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Archive for the ‘Culture’ Category



Remembering Stonewall—and Continuing the Struggle for LGBT Liberation

Jun28

by: on June 28th, 2014 | 4 Comments »

Forty-five years ago on this date, New York City Police officers burst into the Stonewall Inn bar in Greenwich Village, conducting an early-morning raid to hassle the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) patrons who frequented it.

Feeling they had been harassed far too long, those present at Stonewall challenged police officers by flinging bottles, rocks, bricks, trash cans, and parking meters used at battering rams. They continued to do so over the next five nights.

Even before these historic events at the Stonewall Inn, a little-known action preceded Stonewall by nearly three years, and should more likely be considered as the founding event for the modern lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, queer, asexual, and intersex (LGBTQAI) movement. In August 1966, at Gene Compton’s Cafeteria, in what is known as the Tenderloin District in San Francisco, trans* people and gay sex workers joined in fighting police harassment and oppression. Police, conducting one of their numerous raids, entered Compton’s, and began physically harassing the clientele. This time, however, people fought back by hurling coffee at the officers and heaving cups, dishes, and trays around the cafeteria. Police retreated outside as customers smashed windows. Over the course of the next night, people gathered to picket the cafeteria, which refused to allow trans* people back inside.

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Personal Reflections from Jerusalem

Jun28

by: Cherie Brown on June 28th, 2014 | 12 Comments »

I traveled to Jerusalem this summer to spend a month living in Israel and to learn as much as I could about the on-the-ground realities in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In addition, I wanted to offer my support and resources to the co-counseling community in Israel.

Co-counseling is a process whereby people are trained to exchange counseling help with one another to free themselves from the negative effects of unhealed grief, rage, and fear. One of the goals of co-counseling work is to identify and heal from past experiences of trauma and group oppression to be able to think freshly about all current situations.

There are communities of people in all different parts of the world that do co-counseling with one another. Co-counselors in Israel are using the tools of co-counseling to heal from any feelings of powerlessness, discouragement, or isolation that can make it difficult to sustain leadership over time and with others on Israeli-Palestinian peace work and all social justice work.Upon arriving in Jerusalem, my husband and I settled into an apartment right next to the Machaneh Yehuda – an incredible open-air market with streets of stalls and all kinds of produce. Our apartment was on the 14th floor, giving us a panoramic view of the Old City from our window. Each morning we woke to a spectacular view of the Old City before us. After having been in Jerusalem for a week, I settled into the daily rhythms of life and led a gathering for the co-counseling community in Jerusalem.

I kept finding how eager people were for contact, for connection, and for breaking the isolation of being Israeli – with the current separation of Israel from so much of the rest of the world. For example, the husband of one of the co-counseling leaders who came to my gathering had just had a life-threatening stroke, soI gave her counseling time, including giving her the space to heal about her incredible grief at the very real possibility that he might not make it. A Mizrachi woman initially was furious with me, saying how dare I ask this woman to look for even one minute at giving up hope about her husband. The Mizrachi woman went on to say, “We here in Israel are the walking dead, and we can’t afford to allow one another one second even in a co-counseling session to feel any feelings of hopelessness.” After screaming at me, she fell into my arms sobbing, and afterwards everyone present said how helpful it is for allies to offer a place for Israelis to be able to express the deep feelings of hopelessness that sit right under the recordings of forced hopefulness.

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Does Everyone Want to Be Rich? Reflections on a Trip to China

Jun27

by: on June 27th, 2014 | 3 Comments »

I am writing this piece on the airplane, on my way home from two weeks in China, where I’ve wanted to go for at least 25 years. I wanted to see, with my own clearly biased eyes, what life is like there. In part, to have some pre-rudimentary understanding of another culture that’s had such a long tradition and which has given so much to the world. In part, to understand how a country with SO many people can function. Originally, I also wanted to have some grasp on what real life communism means. Although I guess I missed that boat, I still felt a deep pull to be there.

Liu Yi, at right, and friends with Miki in Shanghai, 2013

Liu Yi, at right, and friends with Miki in Shanghai, 2013

Then the opportunity came when I met Yin Hua and Liu Yi a year ago, while passing through China (see In Defense of Complexity).

My passion for supporting fledgling Nonviolent Communication (NVC) communities in the world, along with my deep desire to offer the tools of collaboration to people working in NGOs, served as the impetus for arranging this trip.

With the warmth and depth of connection I felt with Liu Yi, with her extensive knowledge of and connections within the NGO world, with her willingness to embark on the unbelievable amount of work that it takes to organize a visit of a foreign trainer, and with Yin Hua’s support of the project, the road was clear for the trip that just ended.

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Pro Bono Blues

Jun27

by: on June 27th, 2014 | No Comments »

Have you noticed? Money changes everything. Almost daily, I get into conversations about compensation and fairness. Sometimes I even start them. But whoever starts them, by the time they get going, there’s always so much gray area that I have trouble finding my way to daylight.

I’m interested to know what you think. Let me share a few stories and a few questions that may cast some light on the subject.

Work or play? I work with many other artists who care about social justice and planetary healing and want to do our part. We get asked to contribute in various ways. Will you perform at our event? Will you donate a piece to our auction? When everyone is being asked to contribute – not just artists – that can feel just fine. But often that’s not the case. The people who mastermind the event, who set up and run the tech, who create the advertising, are being paid, but the artists are asked to volunteer.

