angel Kyodo williams

Posts Tagged ‘change’

meeting change

In leadership, relationship, spirit on November 19, 2009 at 8:40 am

going in

the art & practice of transition

As an east coast native, the traditional four seasons of the year have become deeply embedded in my psyche and soul as a map and a means for organizing my life. Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall, repeat. Seasons are like phases in the cycle of Life. Going from one to the next represents Transition: the in-between space of moving from one way of being in relationship to life into another.

Taken together, the turning of the four seasons into a year reflects our collective relationship to and dependence upon nature and all her rhythms, according our journey with the sun and the entire vast universe.

I have come to appreciate this internal alignment with the cyclical rhythms of the Earth, herself as a powerful counterbalance to the false constructs of busyness and get-it-doneness made by Men. Capitalism and consumerism have erected false notions of the rhythms we should adhere to. We are corralled from one hopping holiday or sale season to the next.

While many people use birthdays as their marker for a new year, I’ve always used the early Fall. Fall is both a beginning and ending for me. A time for simultaneously harvesting the learnings of the Spring and Summer before it, while fervently preparing for the rest and gestation of the Winter to come. Once upon a time, I resisted this rhythmic pattern, noticing with chagrin that come Fall, I would invariably take things apart, reorganize them and put them back together again. Sometimes in my reconfigurations, things would get thrown away. Sometimes everything would go.

The people in my life can’t always quite make sense of this internally-driven process from the outside and through the years have mistakenly viewed it as my being restless, inconsistent, breaking down or working through some kind of crisis.

The reality is I’m not any of those things and I am all of them: I’m just Meeting Change.

So while I make a reasonable effort to accord with or renegotiate external commitments and the demands of relational life, there are times when, like the seasons, I must honor this internal rhythm whether it makes sense to or works for others or not. Once you can hear it, to not honor the resonant call for meeting change, is to not honor life itself.

Change Whose Time Has Come

Sometime in August, in the midst of preparing for our biggest event of the year, a clear knowing about what our work needed in order to move to the next level came to me. Holding some sweet sadness for what I knew had to happen, I invited the community I’d been living with in some form or other for the past five years—to leave. I wasn’t kicking people out nor had I made a decision that I didn’t want to live within a community of transformative practice any longer. What I had come to realize was, that as a living experiment—a petri dish for learning how best to support people working for justice in their own deep inner life change—our time had come to an end.

So on 9/9/09, a date representing “completion,” we gathered to bring to completion our time together in that form. As requested, each person planned a transition from this phase or season of life to the next. I had only one request for their plan: that the step they take would be one that would bring them closer to their own life purpose. That they waste no time in a limbo space, but regard their lifeforce as precious enough to not waste a single moment ambling near their path, choosing instead to step out fully onto it in whatever form that might take. They were also asked to state what they would need, if anything, to support this significant endeavor.

Organizationally speaking, this transition was invited at a time when we are, like many non-profits, picking ourselves up out of the dust and debris of the past year’s economic crisis, which is obviously far from over. Many would argue the move as less than, well…sane. But I’d argue that one of the most subtle Arts of Change is recognizing when it’s time to transition, to step forward into the awkwardness of the unknown and to meet change head on. To have continued on with folks that I had a felt sense belonged somewhere else would have been to opt for convenience over integrity, thus dishonoring this work—as Khalil Gibran named: my love made visible in the world—at its core. We each know intuitively that Love sometimes calls for a valiant honor that may set our preferences and conveniences aside. In work towards real, abiding justice and change that will last, our work, and how we hold it, must be the same.

As a result of meeting change on that day and bringing forth intention from as long as 10 years ago::

On October 31, half of the residential community—also meaning half of our staff—transitioned out. Gracefully, and sometimes not so, each person stepping firmly on the path of fulfilling their purpose in life.

On November 1, we transitioned in a new ED, thereby releasing me from the confines of organizational structures while enabling all of what I’ve been able to contribute thus far to live on until it is no longer useful.

On December 1 I will officially begin my first sabbatical after having logged 25 years of work, 20 of them with an eye towards social change.

