Categories
Environment Justice

Sunday Reads

White supremacy = Mother of climate crisis by Kritee Kanko in Boundless in Motion

One can’t deal with the climate emergency without facing racism head-on. If you ignore white supremacy, you ignore a fundamental enabler-engine of climate emergency. You forget colonialism, you forget what brought us to this point of ongoing sixth mass extinction.

Why Planting Trees Won’t Save Us by Jeff Goodell in Rolling Stone

If a climate solution sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Two new studies expose the magical thinking around the trillion trees initiative. Tree planting is also a key part of cap-and-trade schemes, which allow polluters to continue emitting CO2 if that CO2 can be offset (or absorbed) in other ways. In California, the cap-and-trade program has recognized 133 million tons of CO2 in benefits from forest carbon offset projects between 2013 and 2019.

Abolish Oil by Reinhold Martin in Places Journal

Oil abolition implies social transformation — a systemic change toward collective freedom. The Green New Deal points in its very name to a usable past for today’s climate politics. Inattention to the cunning of ‘oil’ as a system of domination risks reifying historical injustices.

Black Lives Matter, Protests, and Whiteness by by Jaime Caro-Morente Marta Caro-Olivares in Industrial Worker

“All Lives Matter” does not imply a humanistic position against the alleged violence of Black Lives Matter. It supposes to equalize the oppressor and the oppressed. It involves denying systemic racism, essentializing race, and accepting the status quo as the natural state of affairs. Standing side by side with violence against the Black population means standing side by side with the legacy of slavery and segregation.

Protesting Police Violence: A Race-Class Messaging Guide by Ian Haney Lopez

This messaging guide is written for progressive advocates, and the advice is consistent with our values. That said, the messages presented here are framed to appeal to a broad spectrum of people. They reflect lessons learned in our Race-Class Narrative Project, as well as in focus groups among Latinos taking place in May and June of 2020.

Powerhouse, Wheeler Dam, Alabama, Tennessee Valley Authority.
Powerhouse, Wheeler Dam, Alabama, Tennessee Valley Authority. [Library of Congress]
Categories
Environment Justice Reading

Sunday Reads

Four long reads worth your time. This week we begin with a discussion on being Asian American by Pulitzer Prize winning author Viet Thanh Nguyen. This is followed by a long essay on politics, nature, and the coronavirus. The next two uncover climate change issues in Ethiopia and Southwest United States. And we conclude with a short opinion piece on the relationship between climate change and dismantling white supremacy.

Asian Americans Are Still Caught in the Trap of the ‘Model Minority’ Stereotype. And It Creates Inequality for All by Viet Thanh Nguyen in Time

Throughout Asian-American history, Asian immigrants and their descendants have been offered the opportunity by both Black people and white people to choose sides in the Black-white racial divide, and we have far too often chosen the white side. And yet there have been vocal Asian Americans who have called for solidarity with Black people and other people of color, from the activist Yuri Kochiyama, who cradled a dying Malcolm X, to the activist Grace Lee Boggs, who settled in Detroit and engaged in serious, radical organizing and theorizing with her Black husband James Boggs.

From The Anthropocene To The Microbiocene by Tobias Rees in Noema

If you read only the first few paragraphs, you will be treated to a story of the pangolin. And then, “A key feature of nature according to the virus is interconnectedness: All organisms are inseparably interwoven with one another — and with the biosphere.” And lastly, “looked at from the perspective opened up by COVID-19, it appears that modern politics has been a tool invented to defend the illusion of the free-standing human as such. Essentially, modern politics has been a differentiation machine.”

Inside Ethiopia’s Endangered Wild-Coffee Forests by Jeff Koehler in Atlas Obscura

Solid story and beautiful pictures. “Today, wild Arabica’s greatest threat is climate change. Highly sensitive, it can only survive within a narrow band of conditions. Aaron Davis, a senior research leader at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, and the world’s foremost authority of coffee and climate change, has forecasted that the places where wild coffee can grow will decrease by 65 percent by 2080. That’s the best-case scenario. The worst-case showed a 99.7 percent reduction, with wild Arabica tree populations dropping by 40 to 99 percent.”

