angel Kyodo williams

Archive for the ‘identity’ Category

when the people rise

In culture, identity, politics, relationship on March 3, 2011 at 2:34 pm

why self-determination will always overcome fear
INcite with angel Kyodo williams


Tunisia. Egypt. Yemen. Bahrain. Libya.

The last few months have borne witness to a powder keg of successive uprisings by Arab Peoples throughout the Middle East and North Africa. The desperate act of a Tunisian vendor—setting himself on fire in protest of his cart—and means of livelihood—being taken away—was a stand for self-determination that has been amplified by Arab People reclaiming their dignity one county at a time.

If nature abhors a vacuum, then indeed, it resists none more persistently than a vacuum of natural selfhood. When the breaking point of lack of fulfillment meets with the illuminating function of self-awareness, human beings, like nature, seek to restore balance.

When this happens collectively, We Are All Khaled Said…

…and the People rise.

This (r)evolutionary imperative to see manifest condition in which one can thrive is more ancient, more deeply rooted, and thus more powerful, than the inclination to oppress others for one’s own warped sense of self-gain.

In a global, media-drenched world, awareness of self is expedited by the sheer number of other self-expressions to compare one’s own expression (or lack thereof) to. Thus the cycle of being lulled to sleep by paternalistic promises–only to be rudely awakened by a nightmarish loss of freedom–is quickened. We come to terms more rapidly with the reality that as soothing as it may first appear when we are young and naive, we do not want to have everything taken care of by the Great Hero Father. Hence our empires rise and fall more swiftly than ever. Dictators, monarchs, aristocracies and elite parties beware: you are remnants of the past even before you take your corrupted seats these days. When your fabricated means of distraction falls away, the People will rise.

Beyond survival and security, self-determination is the underpinning of justice. When corrupt leaders falter on the first two, the last is the restorative penance that must be paid. Beyond simple survival, being able to determine our own path is the hallmark of self-expression, self-fulfillment, and most importantly, self-love.

In insisting upon the removal of decades-long dictators, the People reclaim their fundamental, inalienable right and responsibility to determine their own path. A right they have come to recognize has been obscured and hampered by individual men projecting an image of themselves as the sole reflection of an entire People:

  • what they will and will not have access to
  • how they are to be governed
  • what they can and cannot become

It would appear to the untrained eye that these Arab Peoples were ruled by different men, but to the eye of the astute, each dictator was a differently dated carbon copy of the other, and all of them mere proxies for fear.

But the People eventually stay the Iron Fist, lift the veil and see the cowering figure clinging to power is neither God nor Hero, just a small, desperate man. Emboldened by their commitment, empowered by their collectivity, liberated from the shackles of fear, the People rise to find liberation from the shackles of oppression.

Questions abound as to how the all-knowing US didn’t see such a wave of revolutions forthcoming: America’s deep-seated racism and perceived religious-cultural superiority conspire to make the quiet swelling of a sea of brown and black People calling for their freedom with fearlessness, grace and unwavering determination a political improbability. To see them do it in succession, leaving the realm of mere anomaly? Impossible.

Having paid so much to keep them divided, we simply lack the imagination to conceive of Arab Peoples bonding together in solidarity to restore the dignity and rightful place of their own. How else could we justify funding the suppression of their beautiful brown selves for so long? How else could we be so confused as to whether we should continue to underwrite Mass Muslim Control rather than proclaim the side of the People the only righteous side to be on?

Even as we witnessed it with our own eyes, we clung to our reductionist, divisive values: it was the youth, it was the educated, it was the middle class, it was the non-religious. No matter that many of the largest protests formed after Friday prayers. Even more un-humanizing, it was Facebook or Twitter. Make no mistake: no matter the vehicle or tool, it was the People.

The brown, red, black and yellow People of this country can learn volumes from the hopefulness and vision expressed by our Arab brothers and sisters. If invested in transformation of society beyond the policy win, past the campaign, despite the funders, our own organizers can benefit from the study of revolutionary change—rooted in the mass power of collective love for the People that unifies, coupled with the individual compulsion for self-determination—that will always eventually transcend fear.

When that happens, we the People, too, shall finally rise.

—yours in truth, aKw


dedicated to the power of the People. may they rise again and again.


angel Kyodo williams is a maverick teacher,
author, social visionary and Founder Emeritus of
Center for Transformative Change.
she posts, tweets & blogs on all things change.
permission granted to retweet, repost,
repaste & repeat with copyright and contact
information intact.

Fan angel on Facebook
Follow angel on Twitter
Find angel on the Web
angel in the blogosphere

Advertisements

vowing to save them all

In identity, leadership, spirit on January 21, 2010 at 3:59 pm

many many people

the sweetness of the impossible

Astrologer Rob Brezsny: ‘The secret of life,” said sculptor Henry Moore to poet Donald Hall, “is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to, every minute of the day for your whole life. And the most important thing is — it must be something you cannot possibly do.” What is that task for you?’

