Monthly Archive for August, 2009

it’s a daily choice

there has been so much growth, life, death, loss, excitement, change, and work in my life lately. at the same time i have been working to establish a practice, or set of daily practices, to ground and center me, focus me on my best offerings to the world, let me clear and clarify. i have wrestled with practice, as i have wrestled with all disciplines in my life. give me space, creation space, rules to break, lines to cross, newness and naughtiness and truth – i’m yours. but practice? something every day? the same thing every day? yawn…life is long!

and yet…when i practice the difference is palpable. on a day where i meditate, do 10 reps of jo kata, center myself, think about what i love and want to manifest: MY LIFE IS AMAZING. literally i eat well, cook skillfully, listen deeply, am full of action and accomplishment, am humble and loved and open.

and on days where i don’t have time – don’t make/take time – for myself? i trip, i stumble, i fall, i eat fast foods, i sneak bad things like ice cream and cigarettes, the pool is suddenly closed, i get tickets from the city of oakland, i become a vexed person, cynical, venting, a hater…i forget important things, my to-do list seems unbearable, other people are mean and potentially in a conspiracy of stupid behavior designed to stump my instincts for good…swirling down a drain of ick.

what i am realizing is that it is not WHAT i practice, but THAT i practice. it’s the daily choice…actually millions of small daily choices, that make the life i want to lead. even if i consider practicing, and choose not to, aware of the implications – it is better than making no choice, being asleep in boredom or misery.

and when i make a good choice – to make space for the stillness, to move towards my intentions, to center myself all the way down to the earth before responding to anything – it’s power. i have nothing but love and redemption in me, i’m human in the most miraculous way.

it’s transformational.

wisdom on death

my friend’s son was killed in a motorcycle accident this past weekend, while i was off celebrating love. another good friend, marilyn clement, a warrior in the fight for universal health care from her apartment in manhattan (i sat on her Healthcare-Now board for years!), passed last week – surrounded by family. in the wake of both losses, friends have poured forth all of their wisdom and learning on death, and i wanted to offer it here:

Death Is Nothing At All

Death is nothing at all.
I have only slipped away to the next room.
I am I and you are you.
Whatever we were to each other,
That, we still are.

Call me by my old familiar name.
Speak to me in the easy way
which you always used.
Put no difference into your tone.
Wear no forced air of solemnity or sorrow.

Laugh as we always laughed
at the little jokes we enjoyed together.
Play, smile, think of me. Pray for me.
Let my name be ever the household word
that it always was.
Let it be spoken without effect.
Without the trace of a shadow on it.

Life means all that it ever meant.
It is the same that it ever was.
There is absolute unbroken continuity.
Why should I be out of mind
because I am out of sight?

I am but waiting for you.
For an interval.
Somewhere. Very near.
Just around the corner.

All is well.

Death Poem by Henry Scott Holland ~ 1847-1918
Canon of St. Paul’s Cathedral ~ London. UK written on the eve of his death.

Commitment prayer:

I love you to the end of our lives and, after that, forever.

Do not stand by my grave and weep
I am not there, I do not sleep
I am a thousand winds that blow
I am a diamond glint on the snow.
I am the sunlight on the ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
I am the fleeting bird up in the sky
I do not want to see you cry.
I am the sweet smells of the early spring
I will be with you when you laugh and sing.
For I am you and you are me
An in your hearts I shall always be.
Found in an In Memoriam, but not sure of original source

Look to this day for it is Life, the very Life of Life.
In its brief course, lie all the verities and realities of your existence;
the bliss of growth, the glory of action, the splendour of beauty.
For yesterday is but a dream and tomorrow is only a vision,
but today, well lived, makes every yesterday a dream of happiness
and every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore to this day. Such is the salutation of the dawn.
A Sufi poem, from John Morse’s wake

“We would ask now of Death.”

And he said:

You would know the secret of death.

But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?

The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.

If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.

For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.

In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;

And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.

Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.

Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.

Is the sheered not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?

Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?

For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?

And what is to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?

Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.

And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.

And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

- On Death, from The Prophet by Khalil Gibran (which i read at the beginning of each new year)

Peace, my heart, let the time for the parting be sweet. Let it not be a death but completeness. Let love melt into memory and pain into songs. Let the flight through the sky end in the folding of the wings over the nest. Let the last touch of your hands be gentle like the flower of the night. Stand still, O Beautiful End, for a moment, and say your last words in silence. I bow to you and hold up my lamp to light you on your way. ~Rabindranath Tagore

wedding singer

today i got to sing at the wedding of my dear friends sara and maia. i have sung at just about every wedding i have ever attended, a pattern that i just recently acknowledged, after years of thinking each time it had happened randomly. i am starting to realize it is perhaps my favorite offering. some of the folks who have asked me to sing have never even really heard me sing (though i am told i sing all the time under my breath).

today, on a hilltop in sonoma overlooking a vast valley with mountains in the distance, and a pair of hawks circling each other in the sky, sara and maia committed to each other. at the same moment, on another hill in the california sun, closer to the ocean, my friends hannah and win were wed. i love love, and i love the work that both of these couples have put into their relationships, showing that love is about committing to transform yourself again and again, with another.

getting to witness the ceremony today was particularly special, because though here in the state of california their wedding is not legal, sara and maia’s commitment is cosmic, and so much bigger than the temporary, regressive rulings of strangers. sara and maia are the kind of women who are generous and liberating for everyone who gets to be around them. being with all the generations of their families to celebrate the love they share was inspirational and reminded me that we are here to love.

here’s their wedding song:

drifting on a memory
ain’t no place i’d rather be
than with you – loving you

day will make a way for night
and all we’ll need is candlelight
and a song, soft, and long

glad to be here alone with a lover unlike no other
sad to see a new horizon slowly coming into view

i wanna be living for the love of you
and all that i’m giving is for the love of you

lovely as a ray of sun
that touches me when the morning comes
feels good to me, my love and me
smoother than a gentle breeze
flowing through my mind with ease
soft as can be when you’re loving me

love to be riding the wave of your love – enchanted with your touch
seems to me we could sail together, in and out of mystery

i wanna be living for the love of you
i wanna be giving (giving!) for the love of you

paradise i have within
can’t feel insecure again, you’re the key
and this i see
now and then i lose my way
using words i try to say how i feel
that love is real – oh love is real

now that i’m living for the love of you
you know that i’ve giving for the love of you
each and every day i’m living for the love of you
and all that i’m giving is for the love of you

(isley brothers)

random: i’m a futurist, and an INFP

“i am a futurist.”

i am trying this out, i have been saying it to people more. like, i think to myself that i am a philosopher and theologian and writer and facilitator and science fiction fan and an organizer and a visionary and a geek…but all of that comes together at moments into a larger thing, which is that i am a creater, predictor, pattern-watcher, midwife of the next. a futurist.

