other “isms” are about Power.

Power

Those with the most power can thus afflict anyone of any gender, sexual orientation, color, community, culture, or country, who craves power above the need to respect the “Other”

We have created institutions and systems  that continuously place the desire for power above the desire for love and connection

So every day ask yourself:

  • In whose interest do institutions operate?
  • Who benefits and who pays from societies “norms”?
  • Who are we sacrificing when we follow the status quo?

There is no system that is neutral. There is no system that is fair as long as unfair and hidden advantages exist

Power maintains dominance. Dismantling systems is about dismantling an unjust power structure.

This game we play every day called life is not fair.
This game we play every day called life is not just

It is actually not a game at all. There are real life or death consequences as we navigate power in our everyday lives.

We all lose when we think oppression only happens in the hearts of a few and not see it as economically and politically structured.

We all lose when we do not call out the moral and social cost for swimming in these systems built around power belonging to some and not all.

These systems appeal to our lower-selves, because of socialization that is based up the dehumanizing many for the benefit of a few.

“Power in defense of freedom is greater than power in behalf of tyranny and oppression, because power, real power, comes from our conviction which produces action, uncompromising action.”

~Malcolm X

What does real power look like in your life and the choices you make? What does action look like for you? How will you show up?

It is time to fight the power, it’s actually past time.

Let’s go get free.

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Culture of Silence

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Culture of Silence

I spent my Sunday morning drinking coffee and studying the “Five Faces of Oppression” by Iris Young. In case you are wondering it is perfect brunch reading.

I am not sure that many folks understand the multitude of ways that we are oppressed by systems and institutions. Ways that we are taught to minimize our voices, our rights, our wants, and our needs.

Nor are we aware how this oppression manifests in our lives. I think we can all agree that we have systems that oppress groups of people in this country. We have symbols, norms, and rules that do not allow all of us to show up and participate in society as fully human.

As our best selves

So, what are the five faces?

The Five Faces of Oppression

•Exploitation
•Marginalization
•Powerlessness
•Cultural Imperialism
•Violence (or the threat of violence)

I have spent a lot of time meditating on powerlessness.

Ways that we have been taught not to speak up for ourselves or for others. Brazilian educational philosopher Paulo Freire believes that powerlessness is the strongest form of oppression because it allows people to oppress themselves and others.

Powerlessness creates a culture of silence.

We all pay a price for silence. Silence kills.

It kills our ideas. It kills our energy. It kills our relationships. It kills our communities. It kills our connections and it kills our humanity.

It perpetuates the illusion that some people voices matter more than others. That some folks are worthy of speaking and being heard, while others are not. It makes us think that we as individuals do not mean anything, so of course, our voice doesn’t either

  • How many times have you sat in meetings and did not speak up, because you felt it would get you nowhere?
  • How many time have you let family, friends or colleagues say blatantly false /racist/sexist things because you wanted to keep the peace?
  • How many times have you stopped talking about your own oppression because you are tired of folks not believing you and you’re worried about your safety?
  • How many difficult conversations has your organization not participated in because they seemed too overwhelming and y’all did not want to rock the boat?

Most people believe that if given the chance to speak up that they will. Very few actually do. Giving voice to problems save us. They save our businesses, our institutions and they save our lives. There are cost and consequences to creating cultures of silence, and I think we are seeing that play out in our country currently.

We have a kind of silence that goes so deep and is so insidious it literally is eating us alive.

We do not talk about race issues. We do not talk about class issues. We do not talk about religious oppression or gender issues. We do not talk about able-ism or ageism.

We pay a steep price

Not talking keeps us blissfully ignorant. Blissfully silo-ed. Blissfully segregated.

It is not discussing these issues that divide us, it is not talking about them that does.

Our silence has been socialized and institutionalized. That is not by accident.

How do we change this?

Cultures of silence can be changed. We can change it through education and by creating brave spaces for folks to speak a whole lot of truth.

We speak up in our personal lives and we invite others to speak. We invite others to dialogue.

We stop thinking about what we lose when we speak up and start thinking about what we gain.

We invite those folks on the margin that we never hear from, that we never see. Those folks that we have allowed negative images and stereotypes to speak for them. Let them tell their own stories, in their own languages, using their authentic voices.

Some of us are forced to be silent, but many of us are choosing to be. And it is literally killing us

We get free by using our voices to challenge those in power. We have to speak freedom to life.

Let’s go get free y’all


The “Culture of Silence” is based on work of Paulo Freire in his book The Politics of Education

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Liberation is Love

849c0475-3fec-4d04-8891-fd1656111f63Liberation

I spent time this weekend studying The Cycle of Liberation by Bobbie Harro. It’s a beautifully written framework that basically says:

“I know this social change work is overwhelming, all these really big complex issues, but here is a blueprint to fight them.”

This cycle shows how we all can play a role in the breaking of oppressive systems. My greatest, take away from the reading was this:

You want to get free? You need the following at the core of your work and your life:

Self Love
Self-esteem
Balance
Support
Security
Spiritual base
Joy

These are the qualities that hold our movements together. No matter what happens in the courts or in the streets these fundamental values must never change or our movements will fail.