‘Megadrought’ and ‘Aridification’ — Understanding the New Language of a Warming World by Tara Lohan in The Revelator

“New research reveals a creeping, permanent dryness expanding across the United States. It’s much more than “drought,” and researchers hope more accurate descriptions will spur critical action. The current megadrought in the Southwest is defined not so much by declining precipitation — although that did have an effect too — but by increasing temperatures from climate change. That’s going to continue to climb as long as we keep burning greenhouse gases.”

If you care about the planet, you must dismantle white supremacy By Tamara Toles O’Laughlin in Grist

This one is a short read. “The reality is that the communities being battered by both the coronavirus and climate are also epicenters of over-policing, incarceration, and state-sanctioned violence. In every aspect of our lives, starting in our mothers’ wombs, we are systematically devalued. Black communities face the long-term effects of environmental racism, intentionally zoned into neighborhoods surrounded by factories, highways, pipelines, and compressor stations.”

Freshly picked coffee (the beans are inside these fruits) in the Mankira Forest, Kafa. Photo sourced from Atlas Obscura
Categories
Justice

“All Lives Matter” says Santa Barbara City College Trustee

When a Board Resolution called “Affirming our Commitment for Black and African American Students, Faculty and Staff” doesn’t pass unanimously (5-2), you know the college has a problem. And this is exactly what happened at my place of employment on June 25, 2020. I am angry that the continued racism and white supremacy is allowed to fester and grow. 

So what do you do when one district trustees says “all lives matter” and the other thinks “Black Lives Matter” means the college supports defunding the police? In my case, I write this blog post, plan to speak at the next Board of Trustees meeting, and to reach out to my Black colleagues.

These two trustees, Veronica Gallardo and Craig Nielsen, are an insult to Santa Barbara City College and to Black students, faculty, and staff. If I were a Black student, I’d definitely be looking for another college to attend. Over a period of years, these two trustees have consistently blocked the needs and voices of Black student and employees. They need to be removed from office as soon as possible so the damage against our students can be addressed.

Issues of racism is not something new for Santa Barbara City College. We have lost good employees because of the toxic nature of our campus. Personally, it contributed to my taking a 9-month leave last year. I wrote about it several times in November and December 2018 (see links below). And here we are, 19-months later and we have college “leaders” dismissing Black students and employees. 

We need to speak up against white supremacy in all its forms. For white readers, we need to counter the reality of white silence and at the same time step back and de-center ourselves so the many voices of Black students and employees are heard.

Past articles

Categories
Justice

Being an Antiracist Means Diligence, Persistence, and Fearlessness

The protests must continue. It is clear they do create change. For those of us maintaining our quarantine, we may feel like we’re missing out. But we need to remember that protest is just one vehicle for change, especially for White Americans. There is a lot we can do to support antiracist work in all aspects of our lives.

Wooded Path
Photo Credit: Kenley Neufeld

Racial justice is linked with several other ongoing and critical efforts. For example, the abolition of the police and prison system can allow for real healing and justice. The efforts of anti-capitalism and environmental justice are also intricately linked with white supremacy.

The protests of the last few weeks have been critical in raising the voice of Black Americans. And, in turn, it highlights how white supremacy has impacted all BIPOC/BAME communities for a very long time.

Knowing a little about American culture, some people will begin to tune-out the protests as commercialism and capitalism draw us back into our comfort zone. Being an antiracist is uncomfortable. And it’s easier to buy a new product, read a gossip story about a celebrity, or stand aghast at the latest Tweet from Trump. These are all a distraction from what’s really important – healing ourselves and healing our community. As White people forget about the systemic racism, and as the antiracist work disappears from the front pages and trending on Twitter, we need to redouble our efforts.