and what are the skills for tomorrow? there’s no way i could know. but i suspect there is a future i would like more than any others…and i can see which skills would be most useful to me in the future i am manifesting, and these are the ones i am developing: facilitation. truth and reconciliation. laughter. cooking. being a really good guide and companion to children.

i am actually considering how to carve some time out in my life just to think about reorienting my life and the lives of as many people as possible towards viable futures, informed by patterns of the past, by the science of the present, by collective community processes…

so that’s that. try it. adrienne maree the futurist.

this is definitely influenced by having a meeting with salina gray from stanford university today, and talking about afro-futurism, my district 9 review, her district 9 campus conversations, why youth of color need to learn science to be a part of a future that includes their success…not just existence or survival but success! i see that future. we can get there.

in OTHER news…

i took a facebook quiz, which i occasionally do as a relaxation technique which requires less commitment than meditation. here’s what it came out with:

INFP (Introversion, iNtuition, Feeling, Perception)

which means:

“You are idealistic, loyal to your values and to people who are important to you. You want an external life that is congruent with your values. You are curious, quick to see possibilities, and can be a catalyst for implementing ideas. You seek to understand people and to help them fulfill their potential. You are adaptable, flexible, and accepting unless a value is threatened. Famous people with your same INFP personality include: Mary the Blessed Virgin, Hellen Keller, William Shakespeare, John F. Kennedy Jr., Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis and Julia Roberts.”

there are no INFPs of color i guess. whenever i have taken this test in the past i have been on the line between extrovert and introvert, and between feeling and judging. facebook makes it simpler, and as i age it is more true, i am a hermit-geek-introvert and this facebook quiz result is alarmingly accurate.

in OTHER news…

a list of readings based on our afro-futurism-science conversation today:

neuromancer, by william gibson
babel 17, samuel r. delaney
anything by octavia butler
the universe in a single atom, dalai lama

geek out! :)

is peter jackson an anti-zionist? (or, my review of district 9)

just watched district 9. before i went, i heard a variety of reviews, from “totally racist” to “comprehensive critique on humanity” to “awesome action flick”. all i heard was: aliens in slums outside johannesberg, and i knew i had to see for myself.

upon watching it, i could totally see how folks could walk away offended on a number of fronts. i have my thoughts on the film, but i first want to offer this series of questions as a guide to enjoying District 9, or at least complexifying your viewing experience:

1. given that the first essential foundational thing to remember about this movie is: it’s a hollywood alien movie produced by the guy who did lord of the rings, and written-directed by one of his protege (and not one of his African protege on the benefit-of-the-doubt chance he has those)…do you honestly expect an in-depth treaty on race, immigration, apartheid, militarism or even the IDEA of aliens?

2. when/if you watched lord of the rings, did you see it as an unsubtle manifesto against capitalism and racism via the metaphor of the ring (power) in the hands of white wizards, and that ultimately power used to control others is destructive in any hands? or did you just see hobbits and orcs and elves?

3. what comes to your mind when you see a forced slum situation where the visibly and/or culturally “different” population is treated like animals to be contained, detained, or eliminated? south african apartheid? jews in germany during the holocaust? ICE detention centers in the u.s.? gaza and the west bank in modern day palestine-israel? all of the above?

4. can you consider that, based on previous experience, indigenous people (in south africa, or the u.s., or canada, or ANYWHERE) might have a justifiably suspicious or close-minded reaction to a new population showing up on the scene? that is to say, what are the clear signs to differentiate between colonizer and immigrant?

5. are you able to acknowledge that mercenary forces and mystical belief systems exist in nearly every nation, of every ethnicity?

***SPOILER ALERT BUT NOT A BAD ONE***

my opinion: this is an amazing, surprising flick. its gory, action-packed, and presents an analysis counter to the american norm in terms of immigrants (or “aliens”).

i didn’t go in expecting much in terms of the analysis, but i was really pleased to see the clear condemnation of militarized containment of a people (or in this case, a species with cognitive abilities on par with or beyond our own). also noteworthy was the highlighted hypocrisy of polite colonization, fueled by an unquestioned sense of superiority.

what i saw gelled with my own lived experience: in my lifetime i have seen people whose first language is not english treated like animals and children, regardless of their expertise, intelligence, kindness, humanity, or accomplishments. in my lifetime i have witnessed the work of mercenaries of all kinds, from all backgrounds.

the best and worst traits, beliefs and behaviors are present in every person, in every people, in every nation. the leaps and bounds made in this film left several people and nations vastly underdeveloped and underrepresented – especially the nigerians and the quiet south african whistle-blowing hero.

in fact, the low point of this film is the representation of nigerians, the only mercenaries called out by name and seen engaging in behavior that could easily be respected as culturally specific (eating something in order to take on it’s power), but through director neill blomkamp’s lens comes off as gross and ignorant.

that said, all of the african and white mercenary and military characters get dismissed as wrong, stupid, violent, misled, power-hungry and horrible. only the aliens show any signs of what we so casually refer to as “humanity”.

and ultimately, in this film, only the merging of human and alien is able to open the eyes of the person abusing power. i am the living merger between two historically abusive and abusing, battling, othered peoples. i sometimes wonder if anything other than seeing the “other” in our own families will make us realize that the only sustainable path forward is the one we walk together.

octavia butler offers us the wisdom that “change is god.” but even the most open-minded of us still tend to think almost entirely in terms of our little container, our living spaceship hurtling in orbit through space. how much change can we accept and still see the divinity of it?

that is to say – if a massive alien ship full of living creatures was hovering over your city tomorrow, and if the creatures inside were stronger than you, and you couldn’t understand them, how would you react? and to make it current – how do you react now to the changing population of your city, town, world? to the constant migration and flow of people, from causes both natural and man-made, which is a part of our human existence? how do you react to abuses of power by your own people, or nation? are you an active participant, or a taxpaying passive colonizer, torturer…are you polite, or afraid, or open?

this movie can be very much about today’s world, and the horrors we are inflicting on each other at this moment. it can be about our choice, to turn away from domination and turn towards listening.

i will say it is much more enjoyable if you resist an easy watch, and compel yourself to think as much as you can the whole time.

so in love…

today is/was my nephew’s 1 year birthday. i decided fairly last minute that i had to be here. my family converged from different directions, and we had a party. that was aight. the best part was every minute i got to spend alone with him, chasing each other up and down the hallway and making surprise faces, flirting, doing dances, making sounds, falling and recovering.

when someone tells him no, he kind of gets still and then does the thing again, but slower. it seems that he hears it as like a “no you can’t”, in a literal way, and is like…”oh? – but yes i CAN”. then the mischievous “o” of his mouth betrays any act of innocence.

