Let's take a moment to thank Malcolm and to thank Yuri. Sunday May 19th would have been their birthdays.
They saw the interconnection of the movements of people all over the world for freedom, dignity, and self-determination.
How fitting that they shared a birthday and that Yuri, a Japanese American held Malcolm after the assassins bullets brought him down in 1965.
I want to share some beautiful art that shows Black and Asian unity.
Please give a listen to Francis Wong's "Prayer for Melvin Truss," an African American youth who was killed by police in San Jose, CA.
Read my blog: Art Leads which focuses on Chinese American jazz composer Jon Jang's "Can't Stop Cryin for America; Black Lives Matter Now."
Reply to this email if you'd like to get the CD featuring my collaboration with Jon Jang--It's coming soon!
Let's keep our hearts open to each other.
Peace and love,
P.S.--We've extended the White Women's Tears video replay until midnight Sunday night. Watch here.
One of the most important relationships in racial justice is that between European American women and African American women. If we could heal this partnership, what would be possible? To do that requires a reckoning...
How do white women use their power? Often it is subtle, appearing as weakness and fragility. However, historically and to this day, a white woman in distress triggers a powerful reaction of sympathy and protection, especially when its in the context of an interaction with African Americans. Think Birth of a Nation, Scottsboro Boys, Emmett Till, and on and on. Literally, Black people got killed when a white woman cried. More recently, people have been pointing out that those tears in "diversity workshops" are often an unconscious way for white women to resist owning their part in white domination.
But there's another side to this.
What if you're a white women who cries while standing up for racial justice?
What about white women who cry for their friends, children and partners of color?
Must those tears be shed privately?
Can those tears be present without pulling the attention of the group away from racial justice?
What happens to the movement if we make all tears "fragile"?
I got a chance to discuss this topic with my friend Lisa Graustein who is a racial justice educator and co-facilitates Beyond Diversity 101 intensives with Niyonu Spann. Lisa holds European American, Queer, woman and Quaker identities. She has spent most of her adult life working with young people and is one of the people I trust.
You can read a transcript of our conversation here.
On May 13, Lisa and I will be offering a training and live Q&A on how European American women can show up with their WHOLE hearts for racial justice. Find out more here!
Please join us!
Peace and love,
Have you ever asked yourself:
Am I being used by this organization?
Is my image or participation being used to make it seem like this school is more racially diverse and just than it is?
If so, you are not alone. I share some suggestions on how to avoid being tokenized as change makers as well as how to deal with trigger words that make us shut down in conversations.
I hope you will join me for the Strong Voice: Compassionate HEART Retreat.
We are going to focus on taking care of ourselves and having a strong and effective voice when talking about racism.
I want to share with you the value of private mentoring. Especially for those of us who experience imposter syndrome. You know that feeling like you’re not REALLY qualified because so few people who look like you hold certain positions. Or, maybe felling like you're not REALLY Black/Latinex/Queer etc because you've overcome barriers that folks from your community rarely overcome.
My spiritual coach said something profound to me yesterday.
You probably know I grew up in foster care and prior to that I had gone hungry. Early on I experienced neglect and abandonment because my mom was addicted to heroin aka opioids. To this day, it’s hard for me to be early because I feel sad and anxious when I have to wait. If you cancel an appointment or date with me, I feel angry and a little sick to my stomach— especially if I love you. Clearly, those early days of waiting for my mom to come home (which sometimes took days), have left their mark. Similarly, I grew up in a low income Black and Puerto Rican community with a lot of violence and barely enough.
I was telling my mentor that sometimes my current life feels unreal, and I worry that I’m abandoning my people by living in my affluent neighborhood. Sometimes I feel distrustful of my partner. My life is so different from my early reality that it seems unreal.
My teacher and elder looked at me and said
“You’re rooting your identity in the Middle Passage, but that’s not where you started.”
With a little nudging, I saw how I had tied up my African heritage to poverty, abandonment, and other painful experiences. So, to heal those which I have done to a large extent feels like my current situation is unreal. The authentic African in America experience is oppression. Yet, that is only partially true. When I dig a little further, I also see intellectual brilliance, financial wealth and generosity, creativity up the wazoo, and huge compassion—to name a few qualities.
Sometimes folks confide in me that they feel like an imposter because they are the first to have a beneficial marriage or they are the first of their gender and/or race to hold a leadership role. For those of us who grew up without enough, it feels unreal to go into a cafeteria and get a bunch of food without having to count how much is in your purse first.
Thank God-Is, for whatever blessings we enjoy that allow us to practice self-love and love for others.
What’s real is my connection to God-Is, the earth, my ancestors, the galaxy AND the PRESENT MOMENT.
This is no small shift in perspective. It is seismic and will need nurturing to integrate. Thankfully, I have a mentor and a circle that is willing to affirm my liberated reality.