Zen Buddhists the world-over chant what is called the Four Vows. Each vow is apparently impossible: “Beings are numberless, I vow to save them all.” Here at the New Dharma Community, which I lead, says this chant, recommits to these vows after every single practice session. We see it this way: You make your vow and you set out to do it wholeheartedly. The fact that the task is already pre-determined to be impossible, and one commits to it anyway, assures that it isn’t about you—-your sense of gain, accomplishment or even your fear of failure—-AND you put your full effort in.

Here’s our version:

FOUR VOWS OF THE AWAKENING WARRIOR
Beings are numberless; I vow to awaken them.
Delusions are inexhaustible; I vow to transform them.
The Dharma is boundless; I vow to perceive it.
The Awakened Way is unattainable; I vow to embody it.

word.

copyright MMX. angel Kyodo williams.
@changeangel: all things change. [sm]

angel Kyodo williams is a maverick teacher,
author, social visionary and founder of
Center for Transformative Change.
she posts, tweets & blogs on all things change.
permission granted to retweet, repost, repaste &
repeat with copyright info intact.

Fan angel on Facebook
Follow angel on Twitter
Find angel on the Web
angel in the blogosphere

the year of X

In culture, identity, leadership, spirit on January 12, 2010 at 2:37 pm

X

horoscope for america’s movement for justice

In the East Asian calendar, commonly called Chinese Astrology, 2010 is the Year of the Tiger. The Tiger symbolizes strength and protection, a courageous and fiery fighter that keeps away “fires, thieves and ghosts.”

The underlying principle of all systems that seek to reflect character traits to us based on the year, month, day or hour of our birth is to give us a window into our basic orientation–our internal operating systems, if you will–so that rather than being limited or boxed in by definitions, we have the opportunity to become our full selves because we’re equipped with an insightful compass that signifies where we are. We, in turn, exercise “the precious gift of choice” that is the birthright of human beings, to determine where, exactly, we will go.

At their best, astrologers are astute scientists, read into the deeper meaning and drawing hypotheses about how the energy of stars and space influence our paths…not so much fortune-telling, but more a Life weather forecasting.

Horoscope for Justice
In 2010, a confluence of circumstances and stars align so that we are now kicking off what I’d call The Year of X. Here’s my “hour watching”–or “horoscope” for America’s movement for justice:

It seems pretty obvious that the Tiger/ess is collectively emblematic of all the activists that seek positive change in the world. No matter what sign we’re born under indvidually, we change agents exhibit the qualities of being ferocious and domineering on the outside, but noble and distinguished on the inside. But we tireless seekers of justice are forged of additional qualities that make us a special breed that show up only once in a lifetime cycle.

The usual suspects that we get to point to: King, Gandhi, Suu Kyi, Ella Baker, Black Elk, Mandela, Guevara, Ambedkar…are auspicious figures that seem to appear too far and few between. They are bound together in their diverse struggles to overcome the oppression of their time and space by a less tangible but unequivocally more powerful “X” factor that exponentially multiplied their effectiveness beyond mere tactic, tool or technique.

Their engagement of a unique arsenal of internal “weapons” or skills developed as a result of deep and abiding personal practice, expressed and applied in systematic and organizational contexts, catapulted them beyond the ordinary to the Xtraordinary. Beyond the individual to collective. Beyond personal OR political to the profound. Beyond change to trans–“X”formation.

Beyond. Transcendent. near-Shamanic. Talismanic. X.

Where we find ourselves now is a unique moment in time in which the ability to dig deep into this internal arsenal to express our full collective selves as the mighty and powerful agents of justice, freedom and love that we are is available to us en masse. We don’t have to wait for the random revolutionary savior, but can activate this X-factor ourselves. We can either accept limited concepts about who we are as movement(s) and what we can and cannot do or we can exercise our will, our choice by dropping in beneath the infighting, rhetoric and soundbites to find a truer expression of our noble spirits’ search for freedom through our own liberation. We can wait for a messiah, preacher, guru or President to part the raging sea of conservatism or we can disarm the resistance with our capacity for charismatic conversion. Who needs to win when you can win over?

Colors and Directions
The colors that symbolize this Year of X are:

red, for the fierce passion of our convictions

white, for the purity of our hearts

yellow, for our vast vision, expansive and encompassing as the golden sun, and

black, for the great depth and mystery that is the doorway to that Great Beyond, our collective transformation.

The four colors that represent all people on the planet are held in our hearts because any real fight for justice is not against but for. For the planet, for the people, for life and for love. For all.

The directions? All of the cardinal four, naturally, looking East towards the future with the wind and work of our Ancestors of past coming from the West. The South situates us in this very moment of now, while the North holds the infinite possibility of no-time. With those, we also look to the Heavens above for guidance from Spirit, Earth below for grounding and deep into the Cosmic Center the very core from which we organize.

X Qualities
Most important are the qualities this Year of X asks us to lean into, cultivate and operationalize. Here are the big ten:

First, the ABCs. The “what.” Basics we should all live by whether seeking justice in the world or just within ourselves:

  1. authentic: be who and what you are. no more, no less.
  2. balanced: left, right. work, play. give, receive.
  3. centered: organized & on purpose from the deep core of your very being.