everything he does i want to remember. how he calls out to other living things – dogs, birds, the half-dead mouse on the sidewalk. how his eyebrows lift up just before he tries to taste or kiss something. how he watches the sky, and all light, with wonder. how he points at the things he notices, not wanting us to miss it. how much he loves playing chase and drumming everything. how he pauses when he falls to see if anyone is around for the show before he starts crying. how nice and welcoming he is to others, how he doesn’t like to perform, how he loves touching the ground, how he looks at his parents, and my parents.

at one year, he can almost say things. he has been walking for three months. he likes to collect things, gift things, and try new things. he is attracted to liquids and danger. he is still fearless, and totally believes he deserves to not only be happy, but be entertained and adored.

he is in constant practice mode – walking, sitting, standing, eating, tasting, listening, talking. i am at my best when i am with him

happy birthday little finn.

from a plane!

i am writing a blog from a plane!

i got nominated for a grant for change. its a bizarre thing, but i don’t get the grant unless a lot of people vote for me. but if i get it that’s a VERY necessary $10K for ruckus. voting is easy – you go and rate me (hopefully favorably). please support me! if all my readers vote, i get it. it’s awkward enough already without losing :)

the past couple of days have been full of magic conversations.

i got to talk to gopal about how we are apes. not descended from apes but actually the 5th ape. chimps, orangutans, gorillas, bonobos (the freakiest monkey you ever did see – they make love more than any other activity, to resolve conflict, to communicate) and us. our hips are narrower (generally…not mine) so our children come out of the womb earlier, and thus our young are out of the womb responding to stimulus early, which increases our cognitive abilities. not making us better or worse than any others, just – know thyself to love thyself.

gopal also took away from me the word evolve. sort of. i generally use it to mean anytime humans move in a direction i like. but he was saying that in a scientific way, we haven’t evolved since the first humans. all the stuff i think of as evolving is cultural specifications, apparently.

i have to read up more on all of this stuff. gopal says things with such wonder and conviction that it’s easy to forget to research.

then i got a moment with angel kyodo williams. on september 19th i am emceeing an event for them, the evening portion of the Sit For Change, which ruckus is a partner on. angel and i talked some about the difference between enlightenment and transformation. both happen in the world, and are experiences that completely change the way of seeing the world. i was wondering if transformative change happens as a process of group enlightenment, if these terms even function in a secular way.

{that’s as far as i got on the plane…my Friend was on a live broadcasting radio show so i checked that out until my eyelids won}

i landed in NY and got on a train that cut like a knife through the humidity to get to my sister. the train was AC cold and stinky, which i only experience in NYC. my sister woke up to let me in, and i made some toast and eggs (over easy, with butter and apricot jam – mmm) and we started to catch up. she told me another ape story, about a group of chimpanzees in a zoo. when one of them went into labor, the rest gathered in a circle around her, and one of the eldest start screaming at her, and she screamed back. this call and response continued until the baby came out, with everyone holding their place.

after some sleeping, my little nephew-monkey woke up and i have gotten to spend a magnificent day with him. he is on the precipice of talking – making tons of sounds and taking up lots of space and playing games, mock crying. part of the learning from my movement generation weekend was how we are taught that nature is bad/separate from us. so we spent a lot of time in the backyard picking up things and examining them: leaf. rock…instrument too, yes. stick. well – ok, wand. and the constants – dirt, trees, sky. feels slowed down and specific, the world through his eyes.

in fact, its better than blogging.

ciao.

we are the movement generation

wow!

as often happens, i am writing to you in a state of amazement. i just finished the first weekend of the movement generation summer strategic retreats – this weekend was laying out the entirety of our ecological crises, all the stuff i have suspected and felt but didn’t have all the information to back it up. it’s so much worse than i thought, but it really is a transformational and (dareisay) revolutionary comprehension that comes out of having this information, knowing what’s actually happening and knowing what the false solutions are, so that we can be on the right path. the next weekend (in october) will be more about the real solutions we need right now, and what’s already happening.

i took 31 pages of notes, so this is going to be a pretty long post, but i will make it as readable as possible and PLEASE take the time to learn this information and pass it on! i am going to try and capture the key things here – my notes are a jumble of readings, facts, sentiments, a-ha moments, to do lists. hopefully it informs your life and work in some way, though i know it’s hard to capture a live experience in a report back. i’ll do my best.

we were at the occidental arts and ecology center, a gorgeous intentional community which was actually the location of the ‘our power’ action camp that helped to birth the indigenous people’s power project at ruckus. magical, beautiful, education place.

the information was given to us in 5 categories: waste and toxins, water, food and agriculture, climate and energy, and biocultural diversity. we then touched on control mythologies and false solutions, which i will save for a follow-up blog.

readings/things to watch:
- Original Instructions, Melissa Nelson
- Parable of the Sower, Octavia Butler (and everything else she’s written)
- Battlestar Galactica
- watch Fresh (documentary on great food systems)
- read Funny Weather

    overview and key terms:

biocyde: death to biology (death to the natural biological growth in an area)
edge: transitions between rivers and land, or different ecosystems.
interior: deep within ecosystems, where an ecosystem is most fully realized (larger predators!)
ecosystem: an entire interdependent system (forest, ocean, HUMAN)

first of all, this age of cars, dvd players, tons of materials, flying all over the place is brief, and peaking. we have been thinking in terms of endless resources – we need to think in terms of being resilient.

fact: you can trace nutrient loss over the last 150 years in california as a result of salmon not making it all the way up to the sierras. their cycle is to go out into the ocean, eat up and get full of rich ocean nutrients, then swim up the rivers to the sierras where they reproduce and then die, leaving all those nutrients there. they used to fill the rivers to such a degree that folks would say you could walk across their backs. when they don’t make it, it depletes the nutrients in that whole region – they are like a 50 pound bag of marine nutrient fertilizer. they aren’t the victim of overfishing, they are the victim of shifting environments which add silt and toxins to the water and make it impossible for them to get up into the sierras.

an example of current non-resilience: the urban southwest. tuscon, phoenix, las vegas, los angeles – once oil can’t pump water to these cities, they will depopulate. what does this mean for organizers on the ground in those places, and the campaigns and victories we’ve been working towards?

fact: we are much more connected than we know – caribbean asthma rates are growing because the size of the sahara is larger and more dust is being picked up and carried by wind across the atlantic. once the glaciers of greenland melts, san francisco, oakland, berkeley and richmond will all be underwater.

fact: the earth has been through many cycles of destruction, and has the capacity to heal – the earth will heal. we are the ones in danger. we are in crisis because we have endangered the earth cycles we depend on.

it’s deeper than pure capitalism – it’s the entire primacy of constant growth. “if the world economy grows at a rate of 3-5% a year from now until 2050 {this is a conservative growth rate for us at this point}, we will have consumed the same amount of resources during that period as we’ve consumed since we started walking on two legs.” – george m…hmm – can’t read that note, i’ll find out and come back to fill it in.

indigenous traditional cultures worldwide have the knowledge of how to care for the places they are in. the thing to understand is that imperialism (constant growth of a nation beyond borders, dirty word folks don’t like to hear but NEED to understand) is based on control…the kind of control that requires erasing the people and traditions in a place in order to implement ownership and a belief system that is better for those in power than it is for people and/or land.

we need to learn to live within the earth’s capacity.

we have to transition to being post-carbon.

we have to begin to think in terms of prosperity, not growth.

it is time to practice cooperative lifestyles and values, collective well being. we’ll need facilitators, mediators, healers, folks who can repair things, folks who create strong systems, folks who are glue in a community.