If you’d like this kind of support in your journey, I hope you can check out my album:
Black Girl Magic: Poems, Meditations, and Spells for Self Care and Liberation
Peace and love,
P.S.--Making big changes in yourself so that you have the courage to do something new requires support. If you're tired of feeling insecure about being called out or ready to learn how to take care of yourself even when you are the trailblazer, please check out this opportunity.
I'm sitting here with my fave decaf coffee.
I want to share with you what it's like for me right now.
Yesterday I read an article where a Black woman academic explained why she resigned from her tenured position at a small predominantly white college. She told of the psychological and emotional cost of taking a public stand with students protesting racism at her school. In anger, she had verbally lashed out her colleagues of European descent. She was caught on video and experienced a months-long backlash that caused her to fear for her life. Her college administrators minimized her fears. The attacks and threats on social media mounted. She became unable to work. She resigned.
Over a year after the incident, the professor wondered if she was to blame. She felt betrayed by her colleagues and her institution.
My gut churned as I read her story. What's that 12-Step phrase? But for the Grace of God, there go I.
On our Women of Color Leadership call last night, we talked about this incident. We delved into who is responsible for Black Fragility.
Can I be responsible for how I deal with the confounding, oppressive, awful system of Whiteness, without being to blame?
Who is to blame for the racism that shatters my children's confidence or that renders my workplace a toxic exclusive environment?
Who is responsible for changing it?
On the one hand, it's not fair to ask people who are psychologically degraded by our mass racist, homophobic, misogynistic culture to regulate themselves and always act "civilly." Yet, when I "lose it," I am in grave danger.
So, what are we to do?
Reject blame. African Americans are not to blame for this system. We did not create it and we don't benefit from its continued existence. Similarly, people are not to blame for what their ancestors did or did not do.
Take responsibility. You are response-able to tend to your body, emotions, learning, mind, and actions.
Here's what I'm sharing with women of color who work with me:
1. Take care of yourself. Know when to say no. Say yes to what fills your cup. Say yes to practices, books, relationships, that expand your capacity to compost racism and restore you to your wholeness.
How many of us take the time to heal the hurts and wounds of past aggressions and micro-aggressions regularly? Just like I can't brush my teeth on Monday and expect them to stay clean without care until Thursday, so too, I can't do one workshop on internalized racism or implicit bias and expect it to cure me. I am exposed to racism, sexism, and other violence daily. I need safe, trusted space to feel each hurt, transmute it, and be affirmed as a MAHVELOUS EXPRESSION OF DIVINITY. Just because Amerika hates me, doesn't mean I have to go along with it.
Practicing self-love is my most important task EVERY DAY!
2. Get with other people who care and want to change something.
One of the hallmarks of white supremacy culture is individualism. We internalize the belief that we SHOULD handle something on our own. We blame our individual selves for the oppression we face. We compare our insides to someone else's outsides and find ourselves lacking.
Think about what you've criticized yourself for lately. Here's what folks say to me about themselves: too emotional, too quiet, too loud, too intellectual, too stupid, etc.
In contrast, when we honestly share with others, we see larger patterns of oppression and reaction. But just venting isn't enough. Ricardo Levins Morales (who I adore) says that movements for change can heal trauma because they restore your sense of power. Venting without action reinforces your powerlessness. Sharing your experience and taking some kind of positive action reminds you that you are main character in your movie. Niyonu Spann suggested that I ponder the question: "What is my part in this?" and it has changed my life.
What if that woman professor had a group to help her see she was about to explode before she did? What if she had a mentor of friend who was holding her to account to fill her cup, to say no, to reconnect with Spirit? What if she had a safe space to talk through how to stand with the students, how to use her position for the greatest good?
Alice Walker wrote "each one pull one back into the sun."
We need each other.
That's why I created Racial Justice from the H.E.A.R.T. My whole purpose is to give support and accountability to those of us who have a Deep Calling for Racial Justice so that we can experience life abundantly and make a serious impact.
And, as one Black woman who just sent me an email put it, "It's working." She works in education and is the only African American in her job where everyone who supervises her or leads the organization is of European descent. Not easy. Prior to working with me, she exhausted by multiple conversations about racism with people inside a "white script." She started using my teachings and now her work environment and her experience of it is changing.
Another Black woman told me that holding space for transformation a few times a week was changing her life. She's getting in touch with herself and the divine enough to say "No, I don't want to do that." This is someone who has a pattern of staying in abusive situations.
I don't have all of the answers. But convening and being part of a circle of heart centered folks who are working for justice and simultaneously doing their own self-care, is definitely working for me.
If you want to learn more about my Women of Color Leadership Program or the Racial Justice from the H.E.A.R.T. for European Americans, reply to this email. I'll invite you to a conference call for each one where I'll describe the programs and let you hear from people who are currently enrolled or recent graduates.
Peace and love!
P.S.--If you are super busy, then you really NEED to make time for this!
Recently a European American woman I mentor told me that she's working to desegregate her life. I love it that she put it this way. Desegregating implies that she's aware of the systems of segregation that have kept her in a white bubble and that she's responsible for desegregating her whole life.