Harro views liberation as transformation. Nothing can be transformed without these 7 qualities.

It is an internal and external game.

I can not want liberation for you until I want it for myself.

We all have multiple social group identities- ways in which we navigate the world.

We have a society structured to remind  people on a daily basis on conscious and unconscious levels:

  • Who is privileged and who is not.
  • Who is deemed beautiful and who is not.
  • Who is worthy and deserving and who is not

Liberation changes our worldview. It changes old narratives and allows new stories, language, and leaders to be born.

This work must be centered on love.We can not win without it.

The skills, strengths, and roots that I have invested in myself are also the same skills, strengths, and roots I need to fight oppressive systems.

I need courage, to fight oppressive practices
I need community to fight oppressive systems
I need to consistently question myself and others to fight oppressive systems

I learned that you protect what you love, and I love me.

I love me.

Race is a social construct but I am not. I am real and I live and navigate oppressive systems that have financial, social, emotional and psychological consequences.

The struggle is real for million of people every day across this globe.

This struggle while hard also heals.

The struggle for liberation can be medicine- it can restore our health, strength, and well-being.The struggle can fill us up. It can be affirming and enriching.

We do not need to feel hopeless as we do this work. We do not need to feel tired as we do this week. We do not need to feel discouraged as we do this week. If we ground our work in joy, support, community, and security we will win.This is about sustaining for the long haul- for organizations as well as for individuals.

I am ready to love me as an act of rebellion. I am ready to love, protect and defend you as an act of rebellion as well. These core values guide our interactions as we do this hard work as we build community.

So I ask you:

  • How would it be to participate in movements with these fundamental values at the core especially in the current state of our society?
  • What would it look like to lead organizations rooted in these principles?

We have a long way to go and many fights ahead of us.

I ain’t no ways tired.

Let’s get to work

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United In Anger

914fa120-0079-4008-974f-587d6166d96bFighting For Our Lives

It’s been a hard week for me and lots of my clients. I work with organizers, activist, and leaders that are struggling to understand what the future holds for them and their communities.

One young woman said  she felt like she was entering the ” fight of her life”

I absolutely knew why she said that. She works with immigrants. The rhetoric coming from the White House has been terrifying for her clients and her organization.

In the midst of politics and culture rife with homophobia, racism, sexism, and xenophobia its hard to stay positive. She was used to handling one or two-isms,  but now it feels like she is fighting all of them all at once.

I stand with her united in anger but grounded in a clear understanding of why I do this work. This “why” will help me during dark days ahead.

I do it because:

  • I believe in human rights and the people that defend them
  • I believe in freedom fighters and the righteousness of their struggle
  • I believe in water protectors and their love of Mother earth
  • I believe in the holiness of sanctuary and the protection of the most vulnerable
  • I believe in racial justice because our movements and liberation are tied together
  • I believe that this country is great when immigrants cross our borders and join in building this land

I believe these things not just in theory or ideology, but I believe them from my very own lived experience. I want a vision of shared humanity more than I want to be “liked”. I know I am loved so deeply by so many, so believe me when I say I have no desire to be liked- just a burning desire to be free.

I am clear about my lines in the sand and what resistance looks like for me.

Every day I ask myself in what ways have I shown up as my best self to do this work. In what ways have I not.

I am clear how I will love through these times.
I am clear how I will fight when called upon
I am clear how I donate my gifts when needed
I am clear in what ways I will protect, defend and support

So I ask you:

What is your level of comfort with making the powers that be uncomfortable?
How does that level of comfort lead you to take or avoid risks in how you show up?
What does meaningful local work look like for you?
How will you have fun with your people; beyond fighting injustice and winning campaigns?

I am preparing for what’s ahead because if you come for my community, my family- you come for me.

And I am prepared to resist.

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Tone, Context And Timing

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Destroying Dignity

I led a training a few weeks back on micro behaviors. I started off with the official definition:

Micro-behaviors are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, and environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial, gender, sexual orientation, and religious slights and insults to the target person or group” (Sue, Capodilup, et al, 2007).

Intentional or unintentional

We have all heard them, and we have all said them at various points ( myself included).

  • “Where are you from?”
  • “You don’t even speak with an accent.”
  • “There is only one race. The human race.”
  • “I am not homophobic. I have a gay friend.”
  • “She’s so independent, you wouldn’t even know she’s in a wheelchair! “
  • “Everyone can succeed if they work hard – just look at Obama!”
  • ” I can’t be expected to learn new pronouns for people, its just a fad anyway”

Intentional or unintentional

We don’t mean to hurt someone’s feeling. We don’t mean to question their citizenship. We were not implying that a person is presumed to be dangerous, criminal, or deviant based on their race, nationality and/or sexual orientation. We were just trying to connect with someone and was asking questions trying to build rapport.

Here is what we need to remember:

Micro-behaviors are situational; there is no formula. Tone, context, and timing can all impact whether the statement is an example of a micro behavior or friends joking.  Reading a room, being sensitive to the tone, body language, and facial expressions of participants are some ways you can stay aware of how comments are being received and the impact they are having.