“we need to grow from a me-centered society to a we-centered society.” – michelle, MG

    WASTE AND TOXINS

gopal and carla (literally two of the wisest, most amazing people i have ever met, and mid-generation members of the ruckus network as well) from MG broke all this down for us:

first, some info on waste!

economy (think home economics) means the management of home and relationship to space/place.

the path of our economy moves from extraction –> production –> distribution –> consumption –> disposal.

we are taught to only see the distribution and consumption parts of it…buy it packaged at wal-mart, take it home and use it, toss in the garbage and it goes ‘away’. we need to be aware of the whole process and the impact it is having on our ecology.

definitions: a long chain exchange is when products come from far away, when we don’t see where the food comes from, who grew it, who packaged it, or where the waste goes when we’re done. a short chain exchange is when the product is local, and we have a direct relationship with the grower, and the waste stays as a part of our local system.

horribly embarrassing moment (not sure how to rank this with the burger king wrapper in my car on the ride home OR the ant infestation in my car on the way to this retreat {i didn’t even know ants COULD infest a car? don’t leave a granola snack in the middle console} OR the two tickets i got trying to get to the retreat on time): we had to own up to how many laptops we have had and i have had an embarrassing 5 laptops since my first job.

but it was designed that way! we learned about “Moore’s Law,” created by Gordon Moore (a father of modern computing), which says “every 18-20 months, computing capacity will either double in speed or drop in price. everything is thus planned ahead and rolled out in 2-3 year computer cycles, endlessly getting faster, smaller and cheaper.”

fact: coltan is a key material in small electronics, and 80% of it comes from the democratic republic of the congo. the current count is 5.4 million fatalities since 1998 by war that is funded and escalated by transnational corporations who benefit from instability in the region.

fact: copper is mined in 1 mile deep exposed tracks. when minerals at that depth are exposed to oxygen (which would never be exposed to oxygen without our interference), it changes them chemically into toxins which can drain into the water.

fact: most factories for electronic manufacturing are in the pearl river valley in china, where the impacts of the toxins are showing up in women’s reproductive systems. particularly dangerous are reproductive toxins, which effect the hormones, and can feminize a population {reducing the number of male births}, and increase miscarriages.

another impact is the use of water. intel is based in albuquerque, and uses 3-4 million gallons of water A DAY from the single fresh water source in the region.

fact: 10% minimum of all waste ends up in the ocean in huge swirling plastic floating garbage piles the size of texas. plastic takes like a billion (not really, just 100 THOUSAND) years to break down, and it doesn’t actually break down to organic materials, just smaller and smaller bits that eventually become part of the food source for ocean dwelling creatures, and those of us who eat them, or eat animals who eat them.

now, disposal paths for electronics lead to landfills or recycling centers (though it’s not unusual for folks to place monitors on the street and just hope someone picks it up. whistle casually if you’ve done this). at the recycling center it is shipped to china, nigeria, malaysia or a u.s. prison where the parts are dismantled for potential reuse. prisons are the number one place where recycled electronics are sent in the u.s. and dismantling is, you guessed it, toxifying for the people doing it.

speaking of toxins!

history lesson: a major increase/introduction of chemicals into our world occurred right after world war ii. about 100 thousand new chemical combinations were introduced to the world at that time – leftovers from war efforts, used for weapons (or gas chamber gases being turned into pesticides!) and now needing a way to be repackaged and used (and profitable) in peace time.

fact: only 10% of these chemicals have ever been tested for environmental impact…we are the guinea pigs.

some science type stuff: most chemicals have the potential to be toxic or non-toxic, depending on how they are bonded with other chemicals. there are relationships that exist in nature that are brilliant, where the chemicals can serve a positive function. however, when tampered with, combined in the wrong ways, or exposed to new elements, they can become toxic.

examples:

a. brominated flame retardants (found in blankets, clothing). this is a family of chemicals based in bromine which can interrupt or interfere with the endocrine (hormones) in our system {leading to feminization of an entire species, tracked by lowering testosterone levels}. think of endocrine disrupters as tiny estrogen pills. the number one place where this chemical family is found is in children’s freakin’ pajamas – that means directly on their skin!! this is what happens when we think of solutions without thinking of whole people on the receiving end. :(

b. thallates. thallic acid is a toxic chemical compound that is combined with plastics to make them softer, more flexible, more durable. these are found in the coatings of pharmaceutical pills (THAT YOU SWALLOW), glue, lubricants, and (super sad) sex toys! and food products!! thallates don’t make a true bond with the plastics, after a while they “off-gas” (literally transform into or release gas in the air – think of the smell in the $1 store and imagine that inside of you). luckily, these are being phased out.

this whole system of extracting materials from the ground in unsustainable ways, producing them with unjust practices that put out high levels of pollutants, distributing them thousands of miles away, selling to consumers in tons of packaging, and then being whisked away to be disposed of in horrific ways – this is called a resource intensive production system…aka – RIP!

we did an exercise where we had cut outs of people to represent the communities we work with, and we had to place them along the RIP path. it was deep to see who was impacted by extraction – indigenous communities who are displaced from their land. participants talked about how their folks work in production factories and are impacted by pollution near production sites (for instance, the chevron refinery in richmond which we are doing an action on August 15th!). we placed our communities as the employees of distribution sites such as wal-mart, and of course all of our communities are trained to be active consumers – we believe what we are sold! and when it’s all said and done, the waste is dumped into landfills in our communities.

after this first presentation we were all shaken and devastated. and we’d only just begun.

    WATER

our presenter was a delightfully brilliant dude named brock. this presentation had a few more solutions in it, and overall reminded me of the beauty of water – water as us, water in us. here are some of the stand out parts of this presentation:

it would be more appropriate to call this planet water, as opposed to planet earth. water is the unique life force here. the water we have is all the water we ever have had or will have. we get an allowance. of all the water on the planet, only 1% of it is freshwater. of that, we have already polluted half. FAIL.

our water system is solar driven (yay sun!). the sun warms up the ocean, lifting water up as gas, which freezes into glaciers of ice and then melts down into rivers, streams, lakes, ponds…fresh water. its a totally natural, cyclical, desalination process.

science stuff: water is a polar molecule, featuring a positive in oxygen and a negative in hydrogen. it’s sticky – it can stick to other water molecules. it can be a solid, liquid or a gas. (AWESOME! nothing else does this!) water cools in its transition from solid to liquid, and liquid to gas.

brock showed us images of water patterns present in brains, capillaries, lungs, streams, clouds. water is an “elucidator of flow” wherein form follows function. the sun and the moon move water around the world, leading to high tides two times a day. water and earth are in a constant dialogue. humans are impacted by these waves too – isn’t that nice?

so…where do we fit into that larger dialogue? every living thing is mostly water. our existence is carbon/sun based, but water moves everything. for our lives – air security comes first, water security comes second, and food security comes third.