Desegregating your life means consciously looking for places to support the leadership of African American, indigenous, or colonized folks. Segregation is not just about separation. Segregation subjugates and renders Black people and others invisible or less-than European Americans and whiteness.
When you desegregate your life, you want to disrupt power relationships and actively go towards that which you've been cut off from with humility. Years ago my friend David said you go through doorways that the community has invited you to walk through--rather than crashing private or sacred recovery spaces. Supporting artists or arts events are a good way to do this!
In contrast, when people lament how "non-diverse" their worlds are and ask me for advice on how to have more people of color in their lives, I cringe. Having a multiracial friendship group or faith circle is not going to happen without a lot of intentionality. And, "getting more people of color" in your world sounds very selfish and extractive. It's just more of putting whiteness in the center.
Honestly, I recommend that most European Americans do their work--that is the work of uncovering their inbred sense of superiority and its historical context--before focusing on building more relationships across the color line.
If you don't delve deeply into this, you will undoubtedly harm people.
Not only do you have to accept and take daily steps to transform your implicit bias, but you also have to get practiced at talking about racism and your own racism.
This way, when people hold you to account or point out your blindspots, you don't collapse or freak out. If you are doing the ongoing practices, then you no doubt see your internalized bias every day and don't have to walk around with extreme fear of unconsciously screwing up
Robin Di Angelo quotes an African American who says it would be "revolutionary" if European Americans could take feedback on their racism without lashing out, collapsing or shutting down.
Yes. Then we could have partnership. Authentic community.
I'm saving space in my calendar for folks who excited about desegregating their worlds. Please apply for a Free Racial Justice Breakthrough session. If you have a deep calling for Racial Justice and are ready to do your own work, I want to support you. We'll uncover why your stuck and at least ONE action you can take to desegregate your world!
Peace and love,
P.S.--If you're not ready for a conversation but want to build up your knowledge and understanding, Check out this Stop Implicit Racial Bias training video. Moving at your pace is legit--just keep moving!
I was recently mentoring someone who freezes and panics when she hears or sees overt racism.
I could hear the shame as she apologized for letting me down.
Here’s what I told her:
Start with getting your feet on the ground and conscious breathing.
The first step in having a strong voice is merely staying present.
You may have all kinds of good reasons why your body adrenalizes or shuts down in the face of racism.
Instead of shaming and blaming yourself, I suggest you make a commitment to stay present.
When you have the ground underneath you and your breath, you may find the perfect words for the moment.
It could be as simple as "I don't see it that way."
I've recently developed a series of baby steps that folks can take to cultivate a strong voice.
It all starts with holding space for transformation.
Click here — fill in with your information & mention this blog and we will send you something every few days to get you started.
You can check your implicit racial bias if you are willing to do the work.
A lot of folks have written or are talking about implicit bias. I recommend Jerry Kang’s excellent Ted Talk "Immaculate Perception" and this NPR story on the Yale study of Racial Bias Amongst Pre-School Teachers.
The data on implicit bias in health, criminal justice, education, employment is so consistent that it can be daunting. There’s very little readily available information on how to stop implicit racial bias.
Well, I decided to do something about it.
In this blog post I include ideas and suggestions from a variety of sources to recommend 5 steps that people who want to be part of the solution can take to stop their own implicit racial bias.
This blog post is a tool to help yourself--before you go and suggest what others need to do. Start taking these actions and see what happens in your world. To help you do these steps systematically and to create some accountability, I’ve started a Stop the Hurt 5 Day Challenge. It’s free and starts on Oct. 29 at 9am. Get more info here.
The first step is to cultivate awareness of implicit racial bias. Today take the Harvard Implicit Association Test. Notice your feelings about your results. I wrote about my feelings in: If You're Black, Jump Back.
Notice implicit bias on television, social media images and stories, in comments about "good schools" or "sketchy neighborhoods," etc. One way to test if there's implicit bias at play is to shift the point of view of the story. For example, ask if a straight white man in a business suit would be subject to the same characterizations, treatment, etc. as the person of color in a given news story or movie storyline. Why have we never had a Black 007? Wonder about these things out loud with your children, spouse, business partner, parents, etc. Say it to another human being.
REMOVE ANYTHING THAT CUES NEGATIVE STEREOTYPES/BIASES AGAINST PEOPLE OF COLOR.
Look around your home, office, computers, phones etc. and remove any images or audio that reinforces negative stereotypes. This could include having ONLY European American images. By omission or over-representing European Americans, you are implicitly dismissing the presence, value, contributions of people of color. So, it can be subtle.
I recommend listening to Guante's spoken word piece: How Do You Explain White Supremacy to a White Supremacist. If you want to hear what it feels like to be stereotyped check out, Walking While Black.
Add audio and visual cues that promote positive associations with people of color.
Feed your subconscious something positive. Just as you would deliberately include healthy life affirming food in your diet, you need to give yourself positive audio and visual EVERY DAY. Make it a positive habit to consume something at the beginning and/or at the end of your day.