In January, a new phase in the life of what has become the Center for Transformative Change will begin with the wind of legacy at its back and the raw power of new energy carrying it forward.

In June, CXC will collaboratively launch what we believe will be one of the most powerful toolkits to help shift the culture of social justice towards one of Transformative Social Change.

To hold these transitions off because things were far from rosy and we would be heavily challenged and sorely inconvenienced is to miss the very point of the practice of meeting change. We must come to welcome the awkwardness and inconvenience of change because that is precisely where our learning edges live. So, even as we here at CXC negotiate the sticky places (and yes, there are LOTS of them,) we know this is the right thing to do…and it is the right time.

Entering the Doorways
One of the practices of our New Dharma spiritual tradition is to bring our palms together and bow upon entering and leaving doorways. The hands form what is called gassho in Japanese, a bringing together of all things into One. It is the universally familiar gesture of namaste, prayer, respect, welcome. Out of this Oneness arises the bow, a gesture that in the West might be thought of as a lowering, but practiced well, in its quiet humility is actually a raising up. For us, it marks the transition—from outside to inside; from busy day to quiet sitting; from scattered head to One Mind; from “get it done” to “let it be”—with an imperceptibly small ceremony that gives us permission to release what came before so that we might step fully into what is new.

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 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.

With love and deep gratitude for all the unnamed stalwart practitioners of the Inner life phase of the New Dharma Meditation Center & Community that evolved into the Outer life Phase with these folks as staff of Center for Urban Peace: chandrashekara thuy tran, Karen Muktayani Villanueva, Premadasi Luna Amada, Simhanandi Evan Stubblefield, Zochi Alonzo Young, seeing it through its transition to the Center for Transformative Change. It is only for each of you that we can now step into the Social (Change) life phase of CXC to see our work for justice and deep change through. Good journey, y’all.–aKw

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 &
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the practice of inconvenience

In culture, money, relationship, spirit on August 7, 2009 at 5:57 am

what’s in your wallet?

Years ago, Gloria Steinem, the formidable godmother of modern feminism posed a query that my fading memory won’t recall exactly, but it irrevocably changed how I view my life. The gist of it was this: if life came to an end for you, if you were hit by a car or something less tragic, but equally sudden while out in the world, and someone had to go through your wallet to find out who you are, would your checkbook reflect your values? Would your statement make a statement and is it the one you would want shared? What story would the carbon copies of what you sign on the dotted line for tell about what matters to you? Not the story of a year ago before the massive nosedive we’re in became clear. Today. Now.

I know, i know….many of us are so politically correct that we don’t write paper checks and maybe haven’t for years, but you get my drift: whether its paper, plastic, prepaid or PayPal…

What’s in YOUR wallet?

Later this month, Muslims all over the world will begin Ramadan, the annual 30-day observance of a daylight fast. Neither food nor water passes the lips from sun up to sun down. The same goes for sex and any unlawful, unkind or distasteful acts. Things of pleasure and things of pain are released equally in a daily commitment to taking in less while directing one’s energy inwards for reflection, prayer and renewal. Since September 2001, I’ve engaged this deep practice of total abstinence intermittently, regaining consistency in the last few years.

When I commented on it beginning soon (August 22nd in North America), a community member scoffed at its inconvenience: it lands just as we are preparing for our own Fall Practice Period, not to mention working feverishly on our single biggest event of the year. Her concern is well-placed. The outcome of this year’s event matters like no other before: like many smart but small organizations, we’re sitting on a financial precipice looking over the edge.

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.

And owing to this practice, as deeply as we are in a literal existential crisis, we are happy. Not happy to be facing the jaws of organizational Death (or Rebirth as the case may be) but happy with who we are, what we do and HOW we show up in the world. I’ve made peace with the fact that one of the reasons we’re in a tight place is because we gave up the Game of jumping through money hoops. We continue to honor our commitment to change from the inside. Daily. 5:40am wakeup bell. 6am yoga. 7am meditation. Week after week. When the bills come and when they go.