Antiracist work must continue. In our homes, our communities, and in our workplaces. We must be diligent, persistent, and fearless. Even though I have been an antiracist for many years, there is so much I don’t know or understand. I must continue to educate myself and be open to the real stories and experiences from people of color. And I must be willing to be a disrupter.

In Our Homes

When I speak of our homes, I mean our personal space both internally and externally. It means our relationship with ourselves, our families, and those we live with. Maybe you’ve been frantically trying to educate yourself about anti-racism work. Maybe you’ve been attending webinars, reading books, watching films that speak to how white supremacy has infected our society. If you have been bold, you’ve been talking about what it means to be white with other white people. Taking the time to listen deeply to each other. We need to seek out these courageous conversations with our partners, our children, and our extended family. Learning to be honest and to admit our own fears. To be able to disagree with each other. And to push against a desire to push it under the rug. Look at your own racism. You have it.

Practical Tip: Subscribe to a blog, a newsletter, a podcast that regularly explores the theme of racism. Commit to reading or listening and then discussing it with someone in your household.

In Our Community (includes spiritual community)

When I speak of our community, I mean both the geographical location you live in and also any spiritual community you may be associated. For me, I live in the town of Ojai and I am also a member of the Plum Village Community of Engaged Buddhism. Our work as antiracists in these areas are probably going to fall into the “policy” arena. But it may also include some of the things I mentioned above for our homes. Namely, engaging in education and listening to each other.

There is so much we can do within the political entity of a town or city. Take some time to understand your city budget. How much is being spent on policing? Is that appropriate for your community? What social services does the city provide and are they reaching the people in the most need? Have you noticed how segregation has negatively impacted certain neighborhoods in the community; in education, health, or employment? What environmental impacts (industry) exists that needs to be changed? Write a letter to the political leaders. Attend a city council or planning commission meeting. Speak. What about your school district? Notice where things don’t quite seem right. Align yourself with those BIPOC voices that are trying to be heard. Listen to them without judgment. Listen to understand. And to support. You can do it! Raise up Black voices. Build coalitions across racial, environmental, fair wage, and housing groups.

You would think a spiritual community would be the easiest place to be an antiracist. It may be difficult when the spiritual community is filled with well-meaning, liberal, and white Americans. It’s not always easy to see how structural and systemic racism may exist within such a community. But it does. If you are a predominately white community, how do you start? Much like what has been written above, we can begin by having conversations among white people. Remember, racism is a white-persons problem. Spend some time listening to each other, sharing your story, getting educated. We’re not all fully educated on antiracist work, and even if you’ve done such work then we know it is an ongoing process. And if you are fortunate to have people of color in your community, then when the conditions are right (for them), you can find a way to listen. We listen in order to understand. That means having an open heart and open mind. And if they identify examples of structural racism within the community, then believe them. And make a change. Why wouldn’t you?

Lotus flower
Photo Credit: Kenley Neufeld

In Our Work

Work is another place where we have the opportunity to be antiracist. Perhaps more so than other areas, this may be the most uncomfortable. Lean into your discomfort. Be willing to make mistakes. When you hear something inappropriate, say something. Don’t just expect someone else to be the voice. Look around you and see who is in leadership positions. Make sure Human Resources has a plan in place to address systemic racism; whether that’s in the hiring protocols or in the complaint protocols. Raise up Black voices. Who is doing the most speaking? Who is in the room and who isn’t in the room? Advocate for change and ask the difficult questions. Know who the other White people are that you can talk to about issues of equity. Join forces and move forward.

A few years ago, I organized a Racial Justice Awareness series for White employees. I started with the book What Does it Mean to be White? by Robin DiAngelo and then scheduled ten lunchtime sessions for employees to come together and discuss the book. We did a chapter per week. The participants were definitely all over the place in terms of antiracist understanding and work. But they committed to meet every week for ten weeks. We had many frank and open conversations. Difficult conversations. I think most came away with a deeper understanding of what it means to be white in a racialized world.