But here is the thing: Not everything is for us to comment on.

Not everything is our business.

Our opinions are not always welcome nor always needed. More time than not it is our place to sit, listen, and learn. Trust is built slowly and over time.

Implications of Microbehavior

  • Micro-behaviors result in harmful psychological consequences and create disparities.
  • They sap the spiritual energies of recipients and lead to low self‐esteem
  • Psychological implications – anxiety, paranoia, depression, sleep difficulties, lack of confidence, worthlessness, intrusive thoughts, helplessness, loss of drive, lower morale and engagement, lower productivity

They destroy dignity.They chip away at our humanity.

They harm us all. Keep in mind that a micro behavior is an opportunity for learning and growth for those who have offended and those who are offended. I try to meet microaggressions with information and not additional aggression. Sometimes that is easier said than done.Sometimes I fall short.

When met with information, they are an opportunity to build genuine community and connection.

Many times micro behaviors come from a place of ignorance, not malice. You will change more minds if you can address these comments with accurate information and pass on wisdom and understanding.

It’s all of our jobs to help restore that lost dignity. If I am not fighting for your dignity then you better believe that I am losing pieces of my own.

We all must

Protect each other
Love each other
Defend each other

Let’s get free together.

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What Hope Looks Like

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Photo Credit: Unknown

The last Day of Kwanzaa

Principle #7  Imani (faith) tells us to believe with all our heart in our people, our parents, our teachers, our leaders and the righteousness and victory our struggle. Faith calls us to believe in the good we seek to create, to work for it, and to live it in our daily lives. Only then will we be able to repair and renew ourselves in the process and practice of repairing, rebuilding and renewing the world.

It reaffirms the faith of our ancestors that we can, indeed, be the hope and the dream of the slave.

My grandma was a faithful, praying woman. Her prayers were mighty and she would get on her knees and pray things into existence.

I am not playing, she made stuff happen.

She is the woman that taught me about fath.
She taught me that hope can bring happiness and give meaning and measure to our lives.

She taught me that we can always find and put in place fair and equitable solutions to the problems which consume and divide our world; that we can repair shattered lives, make peace with broken relationships; that communities can build solidarity based on mutual respect and cooperation for mutual benefit and good in the world.

That as long as we live we can always do better, be better, have more. That the struggle of marginalized voices is a righteous struggle and it’s our duty to fight. 

Power for the people and with the people,

Here is wishing everyone of you peace, love and happiness in the new year. May we all have the opportunity to use our gifts to contribute to the healing of the world.

May all the freedom fighters be loved and supported in 2017.

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Manifesting Justice

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The series, called Stop Telling Women To Smile started in the fall of 2012 and is ongoing by the artist.

Kwanzaa Day 6

Principle #6  Kuumba (Creativity) speaks to our shared obligation to do all we can constantly heal and repair the world, making it more beautiful and beneficial than when we inherited it.

I love and respect artist of all kind. They share their creativity with the world and ask us to think, act and respond.

Artist invite us to:
Organize
Fight racism
Understand power dynamics
Stand for justice

They make our world more beautiful.

In my opinion, a movement is not a movement without artist leading the way.

Art and Social change go hand in hand.

  • Freedom singers like Sweet Honey and The Rock
  • Visual Artist like Keith Haring
  • Director and Filmmaker Ava Duvernay
  • Chicana/Latino Historical and contemporary community muralist
  • Yellow Rage-Asian American spoken word resistance artist

Artist helps activist create cultural strategies-they paint visions that spark conversations, of what it would look like if everyone’s humanity was truly recognized.

  • How different would our communities be if we left no one behind?
  • What conversations would be created if we just listened to voices on the margin?

Art activism, both directly within movements and in the surrounding culture, has been a key element of social protest.

Art is healing
Art is truth

Art in its truest sense reaffirms the dignity and inherent worthiness of every person and people.

Art manifests justice and society is better for it.

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Being Great

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Teammates Eli Harold, left, and Eric Reid, right, joined Kaepernick, center, in kneeling before a 49ers game.

Day 5 Kwanzaa

Principle #5 Nia (Purpose): To make our collective vocation the building and developing of our community in order to restore people to their traditional greatness.

This principle calls us to the practice of building and developing ourselves in our own interests as well as in the interests of the world, seeing greatness in the good we do and share in the world.

I am not a fan of any sports. I especially am not a fan of football, for too many reasons to name here. Despite my stand on professional sports, I have become a fan of  Colin Kaepernick. He ignited a movement by sitting, then kneeling during the national anthem as a method for protesting the killings of unarmed African-American men by police.

I admire that he stood up and put everything on the line, whether I agree with how he did it or not.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way.”

Various members of the NFL and other athletes across the country, such as Megan Rapinoe, also began kneeling.

I measure folks not by the money or status they may have but how they step up and serve their community. True greatness is measured by good deeds. It’s measured by how we handle adversary, how we stand up for those with less than us and how we never leave people behind as we ourselves move forward.

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