New Life is Springing

Reading Time: 4 minutes
It is the fifth week of Lent and already I am experiencing the desert as both beautiful and lonely.
Perhaps you can relate.
Perhaps you, like me, are feeling tired. Come, sit with me in beauty for a while.
Come, new life is springing.
The desert is accustomed to extremes. Flora and cacti born into coarse sand and unforgiving heat have long learned to take root and blossom. Snow glistens atop far mountain sides. Scorpion and rattlesnake slither and slide from rock to brush. Javelinas charge and goats scamper. There is life here for the long journey and the short. Look how new life is still growing – forging deep roots and trusting a water source will provide.
Look for new life.
It takes time to grow roots. It takes time to nestle in and trust the water sources. After all, the droughts are long. I can easily forget that this growth period is good. That this growing and shifting and changing is new stretching into the gritty deep. And that here there be water. Water is life. 
This past weekend, I attended a volunteer training for a local humanitarian aid group, the Tucson Samaritans. Veteran activists provided critical historical information about the sanctuary movement, the work of humanitarian aid workers on the borderlands and encouraged us to consider what we know. What information did we have about the border? What were we willing to relearn? What were we committed to doing? Whom were we committed to serving?
A key component of this groups mission is this: We serve and offer humanitarian aid to persons that are refugees and migrants, persons seeking asylum, persons without documentation, persons belonging to independent militias, persons in the Border Patrol…we seek to offer humanitarian aid to everyone.

Hearing the stories of how people remain faithful to God’s call heartens and encourages me.
Look for new life.
A long time Immigration Public Defender and activist, Margo Cowan, offered this consideration (please note that this is not verbatim but is as best as I can remember): consider what you would do if you happened across some human remains in the desert. How would you react? One thing that I do is I consider how I can help to identify this person and bring peace to a family that may be wondering where this person is. I also remember that this is not about me and my reaction. Something that sticks with me is that police officers in the Tohono O’odham nation carry sage and candles that they light while offering a prayer before they return to their police duties.

Look for new life.
The more I commit to investigating Prevention by Deterrence, the more I start to see patterns. I wonder, what patterns you see when you look at this (very short and not at all comprehensive) list of border policies:
It can be hard to remember that there is new life springing. How do we look for it? How do we speak about it?
As a Tucson “transfer,” I can easily remember how easy it was in the East for the borderlands to be relegated to out of sight out of mind.

At a recent film screening of the documentary, Undeterred, the filmmakers talked about ways to mobilize persons throughout the country. 
A staggering reality is this: 2/3rds of the United States falls into the 100-mile constitution free zone. The implications of this is huge.
***(Also, a quick side note: “Undeterred is a documentary about community resistance in the rural border town of Arivaca, Arizona. Since NAFTA, 9/11 and the Obama and Trump administrations border residents have been on the front-lines of the humanitarian crisis caused by increased border enforcement build up. Undeterred is an intimate and unique portrait of how residents in a small rural community, caught in the cross-hairs of global geo-political forces, have mobilized to demand our rights and to provide aid to injured, oft times dying people funneled across a wilderness desert.”)***
I resent the reality that too often ‘humanitarian mobilization’ (or social justice mobilization) requires centering individualism rather than humanitarianism. The idea that we need to market and glamorize basic human rights in order to make people care deeply enough to protest is not merely appalling but upholds and propagates supremacist ideals.

Look for new life. Even when it is hard, look anyways. Familiarize yourself with these policies and protest them. Interrupt the old ways.
Look, new life is springing.
Some organizations in Tucson ask volunteers to attend Operation Streamline hearings in order to bear witness and/or to document human rights abuses. While I am still learning about much of the scope of the borderlands, I am aggrieved and outraged by how Operation Streamline intentionally delivers convictions for persons without documentation in order to make deportations easier. No More Deaths has also provided numerous comprehensive reports of human rights abuses. These reports are available on their website, or click here for direct access. 
Volunteers documenting abuses track specifics like: if the person is seeking asylum, if the person speaks English and the age of the person. 
Other organizations work together to track human rights abuses committed by the Border Patrol. Others continue to lobby local and national political leaders. Others carry water. Others track deaths. Others provide emergency medical aid. Some do all of the above.
Look for new life.
I find new life when I look at this list:
I find new life when I remember that across time and history, there have always been those whom protest violence. There have always been those committed to humanitarianism. There have always been justice seekers.
I find new life when I pay attention to voices of those most deeply and intimately affected.
A story I learned recently which has stirred me deeply involves an Indigenous dance. In this dance, good and evil are battling. How is evil defeated? Evil is defeated by a cascade of flowers.
Look: new life is springing. Here in the desert. Here in this wild, gritty, expanse.
Come. Look for new life.

