Lead With Love, 2017 WSCADV Conference
Each September Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence (WSCADV) members and allies come together to share stories, share power, and share strength. This September (25th-27th) was no different. Inspired by the Movement Strategy Center’s #LeadWithLove Pledge, this annual conference brought together over 500 people in Yakima, Washington where together participants challenged each other to LEAD WITH LOVE as we organize, resist, and reclaim our humanity.
All of the conference plenaries are available for your listening, along with transcriptions below.
Day 1: LEAD With Love
Plenary Opener, with Nan Stoops, Priscilla Blackfoot (Part 1)
Mimi Ho, Judith Leblanc, Farah Tanis & Jorge Barón, Valerie (Part 2)
“This is critical time for us to be together and to continue building our beloved community with all our might. Coalition staff has worked extremely hard to design a program that is smart, edgy, fun, relevant and supportive of the work you do every day in your communities.”
We are very lucky to have with us today an elder from the Yakama nation, Priscilla Blackwolf. Priscilla will get us started with our 2017 conference.
[foreign language]. We have a word in our language, it's called ataw, A-T-A-W, ataw. It means love. When we say we love someone we say ataw [foreign language 00:00:38]. With that I'm going to start this prayer with a song. When I make a movement like this we say that we're making this movement to the creator and it comes from our heart. I'm going to go ahead and start a song and then I'll say a brief prayer. Thank you.
(singing) [foreign language]. When we raise our hand like that we're raising our hand to the creator, and some people we're saying amen. [foreign language]. Today, Dear Heavenly Father, we ask a blessing on each and every one that has come here and traveled far and near. The theme of their conference, love, [foreign language] ataw, [inaudible] love we have. We want to share today, not only here, but throughout the nation and all the countries where there's devastation and the words that are being spoken on the television and all of the things that are fearful in our lives, we would like to have calmness and peace and love and harmony.
Again, we ask traveling mercies for each of you for wherever you have come and the meals that you're going to share and the words that you're going to share and prayers for those that have suffered from domestic violence or any type of violence. We know that forgiveness is divine. I will pray that each of you today can continue to walk in the beauty of the words that you have for each and every one [foreign language]. That's all. Thank you.
My name is Nan Stoops and I am the executive director of your host for the conference, the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Violence. I have the distinct honor of starting this morning's plenary and before I do that I just want to take a moment to thank all of you for being here. There are over five hundred people in this room. You come from twelve states, the District of Columbia and thirteen Native American tribes and nations. I am so glad you are here and on behalf of the staff and board of the Coalition, I thank you so very much for choosing to come.
There was a time when it might have been funny for me to say this is our biggest crowd ever but it seems not so funny now. And I actually wonder if our countries dance between chaos and reason is what brings us together this week. I hope you are here for the same reason I am. This is critical time for us to be together and to continue building our beloved community with all our might. Coalition staff has worked extremely hard to design a program that is smart, edgy, fun, relevant and supportive of the work you do every day in your communities.
I want to thank Ankita Patel and the coalition team for making this event happen.
That's me riding shotgun and in the driver's seat is the only familial sister I have known. How we became sisters is a story for another day but today I want to say a little something about how she helped me to understand the theme of this conference, lead with love.
I lost her last week to a very aggressive form of cancer. I'm sure many of you have had the experience of sitting with a loved one during their final hours. There is an odd timelessness that allows you to go back and forth through the years, repeating the things you said to each other and regretting the things you didn't. My sister was a person who talked all the time so its hard to imagine what she might not have said.
I was the quiet one who learned by listening and observing and now I am left to do the talking. For the 57 years that we had as sisters, she proclaimed our sisterhood to everyone she encountered. She was assertive about it and proud. She met people's stares and questions with defiance and said to me over and over "Don't worry about them. We know who we are."
We had very little in common except that by some stroke of fate and the determination of our parents to have two children we ended up in the same family. And I learned from her, my first lessons in building relationship across difference and staying true to one's self and one's family and following your heart without waiting for permission and in meeting hardship and loss with a full on carpe diem.
I'm absolutely sure that my sister knew she was sick. As her health worsened over the summer she carried on with her plans to travel with her husband and grandsons and to be in Chicago with their entire family last month. She knew her own body and she knew it would be her last trip. In retrospect, I think it was the combination of her knowing and her love that compelled her to do what mattered most to her and what gave her life meaning.
It was a deep knowing not in the head but in the gut and a love so strong that she could move through her own pain in order to reach her destination. She wanted that time with her family and she was able to have it. My sister's final lesson for me is one of knowing and loving and how in combination they can make anything possible. Made with love, it makes more sense to me now thanks to her.
Each of us has our own notion of what it means to lead with love. Now's the time to bring it into the open. Our leadership is needed to is our love. I hope we will practice leading with love while we're here and then in all of the days that follow. Imagine what might be possible if we do.
We are very fortunate to have with us friends from near and far, who have agreed to share their own explorations of leading with love. This morning we are going to listen in on a robust conversation among Mimi Ho, Judith Leblanc, Farrah Tannis, and Jorge Barone.
As they come up her and get settled in, happy as they are to be coming up her, Farrah is sending a last text. She's practicing. All right here they come. As they get settled in I am going to try to explain the flow of the plenaries over these three days. Each plenary will address the notion of lead with love. And today will have a bit more of an emphasis on lead, tomorrow Sue Jato will zoom in on with, and on Wednesday ML Lynn and Jamia will send us home with love.
Mimi is going to serve as our moderator and I'm going to pass to her and let's all welcome Mimi, Judith, Farrah, and Jorge.
I am just going to stand because, I need to open up after feeling deeply what the story that Nan led us with. And I'm sure many of us, it brought out a lot of loved one's past and present and it made me hang on tight to the ones, that are our little ones. Whether you have children biological or not in your community, the world we're leaving is very, very poignant for all of us right now. I'm going to have to stand for this. I keep repeating.
I just want to start with a confession that 20 years ago maybe even 10 years ago if someone had told me you're going to be in a panel about love I would have said are you kidding me. I did community organizing work for 20 years. I did some national health care work actually, I've been in Yakima about 15 years ago for that work. I did some state wide work in California in the 90's during the anti everything initiatives in California anti gay, anti affirmative action, immigrant. And I also did a lot of local fights around fighting oil refineries in Richmond California.
I took pride in fighting and I knew I did the work because of the love I had for the people that I worked with. But I had it conditioned in me that I had to hate well. I had to fight and so 10-15 years ago worn out by that strategy, I went on a quest. Who is leading in a different way? Who is leading in a generative way? Who is leading from that secret desire to be in community and who recognizes I'm actually really dependent on you and I know you are dependent on me?
That was the quest I went on and I went to Movement Strategy Center, met many people and now I'm filled with a room of people who are at the cutting edge of how to lead with love in moments of violence, of state intimate, all kinds of violence. And the intimate violence that this room is so steeped in is actually the hardest. And you are at the cutting edge and the movements across the country and the world have so much to learn from you. I'm so grateful to be here.
I'm also like many of you, inspired by my own children. This is Olive and Juniper and gratuitous sneaking in of a photo of my children and this is a photo of them in October 2016, when many of us were holding our breath. You can't see their sign but it says we are two sisters eight years old and six years old and we don't want a president that treats women and girls badly, frown face, frown face. This is a non-partisan event, I know so this was personal children and personal message.
I went to Carson City , Nevada on election day to do Get Out the Vote. I live in Oakland. California and I took my oldest daughter, Olive out of school and she brought her little scooter and she and I were just having a blast. We were hanging up door hangers in Carson City in the neighborhoods. Just scooting along, getting out the vote. She was just so excited. This was her first, she was born actually on January 3rd when Obama won the Iowa Caucuses. And she doesn't know any other world, right and she's just bouncing around.
That night I was with friends in Reno and like many of you have a story about ... and I want to say this is not about partisanship. I don't assume anyone support or not support. That's not the point here. The point here was wow what kind of values do I hold, do my children hold? And it doesn't matter what president wins or doesn't win. Who are we as a people and how do we lead with the kind of love for our own people, for your people, for our people. And I did not know how to lead my daughter that night.
At Movement Strategy Center what we did was we put together an initiative because we were all ... We'd been training many of us in this room for a moment but didn't know quite that kind of moment. And so we said to ourselves, this could be a moment where hate and violence fill the air. How do we intervene with love, not just in other people but in ourselves. And at Movement Strategy Center, we're very lucky to work with people who are in the climate movement, movements to end gender based violence, people who are doing work on queer and trans issues, working with cis men and women on gender issues and how do we transform the conversation in this country.
So we put together a video conference and a website called Lead With Love. And then we realized this is not about romantic love, well we knew that. How do we convey that? How do we show that there's love with power? This is a love that is strong, that is not about Hallmark cards. It is not sentimental and it is very much as Martin Luther King Jr. Said "Power without love is reckless and abusive and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice and justice at its best is power correcting everything that stands against love."
That fierce love, that love with power is what this room embodies and what you all are doing in your communities and neighborhoods and families and friends all across Washington. I know may people are also not here and visiting from outside of Washington. So this shift of how do we bring that kind of power is really critical and I want to share just I quick clip that I think embodies the kind of love that we are all talking about here and then I want to pass it to this amazing set of folks.
So I want to play this video of Valerie Kaur who is part of a revolutionary love project and this was given on January, on New Year's Eve actually this year.
As part of his faith, the America today as we enter an era of enormous rage. As white nationalists hailed this moment as their great awakening. As acts against Sikhs, our Muslim brothers and sisters are at an all time high, I know that there will be moments whether on the streets or in the school yard where my son will be seen as scorned, as suspect, as a terrorist, just as black bodies are still seen as criminal. Brown bodies are still seen as illegal. Trans bodies are still seen as immoral. Indigenous bodies are still seen as savage. The bodies of women and girls seen as someone else's property and when we see these bodies not as brother and sisters then it becomes easier to bully them, to rape them, to allow policies that neglect them, that incarcerate them, that kill them.
The future is dark on this New Year's Eve, this watch night. I close my eyes and I see the darkness of my grandfather's cell and I can feel the spirit of ever rising optimism in the Sikh tradition of[inaudible] and so the mother in me asks what if. What if this darkness is not the darkness of the tube but the darkness of the womb. What if our America, what if our America is not dead but a country that is waiting to be born?
What if the story of America is non long waver? What is all our grandfathers and grandmothers are standing behind us now, those who survived occupation and genocide, slavery and Jim Crowe, tension and political assault. What if their whispering in our ear tonight you are brave. What if this is our nations great transition.
What does the mid wife tell us to do? Breathe. And then push because if we don't push we will die. If we don't push our nation will die. Tonight we are brave. Tomorrow we will labor and run through love and your revolutionary love is the love that we will show our children. [inaudible 00:18:34]
So with that in your seats let's breathe and push. For those of you who have been through that before you know, it's a big deal to breathe when you are trying to push. For those of you that have not physically pushed a watermelon out of you, just imagine. So let's breathe and push. Let's take three breaths. Breathe in and out, in, out, and last one.
I want to leave you with a question that we've been asking at Movement Strategy Center. How do we transition from a world of violence, domination and extraction to a world of interdependence, regeneration, and resilience and how do we lead, not just with love but love with power? So with that I want to invite my comrades over here to join me.
The question we want to ask is how do you lead with radical love? What does that look like to you right now in this moment? With that I am going to pass this to Jorge who many of you know is a beloved part of the Washington community.
Thank you, I got this we're good. Thank you Mimi. And I feel like it's unfair for me to have to follow that first of all, I will just say that. And I want to just say I'm honored to be up here and with such an amazing group of advocates and a lot of people I have worked with for many years. And I thought it was interesting. When I saw the question I was wondering about if I was the right person to be up here because I'm a lawyer and you usually don't associate radical love with being a lawyer.
I think that when I thought about that question I think in some ways what I thought about is why am I even involved in all of this. I think there is a question that people frequently ask me. As most of you know I'm working on immigration policy and it's a field right now that is challenging to put it mildly. And the system itself is so I'd almost say that in many ways the complete opposite of radical love. It's dehumanizing. It is still one of our legal systems that is based on racism. It's one of the areas of law that I see as formally still has these racist overtones.
It is incredibly difficult to work within that system and feel like you are in any way be involved with radical love. For a lot of us that work in this field this challenging of being a part in some way of that system. But I think the reason that I still feel that the work that I'm involved with goes in that direction is because of the people that I work with and both the staff, some of whom are here today, but especially our clients. And I always like to share, some of you may have heard me talk about this story before but for me it was such a crucial moment in my career and my being part of this movement.
Because it came early on when I started working on the [inaudible] immigration project as the staff attorney working in our home office, which helps people who are at the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma. And met this [inaudible] ... with people there, I met this woman Illiana who you see here on the screen, her picture. She has given us permission to share her story.
And Illiana came to United States when she was sixteen from Guatemala. She was fleeing a lot of violence in her own home and that led here to feel like she had no option but to come to the United States to flee for her own safety and started living. She has a distant relative in the Seattle area and so she moved there and started working there. And was working with many undocumented individuals. Working in service industry jobs and she was working in a hotel for a while and a restaurant.
And she ended up back in the 1990's in deportation proceedings because of an immigration raid that happened at her work place. At the time she wasn't detained because we weren't doing that as frequently as we do now. So she was in this case for a while, this pending. And while her case was pending she was ultimately in a very serious domestic violence situation with her partner who is the father of her daughter.
And so she had these two things happening at the same time. She ultimately ended up with a deportation order that she didn't know and there was one warning after she had overcome all this and was actually dropping off her daughter at school September morning. She was rear ended by another driver after she dropped off her daughter off at school. The police came to investigate and when they ran her, even though it wasn't her fault they ran her driver's license and they found out that she had this deportation order.
So they called Immigration and Customs Enforcement, ICE and they came and took her and took her to the detention center. And I met her ... so this is the detention center that is the third largest immigration detention center in the country. And I met her when she was there. She had asked immigration officials if she was going to be able to see a judge and they said not you have deportation order so we are just going to send you back to Guatemala.
She asked if anybody could help her so they gave her our number and I was the attorney that came to see her and I talked to her about her situation. And I found out about the fact she had been a victim of domestic violence and thought that there might be an option to reopen her case but I told her this is going to take two to three months for us to be able to try to reopen your case and you are going to be detained here because you have a final deportation order you're not going to be released.
She told me I can't do that. I can stay detained especially if I don't know if this is going to succeed and so I'm just going to give up and let myself be deported. That happens frequently unfortunately for many people. I left and I thought here's our number if you change your mind. And the next morning there was actually a voicemail on our answering machine and it was her and she said I changed my mind will you please come back.
I came back to see her and I asked her, I remember very clearly this conversation I had with her because I said what made you change your mind and she said I was sitting here in detention last night and I was trying to decide. I realized that I had a choice to make and the choice I had to make was to either take my daughter back with me to Guatemala to a place that I fled because I wasn't safe or I could leave her here with this relative that has been taking care of her but I might not ever get a chance to see her again. I could not make that choice I thought both of those choices were impossible choices to make. And I realized that the only way that there was a chance for me to stay with my daughter and stay safe with her was if I fought this case and tried to stay here with my daughter. So that's why I want to stay here even though it might mean that I may be detained for months here without knowing for sure that I will be able to stay. We decided to fight the case and I am glad to say we were successful in being able to reopen her case and she is now living in Kirkland with her daughter and she's now got an older son and so she's here.
And for me that moment of her realizing her love for her daughter inspiring her to make that choice and to be resilient and powerful has always motivated me. And that's one story but I take that to be how many other people are out in situations. And how do we despite the darkness of the moment, how do we find opportunities each day to change outcomes. And how do we take those stories and try to figure out ways we can avoid situations like that.
I think with Illiana's story about how we can change systems so she wouldn't have had to experience those things. While I see that as a success on one level, I also see it as a failure that she ended up in the situations that she had to be in. I'm constantly reminded of ... so that's what propels me. That's how I feel like we need to lead with love is to always be thinking about the communities that we're a part of, that we are purporting to serve, and that for me has been an important motivating factor that I wanted to share with all of you.
Action With Love, with Lynn Rosenthal (Part 1)
Jorge Barón and Lynn Rosenthal (Part 2)
“We are here today together to reclaim the roots of this movement. To reclaim our activist roots. Because you know, this was a movement born out of liberation. The first shelters were women’s living rooms. Women said, “I’m a shelter. Women can come stay with me”. This is the movement that pushed hard against patriarchy, the religious right, law enforcement, and conservative forces of all kinds, to say that women had a right to be free from violence in their homes, their streets, their schools, their communities. This is the movement. This is the stuff you all are born from.”
Ilene Stohl, WSCADV Prevention Coordinator:
It's my honor to be up here introducing this session, this idea, and particularly Lynn who is going to be leading us. This morning we heard from amazing activists and community organizers who are doing inspiring work to lead with love. Well I want to be just like all of them. This afternoon we're asking you to be just like all of you. This morning's panelists are incredible community organizers, and you, we, are incredible advocates that can be organized. That's what we're asking you is to be organized together.
Lynn Rosenthal is here to show us how to do that. Many of you know Lynn. She's been in our conference before. If you've been an advocate, she's been in your shoes. If you're a survivor, she's been in your shoes. If you've been a director, she's been in your shoes. She really has had every possible job in our community, all the way up to maybe ones that not all of us are going to get to have. Being a White House advisor on violence against women.
