by: Susan Bloch on June 4th, 2015 | 18 Comments »
At Kids4Peace, an interfaith community of Israeli, Palestinian, and North American youth and educators, the next generation of peacemakers is learning how nonviolent communication facilitates listening and understanding rather than judgement. Credit: Mandy Price.
“The Puget Sound is really a mess,” one of my grandchildren told me recently.
“It’s so polluted. Did you know even the orcas are contaminated with toxic chemicals.”
Determined to build a better future, our kids want to find new ways to make themselves heard — in the classroom, by their parents, communities, and politicians. It’s easy for parents to think their kids are only interested in the latest football results, lose sleep over what to wear to graduation, and spend far too much time playing games on their phones. In reality youth are also texting and blogging about police brutality, melting icecaps, and how to end U.S. involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq. They worry how we’ll ever get out of the mess.
If I am not for myself, who will be for me? But if I am only for myself, what am I? If not now, when?- Rabbi Hillel, Pirke Avot 1:14
Our world is riddled with tragedies: the epidemic of killings by police in the U.S. of African Americans, boats capsizing with hundreds of people fleeing war-torn countries in search of security, safety and well-being, children dying from illnesses stemming from malnutrition at alarming rates, women and girls being raped as victims of wars, and the list goes on. As spiritual seekers we desperately yearn for a day when peace and nonviolence, love and care, kindness and generosity as well as a deep connection with the sacred in one another and with the creative force of the universe reign.
Many of us, in our despair, turn to spiritual guidance and practices to soothe our pain and find solace. Feeling powerless to impact the enormity of the problem and recognizing that social change efforts often lack deep spiritual integration and wisdom, we instead decide to focus our energies on our inner work rather than align ourselves with larger social change movements. We find comfort in the belief that personal transformation alone can and will result in societal transformation.
by: Warren Blumenfeld on April 29th, 2015 | Comments Off
'For white people who cannot seem to understand reactions of a community to the death of one man, all you have to do is look in the mirror to determine your card,' writes Dr. Blumenfeld. Above, African American pastors cross paths with Baltimore police. Credit: CreativeCommons / Vladimir Badikov.
In virtually all the university courses I teach in the field of education, I conduct what invariably turns out to be a valuable and poignant activity for the pre-service teacher educator enrolled in the course. The simulation represents the ways in which our society, along a continuum of very high to very low, encourages and enhances to discourages and reduces the individual’s motivation to learn and succeed in life.
I begin by alerting students that we are going to engage in a class activity. I travel around the room placing a playing card face down on each student’s desk. (I always include a “Joker” card.) I tell them not to look at their cards. I then stand in front of the room and provide directions. I model by taking a remaining card from the deck, and without looking at it, I place it face outward upon my forehead.
by: Arlene Goldbard on April 20th, 2015 | Comments Off
On 3 April, the powers-that-be at Howard University laid off eighty-four staff members, including E. Ethelbert Miller, director of Howard University’s African American Resource Center, who attended Howard and went on to serve the university community for more than forty years.
Ethelbert is a literary activist of wide-ranging commitments and honors: he chairs the Board of Trustees of the Institute for Policy Studies; he is a board member at The Writer’s Center and editor of Poet Lore. He’s a former Chair of the Humanities Council of Washington, D.C., and the author of many books of poetry and memoir. Dearest to my heart, he serves on the National Cabinet of the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture with the title Minister of Sacred Words, offering radical love and generosity of spirit in all he does.