In Why I Love my Black Yoga Teacher---and You Should Too, I argue that having Black people in positions of authority is psychologically beneficial to everyone, especially people of color. If you want to see beautiful, arresting images of Black people in documentary style photographs check out Arvia Walkers’ **The Coming of the Sun** website
Go towards what you fear.
Do you remember Obama's speech about race in 2008? He mentioned his grandmother's automatic fear of Black men. What are you afraid of? Can you talk about that with someone?
Now this step is a little tricky. I want you to step outside your bubble and go towards a culture or demographic that you have some anxiety or discomfort. Do this respectfully by supporting or participating in something that is public. For example, visit a church that says all are welcome. Check out a mosque or a temple and confirm that your participation would be welcome. Maybe walk into a bookstore or art gallery that focuses on people of color. If you can't do the actual visit today, then set up an appointment. Artists almost always welcome support from diverse audiences.
Check out this music video Make America Great not the Land of Hate Again. Do you recognize any of the heroes and sheroes mentioned? Add them to your library, playlist, or wall of quotes.
Step Five is: Talk about Racism, especially your own implicit racial bias.
This step comes from my Racial Justice from the H.E.A.R.T. System. In this case I'm asking you to reflect on your fragility--defensiveness, wounds, guilt, shame , etc regarding white supremacy and racism. I wrote about how the lack of honest self-reflection leads to breakdowns between white women and black women in Black Women; White Women--The Rub.
Talking about racism is not easy. I teach you how to lean in and take a seed planting approach to difficult conversations about racism in this TEDx Talk "How to Lean into Conversations about Race..." .
If you’d like to be set your intention and attention on stopping your own implicit racial bias with us, please join the Stop the Hurt 5 Day Challenge. We begin Monday Oct. 29- Friday Nov. 2. Make sure you click here to join us!
When Franklin and Marshall College asked me to address the entire college join at their common hour I was terrified. Seriously, every time I thought about it I would get sick to my stomach. After I said yes, I avoided emails about the engagement. This started to shift one week before the event when I moved from terrified to merely scared. It helped when my husband Michael agreed to accompany me. But the biggest shift came when I heard a speaker the day before I gave my presentation. Theater artist and teacher Nilaja Sun Gordon concluded her remarks by having each person put their hands on their chest and repeat silently “I belong. I belong here.” Then she invited us to say it to the person sitting next to us.
That is when I saw once again how the default experience for me in predominantly white elite spaces is to feel like I don’t belong, to feel like I don’t belong here. It’s ironic that the piece Michael and I had decided to perform is called walking while black because it points to feeling like I don’t belong while walking on the street in a predominately white neighborhood in Connecticut. In that piece I say I feel fear.
I’m grateful to Nilaja Sun Gordon for reminding me that I belong, that I belong here.
Now I’m sharing that message with you. Below please check out the video of our presentation. You’ll see that Michael and I use art to create belonging, common vision, and connection with the divine.
We belong here.
(please fast forward to minute 10 to view performance or click here)
I just got off the phone with an amazing African American woman leader. She is in the style of Black women who keep the movement going. The reliable worker bee who always picks up the phone. You know, the women who type up the agenda, set up the registration, clean up, bring food, help transport people to the event, etc. They are amazing.
We couldn't do (fill in the blank) without them.
If you need something done, call this woman because she never says no, and she will actually get it done.
We love this woman.
But what's the cost of being this woman?
What are the secret feelings behind the "yes"?
Having flirted in and out of this role and talked with heroic and tired Black women, here's what I hear.
"I feel taken advantage of."
"I can't say no."
"I was taught that if you had something to give, you gave--no matter what."
"It's easier to just do it (all) myself."
"I feel good when I'm needed."
"I can't sit still."
"I feel guilty if I say no or do something for myself."
I want to focus on this last item.
In racial justice work we hear a lot about white guilt, but when do we address black guilt?
My question is: What do we have to feel guilty about?
So many in our community get crushed by systemic racism and poverty that those of us still standing and somewhat whole feel survivor's guilt. When I think about the brilliant Black boys in my elementary school gifted class, I get sick to my stomach. None of them got channeled into the special programs and opportunities that I experienced in junior high and high school. If I look closely at my family, I see how the systemic pumping of drugs and alcohol and the lack of other services created addiction and breakdowns that took beautiful talented people decades to sort through. Some didn't make it through. So, like the Sister on the phone today, I know that 'but for the grace of God, there go I."
But the problem with this guilt is that I can never "earn" my way to peace. I can do, do, do and still not do enough because people are dying and suffering. My people. My family.
The problem with guilt is that it cannot be assuaged. If I need to stop police brutality, the school to prison pipeline, the rape of the planet, etc before I have the right to pleasure, abundance, peace of mind and liberation, then I am stuck.