She is really, the one thing that I think is so helpful about having Lynn lead us is that when we asked her to do this, she said yes. She said yes not only with love, but with enthusiasm. We have been around the block trying to figure out what our action with love is going to look like. It really is informed by the stories that we heard this morning. We have this unique opportunity today to take action on a particular issue, but it's a practice that once we've done, we can continue to do it over and over.
Not only is Lynn an incredible advocate and star of our movement, she's also just a stellar human who, I just appreciate you being here. Lynn Rosenthal, come lead us with action with love.
Okay, good afternoon. That was very very weak because it's after lunch. Do I have to make you stand, I am actually going to make you stand and cheer right now. How about that? Okay. Who here in this room has been to a march or demonstration? Give me a yell. That's pretty good. Who here in this room has led a social media campaign for social change? Give us a yell. Who here in this room has led a Twitter storm about a specific action? Give us a yell. Who here in this room has written a letter to the editor? Oh, that's pretty good. Who here in this room has developed an online petition to get other people to sign? Who here in this room has signed an online petition? Oh wow. All right. Did I leave anything out? Tell me something else you've done. Just shout it out.
Called my senator.
You called your senator. All right. What else? What have I left out? Visited the capital. All right. What else? Provided testimony. Okay. All right. Organized your neighbors. All right. Anybody in this room been arrested for an action that you've taken?
We are here today together to reclaim the roots of this movement. To reclaim our activist roots. Because you know, this was a movement born out of liberation. The first shelters were women's living rooms. Women said, "I'm a shelter. Women can come stay with me". This is the movement that pushed hard against patriarchy, the religious right, law enforcement, and conservative forces of all kinds, to say that women had a right to be free from violence in their homes, their streets, their schools, their communities. This is the movement. This is the stuff you all are born from.
I have to guess that some of you, when you thought about this job that you had taken on, you didn't dream of, "Well I'm going to write the best possible grant report I can. Woo hoo", did you? You dreamed on how you were going to change the world, and it's in your blood. You may feel like, "What I do every day doesn't reflect that", and that's what we're here today to make sure happens.
In 1984 when congress was debating the Family Violence Prevention Services Act, which many of you are funded under, it was just a little tiny program to fund shelters. A member of congress said on the record, "These shelters are just indoctrination centers for runaway wives". This is the movement that said, "Hell yes". This is the movement that's first national organizations had mission statements that called out, 30 years ago called out racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, antisemitism, as integrally linked to violence against women. You may not have seen that if you've come into this movement more recently, but our first mission statements called that out specifically, and furthermore said, "We will not end violence against women until we end all oppressions. We will not end it until we end all oppressions".
This is the movement that had at its core the basic community organizing principle, which is that the people most affected by the problem should lead the effort for change. This is also the movement that has strayed somewhat from those principles. You all, at WSCADV, are the ones reclaiming that history. That is what we're going to do today. I didn't come up in the battered women's movement when I was in my early 20s, my early activist years. I was working in abortion rights. It was about survival. We had no choice but to politicize the people who came to us for services, because it was survival. We always had in our lobby a table to register to vote, to fill out cards, to send them in. Always. We always directed people even if they just had medical work done, to come over and take a card home with them. Because it was about survival.
We were sleeping in the clinics and putting big signs out front, because this is when all the bombings had just started. We were putting big signs out in front of our clinics that said, "This clinic is occupied". These are the days before social media. Today that kind of action would have an out-sized effect. At that time it was powerful for us at the community level, while we were holding press conferences where we were showing the kinds of implements, instruments, and medications and actions that women would take to perform illegal abortions in the days that abortion was illegal.
In the middle of all of that, I was contacted by a committee working on behalf of women in prison. In Florida's prisons. The women in prison were organizing on the inside. Women in prison for killing their abusive husbands had themselves organized on the inside. They had contacted outside advocacy groups and said, "Please help us". I was contacted by that committee to speak at a rally on behalf of clemency, and that's how I came into the work.
As Eileen said, over the years I've seen many things happen. I just want to tell you three stories, and then we're going to take it to the next level. When I was working in Florida in the legislature, it was right after welfare reform had passed. It was such a terrible piece of legislation for everybody and so harmful for survivors. We were trying to at least mitigate those effects on survivors. We were trying to pass legislation that would allow survivors all kinds of flexibility in the kind of requirements that they would have to meet. We were hearing terrible things like, "If we do this, women will just get themselves beat up so that they don't have to work". Just all of these horrible things.
We sent out an alert to all our programs and begged and pleaded to all your counterparts. We said, "Please call. Call every day. Call every minute". I was sitting in a legislator's, outside in the foyer of their office. I kept hearing the phone ring, phone ring, phone ring. I said, "That's my people". When I went in to meet with him he said, "Just call these people off. I'll vote however you want. Just call them off". That's power.
Another story, I want to tell you about this because it was one of the most important things I've ever seen happen. I was working in Washington DC, and Maxine Waters, give it up, and Bernie Sanders were co-sponsors of a bill for the National Housing Trust Fund, which has since passed, but was really stalled in congress. Maxine Waters worked with all the local advocacy groups to bring a lot of people who identify themselves as homeless to DC to advocate for the bill.
She packed, there was a little tiny committee room. There was one side of the political aisle over here, which, anyway, all white men. There was another side of the political aisle over here. Women and people of color. Maxine organized, representative Waters organized all these folks to come and pack the committee room for this vote on the National Housing Trust Fund. People had big buttons saying, I'm the person you're talking about. I'm a person without a home. My children are sleeping on the street". It was very obvious that those seats were filled with advocates.
The side over here, my white guys, they were so terrified that they could not take that vote. They could not look people in the eyes. They had the votes. They were the majority. They couldn't look people in the eyes and make that vote, so they used a very complicated procedural maneuver to cancel the hearing.
All the people who had come so far, they're like, "What just happened? We lost". They were devastated. Maxine Waters and Bernie Sanders called everybody up to the front of the room, and she said, "You don't know the power you have. You have such power. You have such the moral authority on this issue that they could not look you in the eye and take a vote. That's why they did what they did. This was a victory", and indeed some time later the bill actually passed. That's the kind of power of activism.
Finally, I turn to all of you and the work you did in VAWA 2013, when the bill was expanded to include critical protections for LGBTQ survivors. In fact, the first time ever in federal code where there's specific protections for transgender individuals. For protections on sexual and gender identity. The national coalition that asked all of you, "Make those calls. Come up here and talk to your members of congress. Go see them. Don't give us". That coalition never allowed themselves to be divided. They never allowed themselves to be divided. They saw what Sara was talking about, the quilt. They never allowed the Native women to be divided from the LGBTQ community, to be divided from immigrant communities.
Led by Native women, absolutely with love, Native women who came to DC, you know them, and gave up their lives for months at a time to pass that bill. If you watched it on television you saw once again that the other side was terrified of what had happened, and in fact again used another complicated procedural maneuver to first keep a vote from happening, and then to let a vote happen. The bill passed with these critical new protections. That's the power of activism. That's the quilt. I can't tell you how many times, when Sara was talking this morning, what I was remembering was how many times we've been asked on a wide range of social justice concerns like you heard about this morning, if only the domestic violence community would weigh in, that would turn the tide. If only the domestic violence community would weigh in, this would pass. This would change. This would be different.
I have to say that there are times when the domestic violence community did not weigh in out of fear. But if there's anything that we have learned over the past, however hideously long it's been, it's that quilt. It's what Sara said. It's that our little square will never be enough, for us or anybody else.
What we're going to do today, I've talked about the power of our movement. It is there. It's in our blood. It was there from the beginning. We can get it back, and we're going to get it back today to take an action on behalf of the Dreamers. Jorge, come up and tell us what to do.
Jorge Barón, NWIRP Executive Director:
I thought if I was going to coach I would have to look the part, so here's the ... All right. First of all I want to say that I did tell people that people are probably going to be sick of hearing from my by this point in the day, but they still asked me to do this. So I'm just super enthused about the fact that we're going to do this. And I started talking about this earlier that we're kind of at a critical point right now because the President ended the protections that President Obama had launched in 2012 for DACA recipients. So these are people who came to the United States at a young age. And right now there's people whose work permits are going to start expiring in March that are going to be without protection, are going to be potentially subject to deportation, who are going to lose the ability to work in all of our communities.
And so what we're trying do is to push congress to take action to enact legislation that will provide protection and put them in a path to citizenship. And that bill has been known for a long time as the Dream Act, and it's been pending before congress for 16 years, but it has not moved through congress. And so that's the key ask, but in addition to that, as I mentioned before, the challenge right now politically is that it's not enough to say somebody supports the Dream Act, because one of the problems is that some people are saying, "Well we'll do that." They're expressing support and saying like, "Yeah we want to protect the folks who have DACA or the Dreamers." But then they're saying, "But that's going to come at a cost." And that's what I was referencing earlier.
So the reason that, in this action ask, we're asking all of you to, not just call for support for the Dream Act, but for the clean Dream Act. Meaning we're trying to send the message that, that protection for DACA recipients, for undocumented young people should not come at the cost of measures that are going to be harmful to their parents or to other immigrant communities. So in your tables there's going to be a little piece of paper that is probably in the middle. There's a set of pieces of paper in the middle and I want you to grab them and distribute them around your table. And what you'll see is that on one side it has this Action with Love heading and there's kind of three; there's a menu of options, and what we want to make sure is that everybody in this room does at least one of them. Ideally we'd love to see everybody do all three, but at least, in the next 10 minutes, we want everybody in this room to take at least one of these actions.
And this is one of those moments, most of the time we hate when people are typing away on their phones, but this is a time when I actually want to see some of that. And so the options are, if you're able to call your representative. And if you're not sure who your representative is there's a handy map; although I know for folks who are in the 10th, 9th and 7th it might be hard to read, but hopefully you guys know which district you're in. And so the contact information also on the backside of that form. And so we want people to either, call your representative with the message that's outlined there, I'm not going to repeat it, but it's basically calling them to make sure that they support the clean version of the Dream Act. If you're into Twitter, we would like you to tweet. And again, there's a message there and the tweeter handle of your rep, in case you don't know it by heart, which you should, is on the other side.
And then finally, either through Twitter or Facebook, you can post a message to spread the word to other people in the community about what you've done, so that other people will feel empowered and encouraged to take the same action. So again we want all of you to take one of these three actions. We know that if we all call at the same time it might lead to some clogging of the phone lines. So talk among your table and if you're all from the same area, take turns calling your congressional offices, especially if you're from the same area. But then all of you can be doing one of these three things at the same time. So either posting something on social media, making a call to the representatives. And we're going to take 10 minutes to do it. And I see that a handy way of finding out your representative, if you're actually not sure who your representative is, is posted here as well.
And in about 10 minutes we're going call everybody back to attention so that we can complete the ask. So that's-
Speaker 2: Dreamers more...
Lynn Rosenthal: How many people are going to tweet?
Speaker 2: How many people posted on your Facebook page what you did? Ah so how do you feel about what you did? [crosstalk 00:04:52]
Lynn Rosenthal: ... one of the most effective ways to-
Speaker 2: Good.
All right, so because we're energized ... And if you didn't get to make a call, there's no time limit. You can keep doing it. You can do it after today too. So we wanted to just finish, because we wanted to just feel the power that you just had to actually help make change possible. And so we wanted to just finish up with an expression of that, that comes from a long history of the labor movement and it's in Spanish. And it's been adopted by a lot of us in the immigrant rights movement as well as many other movements. And that is a chant that when I'll ask you in Spanish if we can do it, your response will be in Spanish that you can. And so what I want to hear after I ask you all right? So let me hear it.
Jorge Barón: I don't know, I hear that very, very weak.
Speaker 1: I think this part of the room is not into Spanish apparently. All right. Let's do that again and see if this side of the room can do it better. [foreign language 00:06:00]?
Audience: [foreign language 00:06:01].
Jorge Barón: Okay that's better. Let's do it one more time with energy. [foreign language 00:06:05]?
Jorge Barón: All right, thank you everybody.
Lynn Rosenthal: Thank you everybody.
What Does It Mean To Lead With Love, with Mimi Ho and Farah Tanis
“What does it mean to lead with love? And I literally moved to the edge of my seat because symbolically, emotionally, that’s where I’ve been with that question. How, and what does it mean, to lead with love in a period where we as black women are giving ourselves permission to stand in our rage, and giving ourselves permission to hold others accountable, and giving ourselves permission to be angry. And that doesn’t always translate, or that is not always received by others as leading with love or being in the loving community. And so, I want to share with you this image. Can y’all see it?”
And with that-
... I want to pass it to Farah, who has been doing amazing work leading the Black Women's Blueprint Project. So thank you.
Thank you. Can you hear me? Perfect. Thank you so much. I tend to be ... Oh, no, I'm not gonna say that. I tend to be long-winded, even though it is true. I wanted to ... So since this question came up: What does it mean to lead with love? And I literally moved to the edge of my seat because symbolically, emotionally, that's where I've been with that question. How, and what does it mean, to lead with love in a period where we as black women are giving ourselves permission to stand in our rage, and giving ourselves permission to hold others accountable, and giving ourselves permission to be angry. And that doesn't always translate, or that is not always received by others as leading with love or being in the loving community. And so, I want to share with you this image. Can y'all see it?
So this image is an image of a young man, and in this African tribe, when someone does something wrong, they take the person to the center of the village where the tribe surrounds them. And for two days, say all the good that he has done. The tribe believes each person is good, but sometimes people make mistakes, which are really a cry for help. They unite to reconnect him to his good nature, and if that is not an example of community leading with love, I don't know what it is. Right? It's on the individual, and it's on the communal level.
And so, my answer that I wrote to this, I want to make sure I say it concisely. Leading with radical love for me - whether it is with our black male allies inside our communities who we know we need to hold accountable for sexual assault, for domestic violence, for gender discrimination and other forms of violation. Whether it is our white allies that we know we need to hold accountable for white supremacy and the historical legacies of slavery, colonization, and Jim Crow, and so on, and so on - leading with love means living with courage to me. It means refusing to be subordinated to hate, to vengeance, and refusing to participate in a system that would only breed more violence.
And so ... And someone said to me, when you hear black women speak, "Oh, you speak so passionately, Farrah," and then a sister next to me would be like, "She means you sound real angry." Who cares? Right? We're entitled to be angry, each and every one of us in this room, regardless of our background. We're entitled to be angry, right? It's what you do with that anger. It's how you allow that anger to transform you, and how you allow that anger to be transformed, itself. And then how do you deploy it out in the world to shift and transform culture?
So, what we see here in this image, exemplified in our lived practices as people of African descent, though it is beautiful, there's one more thing. It also evokes chaos in me as a feminist, as an anti-rape, an anti-domestic violence activist, and as Bill [Hook] said, "If you want to change the structure of something or intervene in it, you have to have moments of chaos." For me, every day, every single day, it means an internal chaos that both agrees and disagrees with this image. Even as I'm also in awe of this process that this village is able to engage with ... Even if I'm in awe of it ... It gives me hope also. I am still sitting here with the anxiety of how this could fail, how this could make people angry, and whether or not it works. But it works in this village, regardless of what the harm is that the person has caused.
So for me, leading with radical love means deciding to love. As you talked about, Martin Luther King, Jr. and how he said, "If you are seeking the highest good, you have to do it through love." So where I've see this happen was one of the themes. So where do we see this happen? I've seen this happen with our male allies. I've seen it happen, for example, through Damon Young's article last week. I don't know if any of you have seen it, "Straight Black Men Are the White People of Black People". Have y'all seen that? If you haven't, Google it. It is extremely ... It's explosive in the community because what he's doing is he is leading with love. He is talking with his brothers around the issue of violence and the issue of the invisible-izing forces that they participate it. The invisible-izing forces where black women are concerned.
In that article, he says in [inaudible], right? "Intra-racially, our relationships to and with black women is not unlike whiteness's relationship to us." He is speaking to his black brothers. "In fact," he says, "it's eerily similar. We're the ones for whom the first black president created an entire initiative to assist and uplift. We're the ones whose beatings and deaths at the hands of the police galvanize the community in a way that the beatings and sexual assaults and deaths that those same police inflict upon black women do not. We're the ones whose mistreatment inspired a boycott of the NFL despite the NFL's long history of mishandling and outright ignoring far worse crimes against black women. We are the ones who get the biggest seat at the table and the biggest piece of chicken at the table despite making the small contribution to the meal. And nowhere is this more evident than when considering the collective danger we pose to black women and our collective lack of willingness to accept and makes amends for that truth."
And so we've seen it intra-community wise. Radical love and leadership is messy. It creates conflict. It raises anxiety. It is sometimes chaotic, but it is necessary for our survival. We've seen it with the white leadership of organizations that I would say 20 years ago, I wouldn't dare sit at the table with, or even begin a conversation around white supremacy or what it means to work from an intersectional perspective. We've seen it through the support of the coalitions all over the country of black women. When we went to Oklahoma for the justice rights. How the coalitions came together to make sure we can get there. We've seen it in girls, work with girls. We've seen it with other people of color. We've seen it, how we've stood for each other as people of color across different issues. And so, we're also smart enough, right? We are smart enough to know that we need these processes. We are smart enough, and we respond, negatively sometimes, to the moment of process through struggle, even with each other when it often can mean confrontation and disagreement. But radical love demands that no matter how uncomfortable, that we work through racism, sexism, transphobia, homophobia, and that we have to work through it with each other. Our survival depends on it. So thank you.