Staying Present

Reading Time: 4 minutes
Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced
– James Baldwin

This past weekend, my news feed was filled with stories of Nathan Phillips and Nick Sandmann.

Reading the emerging stories, comments and petitions made me sick to my stomach.

Some people wanted the students expelled from their schools. Others started petitions against admission to secondary education. Others blamed The Black Hebrew Israelites. There were rumors of death threats. Someone even created a fake Twitter account of Sandmann’s mom with a particularly nasty racist sentiment. 

Everyone was pointing fingers.

I was angry, disgusted, sad, riveted and triggered.

So, I paused. I stood outside in the sunshine. I started a good book. I watched a silly Netflix show. I went on a walk. I drank a hot cup of tea. And, I breathed.

And then I watched the first video that had emerged. And, I stayed present with the feelings: rage, disgust, sadness and helplessness. I noticed my breath, and I stayed committed to the process. I noticed my own inner trigger warnings.

Suddenly, I was a child again. I was a 9-year-old being called the N-word for the first time. I was a 13-year-old getting her skirt hiked up so that her classmates could see if her butt was ‘big.’ I was a 14-year-old-girl again getting spit on by fellow track mates….I was a 25-year-old being followed by men in a truck with confederate flags. I was a 26-year-old being told by a family member that “…I play the race card.”

For those able to say even a resemblance of ‘let’s talk about this without emotions,’ is a privilege and a testament to ‘objectiveness.’

As I watched the video, I noticed my own rage and anger at not being able to clearly articulate the pain of racism. 

And, how the silencing of that pain amplifies new trauma.

A thought that has resonated with me is this: New voices are being muted while the old pattern of white innocence persists.

What resists persists. 

I stayed present and I listened to my body. I stayed present and I committed to the process. 

It occurs to me that amid all the clamor voices of Indigenous people are still being silenced and replaced by the voices of others. Celebrities have been given air time. Sandmann has been given airtime. Radio hosts have been given airtime.

Everybody cares.

And yet…the government continues to steal indigenous lands.

The film media still largely relies on stereotypes when portraying indigenous and first people.

Christopher Columbus is still a national hero entitled to a national holiday.

Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women (#MMIW) remain absent from the national media and conversation about race.

After watching the video, I committed to naming and noticing each of the feelings. And, to holding space for transformation – a practice I have learned from Dr. Amanda Kemp.

After holding space for transformation, I breathed. I prayed. I lit some incense. I cried. I must confess – I wasn’t ready to channel unconditional love and acceptance. But, I reminded myself of my own racial justice vision. I was determined to be kind and to do more.

How are you staying present?

So, I held space. And, let me tell you what I gained:

  1. A renewed determination towards intersectionality.
  2. HopeWait, what?! Hope? Sounds crazy, right? But yes, I am hopeful. 

    I am hopeful that we, as a nation, can lean into the ugly and gritty history of racism and do better and hold space for truths.

    I am hopeful that we can learn how to be interventionists, advocates and allies.

    I am hopeful seeing new white allies processing, some for the first time, race and race relations.

    I am hopeful seeing longtime white allies educating new white allies and interrupting white spaces.

    I am hopeful seeing black and brown allies beginning intersectional conversations.

    I am hopeful seeing new members of congress interrupting historic white spaces by vocalizing dissent and demanding visibility.

    I am hopeful because Nathan Phillips is entirely vocal and dissenting and his voice has become a roar
A few thoughts, practices and resources which have been helpful to me as I discern a sustainable way forward. 

1. Two things in opposition can be true. It can be true that this week’s past incident was a visual symptom of white supremacy and bigotry. It can also be true that a group of Black Hebrew Israelites were problematic. It is also critical and true to note that any version of ‘both sideism’ relies on a problematic framework and a limited, arguably intentionally ignorant, understanding of racism and dimensions of power. 