Peep this: By thinking I have to "earn" beauty, abundance or liberation, I have conceded to White Supremacy and White Christianity that I am Bad. White supremacy says that Blackness is inherently bad, unworthy, inadequate. White Christianity dictates that I can work to overcome the unworthiness, but I can never quite get there. Remember, not too long ago Christians (including converted Africans) saw themselves in a battle to attain a "white heart." Even Eubie Blake's song "Black and Blue" laments having to work hard so that the white world can see his inner whiteness.
As Fannie Lou Hamer would say--I question America!
What if pleasure, abundance, and peace of mind are our birthright?
What if we don't have to apologize for taking time to experience these things?
It's very hard to share this because in some ways I'm questioning the whole way that we've been taught Christianity. But is it surprising that this is so since Christianity and enslavement went hand in hand in the U.S.? Haven't elites used Christianity or Catholicism to subdue, create psychological anxiety and neediness amongst the very people they want to exploit, steal from and enslave?
But what if we don't have to "earn" anything? What if "earning" health, shelter, food, and belonging is a lie to keep people off balance and disconnected from the truth of the abundance this planet offers?
What if this is a set up?
What if this constant overwhelm from doing; fretting about saying no; judging folks who invest in their well being; is actually keeping the interlocking systems of oppression going?
To the same Sisters, the Girl Fridays, the movement stalwarts --let me ask you this:
Does your lack of self-care or your inability to say no harm the very people you want to serve?
Does your willingness to "just do it all myself" prevent you from teaching or empowering others?
Does your need to "earn" your goodness or avoid the crushing guilt, have you in co-dependent dysfunctional relationships or organizations?
Does your resentment at having to do it all or at being taken advantage of cause friction, negativity, or avoidance in your committee, family, etc.?
I challenge you, I challenge myself, to claim our birthright and to live generously--giving and receiving!
Peace and love,
P.S.--I'm offering a VIP Day for Women of Color Leaders. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to learn more!
I just got back from vacation a few days ago and I wanted to share two non-fiction books that I’m currently reading.
(Okay, let’s be real, I’m currently reading three books, one of which is a paperback thriller--but I’m only gonna share about one in this email. I’ll share about non-fiction number two next week.)
This was recommended months and months ago, but I must admit I’m finicky about my books. I don’t like to read what other people say I should read. (This might be a deeper problem.) I also don’t like to read non-fiction solo. Maybe it’s a grad school thing. Maybe it’s too much extrovertism, but I like to read books about serious topics such as racial justice and societal change with other folks so that I don’t feel too bad. These other people also help me to keep reading btw. Anyhoo--I finally got started on this book when I heard about it for the 3rd or 4th time and also heard about a facebook group of activists who were also reading it.
Too bad I waited so long! This book has lots of pearls, nuggets, and pithy ah-ha’s about making change. And it’s written in the “I” voice so that I feel like I’m getting to know the young Black woman who wrote it. Adrienne maree brown speaks from her lived experience as an organizer, facilitator and avid reader of Octavia Butler. Okay, what else do we have in common? And, she says thing that I’ve held as true and stuff that I need to seriously test out in my own life.
For example, brown asks “Is it possible we will call each other out until there’s no one left beside us?” This question refers to the the rush to take each other down; to call out folks who are change making imperfectly and maybe hypocritically--in such a way that we destroy them. Instead she advocates for transformative justice which happens in real time rather than the super urgency of social media time. She asks us to consider talking to those we have access to rather than public shaming.
This resonates with me deeply. I’ve never felt comfortable with the massive attack waves on social media, and I even declined to speak at a rally when I felt like I didn’t have enough information on an injustice. I’ve seen organizations where the “gotcha” culture has everybody tense and afraid to make a mistake. Like brown, I think there’s a time when calling out is the only option, but I want us to slow down enough to consider the question rather than just react.
Here’s another real life example. About a year ago I met with a non-profit leaders whose mission included racial justice. I held them to account about several actions their organization had taken that struck me as out of alignment with their stated mission. It was not a warm and fuzzy conversation. I did a lot of holding space for transformation and pausing as I spoke and as I listened. The leader did a lot of defending. Some superficial apologizing. And she made one concrete commitment to change something. After I hung up, I didn’t feel super successful, but I felt I had done my job to hold them to account. Recently, we spoke again and I found out that the conversation led to some major shifts in the leader and in the organization. I could have posted on social media and ridden that wave, but I actually have two principles that stopped me:
Resolve conflicts with allies, e.g. the 99%, with care. Just like me, they are evolving and ultimately, we need each other. Mao called this “contradictions among the people.”
Plant the seeds that I want to see flower. Hatred creates a powerful field that I’m not interested in living in.
So, I was right there with brown. But then she said a few things that I don’t already practice, and about which I have core beliefs that are exact opposite. For example, “What is easy is sustainable. Birds coast when they can.” I’ve lived five decades working hard. Okay maybe only four, but still, what is easy to me feels suspect. Some part of my mind believes that I might die if I don’t work hard or at least think hard about what to do next.