Next, the “how” of our actions. Showing up in a good way as individuals, organizations and communities means being:

  1. aligned: thought, word and action. all one.
  2. integral: complete, whole and radically inclusive.
  3. transparent: out loud and proud, come what may.

For every purpose, a reason. The “why” or toward what end are the three Ss of Social Justice that must be sought after, procured, cultivated and protected for all:

  1. safety: food, shelter, clothing, dancing & moving freely.
  2. self-determination: our way is the way, mistakes, foibles and all.
  3. sustainability: we’ve all got to be here. for a long time. act like it.

and finally, without putting these concepts into rigorous, ongoing practice (beheld with joy, appreciation and lots of dancing) we would only have ideas. We need more than dreams and theory, we need praxis, making each quality actionable in our moment-to-moment-to-movement lives, as:

  1. Presence: be here. now.

As always, both symbolically and in reality, it must be remembered that X is also associated with the unknown…that which unfolds before us beyond even our will and choice. It is how we respond to that unfolding–especially and most poignantly when it is not according to our plan–that is the true reflection of our character and our mastery of those X qualities. It’s when the shit hits the fan that we need to stand firm in the stink with Fearlessness, Grace and Presence.

May you live this Year of X as if your life depends on it. I know mine does.

copyright MMX. angel Kyodo williams

angel Kyodo williams is a maverick teacher,
author, social visionary and founder of
Center for Transformative Change.
she posts, tweets & blogs on all things change.
permission granted to retweet, repost, repaste &
repeat with copyright info intact.

Fan angel on Facebook
Follow angel on Twitter
Find angel on the Web
angel in the blogosphere

being your best

In culture, identity, leadership, money, politics, relationship, spirit on December 8, 2009 at 11:28 am

Enthroned Virgin and Child. Haghia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey. photo © 2009 angel Kyodo williams

child of hope

the theory, art and practice of change

Every one of us holds some hope for a future America, indeed a future world, that is changed. Changed to what is not always as tangible as our minds would like it to be. Perhaps that’s why Martin said “I have a dream…” In the best of expressions, Jesus Christ, depicted above with the Virgin Mary as a tiled mosiac in the Haghia Sophia, represents Hope. His birth brought Hope to a world that had gone awry, thus the title of the image “Child of Hope.” As agents & allies of social change, we, too, represent Hope for a world that has gone a little astray from the path of expressing the best humanity has to offer: love, compassion, fairness, security, sustainability and self-determination for all living things. We have our work cut out for us. But with a grounded theory, a willingness to learn the art and a committment to practice, practice, practice, we can and we will be our best and through our example, through our leadership, we’ll inspire the best in everyone.

In keeping with a year-end “Best of…” theme, (while doing as little as possible as I head out in the world on the first leg of my sabbatical) I offer these snippets from not one, but all of the past year’s INcite essays. Take them individually or as one big riff on this profound movement towards Transformative Social Change. May any one of these ideas, instructions or inquiries inspire you towards being your best, today and in the year to come.

January | finally American
On the one hand, 2009 brings with it the incredible challenges of the freefall of an economic house of cards built with smoke, mirrors and lots of dishonest spit, an unjust war built on outright lies, and a devastating attack on a people that the world can no longer deny is on the short end of a harsh stick, built on a 60 year theft. On the other hand, we are embarking upon a new year, a new era, and a strange, new hopefulness that real people, tired of being polarized by fear, hate and separation can organize for hope, progress and change. And together, our collective will can make a difference.

February | being all we can be
President Obama has gone on record saying that he opposes gay marriage, but admits this may be a wrong-headed view drawn from his own religious beliefs. I’m suspicious of the idea that God whispers in anyone’s ear and says “you are chosen to have something that other’s aren’t entitled to:” be that right to love or right to land. But since I’ve only been trying to listen to God rather than talk, maybe She doesn’t whisper back to me. So, I’m not one to question Obama’s or anyone else’s personal relationship with God…why don’t we stop questioning anyone’s personal, mutually respectful, consenting relationship with anyone else?

March | can you see me now?
Being in real relationship with “the other” closes the bias gap…But to even get there, we have to look at ourselves first. We have to stop letting ourselves off the race hook and commit to actively resisting the biased waters we swim in by raising our unconscious, implicit fears to the level of conscious, explicitly articulated ones. That’s painful, exhausting, heart-breaking work, but it’s the real work that needs to be done. No less important than your next action, petition, campaign or board meeting. (Those explicit biases could use a good eyeballing here, too.) Plainly speaking, if you’re doing work for change in what’s “affectionately” referred to as AmeriKKKa without a practice of examining race, you’re pretty much adding to the problem.