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. Facing financial firing squads, we stand (and sit) committed to finding Right Relationship through real partnership with a community of practitioners, participants and donors that care enough to support this new way even when it is neither easy nor convenient. In the process, we stand committed to maintaining Right Relationship with ourselves.

While Ramadan is a fasting practice, it’s not about holding back–it’s about reconnecting with the places within us that have tightened over the year and re-learning to give generously from that place of connection that knows that we ourselves own nothing. We belong to and are of the Divine and are infinitely blessed to express that Divinity here on Earth. On our knees, with foreheads touching the earth, palms turned toward the sky, our very breath is a celebration of Life. Each morning, we meet the darkness in symbolic solitude and contemplate the challenge before us: a day without eating. As days come and go, humbled in the face of our increasing frailty, physical strength tapped, endurance tested, we meet our humanity. Each night, our commitment is rewarded only by the opportunity to renew ourselves to meet the challenge again. The iftar meal breaks the fast in community, a bonding together to regain strength from not only the food but the energy of shared commitment. Ramadan is ended with a feast, but also with alms-giving–sharing of whatever we have–regardless of how much, an equally significant practice of commitment that brings balance.

In an essay on The Transformative Power of Practice Staci Haines and Ng’ethe Maina, two leaders in the field of Transformative Social Change, talk about two kinds of practice: Default Practices are “deeply rooted behaviors that we do automatically, consistently, and unconsciously in response to any given situation” and Intentional Practices are ” those that we choose to do in order to transform the way we show up in the world. Through new practices we increase choice and alignment with our values.” When we are faced with challenge, it’s especially easy to return to–and justify–deeply rooted unconscious practices: fear, contraction, a sense of lack and a resulting need to control. Ramadan shows up every year with a fresh invitation to let go of craving, control and excess with no pat-on-the-back congratulations, no true witness but that of your own deepening alignment with your commitment to Change.

Now is not the time to hold out. Not on your commitments, not on your practice and not on change. Change IS on the horizon. The best thing about it is that at this moment, we can’t actually make out what it’s going to look like. Like much of the unknown, we can take that to be a mark of real danger or of real hope. I’m opting for the latter, but I’m practicing come what may.

Are you practicing what you are committed to?
or, in other words:

What’s in YOUR wallet?

Sure, the best things in life are free. And someone pays–through hard work, advocacy and showing up–for equitable access to much of it. Even if you have a little, break off a little bit of that something. Put your cash where your heart is. We need a little change to bring about big change.

To start you off, here’s what’s in my wallet. While there were others, I am now reorganzing my priorities to support those that need it most:

In no particular order, these are organizations that need support today. Now. Of all the great work out there, I used three criteria to bring these to the top in addition to financial need:

1. Their leadership takes less, little or even no pay, not out of martyrdom, but from a place of studied consideration of what is needed and what is enough. Each brings not only depth of experience, but extraordinarily unique lenses to personal practice as the fundamental basis of systemic change.

2. Their staff, if they have one, are deeply committed to the work, giving of their time and energy generously and unequivocably. The collaborative nature, unpaid volunteers and networks of support make each organization’s impact in their fields much greater than their budgets. There’s a lot more bang for your buck with them.

but most importantly,

3. Their vision is one that holds a unique place for the new change that is still taking shape. They are holding open the doorway to new organizational ways of being, making their practice–how they are being–as important as what they are doing.

Simply said, should these uniquely situated organizations disappear, they cannot be replicated and they would take with them a bright lens into all of our future. Every dollar given to these organizations would be multiplied ten-fold by the devoted thoughtfulness, hard work, deep practice, ingenious creativity and sheer will of these organizations and their leaders, the integrity of each of whom i can vouch for personally:

Ruckus Society
Oakland-based Ruckus provides environmental, human rights, and social justice organizers of impacted communities nationally and beyond with the tools, training, and support needed to achieve their goals. Through these trainings, we help people learn the skills they need to practice nonviolent direct action safely and effectively.