Each work environment is going to be different. I work in education, and our State Chancellors Office put together an amazing series of webinars over a period of six weeks on the theme of equity-minded education. Even though the focus was on BIPOC students in online classes because of COVID, the details could easily be extrapolated to many aspects of the campus. Likewise, in light of the George Floyd murder and subsequent protests, the Chancellors Office organized a 90-minute webinar on a Call to Action for California Community Colleges. During that webinar, 80% of the voices were from people of color. This is leadership.

For the corporate world, you might want to check out this HBR Ideacast episode. https://overcast.fm/+Dj5dXr4

Conclusion

There’s so much more to say. And I am only scratching the surface of possibility. Being an antiracist is not an overnight matter. My journey began in the mid-90s in San Francisco when I moved into a Black neighborhood. I didn’t realize that racism existed in me, but I quickly observed in myself a behavior that revealed my “hidden” racism – fear of black men. I still carry that moment in me today. Shortly after that, my employer offered a racial justice workshop for all employees. Thus began my journey. It has not stopped since those days. I have had to make many mistakes. Continuing to admit my unconscious bias. Do writing, talking, and most importantly, listening. It truly is a path that requires diligence, persistence, and fearlessness.

Categories
Environment Justice Reading

Sunday Reads

This week we begin with two stories about vigilante groups – the first from post-Katrina New Orleans and the second on the rising Boogaloo Movement today.

Post-Katrina, White Vigilantes Shot African-Americans With Impunity by A.C. Thompson published in ProPublica

“So far, their crimes have gone unpunished. No one was ever arrested for shooting Herrington, Alexander and Collins — in fact, there was never an investigation. I found this story repeated over and over during my days in New Orleans.”

The Boogaloo Movement Is Not What You Think by Robert Evans and Jason Wilson published in bellingcat

“In recent weeks, the term “Boogaloo” has gone mainstream after months of growing popularity in online far-right communities. Nationwide anti-lockdown protests have provided an opportunity for right-wing militias to rally, armed, in public.”

Technology

Mr Zuckerberg, Tear Down My Wall By Rebecca Liu published in Another Gaze

“It’s often hard to differentiate potentially powerful critiques of the industry from ostensibly critical stories that further entrench its hold. What might it mean, then, to acknowledge the omnipotence of technology without further reproducing the narratives that make it so powerful?” A critical look at Karim Amer and Jehane Noujaim’s The Great Hack (2019) and Zhu Shengze’s Present.Perfect

Environment

‘Zombie fires’ are erupting in Alaska and likely Siberia, signaling severe Arctic fire season may lie ahead by Andrew Freedman published in The Washington Post

“On May 22, the Siberian town of Khatanga, located well north of the Arctic Circle, recorded a temperature of 78 degrees, about 46 degrees above normal. The typical maximum temperature for that day at that location is 32 degrees.”

People of Colour Experience Climate Grief More Deeply Than White People by Nylah Burton published in Vice

“Heglar says that too often, the white-led climate community leans on the idea of hope, which can lead to inaction. Hope is “such a white concept,” Heglar said. “You’re supposed to have the courage first, then you have the action, then you have the hope. But white people put hope at the front. Their insistence on hope for all of these years has led to exactly where? Nowhere.”

Being White

White Witness and the Contemporary Lynching by Zoé Samudzi published in The New Republic

“Central to the white argument for watching these videos is the idea that viewership begets justice or somehow emphasizes the notion that black life does matter and that black life is grievable (never mind that black people have long been in a near-constant state of grief and mourning over the violent negations of the lives of our kin).”