Yet, I’m willing to give this a shot because I know that this system thrives on people believing that should be doing more. Maybe it’s the Protestant Work Ethic which condemned joy and linked hard work to godliness. Maybe it’s that I was trained by some hard working Black Women.
I have to admit I felt uncomfortable writing the word vacation. It’s such a class privilege to stop working and leave town. It feels “easy.” But if I want to sustain my being and increase my capacity to impact the planet, rest is required.
Birds coast when they can. Hold others to account directly not on social media — and check your intentions.
There’s sooooo much more in this book— which I’m still reading! However, I know that we will explore these ideas experientially in my upcoming retreat.
So this week I’m on the look out for ways to coast, to get there with ease rather than effort. (Wow, that sounds sacrilegious! Y’all pray for me. I’ve got a lot to learn!
Peace and love,
I’m on a spiritual retreat for the summer solstice led by two wise African America women and I feel blessed!!! We are in the bosom of our mother in Mississippi, allowing ourselves to grieve, set new intentions and transmute our fears and distractions. Please hold me and our group in prayer/heart!
This week I want to remind you to love on yourself.
I’ve got two minute long meditation videos that build your capacity to love you EXACTLY as you are.
Do these once a day for a week and watch your life bloom!
Peace and love!
Self-Compassion Minute via I Love You
Starbucks held their one day anti-bias training last week.
I offered them a few tips on how to use this moment to do some systemic work but ... you know how that goes! Not to be deterred, I offered my own racial bias training in my community. Two coffee shops came on as sponsors and we brought more people into the conversation.
Here are a couple of takeaways:
1. We can't talk about bias without first placing it in the context of racism and the systemic degrading of blackness and uplifting of whiteness.
2. Racial bias shows up in what we don't see as well as what we do see.
3. You can always do more to stop racial bias and anti-Blackness
4. AND most folks will need support to sustain this awareness and strategies to undo it in their organizations, schools, and faith communities.
5. I want to teach something like the Roots of Anti-Blackness in You
I'll say a bit more about each below.
Put bias in the context of white supremacy and systemic racism
Have you ever done any online anti-bias training? I have. I was shocked at how the training removed "isms" from the conversation. So the phrases "who looks like you" or "who thinks like you" were common but there was no mention of historical anti-blackness. No mention of why Anglo men are considered the norm into which all others have to be especially "welcomed" or "included."
Of course the challenge is, where do you begin? My friend Lisa Graustein put together a slideshow that documents legal institutionalized white supremacy/privilege since the arrival of Europeans in the 1600s. You could read it, but I recommend you experience it with other people. When we get this context we are able to see white supremacy is not the shark. It's the water.
Racial bias is most powerful in what we DON'T see.
So, I know you all are able to spot stereotypical crap easily. But what emerges in a group is was how the absence of people of color in powerful positions implicitly reinforces white supremacy. A group of school and family administrators explored the harm it causes Black and Latino kids to not experience teachers from their backgrounds. Some of the Christians brought up the whiteness of their wall hangings--which prompted a discussion of "What color is your Jesus?"
You can always do more.
You have power and responsibility to monitor what is on your phone, your wall and your playlist. After the workshop, I looked at my home. I'm not really into design and I have no wall hangings in my office, but I realized that I had been subtly accommodating a white bias. All of the edgy Black art was in my bedroom or my studio, but not in shared or public spaces. I have a black and white photograph by Arvia Walker that features two Black women with their fists up and wearing Black Lives Matter t-shirts. One is crying. It is powerful and heart wrenching. I want to cry just looking at it. It is uncomfortable. I had been keeping it close, at least in part, because I was afraid of causing conflict in my interracial home. But after some disagreement, Michael and I have put it in a very public space. The conflict got even juicier when Michael brought it up publicly in conversation about race a few days later. With his permission, we'll post a short video about that experience soon!
You need support.
Most folks need outside help to transform their workplaces or faith communities.
Why? People in your own community often minimize what you say. You might have great lived experience but not be an expert. It's tiring to be the lone dogged voice. You need a team of people who are breaking down the resistance, planting seeds of knowledge and helping to hold the community as it goes through change. Building the capacity of the team to raise awareness, lead campaigns, and practice being the change they want to see in the world does not happen by chance. It must be done intentionally
My next Racial Bias Awareness Training is going to be on July 17th in Lancaster, PA. Here is a link to register.
Peace and love,
Last week I promised to share with you how to tend to yourself. Below are 3 suggestions that can take 3 to 20 minutes. Let me know your favorites!
Here are some suggestions:
1. Read. I recommend literature that takes you out of our difficult stressful world but that stretches your imagination. Check out my video book review of Ursula Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness. Maybe making a short video review is even more restorative than reading the book?
2. Move. I move the body in ways that feel GOOD. Some of us like to feel a burn. Some of us like slow easy stretching. Some like fast movement. Do what feels good EVERY day--especially when you don't feel like it! Dance along with me to our new music video Make America Great not the Land of Hate! It's only 3 minutes.