La Plazita Institute
Based in Albuquerque, Designed around the philosophy of la cultura cura or culture cures, La Plazita’s programs strengthen community, families and enable youth to leave behind a destructive lifestyle by tapping into their own roots to express core traditional values of respect, honor, love, family, and community.

the stone house: a center for spiritual life and strategic action @ stone circles
Just outside the NC Triangle, the stone house is rooted in place. Movements for social justice have always thrived in places of sustenance and safety where people can deepen relationships and envision new strategies for political organizing.

and naturally our very own:

Center for Transformative Change (CXC)

Click to donate:

Holding it down on the South Berkeley/North Oakland border, CXC is the first national center entirely dedicated to bridging the inner and outer lives of social change agents, activists and allies to support a more effective, more sustainable social justice movement. As a meta-intermediary, this unique hybrid organization is both a residentially-based community of practice (not just theory!) and an astute articulator of the growing movement toward Transformative Social Change.

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.
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a more perfect union

In culture, leadership, politics, relationship, spirit on June 9, 2009 at 2:21 pm

using our wholebody

Days after California’s Prop 8 was propped up by its Supreme Court, former vice president Dick Cheney unapologetically (of course) and righteously affirmed the novel idea that “freedom means freedom for everyone…people ought to be able to enter into any kind of union they wish.”

Many of us pulled the lever to cast our vote for an oddly hopeful promise of “a more perfect union” of our Divided States. We watch with our breath held, our hearts in our throats, ready to put our bodies on the line as our One Government lets individual Republics of imaginary divides decide one-by-one, state-by-state, who freedom means freedom for: our embodiment of a more perfect union catastrophically undone by an unwillingness to recognize our most precious union: the one of the heart.

In an historic constitutional referendum in Bolivia, the voters expressed their more perfect union through the powerful symbolic act of embracing a second official flag: the formerly illegal flag of the indigenous people and of the social movement that brought down the previous corrupt governments.

The seven-color Wiphala flag is arranged as 7×7 colors in a square:

Historically, it is the flag of the Incan territory that spanned Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Chile and Argentina.
Culturally, it is the flag of the Aymara-Quechua Andean and Amerindian people.
Politically, it is pan-indigenous, multi-ethnic, cross-class and trans-issue. With it’s similarity to the Gay rainbow flag and use for urban social movements, it is becoming an international symbol for diversity and solidarity, equality and equity, dignity and reciprocity…all coming together.

A celebration of the order of cosmos, symbol of life and fertility, it’s rainbow covers the spectrum of colors and represents the honoring of all that should matter to a society:

  • RED for man and the earth
  • ORANGE for society and its expression through culture and education
  • YELLOW for energy and strength through collectivity
  • WHITE for time and community transformation
  • GREEN for natural resouces and the land
  • BLUE for the heavens and natural phenomena
  • Last, most powerfully and sanely, VIOLET for harmonious governance and self-determination of the people.

Taken as a whole and liberated from the neo-colonial closet, it represents that more perfect union that we should all strive for in our quest for a fair and equitable society.

Some worry that Evo Morales, Bolivia’s first indigenous President, may be inadvertently diminishing the symbol, as savvy politicians have been wont to do, putting a cursory end to movements of the people by absorbing their symbols and slogans into government. Our own Civil Rights Movement came to an abrupt, stunted and co-opted halt on Lyndon B. Johnson’s appropriative declaration that “we shall overcome.”

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: like the whites and blacks that fraternized in backwoods jook joints, using rhythm to find harmony. From learning how to dance together, they eventually found the ability to pray, sit and stand together “always at great risk.”

It will arise from the embodiment of principles in and by the people that show up every day to “narrow the gap” between the hope for our society and “the reality of (our) time.” It will arise through the embodiment of actions that manifest the longing held in our hearts, the vision that we cannot yet see, but can feel the truth of in our very core. Thus with great faith, we reach inward, act outward, and move toward it. Our more perfect union will arise from within the people.

Some think this union will come as the result of the broad view of Analysis: political, social, grounded. Others believe we’ll be brought together by the deep current of Spirit: fundamental, ethical, rooted.