How to Subvert the Capitalist White-Supremacist University by Debarati Biswas published in Public Books

Blackademic life is a long history of survival in a space that is committed to the denial of black excellence. A look at three books: Lavelle Porter’s The Blackademic Life: Academic Fiction, Higher Education, and the Black Intellectual and Stefano Harney and Fred Moten’s The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study and Samuel Delany’s novel The Mad Man.

Keep America Christian (and White): Christian Nationalism, Fear of Ethnoracial Outsiders, and Intention to Vote for Donald Trump in the 2020 Presidential Election by Joseph O Baker, Samuel L Perry, Andrew L Whitehead published in Sociology of Religion

“Our findings affirm the continued importance of Christian nationalism, but with some important changes. Notably, we find that, beyond partisanship, xenophobia is the most important key to understanding continued support for Trump just prior to his 2020 reelection campaign. Further, [ ] xenophobia and Islamophobia explain a larger amount of the covariance between Christian nationalism and Trump voting. Some Christian nationalists are and will remain solidly behind Trump. Though we empirically affirm that Christian nationalism is not interchangeable with xenophobia or Islamophobia, the three are clearly symbiotic.”

NOTE: This is an academic journal article and is behind a paywall. Check your library to see if you can get a copy. Or touch base with me if your really interested.

Categories
Justice

Defund the Police and End Carceral System

I finished the book Biased by Dr. Jennifer L. Eberhardt on the same day that George Floyd was murdered by Minneapolis police.

The book contains page after page of research, over a period of decades, demonstrating how bias plays out in our lives. And more importantly, how it plays out in law enforcement. The book opens with a training for the Oakland police department. The department was trying to remedy extensive civil rights violations. The bias discussed in the book focused on how we view Black Americans. 

Bias exists in all our lives, regardless of where you sit on the political spectrum or where we sit in the justice movement. None of us are immune. Reading the dozens of research studies clearly solidifies how bias against Black Americans exists throughout American society.

And, as a member of that society, bias inside me. 

Bias, and more specifically white supremacy, permeates our laws, our law enforcement, and our so-called justice system. A first step toward making changes to these systems is seeing and understanding how white supremacy has played out over the centuries in American religion, American science, and American capitalism.

To be aware and to acknowledge these structural systems can help us move toward changing those systems. Writing this blog helps me to unearth some of my own bias and racism. I am honoring my quarantine and therefore am not able to join in the street protests. My vehicle will be my blogging and tweeting.

Yesterday, President Obama said at the end of his town hall that “this country was founded on protest.” He also talked about modifying policy and voting. Yes, these are both important, but I am firm believer in protest. Without the pressure of the masses, I don’t know how much will truly change. I’m reminded that the Minneapolis city council, mayor, and governor of Minnesota are all democrats. And Minneapolis police have killed over 30 people since 2000. And 1/3 of these were not armed. That’s just one city! 

I probably spend too much time on Twitter. I am watching the violence at the protests and countless example of police violence against peaceful protesters. The most egregious is probably the clearing of Lafayatte Square in Washington DC so President Trump could take a picture with a bible. But that’s just one example. There are dozens of short clips from Los Angeles to New York to Ashville to Minneapolis that show extreme violence against peaceful protesters. It is disgusting. And isn’t that what we’re protesting against?

The voice of many leaders has come forth to condemn the murder of George Floyd along with commitments to fight for change. But how far are they willing to go? We must take all necessary steps to combat racism and white supremacy. Even when it impacts the bottom line of capitalism. When I read that the LAPD was using Jackie Robinson Stadium at UCLA to process hundreds of arrests, I wondered how UCLA would respond. It took a day, but they issued a statement denying LAPD access to the property moving forward. That’s what we need to see. Likewise the Minneapolis School District ending their contract with the police department. What are you aware of in your community that upholds white supremacy? Are there changes that can be made like the two above? What organizations or entities are you part of that may be negatively impacting BIPOC communities? 

What systems do we need to change? Let’s begin with law enforcement and carceral system. I’m finding myself being an abolitionist. The entire police state is broken in this country. It is irreparable. We need to defund the police state and begin again.