“we are bipedal sacks of saline solution.” – brock

“water is the primary measure of how we live on the land.” – luna leopold

loved this: evian = naive. hopefully you know this already, but bottled water is wholly unregulated, and is 2000-3000 times the cost of tap water, which IS regulated. what water companies understand is that whoever owns and sells water controls life.

so right now, the planet is trying to cool down from the CO2 (carbon) blanket we have been building around it, hence we see the changing of glacier ice to water and water to gas. because of these changes, within 75 years our california water source (mt. shasta) will be liquid…not regenerating and melting to give us fresh water in a natural cycle. thirsty = dead. :(

definition: we learned the term positive feedback loop – so basically a change that directly speeds up future changes. for instance, sun bounces off of white solid mass, but gets swallowed by dark liquid. the more the glaciers melt, the more dark water there is, the less cooling bouncing off of solids, the faster the glaciers melt.

boss move: china did a water grab when it got tibet and the himalayas – tons of fresh water.

one quote we were given is that “you can’t protect what you don’t understand.”

but now that we understood more, brock showed us some beautiful solutions!

the main solution is to live within your “watershed”. a watershed is basically the entire water system from glaciers atop mountains down to the deltas where the water reaches the ocean. so – how do we repattern life around a watershed?

we have to shift from a “drain age” to a “retain age”. right now good fresh water drains off our roofs into gutters into pipes into lakes or the ocean. (folks say they don’t want to interact with rain water cuz there’s so much pollution – brock said: “try breathing”) is we retained water from our roofs in catchment systems (like they do in bermuda, for instance) so each home/building was water sufficient, that would be a major shift. water would drain from our roofs into containers where it could be naturally filtered, and then we could use it to water gardens, do laundry, flush toilets, take showers. we could run the water through bio-filters – gardens with fungus in there that would snip the hydro carbon bond and clean the water right up.

parking lots could be redesigned so that water runs off into natural growth areas on the side as opposed to down a drain in the center. in seattle they are redesigning streets to redirect water in ways that greens the neighborhood, supports gardening, and slows down the run-off, saving more water. in LA, treepeople have created water catchment systems under lawns that can actually meet all the needs for a block of homes. in china there were examples of setting up gardened walkways down the center of toxic urban waterways, and the plant systems literally detoxifying the water! we could have fog catchers to catch and drain fresh water!!

in our homes, put a 5 gallon bucket in the shower while the water heats up, or in the sink while laundry water is draining, and use that to flush the toilet! another super easy move to make a toilet more efficient is to put a closed container of water into the toilet. then, you save 6 or 8 or 16 oz of water each time the toilet is flushed.

we used a composting toilet there, like we do at ruckus camps. these things are mindblowing when you start to realize that all the money spent on fertilizers is a total marketing of stuff we produce naturally. our poop – yes poop! – can become a wonderful rich fertilizer, improved by us eating healthy whole organic diets. again not something we should be shipping away to massive processing units.

he even showed these urinal composting things that were basically garbage bins with a urinal on the side. diluting the urine 10 to 1 creates a great fertilizer. i’m not there yet, lol, but EVERYthing has a purpose.

this session ended on a very inspiring, wholistic note.

    “the earth is a living thing – you have to give it love.” – the greening of cuba

that evening we watched ‘the greening of cuba’ (order a copy: 800 274 7826). amazing story of how when the world turned it’s back on cuba, cuba became a increasingly super innovative agrarian society extremely fast. i was deeply reminded of detroit, and wondered if we can ever hope to reach that level of change without total crisis.

    FOOD AND AGRICULTURE

michelle from movement generation led us on this journey, starting with what food is: land, community, culture, health, meaningful work, life

facts:
- less than 1% of the u.s. population are farmers…there are more prisoners than farmers. farmers were 1/3rd of our population in 1930.
- most of the world’s farmers are women!
- the world has 1 billion farmers to feed 6 billion people.
- people in the u.s. spend less of our total resources than anyone else in the world on food, about 12%. the cost for that cheap food is that our health problems are on the rise from over exposure to corn, soy, processed food and livestock grown in unhealthy conditions. cheap food leads to less bio-cultural diversity, less water, more climate change, and tons of waste and toxins (many from growing food where it’s not supposed to be).
- breast milk is the first place where most of us, and our children, interact with the primary toxins of our lives (that said, its still the healthier more natural option than formula, if it is an option for you).

here’s a devastating food system process that’s in place in the u.s. right now: imagine illinois, iowa…all that corn. 92% of the corn grown in this country is from genetically modified seed already!! these require tons of water and synthetic pesticides (only sold by the same folks who sell you the genetically modified seeds). toxins from this genetic corn production seep into the mouth of the mississippi. the majority of this corn (99%) is grown to feed all the livestock animals that are “grown” along the mississippi in little cages. these animals poop out the genetically modified, processed corn toxins which leach into soil and water and continue down into the gulf coast delta area. all of that has created a moving deadzone in the gulf where the chemical combination has killed every living thing; the bottom dwellers (shrimp, catfish) die from toxins, and then everything else that eats them either dies or has to go elsewhere to eat. everything IS connected.

(the reminder throughout all of this is that there are solutions, that the earth can revive from this, there are things we can do…)

more facts:
- only 0.1% of applied pesticides reach the desired pest. 99.9% are just out there hitting non-target creatures, such as bees (our pollinators, a creature fundamental to our survival) or frogs (disappearing, or being born with extra legs).
- 16-19K farmers in India have been committing suicide every year because their debts are so high after seeding and planting genetically modified monocrops* (like wheat in the punjab) which destroyed their land for other crops, and they have no option out of their contracts with the seed seller.