April | seven deadly sins of change
The Watchmen for Change are made up of Freedom Fighters, Organizers, Agitators and Activists paired with the folks that, like it or not, foot the bills. In a perfected partnership, they are our Supporters, Advocates, Advisors and Allies. Some of us pay with the currency of creativity, vitality, energy and soulforce. Others pay with hopefulness, steadfastness, wild cheering and dollar bills, y’all…Together we are the Jedis of Justice. We are The Ones that We have Been Waiting for to illuminate the Matrix and reveal the passage out of Babylon. We are the Agents of Transformative Social Change.

May | this is our time
A Black Organizer is in the White House. (Wise Latina) Justice is getting off the bench and in the Game. It’s our time. The era of the lowly grunt that toils for justice being the under-appreciated, underpaid underdog is officially overrated. We are now the wunderkinds that can capture the imagination of our nation with our unwavering commitment to Hope, resounding call for Freedom and heart-stopping effort to reveal Truth, Justice and a truly New American Way.

June | a more perfect union
But as powerful as symbols, phrases and slogans are, they only derive their energy from the wellspring of the people they represent. People that don’t just stand in the truth, but express it through the way they live. And just as “words on a parchment would not be enough to deliver slaves from bondage, or provide men and women of every color and creed their full rights” the more perfect union we seek for this country will not arise from a speech, a bailout, or even a healthcare plan…What it will arise from is the embodiment of that more perfect union by folks that know and act on what’s right…

July | the greatest transformation
(And) when Death comes to Friend you, as it will, you can’t ignore it. Where will your vast but virtual network be then? Will they be there to sing songs, share stories and send your ashes back to ashes, and dust back to dust? Will they memorialize you? Yes, connections can be made quick, Friends, Followers and Fans, but relationships are still slow…and the best ones are grown over time.

August | the practice of inconvenience
This is, more often than not, the nature of deep practice: It isn’t convenient. It doesn’t fit your schedule. It doesn’t conform to your whim. It isn’t selectable for good days instead of bad. In short, it isn’t a hobby…it’s a practice. If not as dramatic, remaining committed to established personal and organizational practice–especially in the face of challenge–is a stance no less determined than that of Gandhi’s Salt Marchers, or those folks that continued to cross the bridge in Selma. We put our butts on the line and on the cushion to usher forth a new way of Being Change.

September | beyond the boycott
(It’s) a time for action: sometimes, no matter how many ways you try to describe a thing, you have to experience it to know what it really is. i’ve been talking about transformative change: what it is and isn’t. what it could look like and what it can make possible in the world…But it’s also time for those of us pushing for change to do so in a way that actually seeks resolution, transforming the issue into an opportunity for real change: change that matters. Thus, any action taken should be thoughtful, respectful, measured and leveraged only if it is needed…

October | doing darkness
Unlike change, which can be undone with a shift in context or the swipe of a presidential pen, there’s no going back on transformation. The depth of change that takes place is so deep, rooted and resounding, that the former way of being is no longer possible. While transformation can’t be undone…the decisive question we must ask is “Transformation towards what?” If we want positive transformative outcomes, we must intentionalize and work toward them. Deep change requires deep practice. Simply put, we have to stay with it in order to see transformation through. Through and through, we must weave the fabric of our movement culture with ways of being, knowing and doing that embody precisely how we want to see society transformed: into an equitable, sustainable and just place for all. How we are showing up right now is the state of our transformation. However, if you can imagine the exact outcome, it’s more likely to be change than transformation because our vision is necessarily limited by our current perspective and conditions.

November | meeting change
Transitions are the doorways to change. Choosing to engage transition and enter each doorway as consciously as possible, but with a willingness to not know what’s on the other end, is what makes that change intentional. Life IS change. And if you’ve been around for five good minutes, you know that Change Happens. So your only real choice is to either let life happen to you or for you to choose to live it. One way to do that is to become practiced at happily, humbly and heartily Meeting Change.

Happy holidays. Free Palestine. Love, peace and blessings to and for all.

copyright MMIX. angel Kyodo williams

angel Kyodo williams is a maverick teacher,
author, social visionary and founder of
Center for Transformative Change.
she posts, tweets & blogs on all things change.
permission granted to retweet, repost,
repaste & repeat with copyright and contact
information intact.

Fan angel on Facebook
Follow angel on Twitter
Find angel on the Web
angel in the blogosphere

the greatest transformation

In culture, identity, relationship, spirit on July 15, 2009 at 7:32 am


“I am convinced that it is not the fear of death, of our lives ending that haunts our sleep so much as the fear… that as far as the world is concerned, we might as well never have lived.” —Rabbi Harold Kushner

In this past month, two things became clear: any commitment to writing about transformation calls for addressing the greatest transformation any of us will make at least once.

The second thing is that we live in a culture that celebrates eternal youth, never-ending life, and an insatiable thirst for immortality. Conversely, we avoid that greatest of transformations, known as Death, as a natural and inevitable rite of passage. Death happens daily, yet most of us are largely removed from it, safely positioned on the passive side of our computer and television screens or the printed page. Thus, when faced with it or its pending probability directly, we are woefully under-equipped to negotiate it.

