Sunday, October 31, 2010

1) Anti-racism. 2) Pro-love and peace...and, for me, Jesus.

But first, a public service announcement:

In the last 7 days, thanks to the generosity of parents, grandparents, Lutheran Service Corps board members, boyfriends, and Jackie wanting to make something with pumpkin for our dinner party last night, we have had the option of consuming, in this house, the following items:

Candied apples, Mexican sweet breads, popcorn/M+M mix, pumpkin-carrot-cheese bars, gourmet cheese and crackers, beverages (we'll leave it at that), cinnamon rolls, pumpkin whoopie pies, and cupcakes.

So, to anyone who was worried about us not being able to survive solely on our stipends...I leave you with that.

We now return to our irregularly scheduled blog post.

A few nights ago, I was sitting in a room with two other white people, and one of them made a joke about black people. I think I laughed, or at least made some kind of snicker or sarcastic utterance. I don't even remember what the joke was, exactly...I can probably safely say the joke was disparaging towards black people.

The person who made the joke or comment or whatever has been through anti-racism training, and I know that this person thinks a LOT about anti-racism in the person's daily life, and is committed to social justice.

Is it ever okay to make that joke? Can you lay off the PC-ness for once, you Oberlin graduate hippie, you may want to ask me? (Did I just perpetuate a stereotype about my college?) I think I have been in situations with my black friends who have told, or seemed okay when hearing, jokes related to race.  Do you need to relax, Anna? I know you're working on the self-care, but just had a nice's Halloween...maybe you need to chill out. Everybody needs to let steam out.

Well, voice in my some extent, I agree with you. But I do want to share the other feelings too.

This upcoming weekend, LVCers all over the country are going on retreat and doing more anti-racism training, like we did at orientation. I was working on an assignment tonight (yeah, some in my house are calling retreat "fall training" since it's kind of stressful having homework again) for which we are asked to fill out a matrix with examples of racism in our placements. I really want to show you exactly what it looks like, but I'm not sure Crossroads, the organization that LVC collaborates with for anti-racism training, would appreciate me posting the exact words of the assignment in public for all to see.

But I can paraphrase, I guess. I am learning that it is so important to constantly remember and recognize every day the overarching invisible spiderweb of white privilege, also referred to as the enormous elephant in the room that everybody sees, hears, feels, and maybe even smells, but doesn't talk about. And I don't think we can talk about it all day every day, as important as I feel it is, because it is SO exhausting.

One of the main points I got from anti-racism training and am reminded of from this exercise is that racism is ultimately going to screw everyone over if we don't recognize it, talk about it, and do something about it. (I remind myself at this point that talking about it is definitely included in "doing something about it"...I maintain that talking about it is not the end of it.) The part of the assignment that I am currently struggling over is remembering what we must have talked about at orientation - how exactly it is going to do that.

I can talk a lot about people who must have hearts that are hurting or hungering for more interaction with people different from them. But I get frustrated when I realize that, theoretically, people could leave their churches and go back to their houses in the suburbs, and I can even come home tonight to my house in what people tell me is a "bad part of town", and sit here with my computer, and lead my comfy life, and not push myself/themselves into thinking about the root causes of how I/we got where I/we are today. And you know what? It is important to do that sometimes, because self-care is important, as I am trying to remind myself every day.

But I just have this feeling that life will feel better if I let my guard down a little and speak honestly with people who are different from me about my life. And, as my previous blog post emphasized, listen with an open, attentive soul to those people in return.

And here I could go off on a tangent about how this isn't just about race, how in the past two months I've benefited deeply from spending lots of work time with people who are substantially older than me, for the first time. I knew I loved working with kids, but I didn't know that working with "real grown-ups" could be so much fun, too.

So, there's my thoughts on anti-racism for now. Though, at times, I am quick to profess my desire for action over words, based on my work over the past two months, I believe that I have learned, and would most strongly encourage everyone to recognize, the importance of talking and listening about difference. I don't think it's just about political correctness - I think it's about fundamentally transforming how to shape a society where everyone really does feel comfortable, safe, respected, and like they have an opportunity to do something. And this society is not going to magically appear when I wake up in the morning is going to take Work. And Love. Don't forget the love, because without that, it doesn't make any sense to Work.

I'll save 2) for next time because, but leave the title that I started with, because it might give you an idea of another idea that I've been turning around in my head for a while now.

Last things:
I have wanted to recommend The Shame of the Nation by Jonathan Kozol, written in 2005, to all my loved ones for quite some time now. You are hereby recommended. It's about the U.S. public school system, and the last chapter features moving words from John Lewis that resounded very deeply within me when I read them.
Also, Mom and anyone else who knows about this documentary, you will be pleased to know that Austin checked out "A Time for Burning" from the public library so we'll watch it soon. (Race issues in churches and other places in Omaha in the 60s.)

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Listening. To other people.

The following was written on Sunday afternoon, when our interwebs were not functioning, in a Microsoft Word document. 

Well, it’s been a few weeks, the leaves are beginning to do what they’re supposed to do this season, and I am sittin.

The only sound at the instant that I am typing this sentence is the ticking of the clock in our living/dining room. The cars and trucks that rush down the main thoroughfare that goes by our front yard will make some noise every once in a while, but probably not as much on a Sunday afternoon. It’s pretty cloudy outside and drizzling a little bit, and I may be going south again today to go to a pumpkin patch with the youth and families of St. Luke’s. We’ll see how the weather is, I guess.