In the end, it will express itself as nothing that we currently know of, but rather as a constellation, integration and distillation of all. It will be individually-particularized, collectively-driven and universally-appealing. It will be a social movement because we are social creatures that can form the shape that expresses what we wish to become. It will be a cultural movement because together we create the conditions in which new ways can thrive. It will be self-determined and other-honoring. It will be systemic, endemic and talismanic. More than anything, it will, because it must, be transformative. Our more perfect union will be neither this nor that. Leaving nothing and none of us behind, it will be WholeBody: a Third Way that embraces and embodies being fully Human: ever-evolutionary, ever-revolutionary, ever-dynamic and always Divine.

From there, state-by-state and heart-by-heart, in our more perfect union, we can get Dick Cheney’s wish granted.

Jai Bhim! We shall overcome…Si, se puede. A Better World is Possible. Venceremos…Yes, we can. By any means necessary: Power to the People. Power by the People. Power FROM the People.

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.

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seven deadly sins of change

In culture, leadership, relationship, spirit on April 9, 2009 at 9:44 pm

Super Om, Courtesy of Students for A Free Tibet:

a superhero’s funding and field guide to transformation

While then-candidate Obama wooed the electorate into an oddly fleeting historic moment with his steady call for us to all be Agents of Change, those of us that have been stealthily exchanging our glasses for capes with only tepid results to show for it know that we need more than ordinary change to get us out of the one-step left, two-steps right shuffle our social justice agenda has been stymied by for the past 50 years. We need the kind of change that leads to deep-rooted, broad-based, sustainable lasting change that can’t be rolled back with the swirl of a pen or crushed under a wave of conservative backlash. We need Transformative Change.

We’ve been secretly biding our time in serene anticipation of the Fall of American Consumptive Ways. With a complex mix of dismay and satisfaction, we hold appropriate, compassionate empathy for the folks that are the least buffered from even subtle turnabouts in the economic winds, much less the comparative financial tsunami of the past seven months. This is expressed with The Deeply Furrowed Brow of Concern. But understanding that our collective faces hitting the floor may be our only Wakeup Call, that concern co-mingles with The Subtle-But-Knowing Smile of Approval.

Yoda would be proud.

Even Time Magazine’s cover pronounces “The End of Excess” with a picture of a great big reset button along with the rhetorical inquiry: “Is This Crisis Good for America?” Well, of course it is. When you view your life and the world through the lens of transformation, you recognize that any upset or tragedy is really an opportunity for another level of growth and deeper understanding. You run with it rather than away from it. The caveat is that because the Grand Designer made a package deal of Free Will and the Breath of Life, it’s entirely up to us to either seize the opportunity to find a new Way to become that which we all inexorably endeavor to become: a Whole Human. If not, we’ll return to our previous incomplete state: driven by fear and panic, desperately and pathetically groping for what is familiar but no longer viable, if it ever was. When that window of opportunity passes, the Universe has to conjure up another greater tragedy for us to get the message. Time’s rallying cry calls for us to “make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves and be entirely ready to remove our defects of character.”

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. X-Agents for short. (Yea, I know, but X-Men was already taken and it’s chauvinist anyway…)

So what are our collective defects of character, the Kryptonite that saps our power, woos us to the Dark Side and is an impenetrable barrier to a movement of truly Transformative Social Change that we both envision and are beckoned by?

Here are Seven Deadly Sins of Change and their respective Virtuous behavioral antidotes:

1. Release Lust: Bigger is not better. Hasn’t the economic bubble splat taught us that? The organizations that have become the biggest are not necessarily the best. The day of the 900-lb Gorilla eating up all the resources because they can should be over. It leaves the rest of the creatures of the forest to fight amongst themselves for scraps. Real innovation gets crowded out by behemoths. We all lose.

Practice Chastity: Consume only what you need to sustain real, viable work, not just what will get you funding because its the buzz. Pass on the rest and pass the plate.

2. Release Gluttony: On the other hand, there’s just too many of us. We’ve got an organization for every issue, identity and incident, each scavenging for five crumbs. As a result, we’re disorganized, disconnected and still disenfranchised. We resist the natural cycle of organizational death because we’ve tied our livelihoods up with our causes. We start organizations to avoid corporate life but end up being slaves to those institutions, too. Creativity is curtailed and resources are spread too thin. Death, no matter how painful, gives way to fresh, viable life.