I’m going to suggest what all this may mean (and give you contact information to protest), but first, I’d like to share an excerpt from a letter Reginald Dwayne Betts wrote to the newly appointed President of Howard, Dr. Wayne A.I. Frederick. Betts is a much-lauded poet and memoirist, a former prison inmate who credits Ethelbert with the critical and well-timed caring that enabled him to flourish. You owe it to yourself to read all of his letter, reprinted at Split This Rock.
by: Ben Kline on February 26th, 2015 | 1 Comment »
About a year ago, I watched the 2008 Palestinian film Salt of this Sea, about a Palestinian-American woman named Soraya and her quest to reclaim her family’s home in Jaffa. The film has quite a few agonizing moments: in one scene, Soraya and her Ramallah-born boyfriend Emad are squatting in what remains of his ancestral village, well west of the Green Line. The illusion that they might build a new life atop these ruins is interrupted by a stern Israeli tour guide, who becomes much friendlier when a panicked Soraya lies and tells him she is Jewish.
by: Warren Blumenfeld on February 23rd, 2015 | Comments Off
Richard Rogers and Oscar Hammerstein reminded us in one of the songs, “You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught,” in their 1949 Broadway musical, South Pacific that:
You’ve got to be taught
To hate and fear
You’ve got to be taught
From year to year
It’s got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You’ve got to be carefully taught….
President Obama echoed this sentiment at the recent White House Countering Violent Extremism Summit when he said that “Children learn to hate.”
by: Elizabeth De Sa on February 17th, 2015 | 1 Comment »
Judgmental labels are pervasive in our society. Did Bryan Oliver identify with the messages he heard and blame himself? Credit: Judy Rose Sayson / Creative Commons.
In the light of Bryan Oliver’s plea bargain and sentencing for the shooting of alleged bully, Bowe Cleveland, increasingly polarized conversations have flown back and forth about who was to blame and whether the sentence is just. I generally enjoy reading comments sections until they become too personal and vitriolic. Is the implicit purpose of commenting to convince someone of a particular opinion and is it effective to do so? Is it possible to be convinced of something just by hearing an opinion in opposition to our own or do we need to be deeply heard first? Do such debates serve as a forum for where the loudest voice wins? Some of the milder comments include telling Bryan Oliver to suck it up, that he deserves his sentence, and that there is no excuse for attempted murder. Other voices include exculpating him and holding the school and authorities culpable for neglecting their duty to protect Oliver from bullying and sexual harassment, and leaving him no choice but to seek protection and justice himself.
by: Emilye Crosby on January 14th, 2015 | Comments Off
In this 50th anniversary year of the Selma-to-Montgomery March and the Voting Rights Act it helped inspire, national media will focus on the iconic images of “Bloody Sunday,” the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the interracial marchers, and President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act. This version of history, emphasizing a top-down narrative and isolated events, reinforces the master narrative that civil rights activists describe as “Rosa sat down, Martin stood up, and the white folks came south to save the day.”
But there is a “people’s history” of Selma that we all can learn from — one that is needed especially now. The exclusion of Blacks and other people of color from voting is still a live issue. Sheriff’s deputies may no longer be beating people to keep them from registering to vote, but in 2013 the Supreme Court ruled in Shelby v. Holder that the Justice Department may no longer evaluate laws passed in the former Confederacy for racial bias. And as a new movement emerges, insisting that Black Lives Matter, young people can draw inspiration and wisdom from the courage, imagination, and accomplishments of activists who went before.
by: Colin Hannaford on January 7th, 2015 | Comments Off
Towards the end of the summer I was invited to Trinity College in Cambridge for one of its regular gatherings. Naturally I wanted to go.
The problem, of course, was Amadeus.
In 1805, when Lord Byron was told to leave his dog at home, he brought a pet bear instead, taking it for a stroll around the grounds every day on a leash.
Amadeus is no longer the puppy I could carry around in an army medic’s pouch. He is now six feet long from his nose to the tip of his magnificent tail and he weighs over a hundred pounds. I considered, briefly, declaring him to be a bear.
He is, unmistakeably, a dog.
But there was an alternative. Some of my old maths pupils may remember me sitting entirely unperturbed through the ear-splitting clangour of a fire alarm, and demanding, as the entire class began abruptly to decamp: “Just where the Devil do you think YOU ARE ALL GOING!” And being told, in a delighted chorus: “SIR, THE SCHOOL’S ON FIRE!”
I explained to Trinity’s accommodation office that Amadeus is my Hearing Dog. I might be burnt to a crisp unless he slept in my room overnight to warn me of a possible fire. This would reflect badly on the College.