Likewise, the carceral system is broken. The United States has the largest prison population in the world, and the highest per-capita incarceration rate. This is 698 people incarcerated per 100,000 people. Outrageous. Unacceptable. 

Look for organizations in your state that are doing the work. No doubt your local community has local police and a local jail or prison. These systems hurt Black Americans disproportionally. 

For example, here in California we have California Coalition for Women Prisoners who is running a #FreeOurElders for Mother’s Day campaign. Or check out The Marshall Project. Likewise, you could connect with your local SURJ chapter (or start one) who may already be doing this work to defund the police and end the carceral system. 

Categories
Buddhism Justice

Racial Divide and a Buddhist Response

This is a repost of an article I wrote in December 2014 on Medium. It seems relevant to post today as the same issues remain.

Thich Nhat Hanh said, “Man is not the enemy. Our enemy is our anger, hatred, greed, fanaticism and discrimination.

We live in a small town—Ojai, CA. It can be somewhat insular and we may not have the same experience as a person living in Los Angeles or Berkeley or New York. And yet the media is ever present, ubiquitous, guiding us, telling us what to think, how to feel, moving some of us to action, and yet others to inaction. Cynicism. Frustration. Anger. Fear. Disbelief. Perhaps these are some of the feelings you are having? Where is the voice of the Buddhist and other spiritual communities in all this talk of racism, violence, injustice?

I chose to include Martin Luther King as my image because he’s such an inspiration and a great symbol of responding to injustice, violence, hatred with the voice of love, calling for people to join together as the beloved community. Laws and regulations are all fine and good, and we need them, but what we need more is a transformation of society. We need to change hearts! And how do we change hearts? How do we change our own heart?

It’s quite distressing to live in this day and age and see our history continually repeat itself. It’s not new, many of my friends live with this inequity everyday, but it does have the attention of the media right now—it’s in the limelight. Why haven’t we changed? The images on television today could be those of Birmingham in the early sixties, the language of police violence can be hear in the voice of Richard Pryor in 1978. Ferguson. Staten Island. Cleveland. Racism is very present in American society.

There is a racial divide in our country, particularly as it relates to the justice system. My step brother, Chris Moore-Backman, has been documenting and sharing the stories inspired by the New Jim Crow in a radio documentary series. He speaks of the new underground railroad in his radio documentary; he speaks of the drug laws; he speaks of the Formerly Incarcerated and Convicted People’s Movement (FICPM); all in the Bringing Down the New Jim Crow series. There is so much obvious inequity and injustice in how we treat certain populations in America; particularly black men. For inspiration, we can look to the work of FICPM and to Susan Burton with her reentry program, A New Way of Life, as an examples of transforming our society, one person at a time.

This week on the Lions Roar blog, I read “In Buddhist meditation, our breathing is essential. Anapana, meditation on the breath, was the Buddha’s first meditation instruction and the basis for all further meditative endeavors. Breathing is not only life-sustaining and calming; it is a foremost teaching aid. Breathing, we sense immediately our necessary connection to what is other than ourselves. Without the exchange of air—inner and outer–we would die. We are not independent. We are dependent.” It goes on to say, “If one of us cannot breathe, none of us can breathe fully and deeply and we no longer experience our connection with one another. If Eric Garner cannot breathe, then we cannot breathe. If Michael Brown no longer breathes, we cannot breathe. If Tamir Rice does not breathe, we cannot breathe.”

What can we do?

Note: By “we” I mean people who are white—these practices are good for anyone, but I’m speaking to my white audience right now.

First, we learn to listen. We learn to listen with compassion. My friend and fellow dharma teacher Dennis Bohn wrote, “We listen to the families of the victims of police violence, people who have themselves been victimized by the police, police officers, black people, other people of color, white people, activists, politicians, and others.”

