misc-joy

Explorations by Kenley Neufeld

Politics

We gotta find joy, people. Even in the struggle.

By on November 15, 2018

Drums and Dance

The sense of community, of joy, of celebration, and of suffering was palpable. Last week I attended a conference on race in Detroit. My first conference of this type. And despite many years of personal work along with anti-racism trainings and workshops, I realize that I still know very little.

I see and hold the native and First Nation peoples who lived on the lands before us, who cared for it as we do, and lived their lives in community. Here in the Ojai Valley, where I write these words, these are the Chumash people. Today I also honor our diversity, whether that be gender, religion, ethnicity, national origin, age, physical or mental abilities, sexual orientation, gender identity or political affiliation.

The bi-annual conference was created by the organization Race Forward, creators of the fantastic Colorlines publication, and the name of the event was Facing Race: A National Conference. The conference week also celebrated the election of 100 women to Congress, including 40 women of color. Each of our general sessions were started with a music, dance, or words from the local creative community. We also had a “conference weaver” who lead the 3000 people in song. For the opening session, we sang together:

We are the children of ones who did not die

We are the children of the people who can fly

We are the children of the ones who preserver

We are fearless

We are strong

And we’re ready to carry on

This was also one of the only conferences that I’ve attended that truly acknowledged and displayed the richness of the local community. Detroit is an inspiring place where the community works for food justice, water justice, and social justice. We were reminded early on by a local speaker from a nonprofit who said, “if you are a nonprofit, and you don’t have the people you serve on your board, then that’s a change that needs to occur.”

Be Vulnerable

Opening PlenaryAs a white male amidst a predominantly non-white audience, I immediately became aware of my whiteness. An experience that many, if not all, people of color experience on a daily basis. A clear reminder of my privilege and place in society. The other new experience for me was that probably 80-90% of the presenters throughout the conference were people of color. What a gift! The opening plenary featured Rashad Robinson, adrienne maree brown, Favianna Rodriguez, Bree Newsome, and Jeff Chang. These folks inspire and remind us that we need to change the narrative. Furthermore, if we want to move the needle and create narrative change then feeling comfortable isn’t going to help us. We need to step into those spaces where people may disagree or not understand. We live in a society that is organized around a lie and the symbol of white power flies above everything. And through conferences such as this we are building the conditions for people to be free and recognize new possibilities.

Wage Love

The conference offered hundreds of sessions and this created a challenge for each block as I had picked three or four workshops but could only attend one in each block. Here’s what I attended:

It Doesn’t Have to Suck! Easy Management Levers for Anti-Oppression Lovers

This workshop was offered by Bex Ahuja and Tamara Osivwemu from The Management Center. These two were energetic and connected with their audience. I loved too how they set the stage to allow for interactions and questioning by creating an invitation at the beginning. They remind us that bad management disproportionally impacts those on the margins. But even with good management, there is also disproportionate impact if we don’t have an equity lens. We need good management within equity and inclusion lens. Further, the modern definition and understanding of management (command and control) is not built for anti-opression work. Managing with an equity and inclusion lens means there is no neutral path. We can‘t just stand back and do the status quo. Dismantling and removing supremacist power (in my management style) means recognizing and addressing implicit bias, assuming sameness, and the convenient story (it’s not us, it’s them) – these are the pillars of supremacist power. Bringing the race lens allows us to do transformative work instead of temporary work. Bex and Tamara offer a model of goal development that is both inclusive and equitable. Instead of SMART goals, we can have SMARTIE goals. When we re-imagine, we can ask who is this process serving (or not serving), who is this building power for (and who it’s not), and who benefits the most from these outcomes (and who doesn’t). We each have a “Choice Point” in which we have a choice to bring the equity lens to the organization.

Afro-futurism and Black Horror

Tananarive Due, an author and faculty member at UCLA, and Bree Newsome explore the healing power of horror and science fiction as tools for addressing erasure and creating visionary roadmaps to black liberation. A fun discussion that ranged from Black Panther and Get Out to Octavia Butler novels. Following a short presentation from each, they opened it for questions on a wide-ranging number of topics. As an avid reader of genre fiction, I have made a conscious effort to include more narratives written by people of color. For example, in the last year I have read Jade City by Fonda Lee, The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang, The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin, Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon, Everfair by Nisi Shael, The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson, and The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin. Through these stories, new insights and experiences are opened up to help me to grow and learn.

