Finding a Balance

I seem to be on a self-care kick this season. Perhaps the Gods are telling me something. I don’t know. But a lot of what I have been writing comes down to this: love and caring. Love of the self, love of those around us; caring for ourselves and for those we hold dear. Along with that comes finding and re-finding the balance in our lives.

If there is one thing I have learned it is that I need balance in my life. Plenty of rest, good and healthy food, entertainment, and to keep busy doing something. Balancing all of that with just having fun, indulging in my own pleasures, and doing what I want when I want.

That’s one kind of balance. But the kind of balance that I am going to talk about in this posting is the balance between the mundane and the spiritual. As activists, we often feel that our activism is a part of our spirituality. Whether we are fighting for racial equality, marriage equality, voter rights, religious tolerance, or any other number of things. Balancing what we feel a calling to do with our regular “9 to 5″ life is not always easy. Some of us are blessed that our activism is our “9 to 5″, but those are few. Continue reading

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No One Asked Us What We Thought

wailam0513_1383930570We’ve all heard the news: Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has been sentenced to death. Honestly, I was surprised to hear this. I read less than 20% of Bostonians supported the death penalty for the young terrorist. Further, Massachusetts does not have the death penalty and the last time someone was executed in the Commonwealth was in 1940s.

But the Commonwealth of Massachusetts isn’t putting Dzhokhar to death. Rather, the United States is. Because Dzhokhar was tried in Federal Court, and the Federal Government has not outlawed the death penalty, the death penalty will be applied to this 21 year old young man.

But will putting a boy like Dzhokhar to death really bring closure for victims and their families? Will it deter anyone from using terror tactics to further their message?

Continue reading

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Food Politics

I almost said that I’m expanding my focus with this article, since I usually write about animal rights. But really I’m narrowing my focus to one particular animal: the human animal.

I’m used to boycotting foods that cause harm to non-human animals. These include all animal products, and lately I’ve started being careful to avoid palm oil unless it’s certified rainforest-safe. Palm oil is often grown in a way that destroys orangutan habitat. I’ve recently become aware of how harmful the banana industry can be to its workers and it’s gotten me thinking about human exploitation in our food system.

Continue reading

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Discovering New Territory and the Continuing Need for Perspective

My community has expanded considerably since last Sumner. Following the events in Ferguson and a local event in my state where a teen was tasered by police in an egregious abuse of power, I joined with others to express my outrage and work for change. In order to do that, it was necessary to venture into unknown territory both literally and figuratively. My previous experience in Hartford was limited for the most part to the route I took to work, the public library, a local stage company, a few restaurants, City Hall, the Legislative Office Building / State Capitol and a few other destinations where friends would gather for socializing or political activities. I’ve since discovered new neighborhoods – neighborhoods that are home to the police station, community black churches and private businesses where I’ve never shopped, neighborhoods where my face is the minority presence. The more time I spend there, the more familiar I become with the area and the less I am able to dismiss these places as separate from my immediate life and concerns. They are the neighborhoods of my expanding community and so have taken on personal as well as political significance.

The most remarkable “unknown territory” has been the territory of certain ideas, introspection, and self discovery. I’ve entered both personal and social media conversations about racial bias, white privilege, individual responsibility within the broader system of institutional racism and the call by some for white America to remain quiet long enough to really listen to what black America is saying. What distinguishes my current conversations from those of the past is that they are now inter-racial. New perspectives demand intentional, invigorated and discomfited listening if they are to lead us anywhere. My reaction to these conversations has evolved over time. They have run the gamut from defensive to open, loud protestations to quiet thought.

I’ve written about perspective before and it is imperative that it be kept in front of us in any conversation about race, racism and the most effective ways to produce meaningful change. People with different experiences have perspectives that must be known and understood in order to respond in any meaningful way. I offer a few examples here:

1. Property damage during the “riots” in Ferguson and Baltimore – senseless destruction or a last, seething attempt by citizens living in neglected and brutalized communities to be heard?

2. Riots vs. uprisings – have we recently witnessed baseless acts of looting and destruction or have we witnessed contributions to a revolution against marginalization, the militarization of police forces in poor urban centers and the denial of equal opportunity to millions of citizens?

3. Patience – is it more reasonable to expect generation after generation of marginalized communities to wait for change or should we be thinking about how in any situation, there is a breaking point at which waiting is no longer an option?

4. “They” – who are they? Are they black? Are they women? Are they LBGT? Are they physically challenged? Are they minimum wage earners who have no hope of seeing the arrival of a better life? Do “they” have a story to tell that others have never considered? How does our own personal history and experience determine the limits of our understanding?

Attending a panel discussion several nights ago, I was astounded to hear that the town I live in was identified as one of the towns here in CT to most engage in racial profiling during traffic stops. The relatively new police station was built on the Wethersfield / Hartford line. Had I heard about this a year ago it would have angered me simply because racial profiling anywhere is a disgrace. Now, given my expanding community, it feels more like an assault against MY community on both sides of the town line. One of the panelists, a black clergyman who is among the people from whom I’ve been learning about perspective and active listening, told of more than one instance when he was stopped in Wethersfield. Unlike a year ago, this is now personal.

Discovering new territory certainly has its dangers. We run the risk of hearing things we don’t want to hear. We may hear that either as individuals or as a group, white people must take responsibility for a system that is for many, dysfunctional. If responsibility for having built the system seems far fetched, responsibility for participation in that system without trying to change it is not. Listening and consideration must both be part of the plan for moving ahead.

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Surrounded by allies

or, I love where I work.

The killing of Black women and men by police, and the treatment of protestors around the country, continues to make me heartsick. So many words and emotions come to the surface when I even think about what has been happening, what comes to light, and what may still be hidden from the public’s view. The words remain stuck behind lips for many reasons, mostly due to being sick and my desire to be a good ally by not getting in the way of Black and Brown voices.

In the meantime I want to share some images from my workplace. As many of you know, I’m a librarian, and I work in a graduate school library. While the students tend not to share in my being a pagan and polytheist, they do tend to be fairly progressive and even radical. They’re also predominantly White, and versed in awareness of privilege and issues around oppression. Most of these images have been taken in the last week but they have been happening all year. I feel it’s another reminder of the need to work together and not just sequester off with a small group of people exactly like us.

The Black Lives Matter car

(Car with a “Black Lives Matter” banner across the back windshield.)

Spotted in January.

EWSPlaque

(Plaque spray-painted with the words “End White Supremacy”)

I walked into one of the main rooms at the school one day in March to see this over the fireplace. It seemed to have gone up anonymously.

the following are from the past week:

BaltimoreRebellion

(“I Support the Baltimore Rebellion” flyer)

NYCRally

(Flyer for rally in New York City in support of Freddie Gray)

Townes quote

(Quote from theologian Emilie Townes: “Sacrifice is a dangerous notion. It is dangerous because we often ask those who are the most vulnerable to give the most.”)

Malcolm X quote

(Quote from Malcolm X: “We declare our right on this earth… to be a human being, to be respected as a human being, to be given the rights of a human being in this society, on this earth, which we intend to bring into existence by any means necessary.”)

Cotes quote

(Quote from Ta-Nehisi Coates: “When nonviolence is preached as an attempt to evade the repercussions of political brutality, it betrays itself. When nonviolence begins halfway through the war with the aggressor calling time out, it exposes itself as a ruse. When nonviolence is preached by the representatives of the state, while the state doles out heaps of violence to its citizens, it reveals itself to be a con.

Anarchism pamphlet

(Surprise anarchist pamphlet appears on a corkboard in the library!)

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