I don’t usually, but I went to church for the last three Sundays in a row. Not to a sermon. But to a facilitated conversation designed to bring community members together to talk about race.

Seriously, it was great. At each meeting we watched an episode of the PBS series Race – The Power of an Illusion, had an hour for small group discussion, and then a closing with the full group. There were 60-80 people there each night. I thought it was an impressive turnout for such a fraught topic.

My favorite discussion question went something like this: Why is it that so many well-intentioned white people—folks who would say they aren’t racist—find it so hard to organize and create real change around race?

roadblockThat is such a good question.

When the organizers passed around a sheet for future involvement, I noticed a lot of people signed up for a book group, but hardly anyone put their name under the “action” column.

What is that about?

I decided to try a little personal experiment; take a simple action and pay attention to what I went through to achieve it.

I picked the news item that had most recently outraged me. It was the federal land grab from the San Carlos Apache Tribe where a sacred site was stolen from the tribe and “traded” to a mining company.

Okay, take action. Go!

The first thing I did was read about it. And there is a ton of stuff out there to read.

My first roadblock to action: Wow there is so much to read and study. I almost got stuck thinking I had to know all about it before I could determine if action was warranted. Move on, move on.

Second roadblock to action: Feeling  completely overwhelmed. My mind traveled to the enormity of the land grab that occurred over the centuries as non-Natives displaced and killed unknowable numbers of indigenous people. The genocide of Native Americans was not my fault, but the legacy of it is my responsibility. So, what can I do now? Keep moving.

Third roadblock to action: Finding out what to do. I’m leery of actions directed by people who are not directly impacted. But then I fear that people who are being crushed by something are often not in a position to be directive. But wait, here’s a take action link on a San Carlos Apache site. Perfect! Click.

Fourth roadblock to action: Well, I signed all the petitions and felt like I was giving my identity away to unknown people. I did it anyway but the whole time I was thinking: Who are these people and what are they going to do with my information? This has stopped me in the past.

Fifth roadblock to action: I posted links to the petitions I signed on my Facebook page and donated money. But I have that feeling of it’s not enough, it’s never enough.

Okay, now I get it. Taking action is not self-gratifying. There is no certainty, no immediate result. It’s overwhelming, confusing, and scary.

But here’s what I want to say to myself and to white people reading this: Do it anyway. Follow the lead of the people who are being wronged. Move, do, sign, donate, march, testify, risk, Risk, RISK, work hard, link arms, fall down, get up. Go!

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

Latest immigration bills will hurt community safety and crime victims “Law enforcement leaders have stated repeatedly they do not want to be immigration law enforcers precisely because it interferes with their primary mission to fight crime.”

My wedding was perfect – and I was fat as hell the whole time “I have never in my life been fatter than I was on my wedding day, I have never shown my body in such an uncompromising way, and I have never felt more at home in that body. I was fully myself, and I was happy. We are happy. This life is yours, fat girls. Eat it up.”

Sandra Bland Never Should Have Been Arrested “She did nothing unlawful in her interactions with him. But that doesn’t matter in an America where knowing your rights means little when they can be revoked at the whim of an officer’s temper.”

And an extra funny/not-funny take on being black in America:

RadAmericanWomenCoverThe other day I got my hands on a long-awaited alphabet book for me my kids: Rad American Women. This book is cool on so many levels—the art, the content, and the lasting impact of reading it to my daughter…

A few days after the book arrived, I was sitting in a heap of unfolded laundry and turned to my favorite laundry helper (Netflix) to get me through. So I was watching the PBS special on Billie Jean King when my daughter came in and excitedly said, “Mama, she’s from the book!!!” It took me a second to realize what connection she was making but when I did, I invited her into the fold (see what I did there?) and we watched for a while. She was thrilled to know about her and be in on something special.

We talked about how bold Billie Jean King was and all the other women and men that helped her achieve such greatness. And we dreamed. We dreamed for a future where we have pay equity—not just at Wimbledon, but everywhere. We celebrated. We talked about how I once got to see A is for Angela Davis speak and how I hoped we would continue to go to protests and marches together and live our lives in a way that exemplifies the ideals of which she spoke. And we appreciated. We took time to be grateful for all that we have because of leaders who had the guts to work for equality. And then we got up and went outside to play ball. Because we could.

