Monthly Archives: November 2017

NC Climate Justice Summit 2017

November 17th to 19th, my partner Steve and I, attended the North Carolina Climate Justice Summit at Haw River State Park in Brown Summit, NC. Our friends Connie and Jodie are the founders of this amazing intergenerational gathering of 190 people that is partly youth led and run. The opening of the summit was done in silence, everyone was asked to enter the room in silence, then prayers and Native American welcoming ceremony led by Vivette Jeffries-Logan from the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi nation. The ancestors of the land we gathered on were honored and the native people in the room were honored. It immediately felt like a contemplative and de-colonized space. It was announced that there was a healing space available and healers circulating in the space and available to give support. There were workshops on the climate change issues affecting frontline communities in NC and the outer work of activism that they called “outer resilience workshops,” but they also offered workshops on inner resilience like yoga, meditation, healing through arts, theater games for liberation, and a song sharing circle (that I was asked to lead and it was great fun!)  The Jemez Principles for Democratic Organizing were published in the program and practiced at the gathering. We were asked to lead a white caucus, if needed, but the space was so well held in anti-colonial frameworks, that we didn’t have the need. It was humbling to be able to be in community space that was so beautifully diverse and full of liberators, people who engage in the work of liberation. We were grateful for the relationships we built and the love we experienced there. North Carolina has an amazing frontline climate justice movement!

Invitation to Prophetic Imagination: Community Safety for All

Today Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) Faith is launching a campaign inviting people of faith to analyze their relationship to policing. As we have seen made more visible through the work of Black Lives Matter, policing structures have a radically different relationship to people of color than to white people and white communities. We have seen that black and brown bodies people face much greater risk of being targeted by police violence and injustice in arrests, detainment, in court proceedings, and in sentencing.

Communities of faith can be complicit in upholding white supremacy in policing but they can also be leaders in creating alternatives to policing, in order to help keep our communities safer.

In this campaign, we are asking questions like:

How do faith/spiritual communities legitimize and reinforce the “need” for policing?

How are faith/spiritual  institutions tied to institutions of policing?

How can faith communities act to disrupt the prison, detention, and deportation pipelines?

What might alternatives to policing look like?

What might community safety look like without relying on policing, and how might faith/spiritual communities participate in that work?

While SURJ Faith is oriented to multi-faith work, the early phase of this campaign will be focused on helping Christian communities identity the connections between Christian supremacy and white supremacy. As we move into the Lenten season this winter, we will use this season to analyze and reflect on our personal and collective relationship to white supremacy. How is white supremacy internalized in our being? How is white supremacy expressed in our liturgies, our rituals, and interpretation of scripture. What would it look like to “give up white supremacy for Lent,” as individuals? As congregations and communities?

I am particularly drawn to this campaign as a contemplative Christian and anti-racist because I know I need to continue to do the work of pulling the poison of white supremacy out of my being. I have also seen how my religion has been used to justify white supremacy historically, and this history troubles me deeply. I believe white supremacy is alive and well in our denominations and that they manifest in ways that further marginalize people of color and put them at great risk. I hope you will join me in urging your faith community to join this campaign. Contact me to learn how you can engage in this work and I will loop you in!

ICE Cold: Posting a bond at ICE

I have been volunteering and getting trained in sanctuary organizing this past year.  One day a couple weeks ago a message came through the network talking about posting bond for a Hendersonville man who had been detained since an ICE traffic stop last summer. His family had finally raised the $8500 in cash. I offered to help since I was already in Charlotte. The money was deposited into my account. I went to the bank and got a certified check and drive to the DHS offices in Charlotte. I was seen immediately and was able to get my request in to the ICE detention center in Lumpkin. Then I waited for nearly three hours for the request to come back as approved and then to actually post the bond. I was treated respectfully and walked through the process professionally.

During my wait, I observed a woman who was visibly distraught come into the office and go to the window where she was tearfully looking for her husband. She was told that he was here illegally and that he was being detained and deported. She was in visible emotional distress my heart went out to her. Two female DHS officers were called and they escorted her into the waiting room. They asserted that her husband is here illegally and that his case lies with the judge, that being at DHS was a waste of her time. They were unkind and insensitive to the woman was in the midst of a traumatic and life changing event. They kicked the woman out of the building and then came back to the hallway adjacent to the waiting room. We could hear everything they said. I am sad to report that they made fun of the woman. Not only was there no empathy, they expressed great distain for the woman and her experience.

If we are not training DHS officers in handling emotional trauma with therapeutic skills like unconditional positive regard, we are de-humanizing the officers as well as the people they are supposed to serve. I have a friend and co-trainer who is a therapist by training and an activist. When we work together doing racial equity training, she often shares the concept of “unconditional positive regard,” with our students. She shares that she is holding unconditional positive regard for everyone in the room and invites the students to do the same. I have always found that when she does this, the room relaxes a bit and trust is built, which is vital to the work of racial equity training.

The Wikipedia page on Unconditional Positive Regard states that:

“Unconditional positive regard, (UPR) is a concept developed by the humanistic psychologist Carl Rogers in 1959, is the basic acceptance and support of a person regardless of what the person says or does, especially in the context of client centered therapy. The central hypothesis of this approach can be briefly stated. It is that the individual has within him or her self vast resources for self-understanding, for altering her or his self-concept, attitudes, and self-directed behavior—and that these resources can be tapped if only a definable climate of facilitative psychological attitudes can be provided.”

Why aren’t our police forces trained in trauma and healing? At the very least, could they try to see the good in people?