* (immediate footnote!) monocropping is a huge dangerous practice – growing one crop in land which ends up wiping out native species and displacing the people who know what to grow on the land (you learn by being on the land for generations – most of us in the room have been stolen from the land we knew, or that land has been stolen from us).

back to facts:
- average person in the u.s. uses 2000 liters of oil to supply their food. that’s a lot. (also learned that average u.s. citizen uses over 130 gallons of water a day, while there are folks in the world getting by on 2 gallons a day.)
- current agricultural practices contribute 20% of the total global climate change impacts.
- the crisis is not some time in the future, people are already dying because of climate changes impacting weather, pests, water. to survive, the planet needs diversity – rotating crops, protecting and nourishing the soil.
- 40-50% of the world’s land is used for agriculture, and 30% for livestock.
- we rely on 8 crops for 75% of the world’s food!
- the danger of monocropping can be seen in the irish potato famine. the irish were only growing 2 kinds of potatoes – when one was wiped out, there were no other options.
- genetically modified foods are also so cheap that they outsell local organic food in markets like oaxaca, where corn is originally from. sadly, once you sign a contract to buy genetically modified seed, you are locked into agreements such as not saving the seed, but buying it again the following year. the monocropping damages the soil and ecosystem such that it’s hard to switch off of the genetically modified crops. monsanto is the seed selling demon company – they have actually sued farmers on neighboring farms because genetically modified monsanto seed caught on the wind and mixed with the neighboring farm’s crop!

my thought at this point was: we want crops, not crap.

two particularly dangerous areas to watch are agri-fuels (also called biofuels) and the scramble to buy up land. redirecting land use from growing food for people to growing food for cars leads to situations where people are lined up for subsidized cooking oil while tons of resources from their area are shipped away for cars. in small local use, biofuels that are gathered from waste can be a good thing, but scale it up and it’s quickly anti-human.

the international scramble for land means that huge areas in africa, the middle east, south korea and elsewhere are being bought to grow genetically modified foods…it’s a new colonialism.

thinking comparatively: a single patty burger sold for a buck in the u.s. equals the entire grain and protein needs of three people in india.

it’s like this: we’re now in a situation where there are people working on two second timers on sandwich assembly lines to make sandwiches for starbucks. everyone is seeing one small part of a massive system that is not serving our health.

even how our health is assessed is not a complete picture – science can be flipped to mislead us. a whole health assessment that covers a much broader spectrum of nutrients than the FDA leads us to choices that are better for people and the planet.

so what needs to happen?

in a nutshell: we need to shift from being cogs in a wheel to feed others –> to being in communities where we feed ourselves. it’s not a situation of going back to old ways, but rather taking back practices and land that we are all from and having healing relationships with land. we need to make the social relationships of food transparent – who grows it, who harvests it, who packs it, who transports it, who cooks it. we are kept in the dark about the whole process of our food.

we need to blend rural understanding of food/economy/ecology into urban solutions (like Detroit has begun to do!).

this was the first part of the presentations where i started crying. the way all these systems have been developed without us and against us is so overwhelming.

i hope you’re still reading, i know this is long, but this is information we need in order to start making better choices in all aspects of our lives as individuals, organizations, communities, families.

CLIMATE/ENERGY

jason and gopal hit us with this one-two punch.

first things first, global warming is the wrong term for this moment. climate change even suggests something more incremental than what we are facing. climate disruption or chaos is more accurate.

we’ll be talking about greenhouse gases – the gases that create the atmospheric blanket over our heads. carbon is 1st of these heat trapping gases. they showed us this effect with an aluminum style hat – once you put it on, the heat on your head has no where to go and your body starts to sweat to cool off. the planet is doing that.

important fact: there is a 40-70 year lag effect in the temperature increase of the planet. the skyrocketing impacts we’ve measured recently are the results of our lifestyle in the 1960s. compare the pollutants and energy use of the 60s to now to get a sense of the future we have set in motion.

feel this: consider that every 20 years (even with the kyoto protocol in place for the last 10 years) we have doubled the entire fossil fuel consumption of known history. like…all use from the ice age till the 1940s is one number. that total number doubled by 1960. that total number doubled by 1980. and so forth.

peak oil is often mentioned, but peak oil won’t stop our destruction of ourselves…its not the end of oil, just the peak, the moment when what we have to use starts to decrease.

we can see the atmospheric impact of our actions every single year.

just like us, climate science is nonlinear and unpredictable. there isn’t a clear 1-1 cause and effect, most of the effects are exponential.

earlier we talked about positive feedback loops. the melting was one example – the greenland glacier now dumps enough fresh water into the ocean each day to provide all the water needs of london or ny.

another piece to understand in this equation is tipping points. a tipping point is a point of runaway change. it’s the moment when you no longer have to push a ball up the hill cause it has tipped over the top and is racing downhill. it will eventually find a new stability, but the rush may not be survivable.

we appear to have reached a tipping point in glacier arctic ice – watching a quick slide show from 1979 to 2007 shows the rapid increase of melting and near disappearance of summer (permanent) ice. this disrupts migratory paths for land and sea animals, many of which are the primary food source for people.

another example is the permafrost – the frozen tundra of siberia is melting. under this is tons of methane gas, which, if released, would lead to a quick, abrupt impact. there would be no recovery from this sort of impact, only rebalance and new life. after the ice age, we were the new life form, for instance – it was catastrophic for the major species of that time. this would be a catastrophic tipping point for humanity.

another amazing thing about earth: earth is designed to store excess carbon, naturally (we call these spaces carbon sinks) – that’s what oil and coal are! we have decided to disrupt that storage process, which is supposed to keep the atmosphere in balance, and go get that exact carbon and release it into the atmosphere. THIS IS SO NOT A SMART MOVE. other carbon sinks are the ocean, forests – forests are like lungs for the planet. the loss of forests is another tipping point to watch.

we were reminded again here that life and the planet will survive. it is human survival that we are discussing. uplifting reminder?

we did an amazing exercise at this point, where we each chose a person, people, or animal to represent, and get into a circle. gopal read off a variety of climate impacts, and we had to step forward if our person/animal was impacted. i was a fox – foxes have showed up repeatedly in my life at key moments and i feel them. we all ended up squished in the center. this was so sad – everyone was so deeply impacted.

but then we had to reach across the circle and grab two different hands. this turned us into a giant knot. our task was then to – still holding on – unknot ourselves. we did so quickly.

knowledge is power. change is possible.

but enough of that hopeful stuff…ENERGY:

jason showed us all of the energy sources being developed in the world – crude oil, heavy oil (like the tar sands of canada), natural gas, coal, nuclear, solar, hydroelectric. currently, 12 countries own 90% of all the known oil in the world. the u.s. is either an ally, at war with, or in control of each of the other 11 nations.

the solutions at this point are to ramp down crude oil and coal fast – no new coal, oil or gas. stop extracting heavy oil, declare a moratorium on nuclear because the costs and potential weapon danger is so high, use some hydroelectric, and increase our end use efficiency (be smarter and more conservative with our energy use). we also need to explore the real possibilities of solar, wind, tidal, geothermal. additionally, we have to ramp down general consumption in the 1st world, think in terms of locally appropriate solutions, and demand that polluters pay the transition.

and we fundamentally recognize that these real solutions are not currently politically viable right now. that is our work.

the final piece of the puzzle was BIOCULTURAL DIVERSITY

my friend melissa nelson came to present this section. she is an amazing woman who is also developing a path around having a multi-racial background and a call towards reconciliation work. we met through the center for whole communities and i am always excited to see her.

she defined biocultural diversity as the diversity of life in all manifestations – biological, cultural, linguistic – within a complex socio-ecological adaptive system.

the key idea is that we are part of one living system. that system relies on diversity of indigenous knowledge systems and traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) as well as cultural productions such as food, art, medicine, clothes, homes, etc.

she reminded us that our oral traditions carry memories from before the ice age, and then shared with us a quote from wade davis, that the “ethnosphere is more important than the biosphere, because without the ethnosphere we won’t know how to CARE for the biosphere.”

we have to pay attention to emergent properties, symbiosis and synergy – think of ourselves as entwined, entangled, braided, inextricably linked. the “whole is greater that the sum of it’s parts.” think of biocultural diversity like having a whole alphabet to write with from all experiences of the world – our full wisdom.

