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.

6 Tips for Engaging in Political Discussions this Holiday

Reading Time: 4 minutes

If you’re anything like me, you might be dreading the upcoming holidays.

I mean, midterms, am I right? And, of course they were strategically placed on day 6 of the Gratitude journey to Thanksgiving. Because – reasons!

As a (pretty opinionated, and the youngest) black woman in a white (mostly moderate, also very opinionated) largely conservative family, you can imagine that I have all the feels about the upcoming holidays.

Maybe you can relate?

So, if you are feeling anxious about the upcoming holidays, I wanted to share a few resources which I have found helpful, as well as my own tips and strategies for promoting holistic conversations while navigating difficult subjects.

Though, if you need an out, when I asked one of my girlfriends if she had any suggestions, she said: “Tip 1-10: DON’T.”

Anyways, here are 6 Tips for Engaging in Holiday Political Discussions. What are the tips and/or strategies you have developed?

1. Take time for self-care. Okay, so maybe this one sounds obvious, but if you are anything like me it is easy to skip the “obvious” solution. Don’t. Manage your expectations and set appropriate boundaries. It is okay to say that you need a break. It is okay to refuse to engage in devolving conversations. It is okay to ask for what you need. For me, this sometimes looks like setting specific boundaries, ie: I am invested in this conversation and what you have to say is important to me, but I need a ten minute break before we resume…

2. Identify and assess your goals. So, maybe you’re like, what? Goal identification and assessment? This isn’t a business meeting. And, you’re right. But identifying your goals before you enter into an -often emotionally charged – conversation is crucial for managing your expectations. What do you want from the conversation? Do you want to be heard? Do you want the other person to agree with you? Do you want to know that you are valued and loved? When you are able to identify and assess what you need it becomes easier to develop an effective strategy.

3. Check in with your body. Okay, so this one requires some willingness to be intentionally self-aware. And, it’s not always the easiest. But, as you are able, check in. Do you have what you need to feel supported? Are you able to dialogue in a safe place (ie: really distinguish between safe and uncomfortable. There is a difference. For example, a safe white space does not automatically correlate as a safe POC space). Are you hungry? Are you tired? Are you irritated?

No one is always in a “perfect” place to dialogue. People have tough conversations all the time without checking in. But, by doing a check-in it helps us to identify and uncover both our needs and our capacity to have sustainable, holistic conversations.

4. Ask meaningful follow-up questions. Are you that person that likes to be snarky? Maybe you inadvertently weaponize intelligence? When feeling desperate, sometimes I give a low blow. Reminder: These conversations -though, if I’m honest, any conversation – are not the place for these snark attacks. Respect one another to ask meaningful questions (ie: questions in which you actually want to know the answer and questions in which you don’t know the answer). 

5. Evaluate your Racial/Social/Political Goals. About a year ago, I was challenged to intentionally identify my racial justice vision and then develop a clear strategy. To be honest, I had never considered creating a strategy with clear identifiable steps for racial justice. But, I am so glad that I have as it has helped me identify how to engage others.

For me, part of my Racial Justice vision includes promoting and attaining sustainable relationships. Understanding this goal has helped me to identify that humanizing and valuing the ‘other’ is important to me, and it has also fundamentally shifted the way in which I engage with the ‘other.’ ie: if I care about the ‘other,’ I will refrain from disparaging, hateful speech. This does not mean that I will not speak truth, but it will mean that I won’t call Trump…well…a lot of things, etc., Additionally, this means the way in which I speak to my more conservative family members centers on humanizing and valuing their concerns in order to focus conversations while also promoting my own needs and concerns. 