Alignment, Alignment, Alignment! Institutional Changes, Performance Measures, and Population Outcomes

In this session presented by Kien Lee, Nora Liu, and Marcella Hurtado Gomez we learn about measuring racial equity. They have developed an instrument to review structural racism through policies, practices, and procedures that benefit (intentionally or unintentionally) white people in our organizations. The tool proactively seeks to eliminate racial inequities and advance equity. It identifies clear goals, objectives, and measurable outcomes. Developed from Race Forward’s Model of Change (normalizing the work, organizing the work, and operationalize the work). This team offered us six stages for racial equity.

  1. Articulate the change desired by the community
  2. Determine the ecosystem and identify and analyze the relevant data
  3. Engage the community
  4. Determine organizational strategies to end racial disparities and ensure equitable outcomes to opportunities and resources
  5. Develop, implement, and evaluate an action plan
  6. Communicate about the plan’s progress and outcomes – be accountable

Each of these stages has their own process. It is iterative and this means you may go from one to four and then have to return to one again. This could occur anywhere along the path. It may feel overwhelming. It’s not going to change overnight. But we need to know we are on the path.

Flipping the Script: Developing and Deploying a Strategic Narrative for Transformative Change

Gerald Lenoir from the Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society presents findings based on the Blueprint for Belonging. This is a project in California to develop and begin to use a strategic narrative. A narrative to challenge the dominate view. The fundamental building blocks are to eliminate racialized inequality, an inclusive and responsive government, and empathy and bridging based identities. The last was the focus of the workshop. We had a great deal of interaction and conversation with others attending the workshop. One group exercise was to come up with a statement of who we are as group. The four of us (strangers) looked for our shared experiences, history, values, and visions for the future. It was a challenging exercise, but we came up with “A group who have all traveled internationally and work in the service to others and believe in justice, equity, compassion, nonviolence, and inclusion. To not causing harm and not pursuing harm. That all needs are met in a healthy society.”

Living History, Building Change, Inspiring People

HariIn addition to the workshops, we had some great keynotes. Getting to laugh with Hari Kondabolu was different for someone like me who doesn’t care for stand-up comedy. He’s able to make us laugh without being disparaging. During the follow-up conversation, Hari also got serious by saying things like “I don’t think we should judge immigrants on how they do or don’t contribute to the economy.” He helped us look at what it means to grow-up in America as the son of an immigrant family. Thank you Hari!

Introduced by Alicia Garcia (#BlackLivesMatter co-founder), we hear the amazing Tarana Burke offer her insights and experiences as the founder of the MeToo movement over a decade ago. She talked of her work with women of color and sexual harassment and sexual violence. She reminded us of some very grime facts at the same time sharing how this has been an issue far longer than Hollywood getting all the attention – “Fuck Hollywood. You can’t take shit that’s mine. The MeToo movement is in our work.” Following her keynote, she was then interviewed by Linda Sarsour, organizer for the Women’s March. We are reminded by Tarana that sexual violence is a police brutality issue, a mass incarceration issue, an economic justice issue, a community health issue, a housing and homelessness issue, an LBTQI+ issue, and a racial justice issue. It is a human rights issue. And sexual violence also happens within the movement community. This is not about awareness. This is about action. What happens after the hashtag. This is not time for debate. It’s time to work. These are hard conversations. Expand your lens to include sexual violence. Find where you fit in. And “possibility is all we may have sometimes.”

Humanity

As for white allies, we have work to do. We need to do our research. Seek to understand and expand our thinking and our hearts. That’s what I take away from this conference. The lived-experience of hearing and being with people of color for three days is something all white allies should experience. I do believe that we need to be vulnerable. We gotta find joy, people. Even in the struggle. Even in the learning and the mistakes.

And within the movements – race, environment, LBTQI+, sexual violence, women  – we need to build bridges to create the larger “we” that links all of us. Step out of our silos. Perhaps as Chris Moore-Backman framed in his book, a movement of movements.

Thank you Santa Barbara City College and the Equal Employment Opportunity Advisory Committee for sending me to Detroit. And thank you for my two colleagues.

Roxanne, Kenley, and Akil

Three-Month Media Blackout

By on July 8, 2018

I’m planning on doing a 3-month media blackout during my already-established sangha sabbatical (July-September). It will be an experiment on my need to know (probably why I became a librarian and also something that’s been present in me for as long as I can remember). The experiment may allow me to open up some internal space for emotional and spiritual care. I’m seeing that life may not need to be so dense with content and I’m curious what I may discover without the constant text-based consumption.

