“There is no such thing as a single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” Audre Lorde
The Civil Rights Movement married the principles of social justice with the sensibilities of the Southern Baptist Church–which included, among other social norms, the idea that while “the Negro woman has done so much to bring the race so far…” but was “done at the expense of the psychological health of the Negro male” who is “frequently…forced by circumstances into the position of a drone.” (C. Eric Lincoln, 1966). In remembering the legacy of King, we must not shy away from the ways in which various forms of social oppression remained part and parcel of the movement he helped bolster. In fact, even as King did the work, his colleague, the Rev Bernard Lee noted that King was “absolutely a male chauvinist. He believed that the wife should stay home and take care of the babies while he’d be out there in the streets.”
“In all shapes and sizes, beauty is recognized
Goddess and queens is what we use to describe
Now Michelle Alexander wrote the new constitution
Beyoncé made the music for the revolution
Imagine it, a world more compassionate”
– Common, The Day Women Took Over
When I take the time to really slow down and tune into my breath, the silence, nature, I begin to experience myself as part of the larger whole of life. I feel power, depth, connection. I feel alive. I sense what the poet Joy Harjo described “That you can’t see, can’t hear; Can’t know except in moments steadily growing, and in languages that aren’t always sound but other circles of motion.” When I am in the presence of redwood, hawk, mountain or river, the politics of division loosen their grip on me. I lean in to the collaborative nature of life, the universe breathing through me, my inherent capacity to connect and transform.
In Ayurveda, Fall is the season of wind – a season of transition and, at times, turbulence that can leave us feeling ungrounded and pulled in too many directions, or feeling anxious or scared. It helps me sometimes to remind myself of these natural rhythms of the seasons and elements when I get consumed by fear or worry about what’s happening in our world, in my community, and my family. Thanks to the science of Ayurveda, I can adopt practices to help soothe my anxiety and ground me during this season that can stir so much up. But the catch is that I need to practice. I need to participate in creating new behaviors that will help me heal. Healing involves learning to live with, and not in resistance to, the rhythms of nature and the world I am a part of.
I’m sitting at home just outside Flint, Michigan, watching the violence unfold in Charlottesville, Virginia, while thinking about the work Center for Whole Communities conducted in New Haven, Connecticut less than a week ago. I’m trying to write and track the latest news at the same time.
I JUST watched footage of someone plow through a group of protestors and then drive away. One has been confirmed dead. I just watched the POTUS respond by practically refusing to respond. His brief statement was flaccid—rendered hollow by his obvious reticence to condemn his base—an ode to neutrality. In not choosing he yet again affirmed his previous choices. Read more
Center for Whole Communities hosted our annual Whole Thinking in Practice retreat in northern California last year. Though currently based between Western Mass and NYC, Dr. Kofi-Charu Nat Turner – one of last year’s retreat participants – grew up in Southern California and went to school in the Bay Area. So as Kofi reminisced about his days in California, he shared stories about crossing cultural boundaries growing up in LA, and campus organizing around issues of social justice and a more expansive curriculum at Berkeley.
Kofi brought a joyful and buoyant energy to the retreat. He shared his yoga practice with us one morning, the inspiring story of his grandmother (Caffie Greene) a pioneering community organizer and public health educator and activist in LA, and – in the most modest and caring of ways – Kofi shared generously of his wisdom and strength. Here are Kofi’s reflections on his experience of Whole Thinking in Practice last year:
If emotions and intellect were currency, I may soon be going broke. As a person of color from a working class background, I feel like I often pay an emotional or intellectual tax when I am engaged in social change work with those that claim to want change but show up half-heartedly, especially in predominantly white institutions. This tax is a result of the contradictions of trying to enact change within the existing system and leaving the hard work to folks from marginalized backgrounds. The tax increases as I am asked to be involved but never given any real power to create structural change. The most recent example I have is dealing with the unintended consequences of organizational white culture at a previous job.
For 15 years, Center for Whole Communities has been convening visionaries who are looking to deepen their understanding of themselves, their peers, and place, in service to their work in the world. Whole Thinking in Practice grounds participants in CWC’s unique practice-based approach to transformative leadership, while lifting up the wisdom and stories of the group – all in a gorgeous natural setting.
“At this time in our history we are to take nothing personally, least of all ourselves. For the moment we do so, our spiritual growth comes to a halt. The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves. Banish the word ‘struggle’ from your attitude and your vocabulary. All that we do now must be done in a sacred way and in celebration. We are the ones we have been waiting for.” – Hopi Elder
A sea of pink knit hats erupting in song, laughter, and cheers. Record-breaking demonstrations across the nation and around the world. Women holding space for each other across difference, moved by the deafening roar of our own voices. Our collective power has been awakened – unapologetic, uncensored, and unbowed.