6. Be kind. Okay, so I used to hate this phrase because I was pretty sure it was white fragility dressed up as a 10 Commandment…But…I have started to shift my thinking. Growing up, “be kind,” was that phrase your mom used if you said something a little too true to your sister. You know the, “that shirt is ugly,” type of thing. It was a warning to rethink what was coming out of your mouth. It was an invitation to be passive aggressive (I mean, it was an opportunity to exemplify tact). Whatever you want to call it, I had the opportunity of working in education and this fun little phrase somehow became our theme the past two years, and I discovered something. Being kind doesn’t mean being indirect, and it doesn’t mean letting someone walk all over you. I can be kind and still think you are racist. I can be kind and still ask you to check your privilege. What if kindness is a wonderful opportunity of telling the truth in love? Yeah, I know, overused phrase. But, something that I’ve been trying to practice.


Additional Recommendations: 

1. Christena Cleveland. Yes, I pretty much shamelessly promote this woman because…investing in black women (particularly those whom are invested in spirituality and justice practices) is critical. Recently, Christena began a biweekly newsletter entitled Justice & Renewal. And, this week she gives tips and strategies for engaging in difficult conversations over the holidays. Click here for access.

2. Dr. Amanda Kemp. Check out Dr. Amanda Kemp’s blog here for some vulnerable and reinvigorating strategies.

Shalom always,

Why I’m Not Here for the Nike #takeaknee Show

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Nike does not care about black people. Repeat it with me. Nike does not care about black people.

As, I’m sure you have heard. Early last week, Nikeunveiled their new ad campaign partnership with Colin Kaepernick.
If you remember, Kap is the NFL players who started the #takeaknee campaign and royally PO’d MAGA fans across the Globe. So, naturally, when Nike unveiled their new campaign, MAGA fans had a huh-UGE white tear meltdown.
Photo used from Google Photos

With some threatening to run to Converse…which is Nikeowned. But whatever. (I’m not going to tell them that).

Basically, a lot of ‘very fine American’s’ have lost their minds. And also, basically, a lot of ‘good people on both sides’ are convinced that Nike is Jesus Incarnate.

I am going to suggest that Nike isn’t doing this because they care or support black and brown people. It’s because they are a corporation that hops on whatever political wave is happening to make money off of it. It’s like that one farm that I drive by every day on my way to work that flies a Confederate flag 9 months of the year except for when they put out their farm stand…then they put out flowers and an American flag.

Likewise, Nike is in this for the money. Do you really think they care about black and brown people? If they were, let us see them pull out of all the NFL deals. Or maybe at least stop depending on child and slave labor to create their products.

And yet, by using Kap as the face of their ‘humanitarian activism’ not only can they divert attention away from anti-sweatshop protests but they can also refocus it on ‘very fine people’ burning shoes.

To quote from today’s OP Ed, ‘Just Don’t Do It’ in the Daily Missisippian by Jas Brisack, “by adding the face of an internationally respected activist to its advertisements, Nike is trying to convince the very people most likely to have boycotted its products in the past to go out and buy new ones, instead.”

This idea of “corporate co-optation of progressive movements is nothing new.” And, yet, co-optation tactics remain effective because the public is willing to remain ignorant and complicit.

When we see Nike elevating Kap, we don’t want to ask questions. We don’t want to investigate because we see a white owned company ‘empowering’ a black man.

Right?

Intersectionality requires intentional commitment, that tireless tenacity, towards purging ourselves of that pleasant urge to remain willfully ignorant.

I know that some people talk about what a big risk it was for Nike to be able to do this, but where was the risk? Nike is a 36.4-billion dollar company. When the shoe-burning crazies were at their worst, Nike’s market cap lost 3.75 billion dollars but within days had regained what it lost. Is the risk that they took a famous person, made some cute ads and put a caption over his face? This only completed what? Making sure that the people who hate Kap don’t support him?

I know that there is this knee jerk reaction that black people everywhere should be grateful to Nike for this ‘win.’ But, I guess I don’t really understand why. Have you seen a Nike Executive at your local Black Lives Matter Chapter? Or, are you still seeing overpriced shoes? Have you seen Chinese sweat shops starting to close or better wages?

So just do it.

And wake the Kap up.