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.

{ 0 comments }

Tone, Context And Timing

59780c67-8e21-4bdb-843c-1099f3af7ff5

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.

{ 0 comments }

What Hope Looks Like

cdf57217-d92b-4a45-9866-d985d332af1d

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.

{ 0 comments }

Manifesting Justice

cc81c06d-4641-4cbe-bd3f-73132829987aIMAGE: TATYANA FAZLAIZADEH/FACEBOOK
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.

{ 0 comments }

Being Great

c12ae12f-36b2-42bc-ac25-8f77be55cb50PHOTO: by Mashable
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.

{ 0 comments }

Shared Work And Wealth

d7c813e9-32f9-4394-93a9-952610c29211

Photo: REUTERS

Kwanzaa Day 4

Principle #4 Ujamaa (Cooperative Economics) commits us to the principle and practice of shared work and wealth. It stresses our kinship with others and the environment and appreciation for the need for a just and equitable distribution of the good for everyone so that all can live lives of dignity and decency.

This principle urges us to build and maintain our stores, shops, and other business and to profit from them together. This principle teaches us an ethics of shared work and shared wealth and calls on us to engage in economic practices that are constantly concerned about satisfying our needs without exploiting or injuring others and the world.

I think about our Native brother and sisters at Standing Rock. They have the right to control and benefit from the resources of their land.  It has been beautiful to watch their act of activism and defiance in choosing the earth over profits.

Because it all boils down that we all have the right to live lives of dignity and decency.  Whether you are in Standing Rock or Flint. Whether you are in Ferguson or Charlotte.  Our economic practices should never be about satisfying our needs at the expense of others.

What happens to one of us, happens to all of us.
{ 0 comments }

a4b77916-ffc5-47b7-843b-1d265d660f48

We are in this together…

Kwanzaa Day 3

Principle #3  Ujima (collective work and responsibility) calls on us, to build and maintain our community together and to make our brothers’ and sisters’ problems our problems and to solve them together. This principle teaches us the shared responsibility to work and build the good family, community, society and world. It takes a mindful village to prosper and it is a joy and blessing for each of us to participate.

Remembrance:
I love supporting my family, friends, and clients.  As a kid, I loved being called on to help. That feeling of solving a problem and helping to ease someone’s load is one I still cherish today.  I love helping because over the years so many people have helped me in too many ways to count.  They have watched my kids so I could work, they have gifted me money and food. They have pointed me in the direction of the perfect job, house or opportunity. They have introduced me to colleagues that have become friends and friends that have become family. They have held my hand, listened to my problems and wiped my tears.

It has taken a village to raise me into the woman I am today.

As this year ends who has helped to make you into the person you are today?

Reflection:
Community is not always easy to build. Not always easy to maintain and changes over time.  New members join, others leave and yet the work continues. I reflect on what it means to be in community and how I want to show up in my family, my work, and the world. I think back on the ways I have fallen short over the past year as well as the ways I surprised myself.

In what ways have you struggled and in what ways have you been victorious?

Re-commitment
Kwanzaa was created in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor of Africana Studies at California State University, Long Beach, author and scholar-activist who stresses the indispensable need to preserve, continually revitalize and promote African American culture.

Kwanzaa is a cultural holiday, not a religious one. It is built on the most elevated and liberating practices a culture can share. It’s about being good to your people (YOU decided who those are) and the world. It’s about self-transformation, love and celebrating lives well lived, and standing beside one another as we fight, love, live and prosper.

I love my community and renew my support to their needs, their hopes, their dreams and their liberation.

How will you be good and generous to your community in 2017?

We show the world our highest self when we are in community.

Here is to more shared good in the world.

{ 0 comments }

An Audacious Act

371aedf0-d392-4883-be94-80f3808369ae

Day 2 of Kwanzaa

Kujichagulia (Self-Determination): To define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves, and speak for ourselves. This reaffirms the right of persons and peoples to determine their own destiny and daily lives; to live in peace and security, and to flourish in freedom.

We all have the right to live in a safe and secure place. Freedom is our divine right. We all should be free to move beyond past limitations and become all that we were created to be.

I talk a lot about freedom in my work. What does it look like? How will we know we are free? In what ways are we chained and what ways do we stop others from being free.

For me, true freedom means that I define myself. I use my voice and my power so that we all flourish, not just some.

I know I can’t breathe until everyone can breathe.  I am part of the problem and part of the solution. I make choices every day that either set folks free or keep them chained.

  • Where I keep my money, where I spend my money and how I use it.
  • What I eat, where I eat and the food system that puts that food on my table.

Our choices are interconnected and they have consequences. so when I use my voice and power, when organizations I support focus on equity and justice they show other organizations that they can also make anti-oppression work a priority as well.

The more we move beyond constraints the more valuable we become to our communities.

Each Kwanzaa we are called upon to think deeply about our lives and the world. Then, we are to recommit ourselves to our highest ideals, our best values, and visions.

Today I will focus on freedom. What will you focus on? What will you reaffirm? How will you use your voice?

{ 0 comments }

The Seven Principles

 

41a74f29-7787-46c7-9300-57ee3d762727-1

December 26th is the first day of Kwanzaa.

I love Kwanzaa, not necessarily for the traditions, but they are beautiful. I love that  Kwanzaa brings a cultural message which speaks to the best of what it means to be Black but most importantly what it means to be human in the fullest sense. It reflects the best of positive thought and practice in its reaffirmation of the dignity of the human person in community and culture, and the well-being of family and community.

 I dig it.

In 2017 as we focus on fighting for justice and equity in this world, let us use the principles of Kwanzaa to guide, direct, sustain and comfort us.

Kwanzaa is a celebration of the family, community, and culture which first forms us, names, nurtures and sustains us, and teaches us uplifting ways to understand and assert ourselves in the world.

Our foundation, our rock, our source and our bond.

Kwanzaa teaches and cultivates cultural grounding and principles and practices dedicated to the cooperative creation and sharing of good in the world.

We do not stand alone….not ever. 

Kwanzaa gives us the  Nguzo Saba, the seven principles. They serve as a necessary foundation and framework for grounding and guiding our relationships and community every day of the year.

Principle #1  Umoja (unity) calls on us to strive for and maintain unity in the family, community, nation, and race.  We are urged to recognize and respect the foundation and nurturing framework of family and community; the relatedness and interdependence of the peoples of the world; and a profound sense of oneness in and with the world. We laugh together, we cry together, we support one another and we build real community together so that no one gets left behind.

Every day I will share a principle with y’all. I ask that you join me in using these principles  as the foundation for your days, your work, your institutions and organizations and the life you design for yourself.

{ 0 comments }

A Seat At The Table

 

 

o-WOMEN-BUSINESS-facebook

 

 

 

 

 

 

I grew up experiencing many, many situations where I was the only woman. Where I was the only person of color. Where I was the only one that came from a working class background.

The only one.

Do you have any idea how awful it is to know that when you speak some folks think you are speaking for an entire community or race of people? I was never allowed to make a mistake.  I was being judged by different standards.

It was exhausting…but speak I did.

Walking in the room was not enough. I also sat my ass down at that table and got comfortable. I did not sit at any table, I sat at the big table. The table where all the decision makers were. I sat down like I belonged, because I did.

[click to continue…]

{ 2 comments }