When Love Is Under Attack, with Mimi Ho and Judith LeBLanc
“…we have to be acutely aware that we’re all operating in a system where sacredness is under attack. Love is under attack. Humanity, humane values, are under attack. We’re operating, all of us, and court systems and even in advocacy and service provision in a context that prides individualism. That is rooted, a system that’s rooted, in an economy which values brutal power to maintain control over peoples and resources, as well as solutions. Violence and power and might being right. And often the solutions are framed in a punitive way and punishment and isolation and retribution. And so leading with love is to see that you cannot separate yourself, love, your respect for self from family, from community, from nations, from saving the world. And strategic practice of love really means you have to build on compassion. You have to have discipline. You have to have accountability. That’s where the power of love comes.”
Thank you, and next we have Judith LeBlanc, who is running around the country connecting native folks to the native organizer's alliance and to each other. So, Judith.
So I'm from the Caddo tribe of Oklahoma and I do have a Boston accent so I park my car in Harvard yards so everybody can laugh now and get it over with because all across Indian country I'm mocked. Especially when I'm at home with my family in Oklahoma. I am really humble and grateful to be here with you because ... And I am so proud of my relatives who are here [inaudible].
I come from a family of three generations of domestic abuse and I have been thinking since Nan invited me here how different my mother's life, my life, and my daughter's life would be if we had been in your community, and I'm very grateful to be here. Because I've spent so too much of my life not leading with love, and you know what I mean. Like if someone pushed me, or my family or my community, I'd say, "Bring it." And I'd push right back and I'm using nice terms to say what I would say to people who would come after me or my family or my community. And I realize now that it just takes so much more strength to lead with love because when you are angry and you are reactive, you are zapped of power. You are zapped of being able to think creatively about how to address the crisis that brings about violence and anger and hate.
First night we had a really wonderful family reunion of some of my relatives who are here. We met together to talk about our experiences and I have such a wonderful job because I am working at a time of standing rock. Standing rock interrupted the long held colonial racist concepts of who we are as a people and as nations and it inspired people across the world to stand together in love, prayer, and respect for our common struggle to save mother earth.
And last night one of the elders said, "Standing Rock. It spread embers all across Indian country and we're breathing on those embers, on all reservations and in cities to keep that fire burn strongly. That was there at standing rock, which at standing rock, we stood in love, we stood in love of community, of mother earth."
And I think there are three or four things that I think about when practicing the idea of what does it mean to lead with radical love. Well number one, we have to all recognize that you can't separate love and respect for yourself, from love and respect for your family, love and respect for your communities. You cannot separate love of self, respect for self, when talking about saving humanity and reversing this very hateful political environment in which we're operating in. Because we're all related, we're all related. We are related to the earth. We are related to our ancestors. And we are all related as people and communities.
And I think the other element of leading with radical love is that we have to be mindful of our ancestors and the wisdom that they can give to us. And when we say that in Indian country, that we're walking the path of our ancestors, it's not like we want to go back and like ride around on horses and shoot buffalo with arrows, although that could be interesting and I love me a buffalo burger. But what we're saying is that we are utilizing the wisdom and the experiences of our ancestors to interpret 21st century reality, which is a crisis of violence and hatred and division and opportunity. Because this broad awakening that we saw at standing rock in Indian country, but it wasn't the first awakening.
We're on the same path that Black Lives Matter has been on, the fight for 15, the Dreamers. I mean the women that marched at the Women's March. The people who went to the airports. The scientists who stood up in DC for science. We're all on this path and for us in Indian country, we feel it's kind of our turn to be in the front row and to help and share with you traditional and indigenous knowledge that comes from a way of being and a way of looking that our relationality. You know, Einstein said everything's relative. And what has happened in our society is that that means nobody's idea is more important than anybody else's. And there's no truth because truth constantly changes, right? That's what we've grown up thinking. But really, we're all related. All things are related. What you do in your community has impact on your family, on your self, and on all the communities. We're all related.
The third thing that I think is critical for practicing radical love and leading with love, is what the marines call situational awareness. Anybody here who's been in the marines? Okay well I run in a different crowd. In Indian country we serve at a much higher rate than we are in the population. When the US invaded Iraq, 10% of the booths on the ground were Indians. We're less than 2% of the population. The first American woman to die was Navajo. So I'm always in a room full of veterans, wherever I go.
But situational awareness means that we have to be acutely aware that we're all operating a system where sacredness is under attack. Love is under attack. Humanity, humane values, are under attack. We're operating, all of us, and court systems and even in advocacy and service provision in a context that prides individualism. That is rooted, a system that's rooted, in an economy which values brutal power to maintain control over peoples and resources, as well as solutions. Violence and power and might being right.
And often the solutions are framed in a punitive way and punishment and isolation and retribution. And so leading with love is to see that you cannot separate yourself, love, your respect for self from family, from community, from nations, from saving the world. And strategic practice of love really means you have to build on compassion. You have to have discipline. You have to have accountability. That's where the power of love comes.
So for example at standing rock, we gather 10,000 of our people. When you bring our people all together, we bring our social problems with us. Yes, in that camp of prayer, where we were in a highly militarized environment, there was domestic abuse, drug abuse, drinking. There were people being assaulted. And it was a struggle to figure out how do you handle where we've been brought together to defend mother earth but yet we bring our social problems with us. Some said we kick them out of the camp. We make them go away. We banish them. We shame them. But there was an intense struggle even while drones were flying over head, while planes were taking video of us, while they were shining lights, shooting rubber bullets, hitting us with water hoses, exploding [inaudible 00:09:23] grenades, there was a struggle to return to the wisdom of our elders about how do you govern with justice. How do you govern with humility, accountability, and discipline and therefore in love?
The conversations we had on the ground there with men who had committed domestic violence at a moment when we were fighting for the future, very transformational. Very much that without love, love for our people, love for community, and therefore compelling these men to think about the love of themselves and how they lose their humanity when they do the same as the national guard of the sheriffs are doing to us.
So I say all that to say that at standing rock, there also was just a whole bunch of other kind of love. Where we shared our culture, we weren't afraid of one another. And it kind of sounds like Woodstock now that I'm saying it aloud, but it was much better than Woodstock let me say. Because I think people began to grapple with their own humanity and how it relates to saving mother earth.
And my feeling, the biggest challenge to practicing radical love, is to understand that we could have no transformational change without it. Once you realize that ... I think my old friend Cornell West said that love is justice, is showing love in public. And that's one of the things we learned at standing rock. And so it's not easy in Indian country, to lead with love, but damn. We haven't had an opportunity to do it this way in many generations.
Where Radical Love Springs From Us, with Mimi Ho, Jorge Barón, Farah Tanis and Judith Leblanc
“That’s where that love and that radical love, that’s where it springs from for us. The reason we have to do that in order to lead movements and in order to be bold, in order to be able to sacrifice, because to change, to transform culture requires sacrifice. In order to do that we had to sit with ourselves and we had to grapple with the legacy of shame that has been placed on black women. We birth generations and generations of enslaved people against our will. For the most part, against our will. That stays in the body. That stays in the spirit and we feel an indebtedness to our ancestors. When we do this work and, as my sister just said, we don’t just do it to liberate ourselves. That work of love, and justice, and truth is not just for ourselves, but it is also to liberate our ancestors.”
Wow. That's an amazing, robust set of examples of how people, communities, selves ... I just want to lay out what I've heard in all of your presentations is a beautiful layering of self love, community love, societal and then systems and how you can intervene in systems. I'm wondering if you all can just say a little bit about the connection between those different layers? You've already done an amazing, beautiful job of touching on those. The examples of how those layers impact each other, self love, community, and just examples of what gives you hope when you see those connections being made? The different layers and depths of the kind of love?
I think speaking to something that I see right now is that layer, we're going to be talking about it so I don't want to preview too much, but we're going to be talking about the situation with DACA and the undocumented youth who came to the United States at a young age. Obviously, that's kind of big in the news. One of the things that give me hope is this interesting and powerful dynamic of those young people who, they're spending a lot of ... Even though, of course, the President ended this program, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, that's been [inaudible 00:01:38] given protection and he's eliminated or he's going to eliminate this. There's some sympathy, certainly a strong sense of sympathy from the community, and this push to have some congressional action to protect them.
Then there's this push to include in that congressional whatever that Bill is, some enforcement provisions and something that's going to make life more difficult for other immigrant community members. I think one of the things that gives me hope is the reaction that a lot of the undocumented youth themselves have had to those and even though for them it's a very real situation that their future is in the line, they're facing the prospect of being deported, of losing their work permits, and so here's this opportunity to have this congressional action that would give them stability, that would keep them safe for themselves, for that group of people; but they have come out very strongly to say, "We don't want that to come at the cost of having a policy that's going to harm others."
For me, I've just been really inspired by seeing them so strongly take that position and to say, "Our safety, our stability here in this country ... " Even though as a practical matter for individuals it's such a big decision for themselves, but for them to put themselves on the line and say, "We're not going to trade our safety, our stability and harm others as a result." I think seeing that kind of leadership and that kind of love is really inspiring at this moment. They talk a lot about ... There's this whole framing about ... I think that's part of the dynamic that I see so frequently in these issues is always trying to blame somebody else, right? Finding the boogeyman of whatever. In this context it's been the parents, right? It's like the dynamic about the young people it's like, "Well, they were brought to the country of no fault of their own, right?"
Well, who's fault was it then? It's like, the parents, right? The parents' fault. The undocumented youth will say, "They were keeping us safe. They were trying to keep us safe so that we saw that they were acting out of love for us, not as something that they did wrong." I feel old when I start saying about like I see hope in the future from our youth, but I do. I see people who are incredibly inspiring right now. People who are coming forward to put themselves out in this way in terms of being political leaders and that's what I think I see as ... Despite the sort of context that we're in, I have a lot of optimism for the future. I think in order to lead with love, I think you have to have because I think if you don't feel that the future is brighter, you're not going to make it happen.
I want to actually ask Farrah a specific question. You know the example you gave of the practice was such a beautiful example of the power of self love in community. What does that look like here in this country? That's kind of a big question.
That is a big question. The power of self love in this country. I think that, especially in conversations with people of diverse backgrounds, we each carry a lot of pain. I think white folks carry a lot of pain, especially those who sit here doing the work of dismantling white supremacy. I want to honor the sacrifice of Heather Heyer, who died and who was ... Not died. She didn't just die. She was murdered in Charlottesville because she stood up against white supremacy. There are so many other examples. The young man who wrote the article and is now just under attack by his own brothers. He wrote the article in defense of black women. There are so many of those examples.
We, Black Women's Blueprint, are under attack right now because we want to create space for us to come together, and work together, and sit with each other as cis and trans black women, so even internally, right? When we talk about that personal love, I think about all of us, not just ourselves as black women, but I think about all of us and the pain that we carry. The pain that comes from the guilt, the pain that comes from shame. Whatever the source of that shame is, but I know that as black folks and as a black woman, it has been incredibly important to connect, and to engage in healing practices, and to engage in truth telling, and to engage in process of reconciling not only with our own communities, but with our sisters, but most importantly with ourselves.
That's where that love and that radical love, that's where it springs from for us. The reason we have to do that in order to lead movements and in order to be bold, in order to be able to sacrifice, because to change, to transform culture requires sacrifice. In order to do that we had to sit with ourselves and we had to grapple with the legacy of shame that has been placed on black women. We birth generations and generations of enslaved people against our will. For the most part, against our will. That stays in the body. That stays in the spirit and we feel an indebtedness to our ancestors. When we do this work and, as my sister just said, we don't just do it to liberate ourselves. That work of love, and justice, and truth is not just for ourselves, but it is also to liberate our ancestors.
Some people would say, "Well, our black ancestors didn't really leave us anything. The narratives are not in the history books. There are some of us who dig it up and find out what happened in certain villages. Found out what happened on certain plantations. How we yield ourselves. Found out about every single black revolution throughout the entire planet that took place, all of our heroes." Some folks don't know that, most black folks don't know that. They don't know that these things happened. They don't realize that these are our weapons, our history. These are our weapons. That history is undeniable. You can't fight it. It needs to be integrated into us, because it is the only way we're going to be able to get to this place of not only loving ourselves, but loving those who came before us, even those who were in the cotton fields.
Loving them wholeheartedly for everything that they were and every aspect of a human being that they were. Knowing that they are us today, right? Those who went through Jim Crow, those from my island country of Haiti in 1804, the first free black republic, right? It is really critical. I'm not even talking about the ways in which they brown is ... We have to come to this realization that black is beautiful, dark skinned versus light skinned. There is just so much. It's so complicated and it's so layered.
That whole notion of self love is extremely important to us, because only by getting to that place of self love through the recognition of our past, our present and what we need to do in the future, it's the only way that we're able to connect with others, we're able to be compassionate with others, and we're able to unite in our struggles together with every single person on this planet even when that person is seen as the oppressor. Even when that person has caused immeasurable harm to us. As much harm as they cause, there's also the possibility for immeasurable love and forgiveness that can come from us. That begins with us loving ourselves and standing in that love.
Thank you. Just deep appreciations for just that level of acknowledgement of self work and that everyone has layers of that and is dealing with the legacy of the violence and deep layers of white supremacy and the legacy in this country. Thank you. I know we have about 10-15 minutes before our break, but I also want to make sure you guys ... This is an amazing set of folks and an amazing room. After the break we are going to be inviting you all to ask questions too, but this is also hard, so please, think about what is the burning questions? What are you grappling with? What are the challenges? What is the next edge you're trying to go to? Just hold that and feel free to ask each other. Judith, you look like you ... You spoke so beautifully before about those conditions.
I think sometimes when there's so much chaos we sometimes forget the opportunities like what a blessing, what happened in the NFL yesterday and the NBA players who were Tweeting. The fact that we have people now who see it as a responsibility to speak out against values that are contrary to love. That atmosphere, come on, you can't manufacture it. Facebook is alive with people discussing the significance. Or right after Charlottesville, when the Governor of Idaho came out against "structural racism", not a progressive, but what happened in Charlottesville compelled people to take a stand. Which side are you on? Are you on the side of humanity, and progress, and bringing people together or not?
I see a struggle now in Indian country, and maybe you feel this yourselves, about how you strike a balance between working as an advocate, providing services, providing victim services. How to balance doing that labor of love every day and how you organized your community to support that labor of love. I'm seeing in Indian country that people are really ... Who do the kind of work you do, that they're thinking that everybody has a role to play. That the community has a vital role to play in healing and overcoming violence and addiction. We're seeing in life how we are all related, that you cannot build unity on your own, you have to do it in community.
I like to say that if it were up to me, I would just sit around, drink beer, and watch trashy TV. To me, that would be the thing that I would like to do every day. The only reason why I don't do it every day is that I want to be in a community that is driven by love and compassion, respect. I want to be in that community. In order to be in a community like that, then I have to walk that walk. I have to walk on earth like that, so it'll be reflected back to me. I'm not into self improvement for myself, I'm into being my best self for my community, for my people, for humanity.
I think that a lot of people who do the work you do are really struggling with how do you engage community? How do you bring the community into the work that you're doing in an appropriate way? If we cannot heal ourselves, heal the victims of violence and addiction, and heal our community one fell swoop, we're just going to be spitting water or spit in the wind. That's my take on how in Indian country we're really struggling. We're really struggling that balance. Organizing and advocacy. Organizing and providing services and how we use traditional indigenous knowledge to bring those things together as we did back at the beginning of time.
I have a quick story just to build on what our sister said. What I'm [inaudible 00:16:21].
You can hear me right? Okay. Okay. Well, then I'll just use this one. Okay. I have a story and, as you were talking sister, I was just thinking to myself, we have a room full of people that in addition to being involved in the anti-violence movement, you're involved in some other movement, right? There's something else that is dear to your heart. I talked to Lynn and Lynn talks about housing all the time, right? Lynn talks about housing all the time. I talk to other folks and they're talking about other issues. It made me think of a story and I was telling yesterday, that I've been listening to these great speeches by African-Americans from decades ago.
There is this one who was running for public office who ... The story goes, he talked about living with his grandmother. He had eight siblings. They were so cold all the time, they had no blankets, they were so poor they couldn't afford to buy blankets, and she had to figure out how am I going to keep these eight children warm? She looked around, there was nothing, no fabric, no one would give her anything, so she started to just walk around, go from house to house, looking at the house, looked through her own home, and she started to find these little patches of just pieces of cloth. An old sock discarded, an old towel, an old skirt, and old shirt discarded. Some pieces were small enough, like a shoe mint? Right? Those shoe things you use to shine your shoes?
He said what she did is she took all these pieces of cloth and she started to sew them all together. She sewed them all together. She had so many little pieces that it became a large blanket enough that covered all eight of the children. They didn't freeze that weekend, no. They didn't freeze that winter, right? I think to myself, each of us, right, for our trans identified brothers and sisters who are fighting for civil rights, and equal rights, and dignity, and respect, and humanity. For their humanity to be respected, you are right. Fight for that, but your patch of cloth maybe too small. For those like myself who are in the anti-violence movement, who are fighting DeVos, we're fighting because Title IV is just ... I don't know what they're doing with it. We're fighting to make sure that each one of us can live safely in our homes, in our streets, in our schools.