“the beauty of things was born before eyes, an heartbreaking beauty will last after there are hearts to break.” – robinson jeffers, poet.

melissa mentioned the puget sound canoe gathering which ruckus heard about during the localize this action camp on vashon island. very exciting relearning and practicing of known ways.

a great danger to us is “monocultures of the mind,” as vandana shiva says.

note: folks used to be more multi-lingual – knowing only one language is isolating, but not having a common language can make it hard to organize regionally, beyond borders. this is complex – how many languages do i know? 1.

there are lots of stories in the land that we have forgotten how to read – animals, their scat (poop!), storms, ancient writing, soil, clouds, stars.

melissa reminded us that old sayings have deep meaning if we try to understand them:

“walking the shoreline,” an old ojibwe saying, encompasses walking the literal line between water and land, also between movement and stillness, conscious and unconscious.

another saying, “the moon is in the sky,” means she will always be there.

it is hard to have to use the language of our colonizers to express liberatory ideas and ancient wisdom. but we all have wisdom, we are all from some place, and together, all of us have to learn again, and practice what david brower called CPR for the planet: “Conservation, Protection, Restoration”.

we have to change from seeing “resources” to seeing “relatives”. all our relations – the entire world as we know it. we are not moving backwards, but we are re-indigenizing, moving forward to new-old traditions and knowledge of how to live.

at this point i asked a question which always comes up for me – what about those of us who have been so displaced from our original location that we literally don’t know where we are from, don’t know our songs, our histories, our traditions?

melissa said, “you are fully you, and you are re-indigenizing every day.”

carla broke it down on such a deep level, which i had heard before but never with such an open heart: “your displacement and all that was taken from you, the systemic breakdown of the connection between you and your homeland, that IS your heritage. your ancestors were punished, silenced, displaced, sold, lost – that IS your indigenous experience.”

this was another point of grief, and mourning. it also opened up deep conversations with the other african and african-american folks there…”we weren’t kings and queens…we were farmers! just like everyone else!!” this was exciting, this placed us in the story of our unknown but present ancestors.

there was time to go out in nature and reflect on what our relationships were to the planet. in spite of tons of changes i have made, i wrote up a pretty devastating self-assessment that included deep explorations of my fear, the damage i do, my yearning for a better relationship, my learned classism around who has relationships to the earth and who doesn’t.

i landed, as i always do, on love. my love for the planet has inspired so many changes already, and i know more changes are coming. i feel that i am stardust, earth, water. to reclaim terminology, i feel that the earth is a brilliant symbiotic and beautiful, organic and logical technology, as am i – balanced systems to process matter, data, energy, spirit.

computers are a technology to support humanity thus far…are humans a technology to support the planet and be supported?

we can be. clearly we are in super glitch mode, which might even lead to a total meltdown of the mother-machine that we don’t survive. but love can give us the capacity to see the error of our ways, and humble ourselves to a new reality in which we get to do liberatory work, have meaningful roles, prosperity, health…

in order to do this we must understand the underlying assumptions that have allowed us to get this far. i want to write a whole separate blog on control mythologies (assumptions/stories we are taught which make us easier to control, like: Lincoln freed the slaves {no social movement, just benevolent leadership}, Christopher Columbus discovered America {it was barely inhabited, by people who didn’t deserve to have it, it was for us}, or the American Dream {keep working hard as an individual and you will accumulate material wealth and that will make you happy}) because it is so deep to name these and begin to release them and develop/remember creative mythologies, sustaining mythologies.

although the information was so devastating that i found myself several times sitting with someone else with tears in our eyes wondering why we even thought our small work could matter, i left the weekend feeling like i’d just gotten a massive upgrade in my capacity to envision and execute real solutions. i feel more committed than ever to deep transformation of myself, my family, my organization, my communities. i feel more committed than ever to measuring scale in terms of DEPTH and quantum leaps towards sustainability, rather than broad shallow reforms that slightly delay catastrophe.

we are the ones we’ve been waiting for…we are the movement generation!

Notes from Kalamazoo

These are slightly edited notes from the day of conversation at Kalamazoo College, first with the Center for Social Justice Leadership Planning Committee, and then with select faculty and students on the topic of Leadership. The intention was to really bring nonviolent direct action into the definition of leadership skills, and to focus on the power of networks (and other collaborative, locally grounded formations) for organizing.

First, we had some Q+A with the planning committee, where they shared where they’re at in the process of the Center, and what their key questions are now.

1. How do we keep the funky side of organizing when a Center at a college is inherently an institution?
- Know the history of nonviolent direct action – it isn’t just the funky part of the work, every social justice movement in history has used NVDA to advance their negotiations. A lot of folks don’t know the role that NVDA plays in movement building and actual wins. And you don’t have to recreate it – we at Ruckus and many other groups teach the history and the theory (helping folks determine whether nonviolence is for them). Ruckus focuses on the best practices of actual action skills. Bring in folks to share these skills.
- Have folks read science fiction, watch documentaries, learn in ways other reflect what we can learn from what the culture is presenting back as key lessons from the margins.

2. How do we develop interesting, out of the box leadership?
- Outside the classroom – apprenticeship and experiential learning. We learn to walk by walking, not by someone giving us a class about it.
- Train folks to participate in collaborative efforts, networks, alliances more than institutions. The age of the institution might be passing at this point…the age of big large growth based thinking might be passed, so we don’t want to invest in things that have to grow exponentially to survive. Networks are organic bodies, each community doing its own work but then connecting to share practices and information.
- Creating a network of people with a shared experience to offer the world. The folks who come through the center shouldn’t see themselves as “leaders”, but as people who have developed the skills of “leadership” – that there are many ways to practice leadership and the skills can be modeled and passed on.
- For really out the box leaders – develop facilitators! Develop folks who practice facilitative leadership. Train folks to facilitate, to hold listening and truth and reconciliation practices…I think that’s more powerful than public speaking and other skills.