I’ve already put my Medium and NY Times subscriptions on hold. Need to do the same with LA Times. Been unsubscribing from a few email lists each day to whittle down the noise. No consuming Twitter or Facebook, but may decide to push content to these platforms in via Hootsuite. That’s pretty safe. I trimmed back the podcast subscriptions significantly to only music and education related (but keeping Sword & Laser!). The Overcast app makes this quite easy to keep the subscriptions but not have them download constantly. And I moved the Unread (RSS) app to a back screen – that one will be hard and I couldn’t bring myself to delete yet.

What to keep? Probably my print magazine subscriptions such as Stack Magazines, Buddhadharma, and Lions Roar. Not sure about Wired or MacWorld just yet. Probably keep them too, but I don’t have to read. Right? The one social platform I’ll keep is LinkedIn. It’s mostly focused on education and helps me stay connected to my profession. Gotta have one doorway.

In the end, I won’t be to harsh on myself when I slip or end up changing my mind. It is simply an intention and a direction, but dogmatism isn’t helpful either.

Now what am I going to do with all this free time?

Transcending White Nationalism and Developing White Racial Literacy

By on August 20, 2017

In over 15-years of teaching information literacy classes, I often used the Stormfront website as a teaching tool because they own an MLK domain. Most students didn’t even know about David Duke, prominently quoted on the MLK site, and now he’s front and center thanks to President Trump. On some level this is okay, because it brings white nationalism front and center, but it also means we can’t count on our leaders to speak out against what they represent.  

It’s up to us whites to transcend white nationalism and cultivate a more pluralistic and fair society for everyone. It’s up to all of us to counter the white nationalist movement, recognize and transform our white privilege, pursue atonement and repatriation. We begin by recognizing that we live in a systemically racist society, that we each carry these seeds of racism (some conscious and some unconscious), and that we can become more literate about racism through dialogue, openness, and study. 

This opinion piece, in the New York Times, is written by a former white nationalist. He writes, “The United States was founded as a white nationalist country, and that legacy remains today.”  This is a critical recognition and one of the first steps we can take in moving forward. 

Here’s the complete article by R. Derek Black: What White Nationalism Gets Right About American History

Support Local Businesses, No Chains in Ojai

By on May 26, 2013

no_chainsBack in mid-2006 I created a wiki to document a community effort to restrict formula businesses (aka-chains) in Ojai, California. We were ultimately successful on November 27, 2007 with the passage of Ordinance #798. A few years later I shut down the wiki because it was requiring too much effort on my part to maintain and I felt like we had enough years with the ordinance regulating formula businesses. Now with a potential revision to the ordinance before the City Council again, I’m finding myself wanting to review the background. The purpose of this post is to simply document the work we did along with a timeline. It will be cross-posted on the Ojai Post.

This type of ordinance has been passed in many cities and towns (must read!) and been upheld in court. See the June 2003 California Appeals Court decision upholding Coronado’s formula business ordinance. Ojai community members began working on an ordinance in December 2006. The final document was called Formula Retail and Restaurant Establishments and it was submitted to the City of Ojai on April 9, 2007 and signatures have been collected from approximately 700 Ojai voters; enough to be placed on the ballot.

Time Line (2006-present) : (more…)

Hope or Fear? I Choose Hope

By on October 27, 2012

Compare and contrast a political campaign. Here we have two grassroots efforts that are starkly different. One portrays hope and the other generates fear. Where do you really want to put your effort and resources?

I’m not being Pollyanna when I say that positive thinking brings about positive change. If we surround ourselves with hope, then we can be hopeful. It’s not an ideal world, by any means, but a president that is thoughtful, kind, mindful, and willing to recognize mistakes is the kind of president I’d like to see, even if I don’t agree with all if his policies.

Though I don’t agree with every policy decision, regardless of being on the left or the right, I do appreciate moving in a general direction. The philosophy and outlook of the candidate. The values the candidate represents.

Fear or Hope. What will you choose?

Fall Beginnings and Time to Breathe

By on September 16, 2012

Students, thousands of them, fill all spaces in the library. Lines form to use computers and textbooks. All library staff are on their feet every moment the library is open to direct and support any need. Students come and go with alacrity, which is a joy to experience, and I smile to our role as a central place on campus. It’s the fall semester and, as I write this letter, we have just completed our third week. Finally there is a calming energy after so much activity. It’s the space between beginning and middle. To add to the huge number of students, we also went live with the WorldShare Management Services platform this semester (eight other California community college campuses are actively migrating, with a few more still in the works). It’s been a very full three weeks for us and I am certain that each of our campus libraries can share a similar story for the fall semester beginnings.