We are right, but our little patch of cloth is too small. For those like Lynn who are fighting for housing rights, Lynn you're right, but your little patch of cloth is too small, right? For those of us who are fighting for full justice, for immigration justice, we're all right, but our patches are too small. If we could use this common thread and we can sew all these patches together, we would be so powerful. So powerful and that quilt that we created could cover us all. I'd be covered in the quilt that is about immigration rights, I'd be covered in the quilt that is about the rights of the indigenous people in the respecting the sovereignty of those first nations, and we'd all be covered in Lynn's patch about housing rights.
It's just there's something about that story that just evokes such hope and I think it's possible. I think it is really possible. We can create this huge quilt made out of all the patches that we're all holding, but if we were to sew them together in common threat that we can all be covered with that one big patch and we can all advocate for each other. We can all ensure, again, for me, it's about each other's survival.
I feel warm now. I love that image of the patches and quilts. It evokes both love and safety, and also a bigness. Also, an acknowledgement that each of us is holding a piece that's necessary for that puzzle. Spring boarding off that beautiful, beautiful image and challenge to all of us, I would love for you all to bring us into, and for us to go into the break with this question of how am I quilting that big, beautiful quilt of shared justice and love? How are you seeing hopeful examples and how are you choosing that love to weave us through this next phase? Again, we have five more minutes before break. Please, take a moment to write down any questions or thoughts that you would like us to discuss after the break and we will be collecting them at the beginning of the break. Thank you.
I will just say that, I was reflecting on the question that you had earlier maybe, but how do we make these connections that are intersectional. Farrah, something that you said earlier struck me, which is the challenge sometimes of the breaking of the different groups. That we are this ... We often talk about the silos, but the other thing is how do we also recognize within our own communities ... All right. Sorry. I'll go with this one. I'll turn this one off. Here we go. That the presence of those issues in our own community and I just want to talk about my own experience as an immigrant to the U.S.
Recognizing something that, when I lived in Columbia where I'm originally from, I don't think I quite appreciated so much of the racism that's inherent in a lot of communities in Latin America. We did this training once and somebody asked a question of how many people had crossed a racial boundary and I feel very much like I did that, because when I was living in Columbia, I considered myself white, right? My family, we're white. It wasn't until I came to the U.S. that I started to see myself, identify myself, as something else. That was mostly because of the way people treated me. They looked at my name and it was like, Jorge or George. I actually went by George in high school because that's what people called me and I didn't have the presence of mind at the time to say, "No, actually my name is Jorge."
Ironically, it wasn't until I went to college and my roommate happened to be from Texas. Even though he was very conservative, he was like, "It's Jorge, right?" I was like, "Well, yeah, but everybody calls me George." He said, "Well, nobody knows you here so you can actually go back to whatever you want to be called." I said, "Okay, I'll be Jorge." I would just slowly recognize how there's this ... I feel like we also have, something a challenge for me, is recognizing even within my own family so much of the discrimination, racism, and as a father of a trans daughter, understanding how this plays out in our own families. That's something that I struggle with. I don't have an answer for it, but also how do we deal with it on people that we love, right? Whether it's our grandparents, our parents, and how do we engage in this conversation where we feel this anger? How do we respond to it in a loving way?
One thing, I was listening to the radio this morning and they were talking about a rabbi whose name now I cannot remember. Little elder moment. He was a leader in the civil rights movement. Heschel, thank you. Rabbi Heschel. One thing he said back then, and was quoted in this story they were telling, is that some are guilty, all are responsible. It's really an important thing. Sometimes I get worried we're in movement spaces when people start to dwell on how they have aided and abetted systemic racism in their own lives or their families. Nan said something when we were preparing for this panel, she said "Part of healing is not repeating the same behavior."
I think we have to help people understand that when they're woke, it opens up a whole new stage to life and that we ... In Indian country, our biggest problem is that we're invisible. It's rarely a place where we have 13 tribes represented at a meeting like this. Rarely. In a lot of ways, our people have to find a way to be present in these spaces where we acknowledge our strengths. That the things that helped our people survive great atrocities for hundreds of years, but also how we acknowledge the problems in our community. How we get the support and help of the broader we in dealing with this problems. I think that too is about discipline. It's love with discipline.
That in fact we can love our people and at the same time see our people realistically. It's kind of like how I feel about my partner. I love him, but man does he irritate the heck out of me sometimes. I can hold those two things in my head at once and I think that that's ... When dealing with trauma, and the pain, and the shame of what our families have done in the past, of what we've done, we've also got to love ourselves, and love our people, and see the future from that vantage point.
Thank you for sending us off onto our break with such a beautiful personal, and I love Judith, what your direction of it's not just personal or systemic change, personal or community, it's together. All of that at once. Thank you. With that, we want to give you guys a 10? 15 minute? 10 minute break? 10 minute break and the staff will be coming to collect questions from your tables, so the note cards. Thank you so much and we will see you in 10.
Finding New Practices To Lead With Love, with Mimi Ho, Jorge Barón, Farah Tanis and Judith Leblanc
“…if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always done. So thinking about habits and how we can instill new practices which leads into some question that actually we do want to open up to this crew. What does it look like to lead with love, when we are trying to stand up against such extreme hatred? Do we need to have love Nazis? What do we need to do with the people in our communities who would want us to not exist, who actually wish us violence and suffering?”
We received a few, several, wonderful questions. Some of which are actually very specific to particular panelists and we want to invite you over lunch to actually come over and speak specifically with some of the folks. And also you asked some questions about someone mentioned this website, someone mentioned this group. We will work with the team at the coalition to figure out how to get that kind of information back to you.
There were some really provocative questions and we tried to cluster them. We won't be able to get to every single one of them but we want to give you a flavor. So just to come back from break in a provocative question. One of them was how do you personally keep from becoming a homicidal maniac?
Another one was not a question but a statement that has always helped them: if you always do what you have always done, you will always get what you have always done. So thinking about habits and how we can instill new practices which leads into some question that actually we do want to open up to this crew. What does it look like to lead with love, when we are trying to stand up against such extreme hatred? Do we need to have love Nazis? What do we need to do with the people in our communities who would want us to not exist, who actually wish us violence and suffering?
There actually is an effort called the love army, and there's other efforts like that. And before I pass it on I also want to acknowledge there is an ecosystem of incredible people who are doing love-based work. Lead with love is actually a leading mantra of a fantastic organization that was far ahead of its time. The national domestic workers alliance, and they actually have been whole leading with this tagline for a decade. When people were not leading with love and when that was seen as poo poo and liberal and now we need it. So I want to really acknowledge the national domestic workers and that community and other folks who are leading with love.
So again, what does it look like to lead with love with such extreme hatred? And I want to pass it to this amazing [inaudible].
Do you want the mic? Not yet.
Oh, it's working.
Yes, I think it's my belly fat that's blocking the signal. Just saying, just saying, gotta be honest here. I think the most ... It's all a matter of looking at the horizon. In Indian country, we've always been challenged to look at what our hats and minds and our hands are doing but to also look at the horizon so that you're looking to the horizon. You're looking at the here and now. And I think if we look at the horizon, how do you respond when we're surrounded, when we have opposition. Well I think it's to really think about how to create circles of people and groups who share common values, common theory of change. And to ... Everything is related. To build relationships that the foundation is love and compassion and always thinking about those circles as being enlarged.
Am I saying to a bunch of organizers and service providers, let's have more meetings? No. Let's have more [inaudible]. It really is about relationships and developing authentic relationships because at standing rock for example. Now this is an extreme situation standing rock was, very militarized. Not knowing day to day what would happen but there was this common shared approach of we're saying no, we're standing together, we're staying in prayer, we're staying true to our values. But even when you have that, there is a smaller circle that developed who really shared a strategic outlook and wanted to practice love and prayer in a way that was accountable and creative and really with compassion and really tried to lead and diffuse and deescalate the violence that some within our midst's would want to perpetrate and the violence of those, the national guard and the sheriffs and the pipeline company.
And the lesson that I would therefore take from that, though it's very extreme, is that there's always a circle of folks who share our spirituality, our values, our theory of change, and now actively seeking to bring those together, every chance you get. Every person and organization in your community, to create kind of a centripetal force of spirituality and values. Because people, many people, will not speak out in a highly polarized situation. They're waiting for someone to signal that they're not alone.
At standing rock, one third of the people were totally in support of Oceti Sakowin camp. One third totally against, and one third who would move depending on what was going on every day, every week, every month. What was going on in Oceti Sakowin camp. And so we would keep our eye on the horizon. How to move that one third towards supporting what we were trying to do.
And so I think that's how we have to think. We have to think about our hearts, our minds, our hands, what we're doing but keep looking at the horizon of ever enlarging circle of people who share our common values and spirituality.
And the question again was how do you in the face of such extreme hatred, when people are actually wanting to cause you harm, how do you?
Well the one thing I would say it's not you, right? So extreme hatred, it's not you. I think we're ... I think since, I mean the history of the world, there's always been one group that is treated with extreme hatred and they've persevered, they've won battles and they've won ... Fought war whether through love or not. But I think for us we have traditions, we have a tradition of resistance. We also have a deep spiritual tradition of forgiveness. And I think that people fall on both sides of that, right? And so when you talk about forgiveness, when you talk about showing love when love is not being given back, there's a lot of tension between those two things. But we've always had to deal with hatred and we're here, we've survived. I think back to Recy Taylor, who I don't know how many of you know who Recy Taylor is.
Recy Taylor is a 97 year old woman who is still alive and who worked with Rosa Parks [inaudible] during the Jim Crow era and the Jim Crow era rapes that were happening throughout the south against black women as black men were being lynched and some black women were being lynched, they were also being raped. And Recy Taylor was kidnapped by seven white men, one of whom was the descendant of the family that owed her family in that same area. And so he led that entire attack against her and she was kidnapped in front of her church and then she was gang raped by this group of white men. And we started visiting her when we were ... as Black Women's Blueprint when we were developing and we were building our truth and reconciliation commission.
And so we sat with her and we talked to her and we said what would you tell us in your wisdom. How do we go about doing this? We are using your story as the water shed moment for this truth and reconciliation commission. The narratives that we're collecting are starting with the year 1944 when this incident occurred and Rosa Parks stepped into your life and became your activist and organized black women in the south to send thousands of letters to the department of justice to tell the department of justice about the rapes that were happening. I said how do we go about doing this? And she started singing this song, and it was a Christian song but it was about love and forgiveness and it was about perseverance.
And then she starts laughing and I'm here with some of my colleagues and other founders and she starts laughing at me because I'm all like oh my God. And she says she's funny this one, about me. And then she says to me, she takes my hand and she says honey, why are you so sad? She said don't you get it? Look at me. I'm sitting here, I'm 96 years old at the time and she said I've outlived them all.
And so every time we have these conversations and we bring people who would probably be working in silos together, and every time we feed the family next door and every time we respond to natural disasters and man made catastrophes, like 45. That's what we're doing. We are fighting that hate head on and we are ensuring that we outlive them all. All of them that hate us, we will outlive them.
And I would just say the question sort of brings to mind Dr. King's statement of the fact that darkness can't drive out darkness, only light can do that. And that's exactly how I feel like our work should focus on it. Obviously, we want to keep our self safe and the people that we work with so we want to be careful for people who are actually a danger to us and of the communities we're serving. But I think we can't approach our work from a ... Trying to hate them. I don't think that that's going to help.
And often times in the movement that I'm working most closely day to day, I think one of the things that we see, and I alluded to this earlier, that it's ... We have to be careful not to fall into the trap of trying to divide communities and I see this in sometimes even just the language that we use. For example, people say well we want high skilled immigrants or highly educated immigrants. And going back to one of the points that Judith and Farrah have mentioned before about my ancestors, our ancestors, and one of the things that I think of a lot about is my grandfather who never finished high school.
And he was actually ... He became an apprentice to the town dentist in a rural part of Columbia and so he become a dentist almost by default because he was the only person who knew dentistry when the dentist retired. And so he never went to dentistry school or did anything like that. Never finished high school, so never had any formal education but he became a dentist and one day finally had like licensing for these procedures. He kind of got grandfathered in. And my uncle, his son, actually ended up going through formal education and as it turned out, ended up being like the dean of the dentistry school at one of the universities and always talked about how like my grandfather was the best dentist he had ever met.
And so I'm always reminded by that that like even though I've been very fortunate to have had the opportunities to go to formal education, that doesn't mean that my skills and my values are any more ... Make me a better person than my grandfather who had incredible skills and talents even if he didn't have the degrees. And so when we talk about this language, I just think it's easy to sort of sometimes divide ourselves in ways that ... And I don't want to say that it's the same as those folks who hit us but that we gotta be careful because then we play into this idea of dividing people into deserving and not deserving. And that helps that kind of language thrive when we ourselves are using language that might be used by others who are trying to use it to divide different communities.
Thank you all of you for very different aspects to a very provocative question. And I really want to lift up that you all are emphasizing from resistance to vision, leading with vision. And from just surviving and from protecting our own to thriving and protection of all, including but not focused on people who wish us harm. That it's strategic, I love you're bringing in strategy. We don't just want to focus on the most extreme, who's the real audience that we're trying to move? Who's the base that's already there with just a little bit of input, a little bit of resources can move many towards us.
So given that ... So one of the questions that was asked ... Many ... This question of do we focus on the folks out there or the folks that are closer in? Want to bring this question to something that feels very relevant to this movement but very, very relevant to all movements. So the question is, when black and native trans or cis women are not leaders quote within our organizations, what can we tell the white folks who do assume leadership in those organizations? What will help them transform to see themselves and let's say ourselves, because there's many white folks in the room who are allies and right there with us, how do we transform ourselves so that we can actually turn white supremacy around?
So in other words, how do we actually bring in that kind of allyship and what does that look like?
It depends if the question was asked by a white ally or I don't know. Well if the question was asked by a white person who's already thinking this way, I think that's tremendous, that's a huge step and that also says that that person is also thinking and resisting, even within that organization as an ally, as an anti-racist thinking there are no people of color, trans, Native American, or other folks in leadership. The leadership or white, like myself assuming this is a white person who is speaking, I think so that's the first step. That acknowledgement and then I think there's a process of speaking truth that needs to be engaged, and I think that conversation needs to be had.
And it sounds really simple and simplistic, but I think that there through dialogue and through speaking truth, it means again when we talked earlier about what it means to lead with love. And it means a lot of times, it means to sacrifice. I know Bill Hook says this a lot. Leading with love is about sacrifice, it's about confronting pain, it's about standing up for justice no matter what. It's about demanding that there is access to leadership, there's access to space. There is the creation of space, there is this sit back while others take space. Like all of these processes, that this person, that one person who's having this thought, can really start a revolution within their own either coalition or organization. And they can do it strategically and they can do it with other allies like themselves, there are several groups out there who do this type of work.
So that's my sort of like response to if this is a white ally who is asking this question. If it's a person of color or someone from the groups that they called marginalized, although I feel like the power is really at the margins. I think that that's it. The power is at the margins, if it's for a person of color and it's also not our job to transform an organization. It's a lot to really carry while we're carrying dealing with the hatred out there. We shouldn't have to do that work. I think we can let the truth be spoken in that organization and it's really then the responsibility of the organization or the group to really transform that culture and create a new paradigm where everyone has access and everyone's equal.
I know Judith you had some thoughts alluded to.
I think when we're talking about leading with love, it's leading with love from where you sit and what you do. Because leading with love requires strategic transformational practice because it takes, in my experience, a great deal of self-awareness to not respond in the old ways.
I was at a Rockefeller foundation for the first time ever and I wore my best clothes, my best earrings, and we were doing a presentation about Indian country. Less than 1% of all philanthropy gives money to Indian country, has been like that for years. So we're at the center at one of the big dogs and we were conducting small group discussions about how we see transforming that relationship with Indian country, how philanthropy could change it. And then there was the white guy, the white guy who came into the meeting to tell us exactly what we're doing and saying wrong and why really it's on us. That's the problem is, the way we conduct things.
So I was facilitating and I felt an American Indian movement generation. I felt my red rage coming up, like I've been to this rodeo before Mr. White guy. And I really had to think how to push this down and how to listen to him with an open heart. With an open heart and an open mind to hear is there something he's saying, even though he's saying it in a really negative white supremacist way, is there something there and there was. And it for me, it was a source of joy that I was able to facilitate the conversation so that I could live out what he said, which was important to roll around with. But I also used humor to kind of let me red rage have some satisfaction. I won't say what I said to him but at any rate it was appropriate for the conditions we were in but it helped the rest of the group, the other Indians in the room, to like then be creative and think about that colonel.
And so I say this to say that strategic practice of transformational leadership that is rooted in love means that wherever you are. If you're an executive director, if you're a counselor, if you are playing a different role, the executive director, if they're practicing transformational leadership, then they're going to be situationally aware. They're going to be aware about the power dynamics, the people who are not in the leadership, they will hold in love accountability that we have all shared this leading with love concept. They will find a way in love to hold the person who's in that higher power position accountable. And it's able to be done. Now will you always succeed? No, because we're human, we're family, we're human and we make a lot of mistakes, we're imperfect, but we're family, human family.
So that's what I think anyways.