Practice Temperance: Is your organization serving you or are you serving your organization? Is your work changing THE World, not just your world? If not, Merge. Fold. Find your new path. Be Reborn in the next life. We’ll all benefit from a nimbler, better-resourced movement.

3. Release Greed: Grantmakers have lost almost one-third of their assets. Never mind that foundations are only required to give 5 percent of those endowments, most of which were ill-gained to begin with. I always say “when it’s your house that’s burning down, you don’t use 5% of the water you have to save the rest for the fire that might come in the future. You use the whole damn bucket…”

Practice Charity: Charity of common sense, that is. Raise giving to a mere 15% of that monopoly money. Even with 30% losses, you’ll be giving more than double what you gave when you were flush and we’ll all be twice as far along.

4. Release Sloth: When it comes to the task of being the change we wish to see, we’re pretty damn lazy. Our movements are constipated, our coalitions siloed, our collaborations fractured, our organizations top-down, and our personal practice is toenail-deep. We’re tall on rhetoric, short on application. We want sustainability while we work ourselves to exhaustion. We insist on Universal Healthcare and Ubiquitous McDonald’s. We want green job access and plastic bag convenience. We strive for environmental justice and allow “feed-animal” damnation.

Practice Diligence: We have to PRACTICE what we’re preaching for. It’s all connected and it starts with you: Eat healthy, Pray frequently, Love deeply. And to keep it all in perspective, Dance wildly.

5. Release Wrath: The lifeforce of our work is still choked by useless “us vs. them” ego-tripping and bad attitudes. These issues need to be addressed at the roots. We’ll never make peace with others until we make peace within ourselves. Transformative Change is only possible when the people doing the change are changing themselves.

Practice Patience: Heal and Love Thyself. Start working out your issues at your Inner Gym. Watch your mind and notice how it wreaks havoc on reality. Find ways to lower the volume on the internal noise that makes you a walking time bomb of contraction and imbalance. Do Yoga. Meditation. Centering Prayer. Better yet, let them do you. Save your heart, save the world.

6. Release Envy: Funders, you matter. So stop inserting yourselves to assert your Selves. While many of you live vicariously and combat boredom by dreaming up new projects, frontliners are busting their tails out there and still they’re relegated to using up to 40% of their energy to raise money for their work. Change will only take place through real leadership, partnerships and collaboration. Every good partnership is borne of knowing your role and contribution and honoring that of your partners. Stop hating on changemakers because you envy their courage while fearing the direct experience it arises from. Funders should fund and let the people that work the frontlines work…not scurry, scrape and suck up for funds.

Practice Kindness: With yourselves, first and foremost. Tend to the wounds that excessive privilege imprisons and burdens you with. Letting your money or control of it front as self-worth leads to narcissism, self-centeredness and a profound emptiness that compels you to a never-ending search for fulfillment. Give your burden away…even some of the sacred principal. You’ll be free to be you and not your money. I repeat: Save your heart, save the world.

7. Release Pride: The failure point of Pride, when it leaves good and turns sour, is “failing to acknowledge the good work of others.” If you really want change, enable people to do the work of change for real. If this is a platform for your personal whims, but you actually fear what real change looks like–yes, you’ll have to give things up: money, land, status, control, privilege, power, privilege–stay home, watch reruns of ER and stop wasting your own and our time.

Practice Humility: Fund what works broadly and deeply. But more importantly at this moment, fund risk. Fund bold efforts that are unknown, untested, untried. Fund creative solutions to intractable problems and expect no guarantees in return. If it makes you nervous, fund it.

Together, we, the Practitioners and Funders, Agents, Activists and Allies of Change need to be the “Real American Idols”(trademark pending), the New Super Heroes and Sheroes that take up our part day-to-day to do the ordinary work of changing the world while doing the extraordinary work of changing ourselves.

I know we’re up to the task of seizing the real opportunity that is at hand–to live, love and lead from heart–one by one kick-ass X-Agent at a time.

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.
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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.

finally American

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

american flag at Jacksonville, FL aiport
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?