Here a sampling of reflections, learnings & resources for the journey all of us will eventually take:

LOSING GENIUS
Two deaths in particular have impacted me greatly this month. One was that of my naturopath, Dr. Cecilia Hart. The other, was of course, Michael Jackson.

Both were unexpected, felt too sudden, too soon and riddled with questions of “how can this be?” They were both young. Both Virgoes. Both committed to Heal the World…and both so clearly in need of their own healing. One has become intimate and full of personal responsibility in a way that i would not have expected. The other has been far away and collectively held in a way that I would have hoped for.

In losing Michael Jackson, who without a doubt embodied the most complex relationship we, the people have with celebrity and celebrity has with itself, my soul brother Greg Tate captures it best: “What Black American culture—musical and otherwise—lacks for now isn’t talent or ambition, but the unmistakable presence of some kind of spiritual genius: the sense that something other than or even more than human is speaking through whatever fragile mortal vessel is burdened with repping for the divine, the magical, the supernatural, the ancestral…”

a moving and prescient poem by Alice Walker written in 1991…
from Natural Star – for Michael Jackson
I am in mourning
For your face
The one I used to love
To see
Leaping, glowing
Upon the
The stage
The mike
Eager…
Thrusting
In your
Fist.
I am in mourning…
http://www.alicewalkersblog.com/2009/06/natural-star-for-michael-jackson.html

In losing Cecilia, who helped guide my health back into balance after discovering dis-ease, I’ve lost, for now, my health insurance: insurance against a system more concerned with medicating then healing even as it denies access to the basic right of health to millions. She belonged to the growing legions of naturopathic doctors, alternative healers, complementary health practitioners, chiropractors and more that stand up to legitimize healing practices that affirm wholeness and well-being, rather than dividing our wholebodies into separate problematic parts to be conquered one office visit and co-pay at a time.
After she died, the mystery of her notable slowness was unraveled. Unbeknownst to her clients that read untold pages of books waiting for her, Cecilia literally prayed over each herb, pill and powder to activate the healing energy of that vehicle. She called forth the power of those potions to be in right relationship with the body they would be in. She helped myself and many others reclaim our health and restore confidence in our innate ability to heal ourselves through better relationships with our body-minds. A lifelong teaching every one of us can practice today.

WRITE IT DOWN
Both Michael and Cecilia’s Deaths were also painful reminders that we live in an increasingly litigious society wherein the dispensation of our property, our children, even our very bodies is governed not by obvious relationships and moral right but by strangers behind desks and in robes wielding a legally ordered bullet list that divvies out dominion in a way that may defy the truth of our life choices of family, partnership and love, so:

  • Live the life you want; but write down the Death you choose.
  • And because Death waits for no one…write it down now. (really, right now)
  • Though you can’t take it with you, you do leave it behind for others to deal with (or fight over). Write it down.
  • Your last breath may speak your final desire and still your wishes may be dishonored, overridden or overruled. Write it down early, say it plainly and change it as often as needed.

CONNECTION & COMMUNITY
What matters most is what I’ve learned about the difference between connection and community and how desperately important knowing that difference is for our not only our lives to be good ones, but more importantly for our Deaths.

In an ever-connected, internet-worked world, our Facebook can be thick with Friends, we can be LinkedIn to a web of Connections, our Twitterverse can grow exponentially with little effort. With one simple login, we can create our own private Big Bang. We can scroll a ticker for updates on the status of friends and family, gaining tiny glimpses into the lives of the vast network of people we know intimately, loosely or not at all. Who needs to shout out when you can just tweet? In 120 characters or less, we can be teleported into a virtual visit into someone else’s now.

But when Death comes to Friend you, as it will, you can’t ignore it. Where will your vast but virtual network be then? Will they be there to sing songs, share stories and send your ashes back to ashes, and dust back to dust? Will they memorialize Yes, connections can be made quick, Friends, Followers and Fans, but relationships are still slow…and the best ones are grown over time

a reflection on why being in relationship matters to social change…
in relationship with others by Adrienne Maree Brown

“the most important personal and political skill to develop is how to be in relationship to others…the practice of being in relationship with others is what we are missing. individualism – personal individualism and national or patriotic individualism – has created a loneliness amongst humans which is not survivable.”
http://adriennemareebrown.net/blog/2009/07/07/in-relationship-with-others/

  • Mere connection and true community are not the same; without the latter, we can be “connected” to hundreds of folks and still isolate ourselves literally to our deaths.
  • The quality of our deaths is a direct reflection of the quality of relationships we cultivate in life.
  • Relationships require reciprocity: Give AND Receive. Don’t just touch people…be willing to be touched–and moved–deeply.
  • No matter how lofty, your leadership, status, role or position won’t separate you from Death, so don’t let them separate you from a real Life: one that is in true relationship with others.
  • It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes one to rest a soul.