Thank you. I guess building off of what you both said, this ought to challenge all of us. I've had people say how do you prevent yourself from being a homicidal maniac. We make choices every single day with people who we are very much close to and all the work that you all do, is dealing with very difficult changes and I'm not an expert in terms of clinical interventions, and there's experts in this room. But a friend of mine who does trauma informed work said the focus has to be on behavior change, not just picking a fight. So what is it that we can do in those moments that actually can keep our eyes on the horizon and could shift behavior, can shift behavior so that we could get to that horizon. So really appreciate those comments that you made.
So we're going to end on some visioning for our movements. Someone asked a question about visioning for this movement, and I want to ask you all to keep your eyes open and imagine that there were no walls and ceilings here and you could see the sky above you. And I want to ask you all to just put your fingers out in front of you like this, and look at your fingers. And then shift to the far wall behind them, your vision. And then shift back to your fingers and shift to the wall. Then shift your fingers, and now shift your vision out to the horizon beyond these walls, the horizon and the sky beyond the walls. And still keeping your fingers in your vision.
So, that's the paradox. How do we actually keep our eyes on the immediate, the tax, the people that are in crisis in this moment right now, with that tenure vision, with that 30 year horizon, with that 50 year horizon. And then the generations that are coming after us, all at once. Not one or the other. So take a moment and what is your vision for how your immediate work can take a leap. How it can take a leap in these next five, 10 years and just take a few 10 20 seconds just to yourself. What is your vision of the leap you can take to be a part of that big quilt?
I want to invite you to carry this question through this amazing conference. This is all a way that you can build up your vision and your leap for where you sit, whether it's your family, the organization you're in, the networks, your community, and all those levels. And with that I want to ask the question that was posed by someone here, where do you envision our movement in the next five, I'm going to add 10, years and beyond. And keeping in mind that quilt.
So I'm going to start off with someone who's the quilt.
I envision the quilt first of all and then again I have a story, quick story.
When you were saying to just look at your fingers and look past and see the future, and I kept seeing my 13 year old nephew, who spends every summer with me. He spent every summer with me since he was two. He lives in Canada.
As a young black boy, I wasn't sure I was having an impact on him. I don't have any children. And I don't know anything about raising little boys. And he came to me this summer and he said to me so Farrah have you done your will? And I said what? How dare you ask me such a question. Culturally we not supposed to be talking about that stuff and you 13. And I said why do you want to know that? And he says because Black Women's Blueprint, I want you to leave that to me. I want you to write it in your will for me because I think that everyone should be equal and I want to run that organization. And I'm like oh my God, I'm like you know what we do right? He's like yeah, I know what you do and everyone should be equal, that's really all it's all about and I'm going to run that organization.
And so when I think of the future, and when I think of not just five years, five years is easy, 10 years maybe, he'll be what, 23. 20 years, I think it's going to be up to him to come up with what that future is going to be for Black Women's Blueprint as a vision that he already has at the age of 13, and I can't wait to see what that is. And I'm comfortable sitting with that openness and the possibility of what it will be. He says I won't change the name, I want it to be Black Women's Blueprint, and he wants to be part of that.
And so that's just tremendous to me and so when you talk about vision and that's also what keeps me from becoming a homicidal maniac. That I have my nephews for whom I do this work and the march for black women that's coming up that he's like begging his mom I want to go, I want to go, I want to go. And that's coming up on September 30th in Washington, DC.
So thank you for asking that, thank you.
And last couple comments from our folks here, just a minute each.
So much has been said about standing rock and it's impact on the world and Indian country but it's standing rock, the seven tribes of the Lakota nation came together for the first time since the Battle of the Little Big Horn. And we brought together over 467 tribes to stand in solidarity so in five years from now, what I hope for the movement opposing and dealing with domestic and sexual violence. Number one, I wish for all that the work that you're doing will be totally embedded and you are working with generations of the people of families, not just the person who's being protected or the person who needs restorative justice but all the generations.
Number two, I hope we do the kind of work in our communities that will help them see that their future lies with being able to live in a place that is an economy and a society that is rooted in love and culture and life, and therefore becoming so engaged that we mobilize the elected and have a Congress and a White House that is actually funding the services restorative justice, and the services that are needed to reconnect to our values as spirituality and our cultures. And they get that money from cutting the military budget and ending all the wars all over the world, that's what I hope in the next five years for us.
Well I'll just bring us back around and say that there's a part of me that thinks like the vision that I have really is that our movements are not necessary on some level and we can all go with Judith and drink beers and not have to do a lot of the work that we're doing because obviously a lot of us, the things that we're responding to are things that we would rather not have to respond to. But I also think that it's important so I think we need to have that vision, just in the way that you exercise to like our vision that that should be how the world should look like. But at the same time, I would say understand, and I hope that I think the panel today reemphasized that, how we get there is through the individual actions that all of you are taking. And that all of the work, all the small victories. Going back to my story about Aleina, how important that has been for me is how those small changes. How do you value keeping a family together, keeping that mother together with her daughter and not having that family separated?
It may not have solved all of the problems, it certainly has not solved all the problems in the immigration system. But we need to have those victories in order to get there. And so all of us can play a part in making that vision become a reality if we keeping working together in that cohesive community of we are here, and making connections today.
I think the best thing about a conference I always feel like is not hearing us talk, but having you each other meet and connect here at breaks and during between sessions. I often find that that's actually where most of the great work happens so thank you for being here and sharing your time and sharing each other.
Big round of applause for this amazing panel, and for all of you and your work so thank you.
Thank you, thank you.
And we'll pass this on and just a reminder that this is not a theoretical thing we're doing obviously. There will be chances for you all to practice taking these ideas and putting them into action this afternoon so we will give you opportunities after lunch. So thank you.
Day 2: Lead WITH Love
A Leap Of Faith, with Sujatha Jesudason, Kendra Gritsch, Leticia Garcia & Leigh Hofheimer
“In a broken and scary world, in this world that we live in, in this particular political moment, there is voices that scream at us to only love some people, and not others, to harden our hearts against the plight, harden our hearts against the environment, to protect ourselves. That tell us that survival requires us to harden. To be spiky and porcupine-ish. So, to love is an incredibly revolutionary act. And there are some days that love requires a leap of faith to vulnerable, that we cannot love each other if we are hardened, and that to love is to show that soft underside of our bellies, to make ourselves open.”
Leticia Garcia up to the stage. Leticia...
Leticia is a local leader here in the Yakima Valley, and she's also the Executive Director of Lower Valley Crisis and Support Services. [inaudible 00:00:20]
Her entire staff is here today, which is amazing. And Lower Valley Crisis and Support Services is located in Sunnyside, which is about thirty miles south of here. We've just asked Leticia to come up here this morning and share a couple words with all of you. So, thank you Leticia.
Good Morning! (Laughter) Thank you everybody, I'm feeling a little nervous having to do this, so if you guys can cheer me on, that would be very helpful.
(Laughter) Thank you. I didn't even tell my staff I was doing this, cause I didn't want them to be nervous for me. (Laughter)
Well, first of all, it's a pleasure to welcome all of you to the Yakima Valley. As Kendra mentioned, my name is Leticia Garcia, and I am the Executive Director.
Can you guys hear me okay? I'm the Executive Director for Lower Valley Crisis and Support Services. We're about thirty miles south of here. We are a dual agency, working with victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, and our service region covers about a sixty mile radius, so we're all over the place in the Lower Valley.
One of the things that I enjoy about living in Yakima Valley is the rich mixture of people from many cultures and ethnic backgrounds, and for me, personally, having moved up here from California to Washington state, some years ago, the diversity of this valley is what I've really appreciated.
Through my work, my previous work before coming into this field, I worked for Heritage University, a local non-profit, and I really had the opportunity to learn more about the Native American culture, their values, and traditions and some of the memories I hold very dear.
As a daughter of immigrants from Mexico, who are both now U.S. Citizens, I have appreciated seeing others that were just like my family. They were working hard to provide for their families, making a contribution to our community, and wishing the best for their children and hoping for a better life than the ones that they had. Our agency has been involved, I'm very grateful for all the opportunities that we've received over the last few years, Crossing Borders is a project that we have been working at with the immigrant and refugee survivors, working in our rural communities, that has allowed for further access to services, advocacy for marginalized communities and strong partnership with the Northwest Immigrant Rights Project, who is doing such an amazing job.
Some of our other work includes the Domestic Violence Housing First Project, which has allowed us to provide survivor driven mobile advocacy, flexible financial assistance, and I always tell staff that I feel like Santa Claus when we're able to provide that check, so that the survivor can move into her own home or provide a gift card, so that they can continue providing food and other basic necessities for their families.
In 2015, law enforcement, prosecution, advocates, DSHS, judges, commissioners, and probation officers all came together and we developed a county-wide protocol for responding to domestic violence in Yakima County, so really proud about that.
We are also very fortunate to have such a strong working relationship with our sister programs, here locally. The YWCA in Yakima, I know some of you guys are here, where are you? I saw Joelle....there you go. Aspen Advocacy Services, Domestic Violence Services of Benton and Franklin Counties, and New Hope of Moses Lake, we are involved in several different projects together, so keep up the great work.
One last thing, in keeping with the spirit of beloved community, and being able to lead with love, no matter what may be going on around us, I'd like to leave you with a quote from, I recently heard from one of my heroes, Father Greg Boyle, who's a founder of Homeboy Industries, you guys need to get him up here one of these days and be a [inaudible] speaker. The quote is this, I'm just throwing that out there, "The measure of our compassion, lies not in our service of those on the margin, but only in our willingness to see ourselves in kinship with them". So with that, I leave you, thank you and again, welcome to our Yakima Valley.
Thank you so much, Leticia. I had the honor of working with Leticia, as well as learning so much from all the advocates at your programs. Thank you for helping to welcome us this morning.
Good morning, y'all! I'm Leigh Hofheimer, with the Coalition. So happy to see all of you here again this morning.
I am so deeply honored to introduce our keynote speaker this morning, and I know there's been lots of curiosity about what's in the middle of the table, it's just going to be one fabulous surprise after another.
So today, we're gonna focus on with aspect, of 'Lead With Love'. We asked ourselves, who should we invite to talk with us? And the first person we thought of was Sujatha Jesudason, and her reproductive work with CoreAlign.
Sujatha looks at where we have come from, and offers us a vision, that is clear and inspirational. With the belief and the power of relationships, in the power of community, and the power of people coming together, building collective power, building the we, making bold, transformative work for all of us. Thank you, Sujatha.
Wow, this is an amazing group of people to look out.
Thank you so much for this honor of speaking with you this morning. Give me a second here, as I set up my timer, so I don't talk too much.
Lead with Love, [inaudible] and Leigh approached me to talk at this conference, I felt incredibly honored. Honored in particular, to talk about leading with love. It's not unusual that some of us have had this thought, but to love is an incredibly revolutionary act. To love is an incredibly revolutionary act. It is about resistance, it is an act of rebellion, and it is what fundamentally makes us human.
In a broken and scary world, in this world that we live in, in this particular political moment, there is voices that scream at us to only love some people, and not others, to harden our hearts against the plight, harden our hearts against the environment, to protect ourselves. That tell us that survival requires us to harden. To be spiky and porcupine-ish. So, to love is an incredibly revolutionary act. And there are some days that love requires a leap of faith to vulnerable, that we cannot love each other if we are hardened, and that to love is to show that soft underside of our bellies, to make ourselves open.
Ember our days and I will own to those days whether the best that I can do, in loving, is just to love my cat. That seems to be the stretch for the day. That is the world that we live in.
What I want to do today, a little bit, is those that pull back the lens a little bit, to talk about why love is so important. Why it matters so much to lead with love. And then I want to get us in to our hearts. Instead of us talking, and me talking about love, we are going to make love. And we are going to mend, and we are gonna touch our hearts, and touch each others' hearts. That's what we're gonna do for most of the time this morning, and my job is just to put a little context around it.
I want to start with pulling the lens back, and talking about what it is that makes us human. And as I have thought about it, and I'm sure I'm not the only human being who's thought about this, but what is the essence of what makes us human, is love, sex, family and community. And I'll say it again, the essence of what makes us human is love, sex, family and community. It is who we love, how we love them, the pleasure that we get from sex, the myriad and interesting families that we form, and the ways we choose to build community. That is what defines us as human beings. And so it is not surprising that in an oppressive system, the work of oppression is to minimize, its to break, its to stigmatize, its to destroy love, sex, family and community.
If you think about the histories of oppression, just in this country, think about the genocide of Native folks, the ways in which that system operated, was to tear children away. It was to displace communities and families from land. Slavery was about stealing and commodifying children, sex became an act of rape, families were not allowed to stay together. If you think about immigration policies today, they're policies that tell us that love and families in other countries are less important, and are breakable, in service of exploiting labor. That national boundaries and borders are allowed to separate people who love each other, people from touching each other, from families staying in tact. Homophobia and transphobia are about stigmatizing who we love, how we love, what kinds of bodies we have, how our bodies engage in acts of pleasure. Poverty is used to deny dignity and respect for families and raising children. Disability oppression is about stigmatizing and denying people love, bodies pleasure, the ability to form families and the ways in which communities can come together.
So what makes us human are all the ways we can love. One of my favorite Michael Franti songs is about all the freaky people in the world. That's who we are. But the oppressive system tells us, there are only certain ways you can love, certain ways you can touch each other, certain kinds of families that deserve respect and recognition, and only certain communities that are allowed to thrive.
So to love, to have sex, to form families, to create communities those are radical acts. That is precisely the movement work that we do in this room. That is the work that we do, we build families, we connect people, we talk about love and sex and boundaries and what makes it work and how to be human with each other.
One of my favorite definitions of love, is a definition by Brene Brown, and she defines love as "to deeply see and know each other" I love that definition. Think about the ways and the moments where you have felt deeply seen and known, the moments where you deeply see and know others. That is love.
Yet, we live in an oppressive system that breaks our hearts every day. It breaks our hearts and our families, it breaks our heart with our partners that get separated, it systematically breaks our heart, and it breaks our heart as humans.
And so, to lead with love, we need to figure out how to mend these broken hearts. That we can't, if we continue to do our work with broken hearts, the pull is to harden our hearts, to protect our hearts, to hide our hearts. And so what we are going to do this morning, is mend some broken hearts.
What you have on your table, are a bunch of supplies to do exactly that. So we're gonna get out of our heads, we're gonna get into our hearts and get into our hands.
What you're gonna do, I'm gonna give you some instructions, we'll spend about thirty minutes mending hearts, then we're gonna come back together and I'll tie some more movement stuff in together.
On your table, there's a big bag of stuffing. There's a bowl of lavender, I encourage you all to sniff it at some point, there's a piece of felt that has a bunch of needles and there are a bunch of little heart pouches. And this activity was developed by an artist that many of you might know, by the name of Favianna Rodriguez. She is the artist that developed the butterfly image for immigration. And Nikki Zaleski, somebody who's done this exercise for at least ten years, with a circle of her friends, on every Valentine's Day.
So what you're gonna do, is you're gonna take a moment, just breathe, close your eyes, connect to your heart and then do a little free-writing exercise. It can be notes, it can be a poem, it could just be a stream of consciousness, but take a minute to write about the ways in which your heart feels broken. The ways in which you feel broken around your family, sometimes in our workplaces, sometimes in our coalitions and sometimes in our movement. So just think about those ways.
Then, what you're gonna do, is you're gonna think about what you need, to heal your broken heart. And when you come up with a couple of them, there's these really pretty strips of paper on your table. And you're gonna write on a couple strips of paper, the ingredients that you need to heal your broken heart. Then, you're gonna take the strips, stuff them in the pouch, stuff the pouch with some stuffing, put in some lavender and then take a needle and thread and start mending your broken heart.
Once you've had a chance to do that, and you've mended your heart, find somebody at your table or at another table, and this is a chance to just have a conversation, you can share with them what you learned while you mended your heart and what gift you will give yourself or your community from this activity. Some of you might want to talk to other people, and some of you might want to just do the [inaudible] day of practice of mending. Think of it as a sewing circle.
You're gonna have thirty minutes to do this, and then we're gonna come back. And if you need any help...the lavender. Apparently, I forgot to mention, you're gonna stuff it with lavender. There are gonna be people walking around, helping. I will, also, so if you have any questions...
What you're gonna end up with is a little pouch like this. Its got a heart on one side, mending on the other. I carry mine with me, everywhere I go. I can smell the lavender, I remind myself of what I have needed to mend my heart. And that is what you get to do today, so please start mending hearts.
So as you start wrapping up your conversations and your little heart mending project, I wanted to give two shout-outs of appreciation, one is for Nikki Zaleski, who sewed these 500 heart pouches. And I don't think she'll mind me sharing that she made these heart pouches right after she broke up from a six year relationship. And so she shared what it was like to both sew these heart pouches and then turn 500 pouches, inside out. The metaphor in the tenderness of that.
And secondly, I wanted to thank both Sarah and Corisse, and they're both sitting right up here, for threading the 500 needles.
A true labor of love, so thank you both. So mending our broken hearts, mending our movements.
To wrap up, I wanted to share two stories of my broken hearts, and the mending work I'm doing, as part of my movement work.
One of the ways in which our hearts get broken every day, is when you think about systems of oppression, I talked about the big, structural ones around genocide, slavery and immigration and ableism and homophobia, all of those translate, and are visible in our every day interactions with each other. And where they manifest most, is in practices and habits and unconscious cultural norms around white supremacy and white dominate culture.