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A Bitter Harvest: California, Marijuana, and the New Jim Crow

By on December 12, 2011

I highly recommend listening to this radio show exploring themes of racism, drugs and legal disenfranchisement. The discussion centers around California marijuana growing and the apparent inequities between white pot farmers and and widespread incarceration of African-American men throughout America. It’s a thoughtful discussion and one worthy of hearing and considering, particularly for white Americans. The show was ably created and produced by my step-brother Chris Moore-Backman.

Listen or Download

Moved by Exhibits: Being Political

By on April 1, 2011

For some reason being in Philadelphia is getting me in touch with my political nature. This evening, the ACRL 2011 conference reception was held at the National Constitution Center. Rather than spend time smoozing and drinking, I visited a few exhibits on my own and glad I did.

I love this country. I’m happy and proud to be a naturalized citizen. These are words that might be surprising to some of my readers, especially those who have known me a long time. My history of radical and far left-leaning politics don’t always match the views of the general population. I don’t (and wont) salute the flag. I will challenge and do protest my government when I believe they are acting incorrectly. I strongly oppose military action, the death penalty, economic and social racism.

This contradiction is true because a group of white men in their 30s and 40s got together in 1776 in order to “form a more perfect union.” The constitution is an amazing document.

One of the exhibits is Spies, Traitors, and Saboteurs. This history of radical, and sometimes violent, movements on both the right and left are demonstrated through images, notes, and audio. The museum did a decent job of being unbiased in the presentation though I’m surprised they focused mostly on the 20th century. I felt at home, and had a sense of solidarity, with many of this who have struggled for social justice and the end of wars. I felt a sadness for those who have promoted hate and bigotry in the last century and continue to in this century.

Between my time with Raj Patel yesterday, the spies exhibit, and the multimedia presentation on the formation of the nation, I feel inspired to be political. I feel inspired to be radical. I feel inspired to be an American.

How do you work with your politics? How do you take part in our democracy?

400 Monastics Being Forcefully Evicted Today

By on September 27, 2009

Dear friends: the situation at Bat Nha Monastery in Vietnam (also known as Prajna Temple) has become very critical. There are about 400 young monastics currently being evicted from the monastery by the Vietnamese government and local police. You can learn a bit more from a recent New York Times article called Tensions Rise as Police Question Monk’s Followers – the “monk” in this case is Thich Nhat Hanh.

These young monastics (mostly under age 25) have been living here since 2005 at the invitation of the local Abbott. However, they were asked to leave earlier this year. It is not so simple for monastics to simply disperse and go live alone or at home and that is why finding a suitable new location for 400 people is challenging. All the monastics are Vietnamese citizens and are practicing in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh, the exiled Vietnamese Zen Master based in France.

If you want to learn more about the situation, please visit Help Bat Nha.

If you would like to help, please do any of the following:

  1. Pray for a nonviolent and peaceful resolution.
  2. Stay Informed. Follow Thich Nhat Hanh on Facebook or Twitter
  3. Send a postcard to the President of Vietnam in support of the 400 monks and nuns at Bat Nha. The postcard was first introduced at the Deer Park retreat in early September with Thich Nhat Hanh. The pdf files linked above can be double-side copied on card stock (text on one side, address on the other) and then cut in half (two post cards per sheet). A 98 cent stamp will ensure Air Mail delivery to Vietnam. Please consider copying them and taking postcards to your next Sangha meeting. You might offer to collect the cards and mail them yourself, asking perhaps for a donation for the stamp.
  4. Contacting U.S. Senators and Congresspersons, asking that they send a letter of concern about the situation of the monastics to the government of Vietnam. If you choose instead to write a letter, email will be the quickest option. Any letters addressed to Senators and Representatives’ Washington D.C. offices are inspected for security reasons and take an extra three weeks or so to reach their offices.
  5. Contacting Senators and Representatives on the Foreign Relations Committees. This file gives names and contact information for Senators and Representatives on Foreign Relations Committee subcommittees that would have interest in the situation at Bat Nha. If you live in their state or district, please call with your concern and request immediately.

Thank you for reading and for the support.

Update: You may wish to call members of the Vietnamese government. Mr. Le Thanh Phong- 091.386.5000, Mr. Troung Van Thu – 091.386.5294, and Mr. Ho Ba Thang 091.393.4718 are local members of the Vietnam government.


Posted via email from On the fly…

Today I Have 20 Years Sober, Thank You

By on June 8, 2009

It was twenty years ago today that I took my last drink of alcohol. I was 21-years old at the time and it was my third or fourth attempt at stopping. Today I am living on grace, and though I don’t speak publicly of this very often, I want everyone to know how proud I am of being sober for two decades and to thank those who have helped me along the way.  This is a day to remember the goodness in suffering.

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