MEDITATE ON THE WAY
In many traditions, words for healing and words for Death are the same. Wherever our journey of life and Death may takes us, the path should be paved with encouragement, equanimity and ease:

powerfully soothing healing and “death-conquering” mantra sung by Hein Braat and often mistaken for HH XIV Dalai Lama by way of urban legend

the maha mrityunjaya mantra

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=buYFPZuiZHc

excerpt from a reading meditation i offer for the sick, dying and dead on the in-between state leading towards Death…
Great Liberation Through Hearing While In Transition
modified from Tibetan Book of the Dead for Reading Aloud by Jean-Claude Van Italie and Tibetan Book of the Dead by Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

TO FRIENDS OF THE DYING
Oh you,
who have come to this place,
Sisters and brothers, friends,
This person is dying.
She has not chosen to do so.
She is suffering greatly.
She has no home, no friends.
Falling as from a cliff,
She is entering a strange forest
Driven by the winds, swept by the ocean,
She feels no solid ground.
She is embarking on a great battle.
Moved from state to state,
She is alone and helpless.

Embrace her with your love.

THE MOMENT OF DEATH
My friend,
Now is the moment of death.
The time has come for you to start out.
You are going home.
Oh, Nobly Bord,
Now is the moment.
Before you is mind, open and wide as space,
Simple, without center or circumference.
Death has happened.

It happens to everyone.

Perhaps the greatest opportunity you will ever have in life is to choose how you meet your Death. But without a doubt Death itself is the greatest transformation you’ll ever make.

May you go well.

Rest in Peace, Michael.
Rest In Peace, Cecilia.

May you each be liberated.
May all beings be happy.
May all beings be free.


copyright MMIX. angel Kyodo williams.

angel Kyodo williams is a maverick teacher, author, social visionary and
founder of the Center for Transformative Change.
permission granted to retweet, repost, repaste & repeat with contact information intact.

Fan angel on Facebook
Follow angel on Twitter
Find angel on the Web
angel in the blogosphere

can you see me now?

In identity, relationship on March 2, 2009 at 11:52 pm
facebook friends faces

who are your friends?

Just three days after the New York Post’s brazenly racist cartoon managed to slip past all editorial checkpoints to subtly (or grossly) depict the nation’s first Black president as a rabid chimp gunned down by NY’s finest, the online Opinion section of NYTimes ran an article on race. Columnist Charles Blow doesn’t mention the Post snafu, likely because his piece was already written just as the shit was hitting the proverbial NY fan. Publisher Rupert Murdoch hadn’t even taken out his shovel by the time Blow was taking exception to newly-appointed Attorney General Eric Holder’s scathing comment about America being “a nation of cowards” when it comes to race.

Rather than naked racism, Blow draws our attention to the implicit bias that undergirds our national conversation on all things black and white. There’s nothing new about how lopsided the pages Blacks and Whites are on when it comes to perceptions of racial equality. It is disturbing to see in hard figures the six years and hundreds of thousands of peoples worth of data that reveal Asians and Latinas run almost neck-and-neck with Whites when it comes to having an implicit pro-white bias. Fear of A Black Planet is alive and well. Thanks to slippery ol’ internalized racism, a good chunk of Blacks are pro-white too, though they were also the most likely to be neutral.

Well, Black folks kinda knew this through direct experience all along, but how did science get to the bottom of what most of us won’t or can’t reveal about ourselves? A simple 10 minute, 2-fingered test that anyone that cares about social justice should take. Now. Don’t Pass Go. I’ll be here when you get back…
As self-declared activists, allies and agents of social change, many of us will feel sheepish taking the test, even behind the privacy of our computer screens and (mostly) anonymous browsers. With our cool collaborations and coalitions, we’ve taken a certain amount of comfort in being able to self-righteously stake a claim to our good standing on the racial bias spectrum.

We’re mostly beyond the once-too-familiar wannabe-progressive White folks declarative “I don’t see color” claim. (In case you were wondering, this is not a good thing. Since we are, in fact, “of color,” not seeing color means not seeing me. What I hear you saying is you’re trying to see me just like you see white people. Um, no, thank you. On the other hand, the only thing worse than being seen as something you’re not, is being transparent, as in not being seen at all.)

Speaking of “of color,” now that we of the many ethnicities and hues–East and Southeast Asians, Latinas, Middle Easterners, Natives and Blacks, not to mention mixed race, mestizos, and mulattoes–have successfully lumped ourselves together into the One Big Category of People of Color for political purposes, our other-than-Black brothers and sisters often receive a pass to bypass their anti-Black bias by vague reductionist association. That escape hatch leads to a dangerous rabbit hole of weirdness, guilt and confusion for all.

Even Black folks can no longer hide behind the mere fact of birth to escape the taint of racial bias that, while not exclusively American, we’re the best at marketing worldwide.

The repercussions of this are hard to discount. Obviously this is a social change issue at its core because the work for a truly just society for all requires trusting alliances. But it’s even more of an inner change issue because we know that no matter how many campaigns we win or laws we pass, real justice begins right here, in our own hearts and (unconscious) minds.

