My tipping point came last week after learning about the killing of 3 police officers in New Orleans, which had followed very shortly after the murder of five police officers in Dallas. Now we are killing the people that society has set up to keep us ‘safe’! I felt a deep and ancient fear and anxiety rumbling within. I wondered if others felt this tremblement de terre – this inner earthquake.
My heart aches from the pain inflicted on others, as well as experienced by the individuals who acted out their fear in a murderous rampage. In some ways I should not be surprised by the desperate calls for help by those who are lost, confused and outraged. And our culture, sadly, through the media, technology and the greed for profits and an illusionary moment of recognition, validation or ‘fame’ makes access to weapons they can tote around irrationally easy. We are all responsible to be the change we want to see.
“It really boils down to this: that all life is interrelated. We are all caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied into a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” – Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
My inner earthquake was part of a shift in my own consciousness and a shift that I believe is part of our collective human consciousness. In my grieving for the loss of humanity in my communities and in our world I am being called to do more.
I can and must do better to reach out and be part of re-building the village.
I called a co-conspirator, Iden Campbell McCollum, with whom I have worked before on community building projects. We announced and have been carrying out free Listening To Orlando gatherings via teleconference. These have been a powerful source of connection, strength and inspiration for everyone on the calls. I feel closer to Iden then ever. We have created two safe, virtual spaces (one for the LGBTQI constituency and another for allies to LGBTQI) where we can get un-numb from the tragedies du jour and especially from the glaringly targeted murder of 49 mostly Latino LGBTQI. Does it matter to me that I live 2.5 hours from Orlando? Maybe. More importantly, my close connections with Iden and an array of oppressed constituencies – including some of my own identities, has inspired me. Feel globally, think rationally, act locally.
The other action I jut took as a privileged white woman was to go to my first NAACP (National Association of the Advancement of Colored People) community meeting. It started off well with prayers for unity in a standing room only space of over 300 people. Then a gentleman 15 feet from me had what appeared to be a heart attack. All the attention in the room shifted to him. He was unconscious and not breathing. It seemed like a long time until he was revived by police officers, followed by the EMTs. He was wheeled away on a stretcher with gratitude and applause. There was a palpable regaining of our breath in the room and a reminder of the life and death nature of this meeting. The bottom line was that the predominantly African-American community where the meeting took place was understandably outraged at their mistreatment by law enforcement officers, policies and procedures. And I witnessed a good white woman who happens to be the chief of police acting out her racism. And I will not be silent. I will not collude with her racism and with the institutionalized mistreatment of human beings. For me mental health advocacy encompasses ending all forms of oppression, of people hurting people. Any act to end any form of oppression is an act to end all forms of oppression and it is an essential part of the struggle to transform society.
I will not abandon the chief.
I have learned from my mistakes because people had the integrity and the courage to correct me – to point out my oppressive attitude, comments or actions. I have had some experience, as well, of correcting the oppressive attitudes and actions of others. Now it is time for me to step out of my comfort zone in a bigger way. It is more important then ever to not abandon each other, but rather to lift each other. I will not abandon the chief of police. I will offer to be her ally – and respectfully support her to see how her actions and words created a barrier to community building. First, I will take the time to be clear in my thinking and my analysis of the dynamics that transpired. This way I will be able to genuine, and relaxedly reach for her humanity.
I will thank her for the strengths she brought to the meeting. She started her presentation to the audience speaking from her heart. She shared her family lineage as a 4th generation police officer and why she became a cop. Her visits to the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. and the civil rights museum in Tennessee where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated helped fuel her commitment to human and civil rights and to be an agent of change in the new era of ‘community policing.’ Beautiful.
I plan to ask her if she noticed a point when the energy in the room shifted. I saw it and wonder what she observed. I saw the audience grow increasingly impatient, humiliated and insulted. Community members were not asked about their ideas for solutions. They were told how they should come to two different monthly law enforcement focused meetings and make improvements to police policies and procedures. They were encouraged to submit an application to become a police officer – how wonderful it is to police your neighborhood where you have established relationships.
Oh my!! White privilege and power reared its ugly head.
In my humble opinion the audience was not treated with dignity and respect and was not asked to be an equal partner in exploring solutions. This is not rocket science. Community building which includes changing attitudes is the hardest work I have ever done. To be done well I think it takes such a profound desire for change and learning that one needs to be willing to be unrecognizable to ones self. The process is rich with personal complexities, curious inquiry and forgiveness of self and others. I put a lot of my time and resource into being honest with who I am, my motivations, my blind side, and being in a space of genuine compassion so I can sensitively, respectfully engage in dialogue with people who look and/or act different from myself.
It is important both for me as a person interrupting oppression, and for the person acting in oppressive ways, to be allowed to share our thinking and feelings and understand that we will all make mistakes in this process and that we will get better at it.
Please share your insights and lessons learned from community building so we can all be lifted higher.
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LISTENING TO ORLANDO: SIX FREE TELE-GATHERINGS
The purpose of these tele-gatherings are to get un-numb by giving people a space to have a voice, speak from their heart, be heard, validated and respected. The gatherings also provide a safe and compassionate space which serves as a contradiction to the hardness of the world we live in.
“Orlando reminded me just how vulnerable we remain as a community. With all of our recent accomplishments, we are still openly vulnerable to those who want to do us harm. May we stay strong, united, and vigilant.” — Iden Campbell McCollum
“Forty-nine individuals were celebrating the beauty of their lives when they were brutally murdered. Their deaths are a call for truth, reconciliation, forgiveness, peace, and the development of inclusive next steps that advance the safety and respect for everyone that are so desperately needed in our communities today.” — Lauren Spiro
Call (Toll #) 712-432-0375, PIN 1029243#
LISTENING TO ORLANDO CALLS FOR LGBTQI
August 2 & 9, 2016 (Tuesdays) from 10:30am – 12pm ET
Join as many times as you would like.
Co-facilitators: Iden Campbell McCollum and Lauren Spiro
LISTENING TO ORLANDO: CALLS FOR ALLIES OF LGBTQI
July 30, 2016 (Saturday) from 10:30am – 12pm ET
August 11, 2016 (Thursday) from 8:00pm – 9:30pm ET
Co-facilitators: Lauren Spiro and Rita Cronise
“The person you love has a lot of suffering and has not had a chance to be listened to.”
— Thich Nhat Hanh