3. What are we looking for in a director for this program?
- Someone who defines radical as Visionary, rather than Angry.
- Someone committed to balancing theory and practice.

4. Is organizing something you should teach? How do you do that responsibly with students…and who do they organize?
- I deeply believe organizing is something people should learn by doing. In their community. So campus organizing is totally necessary and a great learning environment for students, and their home communities during the summer. THAT SAID, a social justice framework and a sensibility to fight for your human rights can be taught, and must be taught. You have to undo the training of most public/private early school years, which says to obey, work, obey, work, retire. All teachers can play a part in reframing the world as a place that requires and responds to your actions.

5. Please reiterate the harm reduction stuff you told the students!
I learned harm reduction philosophy so early in my career and I now apply it to EVERYTHING else I do. It’s all about the people setting their own goals, it’s about self-determination, it’s about having compassion for the choices and directions of your life, it’s about releasing judgment, but acknowledging the real world. check it out at www.harmreduction.org – that to me is a fundamental justice analysis that i use throughout my life.

Then the conversation opened up.

Invincible (of Emergence and Detroit Summer) had traveled with Roxana and I to Kalamazoo, and we convinced her to come share about the remarkable work of Detroit Summer’s Live Arts Media Project. She shared their audio hip-hop documentary and the 12 Steps to Illumination comic that comes inside the CD case.

Roxana shared her experience of learning leadership as a young person in Detroit Summer: “The youth dialogues were powerful cause youth chose the topics, after 8 hours of working together, cooking, eating together, etc. And then we facilitated ourselves, and we really got into the topics. We learned to think and challenge and learn and reconcile – it was our space.”

Then they both shared some of the key ideas they have learned from Jimmy and Grace Lee Boggs: dialectical humanism (the spiral of learning, doing, reflecting, and living in cycle); that our role is to birth a movement that is already emerging (not create a movement from our minds).

I spoke about how leadership has a lot to do with having a strategic mind (rather than a strategic plan), because everything changes all the time. And I love that – I am influenced by Octavia Butler’s concept in the Parable of the Sower that “change is god” – and I believe learning that to navigate change with grace is the greatest skill.

The group physicist, Jan, pointed out to us that our leadership model is based on the idea that exponential growth is good. Now, it is becoming clearer that “exponential growth is unsustainable,” and that we need to develop models of leadership that focus on prosperity, abundance, equity, deeply local and small models.

I reiterated my thoughts that this is a time of birth – while folks are experiencing economic “crisis” as a dark moment, the great recession…we can experience this darkness like a womb that is birthing sustainable societies.

Then I got so into the conversation that I stopped taking notes – but here were some key points I jotted down:

BAN PASSIVE AGGRESSIVENESS

READ borderlands

Angle Kyodo Williams says its overwhelming what’s happening in the world and we haven’t developed the soul capacity to handle it. Our communities need to “grow our souls” as Grace Lee Boggs says. I think it helps to localize it to your own community and move through that space.

The sweet spot for where to bring your leadership in your community is where your passion/interest meet you skill set and converge on the need. It’s a triangle.

READ Don Miguel Ruiz’s Four Agreements

Something we are experiencing right now with Ruckus is that the experience of the community (awareness, composting, shared chores, localized healthy food, etc) had just as much impact as the action training. That is to say, the skills are necessary, AND our leadership shows up in how we ARE with each other, as much as what we are teaching.

That’s all for now! Kalamazoo is lovely and we wish them luck and hope Ruckus trains a lot of folks there in nonviolent direct action!

I, Radical.

The role of the ‘radical’ is no longer to be angry – it’s to be visionary, loving and solution oriented.

Can I say this?

I have heard others voice this redefinition, and when I hear it I feel a big amen inside me.

And then I start thinking of solution-oriented direct actions, since that’s my field. Liberating heat and water to communities when the government shuts them off. Guerilla gardens on rooftops and in abandoned lots. Reclaiming space to serve communities. Not thinking of front lines as spaces for aid and help, but as the actual front line in a battle for How we will be as humans, a line which we advance with our actions.

**************

This is on my mind because today I joined my friend Roxana Zuniga, a PhD candidate at Wayne State, to speak with a group of students at Kalamazoo College, where a Center for Social Justice Leadership is being launched. Tomorrow we will speak with teachers and administrators at the college, but today was for the students.

Their questions had a lot to do with how to organize, how to go in and work with “marginalized” and “disenfranchised” communities, and how to make the impact long-lasting.

I realized listening to their questions, and their perspectives on their lives, how radical my perspective has always been, but how my definition of radical has shifted. I have felt and been fueled by righteous anger, but it wasn’t until I started honing my skill in developing vision and solutions that I truly became effective.

I also realized, as I always do with students, that there are key things I wish I had been told when I was a student, full of energy and wanting to change the world.

Here are some key points that emerged from our conversation as essential for a young college radical today:

1. Don’t come to help! Come to work and transform. Absolutely let yourself be moved into action by injustice, but start the transformation by looking around you. Look at your own practices – where you spend money, your taxes, how you treat people. Look at your family, your community…what could you change in your home or community that would have an impact regionally, nationally, or globally? Work to transform yourself and your community before you hop on a plane, train or bus to go “help” others.

2. Always learn (and teach) people to fish. Your impact will multiply if you think of every interaction as a potential exchange of ideas and skills that will continue to serve you and the community long after you leave. Don’t make folks dependent on you, especially if you’re out at the end of the semester or study abroad or summer.

3. Be clear about whether you are making a short-term or long-term commitment. If you’re in a space for a few hours, days, weeks, or even months, don’t pretend you are impacted in the same way that those who live there are, or that you know more than they do about what’s needed. If you chose to be there, and you can leave whenever you want, recognize that privilege.

An additional practice: learn to be in temporary community. Ruckus sets up action camps where folks can practice being in a community of action, equality, awareness, composting, outhouses, camping, and shared chores. We aren’t making a life-long commitment to hold these participants – we’re making a week-long commitment. The clearer we are about our commitment, the more present we can be.

4. The world is yours to experience, not experiment with. Keep a beginner’s mind, a learning mind, and look for the wisdom in everything, but honor and respect all the ways people are surviving in this world. Other humans are not yours to try things out on.

Other thoughts that occurred to me today:

Stop observing! Release the false notion that you can be objective, and recognize that you invest in a path for all of humanity with how you live, breath, think, and spend. Get off the wall and dance.

Read more science fiction! (Octavia Butler, William Gibson, Philip K Dick, Samuel R. Delaney and Ursula K. LeGuin to start with.) (Specifically, Parable of the Sower, Neuromancer, A Scanner Darkly, Dhalgren and The Left Hand of Darkness.)

Also, read The Autobiography of Malcolm X. All the way through. At least three times before you’re 25.

More tomorrow!