"Don’t Call Me White!" Q: How do we address/what can we do to address the language and logic of micro-aggressions being appropriated by members of the dominant class, for example white folks talking about receiving micro-aggressions from (legitimately) angry or insistent POC? A: The question above asked by a participant in my microaggressions course reminded me of an interaction that happened during a retreat some years ago. Two couples at the retreat who had been close friends asked me to mediate a conflict. The older couple – a man and woman, were both white. The younger couple, a [...]
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Today, the last day of Kwanzaa, the first day of the New Year, we focus on the last of the Nguzo Saba, Imani - faith. Imani encapsulates the hope and promise of Kwanzaa in its celebration of African American and African-descent peoples. As we explore each of the Nguzo Saba, we are exploring ways that African American folks can thrive, despite the centuries of degradation, oppression, and systemic inequities. Kwanzaa reminds us that there are concrete steps we can each take to ensure that the strength and beauty of African American community will continue. Kwanzaa is an implicit promise, a [...]
Today, the 6th day of Kwanzaa, is a day when I’m so annoyed at this extended pandemic! As we celebrate today’s principle from the Nguzo Saba, Kuumba - Creativity, I want a huge bustle of folk around me. I want to hear voices lifted in song, see someone drawing, watch folks dancing with abandon and joy to passionate drumming, listen to poetry being read, eat delicious food made with artistic zest. I want folks wandering in and out of my house all night, sharing, witnessing, celebrating the indomitable creativity of African-American folks and humans worldwide. Instead, this Kwanzaa, we’ve had [...]
This morning, folks in my house listened to Paul Robeson sing Ballad for Americans as we started our Kwanzaa reflections. Robeson, born in 1878, was the son of a runaway slave and an abolitionist. A man of amazing talents in every domain, he won an academic scholarship to Rutgers University where he was inducted into the national honor society and graduated valedictorian of his class. In addition to his intellectual brilliance, he also played four sports in college and was an All-American athlete in football. These accomplishments notwithstanding, Robeson is best known as an artist and activist - a talented [...]
The principle of Ujamaa - Cooperative Economics - is deeply embodied within African-American communities and communities of African-descent folks worldwide. Living from this principle is what has enabled our peoples to survive conditions where few resources were left for our use. So much of the history of the United States is marked by white folks and white institutions controlling the work, labor and resources of BIPOC folks. Initially, we had outright slavery, where none of the economic benefits derived from the labor of Black folks went to Black folks. Now, many folks labor long hours in low wage jobs that [...]
This morning, the third day of Kwanzaa, my teen and I discussed today’s principle of Ujima – Collective Work and Responsibility. They immediately flashed to the utter disbelief they and many youth experienced as the conflict on preventative measures to address the pandemic unfolded. Wearing a mask and social distancing, for them, seemed the most basic action we could take for collective responsibility. Even as someone who prizes their individuality and personal choice, they were shocked that folks would choose to prioritize individual well-being over the collective well-being of the community. The pandemic has raised awareness of the need for [...]
On the second day of Kwanzaa, we contemplate the principle, Kujichagulia. On the official Kwanzaa website, Kujichagulia – Self Determination – asks us “to define ourselves, name ourselves, create for ourselves and speak for ourselves.” This year, I’ve had several opportunities when I’ve come face to face with some of the insidious ways that one’s commitment to self-determination can be undermined, especially as a Black person in the United States. Since approximately age 12, after graduating from my elementary school in Harlem, NY, I’ve walked and moved primarily in majority-white communities. As a teen and young adult, I did not [...]
As the year comes to a close, I've decided to share a little of my family's tradition. When my children were born, I wanted to be choiceful about the holidays we celebrated. In addition to acknowledging the traditional holidays observed in our families of origin, we wanted to find a way to mark each year, to harvest our learnings and have it guide us as each new cycle of the earth begins. We wanted to bring intentionality and reflection into our life. We wanted to honor each of our unique voices and dreams while celebrating and contributing to the threads [...]
Download PDF I have a dear friend who has become a treasured empathy buddy. Once a week, we call each other and share what’s going in our world. Many times, I explore big challenges with her – my ongoing difficulty in finding meaning since my son’s death; the at times crippling self-doubt that is my legacy of internalized racism. Other times, we focus on smaller celebrations and worries – the success of my first garden, my teen’s amazing foray into baking that was accompanied by a completely cleaned kitchen (not sure which was the greater miracle!). Usually these conversations flow [...]
Download pdfs in English, French, Italian. Even in the midst of all that is moving in the world, three experiences left me particularly shaken today. Each gave clarity about what NVC can offer in the midst of these times, and where we need to be vigilant. Here are the three events that shaped my day. I awoke this morning to a post by a white friend to an NVC listserv. She asked that white members in our group pause and post any messages about the most recent murders of Black Americans to a subgroup that had been created for white [...]