There's some sheets in the back, some packets in the back for folks who want to read more, but I wanted to talk a little bit about the ways in which white supremacy and white culture show up in our daily lives, that can be heartbreaking. One of the ways that shows up the most often, and I know this in my movement work, is around a sense of urgency. We often choose tasks over relationships, quantity over quality, outcomes over process and that we just don't allow ourselves the space or the spaciousness to try to experiment and to make mistakes.
I share this as a way to suggest to all of us, that when we feel that sense of urgency, to both connect it to dominant cultural norms, but also to think about how those habits and those practices of urgency might be creating cracks in our own hearts, and in our own work and in our own relationships.
[inaudible] in which dominate cultural habits show up, is around conflict avoidance. It can gender, in gender a sense of defensiveness, where different ideas, different norms, different practices are seen as threatening, where we tend to shut each other down, as opposed to opening up and listening, or even considering that our lived experience isn't the only lived experience. That there are many different and other lived experiences. And so when we harden our hearts to difference, is another place in which this dominant culture cracks and breaks our heart.
A few sets of habits that I think about often, is around paternalism. Both from the perspective of a savior complex of coming in and saving communities, coming in and saving people, as opposed to trusting and believing that we all have the power. That we are all capable, and that our job is to journey with people, as opposed to telling them what to do or how to do it or how they should be. And in particular, one of the ways this shows up, this paternalism is around issues of control. Thinking that things need to be done a certain way, the way that we are most comfortable, kind of holding on to power and not practicing radical democracy and radical participation. These are all the ways that are firmed in our culture, as opposed that are firmed in ways that harden us and break our hearts.
And finally, one of the patterns and habits of the dominate culture is around objectivity. And I think of objectivity, but in two ways. One is in terms of either or thinking, we can either do this or we can do that, but somehow this notion that we can do both, is not an option. Or that we can do some mix of them, so whenever you find yourself in either or thinking, remember that that is part of what separates us, that divides us, that breaks us apart. And that objectivity is also used as a bludgeon against certain other lived experiences, certain other peoples' lives, in the ways they make sense of the world, or that the only way to find, to understand things is through the written word, as opposed to the hearts and the hands. So those are some of the ways in which white supremacy and white dominant culture show up, in all of our organizations.
And I run an organization that is 90% people of color. And yet, we still notice these habits and these patterns showing up, so it's not just about if we were just a different group of people, we wouldn't have this. We have to actively be working against this.
I say this sometimes, and it blows my mind every time I think about it, which is, any conversation between two or more people, is a conversation about race. Think about that. Any conversation between about two or more people is a conversation about race. Sometimes, you're affirming the status quo around race, sometimes you're disrupting the status quo about race, and sometimes, if you're intentional and thoughtful, you're co-creating a new future together. And that is part of our movement work. There is nobody in this room who does not have a racial identity. If you're a human being, in this society, at this time, you have a racial identity. When you are in conversation, when you are working with another person, it is a conversation about race. How can you bring that awareness, to both pay attention to the ways in which hearts are broken around those conversations and hearts are healed around those conversations.
The second set of heartbreaks, is really for me, at the movement level. I started this work twenty years ago, doing domestic violence prevention in the South Asian community, I did violence prevention training, I worked with men doing batter's intervention. And as I did this work, one of the epiphanies that I had, I still feel this really today, was the epiphany around the two axis of women's subordination and women's oppression. One is around violence, and the other is around controlling women's reproduction. So violence is used to beat us into submission, into particular roles and it happens at the level of partnerships, intimate partnerships, in our families, in society, in the tolerance of a rape culture. All of these ways in which women are told, and enforced a role in society.
And then the second way is women, we are, control is exercised over us, is through our reproduction. Because, to be told that you cannot decide what to do with your body, diminishes our humanity. It tells us that we are not self-actualized and self-determining human beings. And one of my biggest heartbreaks, is that these two movements are separate. We have the gender based violence movement on one hand and then we have the reproductive health rights justice movement on the other hand. And if we're lucky, we get to work in organizations, and coalitions that take on a little bit of each other's work. But for the most part, we work separately.
And this is where I think the movement lightning will strike me, I think often in the reproductive justice movement, the reproductive rights movement that I work in, is that if a woman came to me hungry, homeless, a victim of violence, the reproductive rights movement actually has nothing to offer her. If she was hungry, homeless, a victim of violence, and pregnant and wanted to keep her child, that movement has nothing to offer her. But if she was hungry, homeless, pregnant, a victim of violence, and wanted an abortion, the reproductive rights movement would help her get an abortion, but would not keep her safe, house her, or feed her. That's not a movement.
The work that reproductive justice movement has done, has [inaudible] talked about women as whole human beings, to look at love, sex, family, and community in her life, in her partner's life and integrate that together. And for me, part of the work of mending my heart, my movement heart, is I wanna bring these two movements together. And I think the frame of love, sex, family and community can do that.
And so what I need, to mend my movement broken heart, is for us to work together, to think about each other as whole human beings. To remember the ways in which, these oppressive systems exploit our families, exploit our love, exploit our sexualities, exploit our communities and to mend the work around it, as whole human beings. So it's not some complicated, these are the ideologies of each and every movement, but that we can talk to everyday people, and use the language of love, sex, family and community. Are we getting what we need? Are we fighting for what we need? Is pleasure enjoy a part of our lives? Are we supporting and resourcing the families that we want and desire? And are we making sure our communities are whole? And thriving? And healthy?
So mending my heart, the ingredients to mending my broken heart are undoing my own habits around dominate culture, around urgency and conflict avoidance and objectivity. And also, in terms of bringing movements together.
So,that is a little bit about leading with love. And we have some time for some q and a...
Day 3: Lead With LOVE
An Unfolding Journey, with Nan Stoops, Lynn Rosenthal, Jamia Wilson, M.L. Daniels and Tyra Lindquist
“I think when I think about love, I think of it not more as a destination, I think of it more in regards to it being a journey. An unfolding journey. Something that you have the capacity to grow into that shifts changes, that the mystery opens up and it becomes something more effervescent. I think of it as characteristic of trying to get to wholeness, trying to get that centeredness, trying to get back to a place of completeness and allowing folks to join you on that journey and that journey shifts and changes as we go.”
You know, I'm so happy to see our folks here on the stage. It takes a lot to get people here to Yakima from all over the country. Look at Jamia laughing. Jamia was emailing me from some airplane last night, "Leigh, I can't get my boarding pass for my midnight flight to Yakima. Can you help me?" We managed to pull it together, because obviously she's here.
Lynn came in from Washington, DC. Farah left this morning for Washington, DC for her business Black Women's March and just to have you all take the time to spend with us means so much to me personally, and I know it means a lot to all of our folks that are here with us at this conference, so thank you.
All of the plenary folks, we all kind of knew each other from various work that we do around the country, and in a sense, it's a murmuration that we have brought them here. They all came together here and are moving with us here. This morning we have to talk about the Big Love part of Lead With Love. M.L. Daniel, Jamia Wilson and Lynn Rosenthal. I was trying to think about how to introduce them. I don't want to go into lengthy biographies for them, but I do want to say one thing that pops out to me about each one of them.
M.L. is determined to bring spirit in and to bring spirit out in our work and I think we're gonna hear from her about that this morning. Jamia is a rock star. She just was hired as the Director of the Feminist Press at the City University of New York and I think we're gonna see some fantastic works coming out the Press. Lynn, Lynn ... Lynn, in her long and checkered career, one of her most recent posts, was as the White House advisor on Violence Against Women. That is a position that no longer exists, not surprisingly, but while she was there in the prior administration, we saw some amazing advances in our work to end violence against women and girls. To end gender violence and to intersect that particular form of violence with all of the other social justice issues that we care about.
I can't imagine what it's like to work 28 hours a day the way you did, at the then Vice-President's, the then Vice-President, as his right hand and thank you so much for doing that for all of us. Then moderating our intrepid panel, is our very own big hearted Tyra Lindquist. Take it away.
It is my great honor to be up here on the stage with these three amazing women and to be here closing out today. I look out and see just so many people here who I know and who I can sincerely and truly say that I love. I suspect, actually I already am chocking up even thinking about this, and we may, we're all gonna cry, we might cry. It hasn't always been true. I've worked with many of you for decades and you know that it hasn't not always been true that we have loved each other and I think that love has grown. It certainly has grown for me and I think it's growing and growing in our movement.
I'm particular honored to be moderating today around our third day of Lead With Love. I got the best gig to be facilitating Love, so it's just my great pleasure to be doing that. Let me also just set the stage a little bit for all of you. I want to try and figure out how to make this panel, and we've already been prepping on this, the most pragmatic about this thing called Love and how we are actually bringing that, how we are perceiving that and bringing that. I'm hoping that we actually, so that our panelists actually answer your toughest questions about this thing we call Love. I want you to be thinking about that, because we are gonna have a section in the middle where we're gonna open it up for questions, so if you don't get your question answered about this thing we call love, I want you to take that opportunity to ask it. Be writing that down. With that, I'm gonna open it with our first question, which is a question about what is this thing that we call love? What is the love that we are talking about here?
We're starting with the toughest question. I mean, I thought a lot about the pragmatic part, when you said, "We prepped for this and I thought about how do you make love real? I'm not sure I actually stepped back and said, "What is love?" Part of it is the two women I'm on the stage with, who I'm in awe of being here with. Who embody love every day in the work that they do. It's sort of like you know it when you see it. M.L. has talked about the inter-connectedness of love. The idea that we are bound together and that your liberation is bound to mine. That's love in action and so what I hope we'll talk about today is, what are the implementing principles of love? One of those I believe is courage, and so I want to talk today about love is courage.
I think when I think about love, I think of it not more as a destination, I think of it more in regards to it being a journey. An unfolding journey. Something that you have the capacity to grow into that shifts changes, that the mystery opens up and it becomes something more effervescent. I think of it as characteristic of trying to get to wholeness, trying to get that centeredness, trying to get back to a place of completeness and allowing folks to join you on that journey and that journey shifts and changes as we go.
I'm thinking about, maybe it's because I'm sitting next to M.L. right now. I'm thinking about my faith tradition and how I very much was taught that faith, love and hope are inextricable from each other in the scripture that I grew up with and that you can't have one without the other. When I think about movement building, that is something that I believe needs to drive us more, that we have to have faith in each other. The people who I look to are the people who have faith in the next generation, are the next generation people who have faith in their elders. When I think about hope, I think about when we're in a dark shadow place, hoping that our belief in humanity and each other will lift us beyond that into a new realm that we can imagine that. The love is the action. It's the active part of that for me. I see love as very much a movement, an action and a way of being. I'm a words person, I'm a writer, I'm publishing books.
I love other people's words, but I can say that we probably all have experienced what it means to hear words of love and not see them being enacted at the same time. What I'm thinking about now a lot is active love, and so one example of that I'll say is, this is gonna sound really cheesy, but I realized last night around midnight. I'm in Seattle waiting for the plane and I'm thinking, "Oh I'm in Washington State. I need to listen to Pearl Jam." It's bringing me back to my high school days and at the time I thought, "Let me so see what Eddie Vedder's doing out in the world-
-because I had a crush on him in high school, and he always supported women's rights. Then I Google and find out that Eddie Vedder was taking a knee in Tennessee and doing this in solidarity with racial justice movements. I thought, that is love. He wasn't saying love, but he was doing love in an environment that could have been hostile for him. Right now, what I'm really interested in as people who live and act and create love and working and building with them.
That's great. That is the answer to my next question, which I want to open up as well, which is how does love shine through? Here's how love shines through. I would love to hear from you about current things, but also about historical. Whatever you want to say about the times are so difficult for people, so how do you shine it through?
I think yesterday, folks who had the benefit of coming to the workshop that I did yesterday, we talked a lot about spirit and I think spirit is grounded out of the emotion of love. It drives love, spirit does. When you think about how does it shine through, one of the things we talked about is how do you bring that into the work you do? How do you show up every day and embody that? How do you encourage the people sitting around the room with you? How do you work with the people in the next cubicle and how does it show up?
One of the things we shared with them yesterday and I shared them with them yesterday and we had a chance to have a really good conversation around, was the embodiment of love and love shining through can be as simple as me asking you how's your day. It can be as simple as me acknowledging your presence and as simple as me asking you what have you heard from the universe lately, so that I can then begin to honor where you are and where the universe is taking you and how can we begin to build that together in a way that allows us to grow into and sustain love? Sustain the presence of spirit in the work we do.
I think we have fits and starts of love and we are in systems that are so entrenched in the way that they have been set up, that when we begin to try something different is gonna require us to come to the table with a little bit more grace and to understand that I'm extending some grace to you and the beauty around grace, when I think about grace, the beauty around grace is that you can't earn it. It's a gift. It's gonna require us to stand in a little bit more grace in order to hold and embody that loving environment where I really am concerned about the wholeness that you bring to the table. I really am concerned about the least among us. I really am concerned about how do we get to a place where everybody's humanity has been taken into consideration and we're not operating out of a space of scarcity, but we really are standing in our abundance and saying how we can stand in the fullness of that.
Part of that really is just being able to see, for me to be able to say I see you. I know they're the most simplest thing and the most genuine thing we can do as people, even strangers, is for me to acknowledge your presence and to hold your gaze and to say I see you and to invite you to see me and that connection piece. I don't get to love, or you don't get to embody love unless you're actually able to hold another person's presence and be in their presence and to be present to them.
Can I just ask a follow-up question to that?
Some of it comes from you just said to me about the faith and the love and the folks around you. What happens when the people you love and you know who love you, you're bringing that and they bark at you. When your loved one let you down. Never mind the tougher world where people actively, and we're gonna get to that.
We're caught up in perfection. We are a society that believes that perfection is the goal and individualism is the ultimate. The beauty of love is that it's not perfect. That's the beauty of love, is that it doesn't require perfection, it doesn't require you to be perfect, but it does require you to have good intention. It does require you to be mindful. It does require of you to be engaged and it does require you to bring all of who you are to the table to play, and so I think when we say, "Well what happens when those we love and those who we love us there's tension?" I think that's the grace piece, is because behind that tension, I know you're voting for my wholeness. I know you're fighting for my wholeness. I know you're fighting for the wellbeing of all that that is and that should be and I know you're holding the ancestors and you're holding the descendants and that we're standing here in this time knowing that your best intentions are in play.
I don't see that as an issue. I see that as part of the journey of love, is that we learn to exist. It's an opportunity for to figure out how to do it better and with each cycle and with each churning, we get to a different level of expression of love and we get to know spirit in a different way, because we've gone through that.
Okay, this is resonating for people around this journey and the people you're sitting at the table with, who you love and who love you and you bark at each other. Are people barking at each other occasionally?
Everybody's barking at each other in this room.
Yeah, yeah, probably not today.
When we were talking about this question yesterday of when does love shine through, I thought of a lot of stories. What came to my mind first was the kind of grace that we see women in shelter extend to each other, sometimes under the most difficult circumstances, and so I wanted to tell a lot of those stories. Then when I stepped back and I thought about this past week, where I really saw this love shine through was when the people with disabilities were there in the halls of congress blocking those hallways and being arrested in their wheelchairs. That is what I thought of last night. I said, "Let me go look at this organization called ADAPT." That's who organized the protest, "As I want to know about them."
I found something that I'd like to read. It's a couple of paragraphs and once I read it, I won't have to say anything at all on this panel, because it's one of the most amazing things I've read about love. I watched those videos over and over. They took my breath away, because to me, that was courage. That was the implementing principle of love. To me, they were there for all of us. They're people who had the most on the line, the most to live, were there for all of us and so if you're like me, I couldn't stop watching those videos.
This is what ADAPT says about love. It's called, Our Journey. There's a place we go to every time we go to a national action. It is not a physical place, but rather a place within ourselves, where the candle of human dignity burns at its brightest and the pursuit of choices drives us to remarkable outcomes. We access this place all across the country where justice has been denied and it is within that place where we the people demonstrate our power. When we arrive at this place, we are fueled by equal parts love and rage. The rage is for the inequities in our society. The love is for ourselves, the person next to us, those who we left behind, our communities now, those who come after us, and all the people who have no idea, yet, about the struggle for independence that people with disabilities face daily.
To me, that ... I don't understand how you can bow in your wheelchair or with your aids and be carried out in pursuit of justice, because that to me is when I saw this week, love shining through. I saw it shining it through many times at this conference. Remarkable things that happened in workshops. I don't know if Millie's still here, but I was in her workshop and people were making the aprons and acting out love in action. We've seen it here as well, but we also, I think, turn to our sisters and brothers in other struggles and see it shine through. That's what I saw this week.
That's really beautiful and I'm really pleased that you mentioned that struggle today, because it's the second time this week someone has invoked the people with disabilities who were getting yanked out of their wheelchairs. I mean, that's what was happening and there wasn't enough media coverage around that. The kind of love that it takes to recognize that your individual sacrifice, to the point of putting your body on the line, is about helping other people, just really gives me chills. I'm feeling really good that we're lifting up those stories, because I don't feel there was enough said in honoring the sacrifices that these people gave.