2. Reassess your educational resources and supports regarding proactive anti-racism education. Often times, white allied responses are reactionary and often limited in sustainable supports and resources regarding further training and long term solutions. Assess your racial/social justice vision. Invest in local anti-oppression training. Interrupt white spaces and educate one another. 

3. White allies – lean in. Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Teach one another. As I reflect on how many white allies are condemning Nick Sandmann, I also can’t help but think that white allies should and could be leaning in. Educate him. Educate that one racist uncle. Ask hard questions and remain vigilant. Lean in. 

4. Presumed white innocence… Let’s say it again for the folks in the back…

5. Call Out/In Culture. I’ve been wrestling with this one…it is easy to ally shame. You know the “where were you when…Colombine, Charlottesville, Ferguson…” It’s easy to do that…to point the finger and point out everyone else’s inadequacies and hypocritical allyship. 

If you are struggling with call-out/in culture, or even if you don’t think you are…check out these rock star articles from The Body is Not an Apology and Everyday Feminism

  6 Signs Your Call Out Isn’t Actually About Accountability (note: ads on this page can include photos some viewers may see as risque…).

9 Ways We Can Make Social Justice Movements Less Elitist and More Accessible by Kai Cheng Thom, 

Also, side note (and to borrow from For Harriet’s, Kimberly Foster), I will never be okay staying in a box that white supremacy says I need to live in or calling out black women whom choose not to. Call out culture can be toxic. And, it can also adhere to a certain set of prescribed patriarchal and white supremacist rules. Luckily, it doesn’t have to. 

Additional Resources 
             – 25 Books by Indigenous Authors You Should Be Reading by Kaitlin Curtice. Kaitlin Curtice is a Native American speaker, storyteller, poet and author. Check out her book “Glory Happening.” 

             – Doctrine of Discovery
Ours Is The Land: Check out this 17 minute video outlining the proposal to ban the Rosemont Mine. 

Oak Flat Spiritual Walk: Participate in this sacred spiritual walk hosted by the San Carlos Apache. Check out this video  about the religious,  human rights and creation care concerns. 

What has been your practice this past week? What resources and supports do you use to stay present and engaged? 

Peace & grace always.  