Look to Cuba where institutional racism was systematically written out of the laws within months of the ’59 Revolution, yet they must acknowledge the naiveté of believing discrimination could be legislated away:

“…we believed at the beginning that when we established the fullest equality before the law and complete intolerance for any demonstration of sexual discrimination in the case of women, or racial discrimination in the case of ethnic minorities, these phenomena would vanish from our society. It was some time before we discovered that marginality and racial discrimination with it are not something that one gets rid of with a law or even with ten laws, and we have not managed to eliminate them completely in 40 years…”
—Fidel Castro

Science’s answer to ameliorating implicit bias? Distinguish. When people are taught to distinguish individual faces of people of races other than their own, the inclination to make cross-the-board associations–negative or positive–is diminished. People are thus returned to their rightful place as unique, individual beings that have to be taken for who they actually are rather than who they generally are or might be.

I went to junior high with an 84% Asian population in the heart of New York’s Chinatown. As a bonafide minority, I couldn’t get away with blending the Taiwanese, Hong Kongers, Han Chinese and various Pacific Islanders with a cavalier “they all look alike to me.” I had to see each of them. One by individual, unique one.  Being in real relationship with “the other” closed the bias gap.

But to even get there, we have to look at ourselves first. We have to stop letting ourselves off the race hook and commit to actively resisting the biased waters we swim in by raising our unconscious, implicit fears to the level of conscious, explicitly articulated ones. That’s painful, exhausting, heart-breaking work, but it’s the real work that needs to be done. No less important than your next action, petition, campaign or board meeting. (Those explicit biases could use a good eyeballing here, too.) Plainly speaking, if you’re doing work for change in what’s “affectionately” referred to as AmeriKKKa without a practice of examining race, you’re pretty much adding to the problem.

We can and should do the good, hard work of rooting out systemic oppression and racism at all levels of  society. But not unless and until we address the ultimate system–the inner thoughts, feelings and beliefs that give rise to our implicit perceptions–will we have a chance at the deep change that can–and will–elude all of our political maneuvering.

Take a good look at you so you can take a look at me.

Can you see me now? Good.

being all we can be

In culture, identity, relationship on February 2, 2009 at 9:26 pm

On March 5th, oral arguments will be heard in the California Supreme Court to rescind Proposition 8, the constitutional amendment passed last November that restricts the definition of marriage to opposite-sex couples and eliminated same-sex couples’ right to marry.

One of my “Friends” invited me to the “I’m still not sure marriage is the right goal” group on Facebook. For those of you that haven’t had the increasingly guilty but nevertheless socially productive pleasure that is Facebook, it basically means you have the opportunity to express your alliances by joining groups ad nauseum, without actually having to do anything like show up at meetings, pay dues or be responsible for the refreshments. It’s perfect for this era of more issues to be informed and care about than we have time to actually get involved in.

Years ago I appeared in OUT magazine with my then-partner in the first issue featuring gay marriage. The large-format polaroid chosen for what became a full page spread (!) captured us in an uncharacteristic juxtaposition of ‘handsome dyke’ looming over the obviously more feminine, slightly demure and arguably attractive ‘lipstick lesbian.’ Back then, someone still had to be the “boy” and someone had to be the “girl” in same-gendered couples for the world to relate.

Gay marriage had begun to take root as a more than just a fringe issue by then and was on the national radar. In ’93, Bill Clinton flummoxed the gays in the military issue by settling for “Don’t ask, don’t tell.” Since then, we’ve had an official policy of opting for not owning who you are so you can “be all that you can be.” We institutionalized lack of wholeness, lack of integrity and disregard for basic dignity into the psyche of the people responsible for protecting our nation’s safety.

Need we wonder how we ended up with Abu Ghraib, watching American women give the “thumbs up” to flagrant disrespect of the religious beliefs of Muslim men? Six years into Iraq, we still self-righteously pretend the only reason we went in is because Bush lied. Sure he did. But it was the lie we, the People: progressive and conservative; white and black; spiritual and secular; gay and straight, were willing to accept to give ourselves a false sense of security and superiority. If we just [insert democracy here] the Iraqis will be all they can be, too. ‘Cause surely they weren’t enough before we got there.

The proponents of Proposition 8 want to make sure that some people can’t be whatever they want to be…not legally, anyway. The irony is that unlike many states, in California, anyone can marry whoever they want…that is, they can officiate. You just can’t get married to who you want. Let’s face it, this is solely a religious argument, period. From the civic view, there’s nothing remotely constitutionally or morally sound about denying one group, those who love the same gender, access to the rights, privileges and responsibilities that another group has always taken for granted.

Worse though, is suspending reason long enough to allow the latter group to be the one that decides. The NAACP has seen the specter of danger here and has sounded the alarm: we cannot allow simple majorities to revoke the rights of others through constitutional amendments, revisions or otherwise. These so-called “majorities” are often those that hold the majority of the privilege through oppression, money and abuse of power. What if men (the numeric minority but power majority) could go in a room and decide–by a simple majority that cancelled out the sane and fair-minded–what women could no longer have? Shoe industry beware: all those bare feet would tank your business, for sure.