3. Rest. I do a 20 minute body scan when I feel tired and I need to reboot my energy. You can do this outside on the groundor inside an office. My mind is so addicted to movement and thought that I need someone to guide me through a scan. I'm going to record my own soon but google one in the meantime!
Some of you are probably thinking of all the reasons why none of these will work for you. Let me say this: You are the instrument of transformation. You can't be faithful or powerful or irresistible if your system is chronically stressed, overwhelmed, irritable or saddened by neglect.
Tend to yourself. We need you!
Peace and love,
P.S.--I'm offering my free master class "How to Have a Difficult Conversation about Racism without Losing your Voice or Your Cool on May 23. Join us.
I just got back home from performing a healing ritual in at UC Irvine. Before that I led a retreat with my racial justice from the H.E.A.R.T. Mastery group.
In both spaces I was confronted with feeling. Feeling sad. Feeling angry. And resisting.
I don't know about you, but lots of us are afraid to feel our feelings for fear of hurting other people or property. Secretly, I think we're also afraid of not surviving the unpleasant physical sensations of anger and sadness. It also doesn't help that one of the rules of white supremacy culture is to pretend you don't have feelings or to condemn anyone who shows feelings as "unprofessionll" or "weak."
Here's what I know: You cannot heal what you won't feel. What you resist persists.
I did not make up these statements, but I've been watching my life and they've turned out to be true.
But how do I feel? Especially buried stuff. And how do I make sure I don't die in the process? Sounds dramatic, but when you put stuff off for a long time it seems to grow. It's like the boogey man.
That's where the experiment comes in. I've heard from numerous spiritual teachers that if you allow yourself to feel something difficult for 90 seconds, you can process it out of your body. The trick is to not keep adding thoughts or story to the sensations as they pass through you.
So, here's what I did.
I watched a 1 minute video on Facebook of a Black young man being physically dominated and thrown down to the ground by a group of white police officers. (I had put off watching this because I hate the feelings that rise when I see this kind of thing.)
I did not move to distract myself from the feelings. I did not forward it to others.
I set my timer for 90 seconds and breathed. I let the tears come. I rocked on the anonymous hotel bed. I let the sounds come from my throat. I closed the screen door so no one would check on me.
After the timer went off I breathed some more and determined to be kind to myself. Then I held space for transformation for 90 seconds. Then I prayed.
I waited 24 hours and then shared it because the young man asked that it be shared.
This took about five minutes.
Here's what I gained:
1. I'm not afraid to open that message now. I've seen it and am not avoiding it.
2. I did not die.
Rage and grief are not too low below the surface, but we're afraid of how much it will hurt us to feel them so we ignore or tamp down.
The problem with that is it takes energy to tamp it down. It holds the rage and grief in place. And then we find ourselves reacting rather than rolling. We yell at our kids, our spouse, our boss because the hurt has not been tended.
More on tending next week... I promise!
Peace and love,
P.S.--Mother's Day Sale on my digital art is still on! $1 for spoken word, music and poetry downloads.
I feel sorry for Starbucks. Sort of.
The racism and unconscious bias at play in the recent situation where two black entrepreneurs were arrested while waiting for their business associate is not limited to Starbucks. It’s not limited to the police. It is pervasive and endemic to American society. You see it in the disproportionate number of Black children arrested at school; of Black girls suspended for subjective reasons such as attitude. You see it in disparate health outcomes and treatments. Racial discrimination abounds in housing purchases and rentals. It’s way beyond Starbucks.
However, it is Starbucks’s responsibility to deliver on their mission as published in 2015: “Creating a culture of warmth and belonging, where everyone is welcome. Acting with courage, challenging the status quo and finding new ways to grow our company and each other.” The problem is to deliver on this promise to people of color, Starbucks must actively promote anti-racism.
Here’s the challenge to all of us: If your business does not actively promote racial equity and inclusion, it will passively promote racism and bias. And, eventually, you will come up short or find that your racist slip is showing.
I like Starbucks’ decision to close every store in May to train every single employee in unconscious bias. It’s a start. But, it’s not enough.
Here’s my two cents. Whether you are a huge retailer or a solo-preneur, here are 5 steps you can take to protect your brand, grow your business, and make the world a better place.
- Get clear and articulate your why: How is racial diversity/inclusion/equity vital to your business; Promote that among your employees and leaders.
- Assess: how you currently serve people of color; how you build capacity among your staff owners to understand and implement inclusive practices; How racially diverse and skilled your staff is in dismantling systemic racism; use focus groups, surveys or other tools to find out how people of color experience you or your business
- Shift your Company Culture: Put anti-bias procedures in place; invest in training for folks who hire employees; and ask yourself what would have to change to make your business welcoming and affirming to people of color
- Recruit a multi-racial team who will bring inclusion and systems change expertise to the job
- Retain: Cultivate leaders of color who are loyal to your business; mentor and continually expand their understanding of the wider contexts of their functions.