2018 Recap

Reading Time: 5 minutes
It’s snowing in Tucson. So, I feel better that I am a few days late on my 2018 top eight because… snow in the desert. And, as you know or probably don’t because it never happens, watching snow sit on cacti is probably one of the coolest sights.
I don’t know about you, but I’m not the type for New Year’s resolutions. However, I do like to start the New Year with intentionality. At my wedding, a dear friend encouraged my husband and I to choose a specific word each year on which to reflect and meditate on together. Each year, I have enjoyed and learned to enjoy the ways in which I am stretched by this exercise.
No spoilers for 2019, but our word for 2018 was ‘listen.’ Looking back, I cannot help but notice the way in which God has continued to use that word to move my heart to and for marginalized communities, as well as towards my own and our joint healing and wholeness. And yes, I know it’s already 2019, but I wanted to take a few moments to reflect on my top eight resources, in addition to the Scripture, that helped me to listen more closely in 2018.  
  1. Intentional Mentorship. At a recent church gathering, someone tossed out this think piece: what is the meaning of church? It was just quippy/ironic/taboo enough that it immediately caught my attention, and a couple of giggles. I was hooked. What would people say? One of the most concise and profound answers was something like: it is hard to follow Jesus by yourself. Okay, so what does this have to do with mentorship? When people ask me why I advocate for mentorship, I have found myself saying something similar: it is hard to do life by yourself. We desire and need human interaction. And mentorships help to fortify and restore us.  These past two years, I have been blessed to form a mentorship of sorts with a black woman who has encouraged me to radically reconsider my understanding of social justice, womanism and the deconstruction of racism. Mentorship invites accountability and vulnerability – both stretching and powerful! If you haven’t already, I would invite you to consider a mentorship.
  1. Friendship Circles. What is that old saying about friends? Friends are a rare commodity? Growing up, I have been fortunate enough to find, usually, the right friends at the right time. Some have been long-lasting while others have been there for a season. These last few years, I have been fortunate enough to find friends that have continually spent time invested in and connecting intentionally with me on more of the gritty aspects of life. And, for that, I am forever grateful. Where do you feel safe enough to be vulnerable? I have been blessed with a variety of friendships which can hold my questions and can be soft, safe places to land. Where are your safe places? Whom are your soft places to land?
  1. Literary Resources. The other day, I was listening to an NPR podcast between a Syrian refugee and her American friend. During the interview, after doing her best to communicate her empathy for her friend, the American friend said something particularly profound which has stuck with me. I can’t remember the exact words, but it was essentially this: “You know, I have done my best to read and to educate myself on Syria, and I can’t imagine what living through that profound trauma must have been for you or how it continues to impact you. I can’t know…but, I want to tell you that your story impacts me, and I have held it and made it a part of me and what I carry.” While there are pieces of this sentiment that are, perhaps, problematic, I particularly appreciate the image of carrying the stories of others. That resonates with me as well as the idea that educational resources can only provide the smallest glimpse of historic, shared and lived trauma. That being said, don’t stop with your own due diligence. Read. Learn. Educate yourself. But also, don’t forget to invest in and get to know real people. And, because this section is titled “literary resources,” you already know you are going to get a few of my favorite book titles from this last year. Check out the graphic at the top of the post for some of my favorites. 
  1. Community Investment. Nowadays, there are so many ways to get invested in organizations and NPO’s. And, usually these investments cost you something: time, money or both. I spent time breaking down how I wanted to invest in my time and money in 2018 through 4 parts:
    1. Identify my own core values
    2. Educate myself on NPO’s and organizations within my local community which closely aligned with my core values.
    3. Invest in those communities and organizations either with my time, money or both
    4. Resource out the information I have gathered with my community
  1. Educational Opportunities. You know those people that are always like, “I LOVE SCHOOL,” or even “I LOVE HOMEWORK.” Okay, so #nerdalert, but those folks are seriously my kind of folk. I thoroughly enjoy learning and living close to the UofA makes me happy for all things seminars and workshop(py). Part of my listening journey included paying attention to opportunities for growth and then maximizing my growth potential. In education, we probably overutilize the idea of turning everything in a “learning opportunity,” but I believe access to education and continual resources and supports are crucial when considering a more equitable and just future. This past year, I attended seminars on everything from toxic masculinity and black lives matter to intersectionality and wealth disparity, and I wish I could’ve hauled each and one of you to them. From attending workshops led by Jason Reynolds to listening to Harvard Professor William Julius Wilson, I am grateful for free and accessible events.
  1. Truth Warriors. Truth can sometimes be a complicated thing. This past year, I have found myself really struggling with naming and committing to living my own truth. After a few heated scenarios with loved ones regarding my own experiences with racism, I found myself resisting my own truth. I couldn’t make sense of how to navigate living into my own truth if it meant breaking relationship. I couldn’t make sense of living into my own truth if it meant that loved ones couldn’t accept my black body. Problematic…I know.  But I also couldn’t seem to imagine pretending away my blackness for white comfort.? It didn’t seem fair to ask me to make the compromise. I wanted to channel unconditional love and yet the sentiments expressed thoroughly renounced me as a black woman and as a truth teller. What did it mean to live into truth? To be honest, I am still wrestling with this scenario. It hurts me. But I have also learned to fortify myself with some additional truths. I am named and known. I have value. I can speak the truth in love and ask for what I need. I can disengage. I can choose not to argue with those whom are unwilling to see or recognize my inherent value as a human being. I can still have power.
  1. Intentional Mindfulness/Mental Health Awareness. What are the ways you unwind? This past year has been a doozy for me, and as I’ve struggled to begin to manage my anxiety, I discovered the importance of meditation and routines. As resourced in a few previous blog posts, I have particularly found supports like therapyforblackgirls, ourselvesblack and even forharriet helpful and encouraging. On the IG or Twitter, check out #blackgirlmentalhealth, #blackmentalhealth or #blackwomenmentalhealth
  1. Media. One way I listen is by exposing myself to different cultures through television, radio and media. Check out the graphic at the top of my page for my recommendations.