President Obama has gone on record saying that he opposes gay marriage, but admits this may be a wrong-headed view drawn from his own religious beliefs. I’m suspicious of the idea that God whispers in anyone’s ear and says “you are chosen to have something that other’s aren’t entitled to:” be that right to love or right to land. But since I’ve only been trying to listen to God rather than talk, maybe She doesn’t whisper back to me. So, I’m not one to question Obama’s or anyone else’s personal relationship with God…why don’t we stop questioning anyone’s personal, mutually respectful, consenting relationship with anyone else?

I remember wondering back then why anyone would want to fight to get into the military to begin with… especially a military that didn’t want them. It’s a relationship to country that I’ve not yet had the privilege of understanding in my own heart. I understand loving my country…it’s just that I can see a clear path to loving everyone else and their country, too. I guess I’m polyamorous in the biggest Way.

Negotiating relationships of any kind–with God, Country or Lover–is a tempermental and intensely personal affair. I admit I don’t feel left out of those nasty divorces in which the state gets to have a say in who gets to keep everything from the cars to couches to kids.

Internally, life partnership means having someone that intentionally and willingly agrees to bear witness to your life. That’s a significant promise…one that has the power to liberate us to truly be all we can be, and to have who we are reflected back to us. As far as I can tell, the value of having the challenges and triumphs of that witnessing validated can’t be underestimated.

So, friends–Facebook and otherwise–I’m not sure marriage is the right goal either, but since I’m not getting married, I don’t have to be.

Isn’t that the point?
 

finally American

In culture, identity, politics on January 15, 2009 at 9:11 pm

american flag at Jacksonville, FL aiport
Preface:
This year, work that I began five years ago as a sweet, kinda Zen, kinda Buddhist, kinda Oakland-based meditation center with an emphasis on both the spiritual needs of western/convert folks of color and relating spiritual practice to social justice, has come to it’s natural end. What arose organically from peering through these dual lenses was recognition of the need for something even deeper, more expansive and more unified. As a result, we stepped back and have re-emerged as an institutional home for what we now call “transformative social change.”

finally American

In the first newsletter of the new Center for Transformative Change, a strange thing happened: a great big American flag ended up looming over our welcome section. It was a picture I took in the airport at Jacksonville, FL after a 2004 Election Protection campaign. You remember, don’t you? The last presidential election was all about Florida because that was the scene of the year 2000 crime that gave America a president that many of us couldn’t or wouldn’t call our own.

Looking back, it seems strange that I even took a photo of a US flag. After all, I’ve identified less and less with the flag, being American, and even America itself, since my 4th grade protest of the “Pledge of Allegiance.” Like a good social justice practitioner, I recognize the privilege foisted upon me because I was born a US citizen whenever I leave the country. Even if my rights aren’t well-regarded when I’m here at home, I do (still) get special treatment elsewhere in the world. Personally, though, I was one of those heathen “unpatriotic” Americans that, far from feeling a swell of pride whenever “Oh, say can you see…” was belted out by the latest pop star on a football field, felt a burdensome combination of shame and irritation. Shame because from sea to shining sea, America stood for something far from liberty and justice for all. Irritation because apparently a bunch of folks still think if we don’t wave the flag until our arms fall off and stick little pins on our lapels, we’re Enemy Combatant #1 and should get ready for an all-expense paid trip to Gauntanamo for a little waterboarding excursion.

So you can imagine how strange it seems to now reacquaint myself with what it means to be American.

But here I am…here WE are. A scant 8 years after “we wuz robbed” of what should have been the first Green President, we’ve got the first Black President. Having in Al Gore a President that would have acknowledged our path of environmental destruction Katrina could have restored faith for some us, but having a post-9/11 President with an Arabic name meaning “blessed” is too much for even the most hopeful of us to have ever anticipated. Does anyone think that whoever is pulling the switches behind the curtain of the Universe doesn’t have a sense of humor?

After Obama’s election I quickly realized that I wasn’t alone in my arms-distance relationship to being American. Over and over again I heard people–conscious, justice-seeking people: black people, white people, poor and privileged, from behind the scenes and on the frontlines–each on an outbreath of relief say: “I can finally be proud to be American.”

On the one hand, 2009 brings with it the incredible challenges of the freefall of an economic house of cards built with smoke, mirrors and lots of dishonest spit, an unjust war built on outright lies, and a devastating attack on a people that the world can no longer deny is on the short end of a harsh stick, built on a 60 year theft. On the other hand, we are embarking upon a new year, a new era, and a strange, new hopefulness that real people, tired of being polarized by fear, hate and separation, can organize for hope, progress and change. And together, our collective will can make a difference.

I debated taking that flag image out many, many times. But it stayed. And for now, anyway, I stay. I stay here to reimagine and fully claim being American because I can finally exchange some of my stalwart commitment to see change happen for an actual experience of change being possible.

And it’s change I can believe in…imagine that?