And how do we cultivate the ability to listen? We practice stillness. Sitting and walking meditation. Quiet reflection, using our breathing, is a great place to begin. It’s amazing what one can learn from sitting peacefully. In that quiet reflection, we begin to listen to our inner selves so we can in turn listen to those around us. This listening comes from a place of non-judgement, non-discrimination. It is through deep listening, we can begin to transform what Thich Nhat Hanh is talking about above. We can reduce our “anger, hatred, greed, fanaticism and discrimination.

The second action we can take is our awareness of mind. Again, my friend Dennis said it well, “Do we ourselves harbor unconscious or even semi-conscious biases? By “bias” I mean the tendency of preferring one thing or group over another for no apparently valid reason, specifically racial preference. These preferences are frequently formed in the mind and body even prior to the full perception of, say, “this is a person of color.” Racial bias is a seed watered by our culture, but it is our personal responsibility to transform it in ourselves. Then, we can look for ways to help transform such seeds in others and in our institutions. This is our co-responsibility.”

Many of us may think we hold no bias, no race preference. We may think we are well-intentioned, progressive, egalitarian, etc. And yet, we are a product of our society and may carry unknown perceptions deep within in our consciousness. This is the practice of unfolding our mind awareness. Here’s an experiment if you are interested in learning more about racial bias in yourself: go take the Harvard University Implicit Association Test (IAT) study. After you read the preliminary information, click the “I wish to proceed” link and then take the “Race IAT” which will be listed among many IATs. You might be surprised at what you discover—I know that I was— even though my intention is to see equality, non-discrimination, and less racial bias, the test exposed something different about myself.

The third action that white people can take to end racism in America is to be an ally. Much has been written on this topic, just do a Google search, but the video below is short, funny, and to the point on how to be an ally.

A few simple and clear tips I picked up from Chescaleigh:

1. Understand your privilege.

2. Listen and do your homework.

3. Speak up, not over.

4. You’ll make mistakes, apologize when you do.

5. Ally is a verb—saying you’re an ally is not enough.

Touching the Earth

As our Morning of Mindfulness neared the end, I offered another power practice from our Plum Village tradition called Touching the Earth. In this practice we have the opportunity to get in touch with a very specific topic—in this case, we are looking at our African-America ancestors, our European-American ancestors, and our Latino/a ancestors. If you do this at home, either have someone read it to you while touching the earth or record the words ahead of time so that you can fully engage with the words.

My friend Larry Ward wrote, “To touch the earth is an act of reconciliation, not an act of worship. It is an act of coming home to what is here and what is now. It is an act of embracing and being embraced by our mother Earth.” This is practice of placing our feet, hands, and head on the ground and allowing the earth to hold us. As we do this practice, we will listen to the text in order to help us get in touch with our (North American) land ancestors. In the original text, there are five specific earth touchings, but I am highlighting only three today. The text is from Touching the Earth to our Land Ancestors by the Plum Village Fourfold Sangha, published in Together We Are One, by Thich Nhat Hanh. 2010. The text not included here by that is in the book are Asian American, Pacific Islander, and Native American ancestors.

Touching the Earth Practice

In gratitude I bow to this land and to all the ancestors who made it available.

(Bell, all touch the earth)

I see that I am whole, protected, and nourished by this land and all of the living being that have been here and made life easy and possible for me through all their efforts. I see all those known and unknown who have made this country a refuge for people of so many origins and colors, by their talent, perseverance, and love?—?those who have worked hard to build schools, hospitals, bridges, and roads; to protect human rights; to develop science and technology; and to fight for freedom and social justice.

(Bell, all stand up. Take three breaths)

I touch my African American ancestors, you who were enslaved and brought to this land, who poured your blood, sweat, and tears on this land, whose unrewarded labor helped make this country an economic world power.

(Bell, all touch the earth) .