Recently, I led a workshop that attracted women of different racial backgrounds. It was profound as we looked at the ways in which we had incorporated a white frame of reference both as white women and as women of color.
Here's what I learned:
Women of color who work and/or live in predominantly white contexts go overboard when it comes to educating their European American peers about or protecting them from racism. I watched as Black and Latinex women shushed themselves, over-explained and completely forgot their ability to choose whether or not to have a conversation with someone who had a white frame of reference.
I say this not as an outside critic but as a person who does the same thing unless I bring my awareness to a dynamic.
Let me give you some examples from my personal experience.
I co-work at a space owned by a European American woman that serves a predominantly Caucasian group of entrepreneurs. This space often hosts events for free or low cost to community groups. The owner and I vote for the same presidential candidates and share progressive, feminist perspectives. However, in this space I was code-switching to make my Caucasian colleagues and therefore myself more comfortable. I did not notice my actions until I attended a co-working Happy Hour that just so happened to attract only handful of folks who were all people of color. With only one European American present, my tone and content and energy changed drastically but I did not notice this until a Puerto Rican woman pointed it out to me the following day. She said something like "I really got to hear your voice last night. You let us see you." When I thought about it, it wasn't just how I spoke that changed. My content changed. I spoke about my group identity as an African American, as someone who grew up urban explicitly and proudly. As a group, we talked about self-care and growing our businesses, AND we talked about race. In predominantly white settings, the norm to NOT talk about race or racial group identities is so strong, that it seems IMPOLITE to do so. Breaking a norm feels scary and could be met with punishment so many of us unconsciously steer away from ways of speaking and being that underscore racism in predominantly white groups-even when they are predominantly female too.
Here's another example, from years ago. A Latina spoke in my faith community about racism. She did so indirectly but Caucasians in my predominantly white faith community were offended and upset. I spoke in her defense but I did so from the perspective of crossing over to the European Americans. "She's not trying to make you feel guilty," I remember saying--as if they should not feel guilty. Their guilty, uncomfortable feelings became something that I took responsibility to un-do. I bent over backward to make them feel "safe." The problem is that my posture of explaining, educating and comforting them put me and the other woman on the defensive. We were doing 90% of the work in the conversation. She could've said. There's racism here. I could've said. Yes, there's racism here and instead of defending against it please do something about dismantling it. Instead we labored or as my therapist would say, we over-functioned which led to them under-functioning.
I see it in me and I see it in my whispering, code-switching sisters. Is it no wonder then, that so many of us are exhausted, aggrieved and frustrated?
To me, the answer is two fold: One, stop doing other people's work. Two, make conscious choices about how long and how to be in conversation with people coming from a white frame of reference. What we have is gold. Drop a little. If others pick it up fine. If not, move on. Cultivate kindness, self-compassion, creativity and forgiveness inside ourselves. From our wealth, our abundance we can choose to give. Whatever we do, it's important that we are balanced and grounded. From a position of strength, we can choose our actions. My mentor, Ricardo Levins Morales, famously said "I don't believe in speaking truth to power. I believe in speaking power to power." Women of color, we've got to be willing and able to walk away from conversations that will do us no good, and if we participate do so from our strength, our lived experience, and expertise.
Want to hear more?
Please join me at the Black and Indigenous Women of Color Master Class. It's FREE and it's happening right now! A resource for all women, Sonali writes "we pour our ancestral wisdom and traditional knowledge into you, to help counter the narrative, educate and bring an intersectional lens and a social justice perspective into the online women’s entrepreneurship spaces." Get the 411 here! (Okay did that date me?)
Peace and love,
JAZZ AS A METAPHOR: Nurturing Racial Justice via ART
This is what one generation does for the rising generation. To quote Alice Walker—Each one, pull one back into the sun!
One of the reasons I love working with Francis Wong is that he makes everyone around him sound better.
Can't wait for Friday’s We the People 14.
Let's be of service to someone today. Let's accompany someone's solo. Let's bring our heART to help somebody soar. Amen and Awomen too!
See the video for I Belong here.
I'm approaching next week with a mix of sadness and gratitude. On one hand, we get to celebrate the 150th anniversary of the 14th Amendment with our world premiere of We The People 14. On the other hand, we must also sit with the loss of a visionary change-maker who did not get to live to see his children grow up or his dream realized.
This show, We The People 14, represents both the streams of our history - the potential and promise of the Declaration of Independence and the harsh reality of the forces that oppose freedom. We deliberately chose April 4 as our opening night because I wanted to draw attention to the assassination of Dr. King. Come to Lancaster. Come to the performance. You are all welcome!
Whatever you plan to do to acknowledge the death of Dr. King, please make part of it public. Make sure you are part of community that both mourns and resolves to carry on. We are blessed to work with youth from local middle and high schools. They don't allow me to despair. Their needs are urgent and their voices loud.
Peace and love,