I think for me, what I've really learned about love, is that there's a Kingian Principle of Nonviolence from Martin Luther King's teachings. That is to suspend the first judgment. Now for me, I'm a Myers-Briggs ENFJ, so there's only 5% of us in the population. Barack Obama was an ENFJ also. I always have an opinion. You piss me off, you'll know. Those sorts of things, but what I was thinking about, was last night, a lesson I learned about love that my particular struggle, and we all have to have our thing we have to do to teach us how to love better and show up better, is to suspend my first judgment. Whereas, my mom always said to watch, wait and let it play out. I see myself as a very strategic person, but inside my raging fire can be going off at any time. There was a man on the place who was sitting in a seat that was allocated to me when I got there, and I gave him this look, because I just came from New York, so I'm still bringing my vibe like, "What are you doing in my seat?"
He drives up to attention and he says, "Oh well, you know I'm here with my friend and I thought you could sit back there." In my head, I'm like, "Oh, no. You think your privilege designates this seat for you?" Then I decided, you know, suspend your first judgment. Maybe he's not trying to start a war. Maybe he doesn't know who he just did this to and any response that he's going to get. Maybe you should just take a deep breath, eat a piece of chocolate, you're hangry and go dit down.
At the end of the plane ride, after I kind of let it go, I was onto other things, he came and brought my bag from the very front of the plane, because he realized that I had been inconvenienced by having to put it in another overhead compartment and thanked me, which I thought was really sweet, because he rerouted his entire departure from one side of the place to come and make sure that he thanked me and to also help me carry my bag to where I needed to go. That was for me, a metaphor that I'm gonna keep remembering, about even though this is a human interaction with a person I'll probably never see again, that he taught me to suspend my first judgment and that the practice of that, even though it made me feel uncomfortable, is something that I personally have to lean into every single day.
Thank you. Following that, so this love that we're talking about that's getting clearer and that we're trying to figure out how to bring that into our daily practice and take every single opportunity to learn a profound lesson from a single act that yeah, that was beautiful. We're doing this, so how could you imagine us moving forward now and including like the examples again you want to bring from the past, how do we bring this love to the work that we are now moving forward with?
I think, something I've seen over and over and there's data that actually bears it out and I don't think data and love are completely inconsistent. Is that when people are hurt or their loved ones are hurt, their families are hurt, the natural impulse is to stop this from happening to someone else. That's how social movements start. I recently heard a psychologist say, "Every single social movement started with the people most effected and every one went on to become very professionalized and to go down a very different track." He said, "The anti-violence movement is just following the same script as others."
When I was working in the White House, I met with so many parents with lost daughters. They would find me in the White House. They wanted to come in and see somebody and tell their story in the White House, so the natural impulse has not so much turned to counseling and therapy and that sort of healing, the natural impulse is to reach out as a form of healing, but then the practice of that over time is difficult to sustain. The daily work, I think that natural impulse is that purest form of love. No one should have my pain, but the daily practice of being in love is what's so very, very hard and it's where we've sometimes gone astray. I think speaking as a white woman, I think when it comes harder in practice, because of issues of race, class, forms of privilege across the board, for white women particularly, it's easy for us to retreat from complexity, because we can.
I think the challenge for white people is to move into the complexity and to not be so afraid of the complexity, or afraid of being confused or not understanding, or being challenged, or fear of loss, which we've talked a lot about at this conference. If we could kind of move into complexity and move through it together, that we see that there is something much brighter out there for all of us.
I think way more simple than Lynn. I appreciate the complexity and I thank you, but I think what brought most people into the work they do in this room, is the concept of love. I think love brought most folks to do the work you do. You could not do the work you do without love as the base ingredient for why you do it. The work we do is hard and it's emotionally draining at times. You can't do this body of work unless what brought you in to begin with, is love. It's an invitation from spirit through love to love the people you're working with, the work you do, wanting to see it affect some change. I'm not convinced that we're ... How do we bring it in, I think is how do we sustain it is the real question. How do we go back and really nurture that piece of the energy that brought us to the work to begin with in the systems that Lynn talked about how the systems start out there and they go more organized into something else.
How do we sustain that piece of energy, that passion that brought us in? That's the real tricky piece and that was the question we wrestled with yesterday in workshop and when it was time for Q&A, I would invite folks to wrestle with that here. How do you sustain that piece of the passion? What do you do, and it's beyond self care. Self care's not the answer. It's a piece of the puzzle, but it's not the answer. How do we begin to sustain that piece of the passion that brought us in? The love that brought us in that focused on that healing that brought us in? How do we do that piece? I can't say that I have answers about that, but what I can say is that it's complex, of how do we begin to help each other go get back to that very essence that drove you to do the work you do and that keeps you coming back day after day in spite of what the system is stacking up against us. How do we do that piece is my question.
One thing I really try to think about a lot, is about systems. I'm a systems thinker, I definitely see myself as a big picture thinker. It kinda goes with the lessons I need to learn about suspending the first judgment, but the other piece around when I see behavior that I fiercely dislike, what other systems or conditions that are causing that person to show up in that way? When thinking about that, even sometimes there are people who are just narcissistic, am I right? I mean one of them tweets every day and we all know about their tweets, but all I can say about that is that I have really started to think about why do people do what they do. I don't have a degree in psychoanalysis, but I do believe that maybe people have wounds as a child for example, that would then, I'm sure there's some psychologists in the room hearing me say this, that would lead them to have certain behavior, or feel like they had to show up in certain ways that are harmful or perpetuating cycles. I've seen this in my own family or in movements and work spaces.
I'll give an example of something where I started changing my thinking about the systems and realizing that that can change the way you interact with people, but also change the way the people themselves that might be enacting micro aggressions towards you see themselves. I'm sure no one in this room has ever had any struggles about inter-generational working together or any of those dynamics whatsoever. I'm sure no one in this room has been at Happy Hour talking about rumors, Millennials, Gen-X or whatever and what they're doing right now. I'm just gonna say that that happens in my life quite a bit, and I do want to do a book one day that's about all the things we say about each other at Happy Hour.
That's a great title.
What I have learned from that is, I kept wondering, "Hm, why is it that I sometimes see people who have, in my eyes, people I've looked up to. People who have gotten great acclaim, not as much as they should have because of all the systemic reasons, really hold on to power in dominant violent ways, in patriarchal ways, in racist ways that to against everything that we believe in and reinforce the very problems that we have. When starting to think about that instead of shutting people out or making things technologically inaccessible to them or other things like that as a point of retaliation, I decided that there's a different more healthy way to show up, which was to really think, "Wow, if we had movements where some of these older women who I was seeing in these environments treating me and other people in certain ways, were actually respected and given the fellowships, the sustainable pay, the equal pay, the retirement and the recognition and accolades they needed throughout their life and throughout their work, people probably wouldn't be so focused on holding on to the power, because they would actually have that consistent support or other power they could move into.
When you look at some of the research think tanks that are mostly driven by men, when they retire, they often get an appointment at Harvard, or a Fellowship endowed in their name and that sort of thing. When we see our movement activists, a lot of them are struggling and sometimes having a crowdfund support, because they don't have enough coming to them in their retirement. What I have actually decided to do is sometimes when I see that is to honor it, and to say, "I want you to know, I so appreciate what you've brought and I couldn't have done what you did. How can I help uplift what you've done as we move forward in this way, but also to actually donate to people's funds for them to be able to have retirement and support in the movement. I have seen just by engaging in that way, that there's a shift and that there is love that I didn't see lurking there before and maybe love they didn't see lurking with us before that has emerged.
I think that that model could really apply to a lot of other differences we have beyond age, that really thinking about the systemic reasons that drive people to show up how they are, because when we see toddlers having meltdowns, we don't often strategize or conspiracy theory about why they're doing that. We know they're hungry, they're tired, frustrated or needing attention. The reality is, as humans that, that's actually probably a large part of why people are showing up in bad ways later on in their lives too for more complex reasons. I really am trying to lean into that and to learn more from thinking about the systems instead of focusing on judging people.
We could have another panel on multi-generations. I have a whole other set of stories. The push grandma from the train story.
You gotta tell that story, because that woke me up. I mean, I want to just share that. Lynn posted a story, because like I said, I have my Happy Hour conversations too and she has her Happy Hour conversations and we've talked about the Happy Hour conversations that our people have had. One day, Lynn posted a story about someone my age, it sounded like they were around my age, had done to her and I was so angry and so ashamed and it helped me wake up to think about, "Okay, if I ever witness something like that happening, how am I gonna call it in and make sure that we are not showing up to oppress women who have paved the way for us?"
It's just a little sort of episode that happened on the Metro that kind of happens all the time, but it stood out to me because of the generational issues. I will say though, the best thing I've heard recently about inter-generational conflict was somebody who tweeted out that they could understand the conflict between the U.S. President and the leader of North Korea if you thought about a Millennial and a Boomer fighting with each other on who was more important. The person was saying that from the perspective of a GenX'er and said, "It didn't surprise me that a Boomer and a Millennial are fighting over who's more important. I'm a Boomer.
I was on the train. These things have been so in my face of late and I've looked at a lot of the research of how hard it is to get re-employed when you're over 50 and you lose your job, the figures are stunning. That's why a lot of this is present for me, but I had a suitcase and I was just getting off the train, it happens to all of us every day. There was a big crowd and I was just trying to pull my bag across the little opening and this woman behind me pushed me on the back and said, "Get going grandma."
As you age, as I said, it's a subject of another panel, but there is a piece around self love as you age, because you don't think of yourself as older. You still think of yourself as who you were, so when the world starts responding to you so differently, you're shocked and stunned, which also may be part of that holding on to that power. You still imagine yourself as the young person in the room fighting to be heard and you're not. You're the person in power and you haven't absorbed it in the way that you would if we lived in that kind of culture you describe. A lot of those pieces around aging are about self hatred and the way our society treats women as we age. Anyway, that's for another topic, but I think that your book sounds fantastic [crosstalk].
Oh please, I'm soliciting manuscripts.
I've heard you talk about it. When I find myself, one of the things I've stopped myself from doing is storytelling about the old days unless it's intentional and people have asked me for it. When I start to find myself telling a story in the office environment and everybody in my office are people in my 20s and early 30s, I realize that it doesn't matter so much, unless it asked for and offered in that spirit of love. My storytelling to show my position is not coming from a place of love. My storytelling as an offering is where I'm more centered in my love.
Great, thank you. I just want to reflect that yesterday's speaker talked about how any conversation with two or more people is a conversation about race. We're talking about love up here and I'm like super appreciative that the conversation has incorporated the issues around race, because I think it's one of the biggest struggles we have around love right now, and I just want to ... Jamia, I'd love for you to talk more about the, when you said calling people in, because I do think that that's a super concrete tool that you can take home with you, that is being taught now around calling people in, rather than calling people out. Can you talk people through that?
Sure, so there is this amazing Vietnamese American writer ... Is my mic on? Can you hear me?
Oh great, so there's an amazing Vietnamese American writer who wrote for a blog called Black Girl Dangerous. I'm trying to remember the writer's name, because I really want to speak their name right now, but I'm blanking, but they wrote a piece about calling in versus calling out, during a time where there was a lot of Twitter dragging that was happening online on a myriad of issues, when Twitter was at its peak. That was a really difficult experience for me, because I actually had been involved in something where there are a lot of black women who were angry with a decision that I had made who were publicly calling me out on Twitter, but also there was some accountability I needed to have, but I have questions about the means in which people were doing it.
What was so great about this article and what was affirming for me to read during a time where people were sort of really combative toward me and other people, was that they said, "Okay, there's a thing about peer to peer accountability. We need to be accountable to each other in these movements. We all have room to grow. We all have room to learn, but treating each other [disposably] is not right, but it also doesn't help us get to our goal. When we call people in instead, that way we keep people in the circle. We keep them in a community, but we let them know how their actions have impacted us. We help reflect back to them. I'm getting back into pretending I'm a psychologist here, but reflecting back to them show they showed up and how it impacted us. I will say, the times in which I have been called in have been the times where I have open to growing, changing or apologizing. When people call me out have been the times where I'm ready to take it to the mat.
I would say that my metaphor in my mind about the difference between the two is that calling out is an ego driven way of saying, "I'm right and you are wrong. You are kicked out of the circle." Calling in is, "You said or did something that didn't feel right to me, or caused harm. You can come back into the circle, but there needs to be accountability." When we practice calling in instead of calling out, we're also modeling to other people how the rest of a conversation can happen in healthy ways and that's why it's really important to do it that way instead. Otherwise, you're just shutting down conversation, but no growth really happens.
I think to add to that Jamia, I love the way you describe that. I think calling in also creates an opportunity for relationship.
It also implies relationship. There's the essence of relationship available for me to call you in and to hold you accountable, and that I'll be there to hold you accountable and we're still in a relationship. Calling out necessarily, doesn't provide in my experience.
Yes, because I think it's the way, right? In relationship, I was thinking about someone who called me in a few years ago about something, but I still feel like I was justified in doing [crosstalk 00:39:57]. I'm gonna be real, but the way that I held someone accountable was not kind and they came back to me and said, it was a professional colleague and they said, "You were kind of hard on her for that comment she made." I said, "Well, it was racist." That was my suspending first judgment. That's my first thing. I'm like, "She needs to know about herself." Then she said, "Oh, I actually was in a relationship with this person for years, and that's really not the way that they are, the way that they show up and what she really meant was this. There's trauma, and can we set a stage for you all to talk about it?"
This is someone who I'm actually in a relationship with now, but it was the fact that even in a moment when I kind of had that reaction to what I felt was a racist statement being made and I did what I did, they didn't try to push it back at me or come with that same energy, they waited to pull me aside in a very nurturing, loving way to talk about how my response had impacted them and to say, "Can we build something together?" Now we're actually working on projects together, so I think it's just really important that the relationship part is part of focus and that we remember that none of us are exempt from making those mistakes. That none of us, which is why I kind of share those things that I've done too.
When I got the Twitter drag, and if anyone doesn't know what that means, it's kind of the metaphor of people dragging you all over Twitter because it just becomes endless when they call you out, because people keep retweeting and retweeting your aggression, or your sin over and over and it grows. When it happened, some of the people said, "We want you accountable. You need to answer to us." I felt like I was being drawn and quartered in the streets or something of the inter webs. Later, I actually just said in vulnerability, you all are other women of color, obviously there's a hurt that I have made by what I said, but I want to get on a conference call and have a conversation with my sisters about this, because I don't want to create theater for white people to see us fighting. I don't want a bad girls club reality show spectacle on the inter webs. When I came back with that, people kind of really understood and saw my humanity more. That's another reason why I think that it's better for us to do it this way.
That's love in practice too.
And investment in community. I think that calling in is an investment. When I had that happen to me, I felt that the person who did it was invested in me remaining in community and not being cast out.
There's something to that. When you can make that big a mistake and not feel that you are cast out.
I've been privy and had several conversations here this week about apologizing, so I just am constantly amazed by the, "If I offended you, I'm sorry." It's not just form, and it has something to go with ego. This thing where it's just like, "I actually am right. You are wrong." Can we talk a little bit about apology and making amends, both for the things that we do, and for being slow to wake up to the things that our parents and grandparents did, as well as the larger question of how we make amends for historical things that have occurred that were completely out of our control, but you know, what's happening now, so apologizing. I do think there's also a concrete skill related to that and a concrete growth related to figuring out how to do that.
I will do it now, because I feel like I just made a joke about a world situation that was a-political and about the tweet that didn't take into account the political complexity and how that would feel to people, so I will apologize for that now. I think we do it sometimes in the pursuit of humor and so I'll do it and show it in practice that I'm sorry I made that joke about the tweet. It was not the right way to express that point.
I've had to do it many times and you just do it and say, "I'm sorry for the impact that had." I think all the explanations that we all have behind that are for ourselves. It's my own growing edge to say, "Okay, I saw a humorous at the expense of people." That's a growing edge for me that I think sometimes we all have, and so I try to save all the explanations about why I might have done something for myself. I take them back and I journal, okay this is why I did that. That's for my own growth. The person that it had the impact on doesn't even need all that. They need to know an apology and so I want to issue one now.
When you said that, I have a three year old, we're teaching apology in our house. I think it's integral to existence that you get so entrenched in where you are. Don't be so entrenched that you can't say I'm sorry, or I was wrong, or I'm sorry that offended you, because I think what happens sometimes is that people don't engage in difficult conversations, because they're not sure how it's going to land on the other person. That keeps us from that vulnerable place that allows us to lead with love because we're so busy trying not to offend or isolate or alienate people. I think sometimes it's worth the risk with the understanding that you know what? There will be some people who'll be alienated. There will be some people who will be offended, but I am open to coming back and saying, "I'm sorry for the way that landed on you, how can I make it right?"
That's the second piece that we teach our three year old, is to not just say I'm sorry, but how can I make it right? Is there a way for me to make that right? Sometimes the answer is no and I get to live with the fact that the answer was no, but I also get to live with the idea that I was vulnerable sufficiently to lead with the love piece that opened me up to the possibility of getting it wrong. If we're gonna lead with love, you have to accept as part of the package that sometimes you're gonna get it wrong and some folks are gonna be offended, and some folks are gonna be alienated by it or some people ... That's part of the struggling and part of the being in a relationship, especially in a relationship and desire to be connected enough to say, "How do I get that right? I'm willing to learn, how do I get it right and where can I go from here, so that it doesn't land on the next person that way?"