This difference reflects some real challenges for those who wish to give art and culture their true value, those who understand that artists’ creativity is needed to surmount overwhelming challenges, to nourish our collective resilience, social imagination, and empathy. It seems to reflect the popular notion that artists are having too much fun for what they do to really be considered work: Sure, I’d like to sing and dance all day and get paid for it too. It devalues artists’ contributions, ignoring what we now know about the ways that stories, images, metaphors, and participatory actions can change more minds than the wonky work of white papers (which is almost always compensated). It seems to short-change organizing strategy itself, treating artists’ work as mere embellishment rather than a powerful path to change. These are hard attitudes to alter, because they are deeply embedded in the common culture. What would you do to transform them?


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The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints: Sexism, Heterosexism, Racism, & Revelation

Jun25

by: on June 25th, 2014 | No Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS) has connected a number of forms of oppression, most notably sexism, heterosexism, and racism.

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July 4: Picnics to Honor Human and Environmental Rights

Jun25

by: on June 25th, 2014 | 1 Comment »

Let’s use July 4 to celebrate all those who have stood up for peace and non-violence, social and economic justice, environmental sanity, human rights, and a world of love and generosity!

We at the Network of Spiritual Progressives invite you to create a local picnic to honor all those in the past and all those in the current world (including YOU) who have taken steps to move the world toward a more loving and just, peaceful and non-violent, environmentally sustainable and generosity-filled reality. Not just the famous people, though we’ll also honor the MLK jrs and the freedom riders and the women who were in the vanguard of the 2nd wave of feminism and the brave glbtq people who fought against homophobia, but ALSO the people who took risks at a smaller level, in their personal lives, possibly alienating friends or family or risking their professional or job advancement, or in other ways that you can tell us. So bring your stories to this celebration.

Here in Berkeley where our office is, we are inviting anyone in Northern California who wants a different kind of energy on July 4 than that of “rockets were there, the bombs bursting in air,” to come to an NSP (Network of Spiritual Progressives) picnic starting at2 p.m.at Picnic Area No. 1 of the Live Oak Park, 1301 Shattuck ave, Berkeley (look for us–you’ll find us in a somewhat hidden area). At2:30we’ll have vegetarian pot-luck. At3:30we’ll start the program and Achi Ben Shalom will lead the music. Please bring songs, poetry, your own stories of how you’ve stood up for peace, justice and/or environmental sanity, and your musical instruments to sing along! We’d welcome your political organization, synagogue, church, mosque or ashram to cosponsor this event with us–let us know! Later that night you’ll be invited to celebrate the Sabbath with Rabbi Lerner at his home at7 p.m.–an energy that will offset the noise of fireworks, at least partially.

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The Greenest Man in America!

Jun24

by: on June 24th, 2014 | No Comments »

Going green is about more than buying all the gluten-free quinoa you can fit in your Prius. It’s about community organizing against corporate polluters and challenging environmental racism — and then enjoying your quinoa.

That’s the message from my good friend, the “Greenest Man in America.” If you haven’t met him yet, you’re in luck!
And no, he’s not Al Gore…


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Struggle for Racial Justice is Local

Jun23

by: Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove on June 23rd, 2014 | 2 Comments »

Credit: Creative Commons

Since Michelle Alexander publishedThe New Jim Crowin 2010, communities of color across America have been talking about the need to dismantle America’s system of mass incarceration. As with the old Jim Crow, the problem is institutionalized racism (not just “a few bad apples,” but a system that corrupts the best of people). The language of “law and order” many have replaced “segregation forever,” but the result is the same: black men are subject to a system of control that cannot be questioned because it is the law.

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Here We Go Again: Cultural Equity in San Francisco

Jun23

by: on June 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »

An enduring pattern has been inscribed on the struggle for cultural equity in this country. Those who get the biggest share of funding – them that’s got, as Billie Holiday put it – pay lip-service to fairness for those who get crumbs – them that’s not. But lip-service is generally the only currency they are willing to shell out. The haves counsel patience: Show up as members of the team, they say. Be part of the united front at budget hearings, go along with our program, and you’ll get your reward by and by.

Credit: Creative Commons

In San Francisco, people are tired of waiting. In March, the Budget Analyst’s Office released a study on allocations by Grants for the Arts (funded from San Francisco’s hotel tax revenues) to diverse arts organizations – those serving primarily people of color, ethnic minorities, women, and LGBTQ people. The findings show that the proportion of funding to these groups has remained steady for 25 years. For example, an average of 23 percent of the pie has gone to people of color (who now make up 58 percent of the city’s population, a figure that has been rising steadily since Grants for the Arts was first created), and 77 percent to largely white organizations.


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The Republican Party Can Learn from al-Maliki’s Mistakes

Jun23

by: on June 23rd, 2014 | No Comments »

Currently serving his second term as Prime Minister of Iraq,Nouri Kamil Mohammed Hasan al-Malikitook office leading his Shiite Muslim-dominated Dawa Party in 2006. His rise to prominence began as a political dissenter protesting the policies and tactics of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorial regime in the late 1970s and soared after he was forced to flee a death sentence to live in exile for 24 years. While abroad, he became the principal leader of the Dawa opposition, while cultivating relationships with Iranian and Syrian officials for assistance in toppling Saddam and his Sunni Muslim-controlled Ba’ath Party.

Credit: Creative Commons

Since ascending to the chief position of Prime Minister, al-Maliki has crafted a nearly exclusively Shiite-dominated administration, which has had the effect of marginalizing and stoking dissent and creating an ever-increasing insurgency among the Sunni Muslim and Kurdish minorities. In recent weeks, a virtual civil war has broken out across the country, particularly in the northern and western regions of Iraq, led by the Sunni-controlled Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), an offshoot of Al Qaeda.

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