MEV Cross-Cohort Movement Convening Sparks our Fire Rooster Year
2017 Move to End Violence Cross Cohort Convening
In the first week of February 2017, Move to End Violence Movement Makers and faculty gathered together from across the country and across all three cohorts. We convened at Seascape in Aptos, California, with beautiful, expansive views of the Pacific Ocean, long stretches of sandy beaches, constant sounds of waves and birds, and delightful surroundings of trees, plants, deer, dolphins, and even a few glimpses of whales. I am a cohort 1 alumni member and was on the cross-cohort planning team for this convening. We navigated our internal peer-led convening with the intention to generate and strengthen our power of love, collective interdependence, and movement forward.
We realized that this would be both an opportunity and a challenge as the presidential election unfolded. Our gathering took place just a few short weeks following the Trump inauguration into daily, alarming executive orders and news…and the Women’s March.
In the flurry of the external political climate, we also experienced unusual pouring, flooding rains at this California beach location. Climate change. Was it the conditions of a perfect storm? Was nature giving us a torrential, long cry and at the same time giving us water and growth?
And on top of all that, I did not really consider the other moment in time that had just started: Fire Rooster Year. The 2017 lunar new year started at the end of January, just two weeks before we gathered together at our cross-cohort convening.
2017 Year of the Fire Rooster
Lunar years are marked by 12 animals and 5 elements. The Rooster is the sign of dawn and awakening. Rooster years are a blend of righteousness, justice, as well as bombast and logical efficiency. This year the element of Fire is in Yin form, expressing inner warmth and insight. All of us, no matter age, beliefs, cultures, and calendars, are living in this Fire Rooster year.
For those of you, like me, who are turning 60 this year, Fire Rooster year is especially meaningful. 2017 marks the completion of a full cycle, bringing us back to the animal (Rooster) and element (Fire) of the year we were born (1957). In this Kanreki year, Fire Roosters open a new, second lunar cycle of life and a second spring. Some think of this as a “revert back to childhood,” but I think of it as a second iteration of new growth from old roots, and new beginnings from old endings.
I share Fire Rooster, FIRE poem, Reflections + Actions at the MEV Cross-Cohort convening, and I offer my continuing move forward with you all.
-with gratitude, an excerpt of Judy Brown’s FIRE poem
What makes a fire burn
is space between the logs,
a breathing space.
Too much of a good thing,
too many logs
packed in too tight
can douse the flames
almost as surely
as a pail of water,
So building fires
to the spaces in between,
as much as to the wood,
When we are able to build
in the same way
we have learned
to pile on the logs,
then we can come to see how
it is fuel, and absence of the fuel
together, that make fire possible…
Reciting it now in a Fire Rooster year, I look back in reflection on our February 2017 cross-cohort convening. As Movement Makers, we know how to light a fire and the importance of fuel. But as we pile on the logs, do we remember that the absence of fuel, the intentional time for reflection, the space between the logs, is just as essential in making a fire burn?
Reflections + Actions at MEV Cross-Cohort Convening
During the February Cross-Cohort Convening, as a member of the cohort peer-led planning team, we assigned ourselves segments to lead throughout the week, and my main segment was on Wednesday late afternoon, smack in the middle of the week.
Our cross-cohort planning team thought of Wednesday as a pivot time for breathing and reflection, the space between the logs. Then on the next day, Thursday, we planned to pivot into groups that could pile up the logs and fire up enduring flames of collective peace, liberation, and humanity.
In this Wednesday afternoon pivot time, I had set up a “world café” as a process and environment to engage conversations that intentionally and powerfully deepen and cross-fertilize. I brought colorful tablecloths, changed our surroundings, roles, and structure as a way to generate innovative pathways and creative growth.
But the flow and breathing space in the absence of fuel was interrupted. When we went into the world café table conversations, other cohort members rebelled against the process and wanted to move faster into taking collective action. Everyone moved forward, ready to pass over my previous design and plans for this pivot segment, to jump right into a call to action. They said they wanted to change the agenda and have different peer cohort leaders and “real faculty”.
Shared leadership is my value, practice, and simply the way I move in our movements. So I moved aside to uphold an abrupt stop and change in my segment.
But personally, I felt diminished, unseen, and misunderstood. Was I facilitating this segment too slowly? Maybe this group did not resonate with the world cafe design and plans? Or maybe the cafe tables worked so well, it opened bold calls for moving out of the world cafe into a call for change and action (smile).
Even small incidents rekindle the deep legacy of our times. Deep emotions arise when I feel diminished, unseen, and misunderstood, especially with those whom I consider my people. My sensitivity comes from growing up invisibly, unrecognized, and boxed in. My grandparents and parents, first (Issei) and second (Nisei) generations of Japanese Americans, were relocated and confined in Japanese Internment camps under Executive Order 9066. Being a Sansei (third generation), I was born after the internment and grew up as our families rebuilt and reinvented freedom.
From top left to right: Tule Lake California Internment Camp; the Internment notice my family and others found as posted notices all around. From bottom left to right: Photo of my mom and her classmates who graduated from high school inside the Topaz Internment Camp, and then a few years ago we attended their 70th high school reunion. The reunion was held back here in Oakland, CA, near where many of these Niseis, now in their 80s and 90s, live again.
Some say “we should get over it” or that I am too caught up in the past. Instead, we should never let this happen again, not regress in current times to the internment of Muslims. Government authority Dylan Myer orchestrated the Japanese Internment camp, and after that he implemented the Indian Relocation Act. We are still overcoming slavery, relocation, and displacement. When people lead forward words and actions that hate and divide us, without hesitation or question, I take action to speak up and resist the current climate of this 45th presidency and his rampant and ceaseless executive orders.
And yet taking these bold actions with our best and most strongest selves, endures when we take pauses, self-reflections, and listen to understand.
So when I felt diminished and unseen during that mid-point in cross-cohort times, I went for a walk in the rain and instead of running away, I just soaked it all in, shed some tears, and move forward with my best self. I made a pivot. The next day I stepped back and stepped up; fully engaged as a participant in my whole being.
And yes, we co-created a wonderful next day! We designed and practiced in two group conversations. One group of us focused on current strategies and roles to move our movements with collective alignment and actions. The other group deepened and honed our collective, long-term worldview.
As activists, we commonly take action without enough reflection. And sometimes we distance ourselves when we experience discord and dissents.
Fire Rooster Awakenings and Inner Warmth
Now I look back in wonder and look forward with my stronger self. I share this small personal story, Fire Rooster and a Fire poem during my second spring to remind us that it is fuel and absence of fuel that makes a fire burn. A metaphor for yin/yang, reflection/action, being/doing. Through good and hard times, I am with you. I contribute my Rooster awakenings and Yin Fire flame of inner warmth.