Here’s to the other rad women of the book and to the rest of us still out there working for justice!

Last week I sat in a living room with ten of my friends, blinds drawn and snacks in hand, as I watched the USA Women’s Soccer team compete in the World Cup final. I didn’t even get the chance to nervously bite one fingernail before the USA scored their first goal in minute four. By the end we were jumping up and down, tears in our eyes, as we took the trophy.

Here are the three things that made me happiest about this win:

  1. People came together to support and cheer on women for their talent, team work, and mad skills! It was the most watched soccer game (men’s and women’s) in U.S. history. Millions watched the game, more than the NBA finals and last year’s World Series.
  2. Then we found out they made 40 times less than the men’s World Cup team (and they didn’t even win). Obviously, this is not a win. But what makes me happy is that it is an undeniable example that the pay gap is real. And if you think that’s unfair, you can do something about it.
  3. Images of the team in the media challenged stereotypes of women as catty, shallow, and competitive. These women are successful, strong, and supportive of each other.

I grew up playing soccer. It was a space where I could forget the everyday messages around what my body should look like, and what a woman should be. It taught me how to be strong and confident, how to trust myself and others, and to work as a team. So I couldn’t help but feel a deep connection to this win. I know we have a long way to go, but these wins inspire me to keep working toward gender equality.

It’s WSCADV’s 25th year and I’ve been here for seven of those years. To celebrate, I went down memory lane through my “favorite emails” folder and found some pretty remarkable quotes from coworkers, member programs, and activists from halfway across the world. Here is my favorite from each year I’ve worked here.25th-Anniversary-Seal

  1. “BRAVO to you and your staff for leading the way here and across the nation!”
  2. “If this does not make your day, we need to call the coroner.”
  3. “Warm greetings from Kampala! So nice to be in touch with you and the Washington Coalition – we feel connected to all of you but don’t actually know you…We are really excited to adapt In Her Shoes for the African context.”
  4. “My goodness, did we do all that at our gathering? You and the others did an awesome job of capturing all that was said. Keep up the GOOD work!!!”
  5. “Amazing women doing amazing work in amazing conditions here. Food is great. Malaria pills are fine. Saw one elephant, four peacocks, and a bunch of camels.”
  6. “I have been supported here to dream big, think carefully, act pragmatically, and speak the truth as I saw it. It has been amazing, and I have been very proud to be a part of our work together. Leaving here is tough, because I love this org and all the people in it.”
  7. “Thank you so much for taking the time and always providing us with the support we need.”
Photo by Dread Scott

Photo by Dread Scott

During a week of searing sadness, tiredness, and anger, I am looking for a way to move forward. I find myself thinking about the people around me in the grocery store, standing on the bus, sitting on blankets at the farmer’s market, the faces of my children. These are the people I am with in my ordinary day … this is the “American public.” I wonder about what it takes to move public opinion. This week, I have read brilliant, challenging, and inspirational writing about the racist murders in Charleston. I believe that we are all grappling with the failure to openly dialogue about racism, acknowledge historic symbols of racism, and dismantle systems that perpetuate racism. What makes individuals risk offending those dear to them, speak up, do something different, make a change?

For me, learning from others shapes my thinking and moves me to act. I am not talking about grand gestures, but educating myself so I can figure out what to talk about with my children, neighbors, family members, and elected representatives. These are a few of the posts that have taught me this week:

On Faith, Forgiveness and Flags

Why I Can’t Forgive Dylann Roof

Confederate Flags and Institutional Racism

Reading these helped me grasp the enormity of what is ahead and reminded me of the decency in people. Ultimately, I do have faith that we will make change. This is the way forward for me.

Some news stories that caught our eye this week:

An American Kidnapping
“At our implicit behest, a boy was snatched off the streets of New York. His parents were told to pay a certain sum, or he would not be released. When they did not pay, he was beaten and then banished to lonely cell.”

Meet Marilyn Mosby: The Baltimore Prosecutor in the Eye of the Storm
“I’m not conflicted about charging these police officers. I believe in applying justice fairly and equally, and that is what our system is built upon. That is why I do what I do.”

The 9 heartbreaks of the Charleston shooting
“Sometimes the most painful thing to do is to watch your social media feeds and notice what is important to some of your friends and what is important to others.”

 

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