I have been richly blessed this week with the opportunity to go to the 2010 Theological Conference for the Nebraska Synod of the ELCA in Kearney, NE, somewhere around 2 hours west of Omaha. The big speakers were Shane Claiborne, a really tall skinny thirty-something-year-old with realllllly long dreadlocks and a passion for God’s love that I wish I had seen more of in church today, and Alexie Torres-Fleming, a puertorriqueña from the South Bronx who is on a break from running Youth Ministries for Peace and Justice over there so she can give speeches about all the work she’s been inspired to do since a co-leading a significant protest march against crack in the early 90s. There was also ample time for socializing with Lutheran pastors, including LVC alums, synod staff that I befriended on a work weekend in North O at the end of September, and my present “co-workers” in the inner-city cluster. (It feels weird to call them that, but I think they would be okay with it – Pastor Patti laughs when I call her my boss.) Kayleigh was there too,

But the very first part of my time at the conference was spent in Spiritual Retreat from 8:30-11:30 am on Monday morning. During that time

Stop. That's where I stopped. But during that time, I was listening to other people.

I am RESTLESS tonight. We have our first LVC Twin Cities/Omaha retreat in Iowa in a little more than a week, and each community is supposed to have something of a covenant ready to share by then. Our community decided last night, based on a conversation from the night before, that we would come up with an idea of our covenant on our own, and begin the process of smushing them together tomorrow. So I was writing for a while tonight, and then I stopped, and then I went and played some music, and now I am back on the couch, writing something different.

I want to play music with other people. I need to listen to other people so I can learn what their passions are.

We really need to listen to other people. Really. Listen. Open up our souls to receive something from someone else's.

And then, talk about what we hear.

Yes, self-care is essential to working for peace with justice. But other people of all kinds are why I love life.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


Turns out William Deressiewicz, quoted in my previous post, was advisor at Yale to the gorgeous Emma I. V. It really is a small world, after all.

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Quote night.

"Wow, you went to Oberlin, and you'd never heard of the UTNE Reader..." - Dad, paraphrased

Better late than never. One of the things that LVC does is give us a free subscription to a social justice-y magazine, and luckily my house picked one that we want to read cover-to-cover. I finished it last night, and wanted to share some of it with you.

"Prisons are madly violent places...that part of the developed world least altered by civilization, by modernity, by the growth of any consciousness of peaceful interaction. In here, the old scourges hold sway in epidemic proportions. Racism, tribalism, all the old "isms" are still vital and dominant, still driving behavior and ruining lives. In a sense, prisons are society's dustbins, the dumps into which are swept...the various felonious ideas no longer acceptable in polite company." 
-Kenneth E. Hartman, reflecting on life in prison - he has a website.

"The corporatization of something as basic and intimate as eating is, for many of us today, a good place to draw the line." - Michael Pollan

"Nostalgia is not what we need. What we need is an ethos that comes to terms with contemporary, industrialized food, not one that dismisses it" - Rachel Laudan

"Inequity and politics, not food shortages, were at the root of almost all famines in the 20th century...It can be hard to grasp the degree to which the Western lifestyle is implicated. We don't realize that when we buy imported shrimp or coffee we are often literally taking food from poor people. We don't realize that our economic system is doing harm; in fact, the system conspires to make it nearly impossible to figure out whether what we're doing is destructive or regenerative." - Sharon Astyk and Aaron Newton

"Leadership means finding a new direction, not simply putting yourself at the front of the herd that's heading toward the cliff."
"Introspection means talking to yourself, and one of the best ways of talking to yourself is talking to another person you can trust, to whom you can unfold your soul. One other person you feel safe enough with to allow you to acknowledge things-to acknowledge things to yourself-that you otherwise can't. Doubts you aren't supposed to have, questions that you aren't supposed to ask. Feelings or opinions that would get you laughed at by the group or reprimanded by the authorities."
- William Deresiewicz

"...sometimes the people who are living on the resource are in the best position to figure out how to manage it as a commons...I'm not against government. I'm just against the idea that it's got to be some bureaucracy that figures out everything for people."
"We need to get people away from the notion that you need to have a fancy car and a huge house...Some of our mentality about what it means to have a good life is, I think, not going to help us in the next 50 years. We have to think through how to choose a meaningful life in which we help one another in ways that also help the earth."
-Elinor Ostrom, 2009 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences, interviewed by Fran Korten

"In the truest sense of the word, the commons is a conservative as well as progressive virtue because it aims to conserve and nurture all those things that are necessary for sustaining a healthy society." - Jay Walljasper

Another time I'll put some quotes up from my current "homework assignment" - the book Radical Welcome: Embracing God, The Other and the Spirit of Transformation by Stephanie Spellers.

Books on my reading list:
Moral Ground: Ethical Action for a Planet in Peril - Kathleen Dean Moore and Michael P. Nelson, eds.
Breathing Space: A Spiritual Journey in the South Bronx - Heidi B. Neumark

Books I have read since August:
Rules for Radicals: A Pragmatic Primer for Realistic Radicals by Saul Alinsky
Grace (Eventually): Thoughts on Faith by Anne Lamott

Music will be a whole other post. Speaking of which, I'm going to Oberlin this weekend for the memorial concert for Professor Wendell Logan on Saturday October 9th. I was nowhere near as close to him as many, many other people, but he was such an inspiration to me, and I miss him.

It is always good to walk into that hug that is Oberlin, though. I imagine it will feel rather different this time, but I'm okay with that. :-)

No blogging for a while because of my upcoming Ohio weekend - but I also wanted to tell you that tomorrow I am leading community night discussion. This month we are focusing on social justice, and tomorrow night I want to lead a discussion on how to practice self-care and the importance of good relationships when working for peace with justice. I have been thinking about this a lot lately.

Enjoy your October!