I am in touch with the crippling violence and inhumanity that my African American ancestors faced every day, the loss of your land, language, culture, family, and freedom, and how you always found ways to resist, to subvert oppression, to maintain your humanity, through soulful singing, prayer, humor, slave revolts, communities of escaped slaves, as well as through political struggle, a strong commitment to education, and economic empowerment. I aspire to preserve, nourish, and pass on your strength, patience, perseverance, love, forgiveness, humility, your creativity and innovation in agriculture, inventions, history, music, dance, art, the sciences, sports, oratory, literature, religion, civil and human rights activism, and community spirit. I see Sojourner Truth, Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, George Washington Carver, Garrett A. Morgan, W. E. B. DuBois, Langston Hughes, Ernest Just, Roger Arliner, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Audre Lorde, Ella Baker, Fannie Lou Hamer, John Henrik Clarke, Ivan Van Sertima, and all others known and unknown inside of me, and in gratitude I honor you all.

(Bell, all stand up. Take three breaths.)

I touch my European American ancestors, you who came to this land to find freedom from political and religious oppression and poverty, who came seeking a new vision of society.

(Bell, all touch the earth).

I touch the deep insight and compassion of these ancestors: the Quakers, Abolitionists, peace activists, and the great conservationists. I am aware that many of you European American ancestors lost your fortunes and even your lives to resist the oppression of people of color. At the same time, I touch the great suffering experienced by some of you in my ancestry who were misguided in their views, whose belief in your superiority led to the decimation of Native peoples, the horrors of slavery, and the exclusion of people of color. I pour all this suffering on the earth and ask the earth to help me transform it into wisdom and compassion. I aspire to preserve, nourish, and pass on your courage in coming to an unfamiliar land, your strong faith and commitment to democracy, your perseverance, respect for the arts and ingenuity. I see Abigail Adams, Abraham Lincoln, Jane Addams, Benjamin Franklin, William Lloyd Garrison, Susan B. Anthony, John Dewey, Amelia Earhart, Dorothy Day, Albert Einstein, Helen Keller, Woody Guthrie, Ralph Carr, Isadora Duncan, Myles Horton, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, Howard Zinn, Jane Goodall, Paul Farmer, and all others known and unknown, inside of me, and in gratitude, I honor you all.

(Bell, all stand up. Take three breaths.)

I touch my Latino/a ancestors of this land, you who are the children of the indigenous peoples of the Americas and the Spanish colonizers, some who for centuries lived on and built up roughly half of the present day U.S., and some who immigrated from Central and South America more recently.

(Bell, all touch the earth).

I touch the blood, sweat, and tears you have poured on to this land as farm laborers, skilled artisans, teachers, politicians, architects, and activists. I am in touch with the suffering of my Latino/a ancestors due to war and racist policies, like the deportation of two million Mexican American U.S. citizens during the Depression, as well as loss of land and culture. I am in touch with the United Farm Workers movement to end dehumanizing conditions for migrant workers, and I feel this collective energy, courage, intelligence, and dedication nourishing and supporting me to also do my part. I aspire to preserve, nourish, and pass on your strength, patience, perseverance, love, forgiveness, humility, humor, your creativity and innovation in the arts, your tradition of nourishing food and taking care of family. I see Cesar Chavez, Dolores Huerta, Emiliano Zapata, Pablo Neruda, Simon Bolivar, Rigoberta Menchu, Sandra Cisneros, Emma Tenayuca, Gloria Anzaldua, Rodolfo (Corky) Gonzalez, Sonia Maria Sotomayor, and all others known and unknown, inside of me and in gratitude, I honor you all.

(Bell, all stand up. Take three breaths.)

I feel the energy of this land penetrating my body, mind, and soul, supporting and accepting me. I vow to cultivate and maintain this energy and to transmit it to future generations. I vow to contribute my part in transforming the violence, hatred and delusion that still lie deep in the collective consciousness of this society—in all ethnic groups—so that future generations will have more safety, joy, and peace. I ask this land for its protection and support.