I love that you're teaching your beautiful daughter who I love, how to make it right. That's what accountability really means to me. The sorry and the what action am I going to make it right? One thing I think we are lucky to have in this moment, is a great archive of apologies that have gone wrong and apologies that have gone right on the internet with various people's ideas about why those apologies went wrong, and why they went right. I actually read these. Every once in a while, there will be a Buzzfeed post that will say, "Oh, this group's apology's a great example of how a corporation should apologize for perpetuating violence against women." Thinking about a specific transportation app, but I think that by looking at the bad apologies and looking at the good apologies, there's so much we can learn and we can all see ourselves in both and to frame the way that we want to show up.
I am someone who really believes in, I do not say I'm sorry unless I really mean it, which I express to people. I think that's really important that I actually say, "I am not ready to forgive or to extend my apology right now, but we can be civil and we can work together. When I'm ready, I will let you know." I think that there's a cruelty in not communicating that when you don't. There was a major fight I had with one of my best friends a couple of years ago and it was a major betrayal that I'm now over, but at the time, she kind of wanted to make it lighter, was using humor, was texting me. I came and I saw her and I said, "I am not over this, but I will be and I'll let you know."
I called her four months later, because I really wanted to be able to really be over it and to really not have resentments, anger or nastiness between the two of us. Now I feel a lightness in that relationship that I wouldn't have had if I had just said, "Okay, I'm ready to accept that apology, or I'm ready to hear sorry." I think her actions after that were actually great, because we were able to both get enough space to put it in perspective. I also want to say that with the apology piece, that we need to be really earnest, because one thing I think I struggle with right now, is we hear so much apology that it's fruitless out in the world. Especially media organizations, if they publish something that's really problematic and they'll say, "Oh, we're really sorry about how that offended you. We're sorry that this caused such a big controversy." It doesn't really mean anything.
I do think we should be engaged in meaningful conversations, even when it's uncomfortable to say, "This still hurts. This still really hurts me and I'm struggling. Maybe you can help me get there or maybe I need you to not actually help me get there and I need to take the time, but I still see you and I still love you." I think just verbalizing those things are very important and I've tried to incorporate that in my work, but also in my marriage and have seen that to be really transformative.
I wanted to make sure we talked about some stuff very specific to the work people do every day. When I think of this question of what would be different if we were leading with love? I think about how we've created in our programs, such an unequal balance of power with the people who are coming to us for services and it wasn't supposed to be that way. When we think about where we go astray, in the beginning there was a concept, an idea that I could be seeking shelter one day and providing shelter the next. That we were all in this together and we were the same. We know we're not the same, because of all the complexities of privilege and race and class and all of it, and so that willingness to struggle through that I think kind of fell apart. If we thought of today leading with love, we would not see the people come to us as getting services or clients, and us as servers, we would see ourselves together in struggle.
Working together, organizing to end violence and taking leadership from the people most effected by violence and there are very ... You've all had those workshops. You know something as simple as shelter rules, where we, you've all had that right? Where we take away the medication, we take away the cell phone ... We do everything the abusive person has done and leave them with so little power when someone comes to us, we take control of the situation. There are very practical things to show this kind of love in action in your programs every day and they're not easy. You can go to Lavon's workshop, she'll talk about it. They're not easy in practice, but they are so worth it. Whenever I've been in a program where we decided to go through that process, we were so grateful at the end that we had done it. That's not to say it's always going to be easy, it's not, it's hard, but we can embody these principles of love.
Services, sometimes because we're trying to think more about big picture social change, we have a tendency to say, "Well, that's just services, but the way we provide services, the way we come together with people who need us at a given moment of time is love in action. It is a part of the work. It is a part of ending violence.
I want to make sure that people heard that really loud and clear. If you have questions about that, you're gonna have an opportunity to ask them, so be thinking as concretely as you can about the question that you have about that, because it is not easy. It is a very difficult thing to do and the power of our habits around this are just like gravity holding us to old ways, bad habits I should say.
I want to move on to a different topic around self love and self compassion. Self love and self compassion. It's so interesting, because I was thinking last night about the self interest with little S, self, like what is in this for me? Some of the historical examples you were giving yesterday about some of them are movements, history around finally realizing that our little S self interest, wasn't serving the big S self interest. Self love leads to love for everybody, but it's hard to do and it's hard to describe, so I know that you have some wisdom on that.
Yeah, I know I think it's an oxygen mask thing, everyone talks about that, but I think it really is that simple that you really have to make sure that you put that oxygen mask on yourself first before you can be in a position to save another's life in doing that. I think a lot about self love as being less about self affirmation or the delusion that I'm perfect, or that I don't have room to grow, or getting mani's and pedi's, although I enjoy those things. I think it's more about really practicing self acceptance. Acceptance for yourself as a human being who is a part of a larger whole. A part of a larger community, who is inherently valuable no matter what you do. Just for being, you are valuable, you are enough, you are worthy.
I think in the society we're in and as M.L. talked about perfection, there's so much of that when the hyper vigilance that I was taught to use as a method of survival as a black woman, from a family of people who were firsts. They were pioneers. I'm the first woman of color to run the Feminist Press in almost 50 years, and the youngest. Thank you. I come from a family of firsts. My dad was the first black man and black person in his department at Florida State at the time when he went there to get his degree in his field. I grew up in this family, where there was this expectation that you be perfect, that you over perform, that you be at the top of your game. While I have to say I got really into that drug for a really long time because it has its rewards, I mean it really does.
That thing where I'd be like, "Oh, what can I do? How can I push myself to get more, be more, to do more? Then you know, some autoimmune diseases came into my life and we're kind of saying, "Hey, you have this inherent worth that you're not taking care of. You have only a limited amount of life force that you are not cherishing in the ways that you need to and sort of made me really think about, okay what is this about? What is this life about? Is it about me saying that I did all these things? Wrote all these things? Collected all these things? Or is it really about me feeling like at the end of the day, I feel whole?
When I think about self love, when I ask myself what I need when I'm feeling somehow deficient, I always think, "Oh, how am I moving away from that feeling of being whole? How am I moving toward the habit of feeling like I have to do another thing to fill it? To fill that void?" Because I know that about myself and I know it was also deeply conditioned into me, that it's harder.
The last thing I'll say about it is this, because I know a lot of people here have various different things they've had to overcome in their life to get there. I was born with a disability. I was born blind in one of my eyes and my father used to always say, "Wow, look at everything you can do with just one good eye. Imagine what you could have done if you weren't like that." I don't think he felt like it was harmful, because it didn't actually come out until maybe I was in my early 30s that I wrote a piece about that. I wrote about this thing that whenever people would ask about the disability, I'd say, "Oh, I don't feel like I have a disability. I transcended. I do this, I do that. These are all the things I do that don't have anything to do with it.
Then I realized after I experienced a really traumatizing experience at the ophthalmologist that I had years of feeling like, wow, I've been trying to prove that I'm just as good as everyone else. I've been trying to prove what I could do if I had both eyes, because one statement was made. I think that the self love part for me, and I think this might resonate with other people in the room about a number of issues, is that I had to finally say, "What if who I am without the full perspective that I might have in that way, but with different perspectives that I have, because I don't see like other people, what if that was enough? I tried this out on a friend who had an eating disorder recently, because I was trying to test out my own thinking around this and she said, "I'm really upset right now, because when you're telling to do public speaking, it makes me feel larger than I am."
I tried to over intellectualize it and say, "Oh, well women are told to shrink themselves and this and that, and this is why you're doing this." We know there was truth to that, but the reality of it is I realized that's the same thing I was doing with my eye, that she feels like she has to somehow be a certain way in terms of how she takes up space in the world to matter and to be worthy. What I was saying to her is, I said, "Okay, what would for you, the weight that scares you the most look like? What would that look like? I want you to describe what you would look like."
Then she told me and I said, "What if you were that big? What if you looked like that? Would you still be enough for yourself? I asked myself that question because of my eye every single day. That's what I'm working toward." I think now, she and I have been going back and forth about what that conversation was like for us, because I said what I see in you right now, no matter what size you're in, bigger or smaller, all of that doesn't change for me what you bring to the world, but I really needed in saying that, to hear that myself.
I am so not gonna add to that Jamia. I think if I distill down what Jamia said into my own little nugget of what self love, it boils down to I am enough. To be able to say that with confidence that I am enough. I'm enough for the circumstances that I find myself in at the moment. I'm enough for what I am at the moment. I'm enough. I am who I need to be, where I am, for the circumstances I find myself in. I am enough. I am sufficient.
We talked about this on the Move to End Violence webinar, because it was one of the questions that ... I have experienced multiple forms of violence as most people in this room in my life, and I felt that was all done and worked through and found in this later part of life that, that all comes back and it's very present for me. I see now looking back how I was affected by each thing that happened. I see now how that trauma history affected some of my potential, some of my abilities. I look back at myself with tremendously compassion when I was 19 and was abused and dropped out of college and a lot of my early life got messed up from that experience. I had such blame of myself. What did I do wrong? Why didn't I understand? There wasn't a language for that at the time that I went through this.
Now I can look back at myself with tremendous compassion, but I can't reclaim that time. I think, and again I say this for white women who are survivors of violence, that if we want to work and be fully present, we have an obligation to work through all of that stuff. Not just for ourself, but for community because it stops us from showing up fully. When I say I think white women have to work on our trauma, it's not because our trauma should be centered. It's because unless we work on our trauma, we can't fully show up for people whose trauma should be centered.
I think now, when I think about that and the times when I've retreated out of fear because of my own hyper vigilance and anxiety and depression and all of that stuff, I didn't do as much as I could have done to serve community, to be part of community. We can't show up fully to end white supremacy if we're stuck spinning in our own stuff all the time. I think white women should not move forward and say, "I don't have to do that part, because I want other people to be centered." You say, "I have to do that part, so I can be fully present to center the people most affected."
Thank you. I just had this image of the circular thing around self care and how it is essential for self love, but then the little S self love be integral to the big S self love. I actually just wanted to just say that the oxygen mask metaphor is so interesting, but I never get people to buy it, because the moms in the room always say, "There's no way I'm going to put my own mask on first."
I actually, just before the workshop that I was gonna do here, I thought that metaphor is just not working. Why do you put your own mask on first? I thought there was, because you passed out. You don't pass out. What actually happens is that you become euphoric when you lack oxygen, you become euphoric, so you as a mom are sitting there totally grooving on this scene while you and your children then pass out.
I think what's interesting about that, and it works for the metaphor around the self care and the self love, is that we have sort of degraded self care into mani/pedi's, that then makes us euphoric, and the new pass out. Right? How do we self care in a way that actually oxygenates our brains so that then we can do the self love to do the little S, big S? How these things are interconnected I think is just a huge challenge for our movement, because we can't seem to get passed the mani/pedi self care conceptualization of what self care has to do with self love and why, that isn't over indulgent.
It's because it's transaction. I think it's easier to check it off the list to say, "Okay, go get a massage. You're stressed, go get a massage." All those things I love, but at the end of the day, those aren't the things that are going to create a sustainable impact in your life over time and not everyone can access them. I think one of the things that I've really learned is breath work. That that has been really important to me for self care, because it can be wherever I am, at any time. It helps for depression, anxiety, a myriad of differences that a human can have and it's something that no one can take away from you.
I met this amazing woman, her name is Katherine Booker. She lives in New York, she has a website and she calls herself The Jedi of Calm and she is amazing. I can't really do justice to describing her, because she's one of those people who just, her spirit is strong and is very magical. She was teaching breath work at Soul Camp, which is a spiritual camp that I teach at and during that, all you do for the hour of the workshop is really lay on the ground and she teaches you to breathe, but she's such an intuitive, that she knows what you're experiencing. The reason I suggest going to look at her webinars, she puts a lot of free thing on YouTube et cetera, is that another person was having a traumatic reaction during the time where we were just laying there hearing her speak, doing the visualization and she could just tell from the movements I was making in my feet what was going on in my mind.
She came up to me, she's an older black woman who lives in my neighborhood, so she was more familiar with me than some of the other people that were there. She said, "Booboo, stay out of her Kool-aid. I know that's what you do, but get back to your breath." Now when I find myself in work situations and I'm trying to like, "Oh let me fix this other problem someone else has." When I need to be putting on my oxygen mask or taking a rest, I have her in my mind saying, "Booboo, stay out of her Kool-aid and focus on your breath." Because then you can show up in a deeper way.
I think self love also requires you to do some introspective reflecting where self care, not necessarily so. I think there's some reflection inwardly that has to take place for self love that requires some change, or requires some action on your part coming out of that.
Self care is self inflection as well?
I think self love is self reflection. I'm not as convinced that self care is. I think self love requires you to do some reflection, some internal conversation about where you find yourself and where you desire to be.
I just am so stuck in my mind on this thing, that I wanted to say earlier that I might just end our time with here and then open it up for questions, but it's back to the apology thing, because I do think that it is a thing around apologizing. What popped into my head was this thing that happened to me where I live in the country, but I'm pretty close to my next door neighbors. They have two teenage boys doing the teenage boy and parent thing, so when I was out working in my yard, I'd frequently be privy to their screaming matches over whatever they were screaming about that day and I'd always listen and to figure out if I needed to go over and offer assistance or anything.
One day I heard one of the boys run out of the house and he slammed the door and he screamed back at the closed door, "I said I was sorry." One of the things that I, and we still ... In my household, when we apologize and the person isn't ready or whatever, we actually do break it up with humor by screaming, "I said I was sorry." I do think that there is something and I'm speaking to my white sisters and brothers out there. I do think there is something about the fact that we feel alike, because we screamed at the closed door, "I said I was sorry." That that is enough, and it kind of isn't, and so I still ... Maybe I'll throw it back to you around the toughest issues around the apology and around the making amends, making as right as you possibly can make it, but not just thinking, "I said I was effing sorry, why can they not accept the apology?"
When I was a commissioner for Farah's Truth and Reconciliation Commission that she held a year and a half ago, Black Women's Experience of Sexual Violence from the Founding of this Country Forward, the other white woman and I that were involved spent a lot of time on this question of apology because we wondered if we should issue an apology at the commission. We read a lot about it and came to the conclusion that an apology was not good enough at that moment in time, because we weren't sure what we could be offering. Our task as white people was to work on sort of what are we suggesting to see if it's right to repair harm?
I do believe very strongly in reparations for slavery. I'm not an expert at it, so I sometimes want us to be where black leadership is on what is needed, but I believe in cash reparations. I know everybody says it's impossible, and every year John Conyers introduces a Bill for reparations that people say will never happen, well look, I thought I'd never marry my wife. I thought gay marriage would never happen, so if we all experience as gay people has changed in large part, certainly we can change the founding moments of this country and provide reparations.
Every time I hear people say it's impossible, I have to answer that it is not. There's wealth in this country that could be repaid to black people who are the ancestors of slaves. It can be done and it's not too complicated as a policy matter. Every policy matter this country struggles with is complicated, so I believe it. If I was gonna do one thing with the rest of my life, I think that's what I would try to work on.
Then on an individual level, I think that we can all look at land that we own, assets we own, where it came from, whose it was. After the election, I was like many people, sort of paralyzed with depression and I couldn't get up. I dragged myself out of bed to go hear Marian Wright Edelman. She was speaking at a Department of Education event, celebrating all the accomplishments of the Office of Civil Rights under the Obama Administration. She looked around that room and she could see all our faces and she said, "Get out of bed. Get up. You have an obligation to be here." She grabbed her necklace, you've probably heard her say this. She said, "I've gotta Harriet Tubman on one side and Sojourner Truth on the other and I get up every day and I hold this necklace and I go do my work."
I think that for white people experiencing this trauma, shock and fatigue after the election, we have to get up and go do our work whether it's big or small. I think that if the progressive movement, I don't want to get too policy wonky, you know I'd just love to go there, because that's my life, but I think if the progressive movement came together and started seriously examining the question of reparations ... What I wanted to say about Marian that day, is one of the things she said was, "Look, this is a great country, but we have to get over the mistakes of our birth. The serious and painful mistakes of our birth, which is genocide and slavery on which our country was built. There would be no country without genocide and slavery. It wouldn't exist. None of why people have any wealth at all would have it."
I think that's right. If the progressive movement, if the white people in the progressive movement would figure out what might be an offering of reparations or conversation together of what is needed, that's I guess a conversation. It's like, what is needed to repair this harm? Then set about doing it and maybe it will take Norma Long's 100 years to get there. It might not happen in any our lifetimes, but I firmly believe that it can happen.
Question. I think your question begs the question, what struck for me was the question of, I said I was sorry and you're screaming at the closed door. It feels like privilege to control the narrative, which has always been where it's housed. The response of, I said I was effing sorry, is just a furtherance of the privilege that you refuse to let go of. I think until we get to a place where that power is willing to be released and you're willing to let that go, to know that okay, you said you were sorry, doesn't mean I have to accept the apology.
I don't have to accept the apology. The harm and the hurt may be too deep for me to accept the apology and there may be nothing you can do to fix it, but the onus really is on you to ask me whether or not there is something you can do. I think when the mindset is, I said I was sorry, come on. Can we all just get along? Is you still trying to control the narrative, as opposed to recognizing that there were other folks involved in that narrative and they have a direction for where that narrative's gonna go for themselves and not willing to acknowledge that.
There's a privilege question there that we don't want to wrestle with and that we don't want to call people to the carpet around and say, "You know what, at some point you're just gonna go off with your privilege and the privilege you obtain to be able to control the narrative and you're still trying to do it." I struggle with that. That was a wonderful question to ask, but I think until we can square off with privilege and controlling the narrative, we're not gonna get anything beyond that.
All right, so we are gonna open this up ...