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How to Respond to the Opioid Crisis: Re-conceptualizing Shooting Galleries


by: Nadja Eisenberg-Guyot on February 23rd, 2018 | 1 Comment »

“It’s a way we all look out for each other, like, to make sure you got your clean cooker, your clean water, and alcohol.” It was 2007 and Charles (a pseudonym) and I were sitting in the back of Prevention Point Philadelphia’s mobile syringe exchange, a retrofitted RV containing safer injection supplies and a private room for HIV testing. Charles, a middle-aged African American man who had been injecting heroin since the early 1970s, was telling me about the shooting gallery that he ran in an abandoned row house in North Central Philadelphia.

As a harm reduction and HIV counselor at Prevention Point, I was learning from Charles about how people who use drugs have long taken measures to protect themselves – and their families, friends, and communities – from risks associated with drug injection and syringe sharing, including HIV and Hepatitis C transmission and fatal overdose. Over the next three years, I spent up to twenty hours per week doing ethnographic fieldwork: hanging out in informal settings with homeless and transiently-housed people who inject drugs to learn how they cope with the myriad dangers and stresses of being marginalized, poor, criminalized, and sick.

As the opioid crisis generates media, public health, and government attention, Philadelphia became the first U.S. city to legalize “supervised injection facilities” (SIFs) – and Seattle, San Francisco, Denver, and New York are not far behind. SIFs are legal facilities where people who use drugs can inject (pre-obtained) drugs under medical supervision. SIFs have been lauded for reducing overdose deaths, connecting people to medical care, housing, and drug treatment, and reducing public drug injection. SIFs have also been shown to have no effect on neighborhood “crime,” although ending the war on drugs and decriminalizing drugs (and poverty) would be the most meaningful way to reduce drug crime.

Meanwhile, shooting galleries – private spaces, overseen by a manager, where people use drugs – have been represented in public imagination and public health literature as high-risk places that facilitate syringe sharing, drug trafficking, and neighborhood decay. But what if shooting galleries function like underground SIFs? During the course of my research, I learned that shooting galleries can act as distribution centers for sterile injection equipment and harm reduction knowledge. Moreover, shooting galleries don’t necessarily increase public drug nuisances – like discarded syringes and public drug use – in the neighborhoods where they’re located.

Charles’s shooting gallery, located on a narrow street connecting the neighborhood thoroughfare on one end with the public housing complex on the other, was outfitted with an illegal electric hookup, kerosene space heaters, couches, and a complete array of injection supplies courtesy of Prevention Point Philadelphia, including sterile syringes, distilled water, cotton filters, alcohol pads, antibiotic ointment, Band-Aids, and a “sharps” container for disposing used syringes. Charles – and Lady, June, Martin, Linda, and the other shooting gallery managers and patrons that I knew – saw distributing sterile injection equipment as an extension of their responsibility to their black, working-class community.

Although shooting galleries nominally charge an entrance-and-sterile-syringe fee – $2 during the course of my research – this fee was routinely waived when the patron lacked funds and the alternative was sharing syringes or leaving to inject somewhere else. As Charles explained, “All we got out here is each other, and we’ve gotta look out for each other because there ain’t no one else doing it for us.” Tonya, a young black woman who had come to Philadelphia leaving an abusive relationship, said that in Charles’s shooting gallery she found a sense of safety: “Charles is the first person to really look out for me since I came to Philadelphia and not want anything back from me. [...] Since I’m staying here I know that I’ll be safer.”


Thoughts and Prayers? What the Prophet Isaiah Said


by: on February 16th, 2018 | 2 Comments »

17 more dead. “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.” Sackcloth, ashes, bowing your head… Actually, on the night 17 people were killed in Florida, I thought to myself that maybe my husband and I should fast. We didn’t. We did sit and watch the news as details of the mass shooting at a high school in Florida were slowly revealed. We closed our eyes in prayer, feeling helpless, angry, sad.

17 dead, the shooter in custody, parents, siblings, grandparents, friends, neighbors, grieving. A chorus rings out “Our thoughts and prayers are with you.” Two words come to mind when I hear or read that phrase coming from people in power who could do so much more than think and pray. Then, yesterday, the pastor of our church asked me if I would lead the Time for the Child in us all at church this Sunday. “What’s the scripture?” I asked. Curious? Read on!


Help us celebrate Rabbi Lerner’s 75th birthday!


by: on February 5th, 2018 | 2 Comments »

Rabbi Lerner is turning 75 this coming Wednesday, February 7. Let’s celebrate him and ensure a legacy forTikkunfor decades to come! Here’s how you can help:

1. Create a short 1-2 minute video(you can do this on your cell phone, tablet, computer or other device) telling people (both friends and others whom you don’t know) something you particularly celebrate or appreciate about Rabbi Lerner and his work, aboutTikkun, and/or the Network of Spiritual Progressives (which he envisioned and then created). At the end of the video please be sure to ask folks to support our efforts to raise $18,000 in honor of his birthday, and most important, to help secure the legacy ofTikkunlong into the future by funding the creation of a new website.

We are asking you to both share the video on your own social media, using the hashtags #TikkunLegacy, #Tikkun, #NSP, and tagging Rabbi Michael Lerner, Michael Lerner,Tikkunand Network of Spiritual Progressives and then also send the video to us at chris@tikkun.org. We will then share the videos on social media and send them out to our supporters. Time is of the essence and this will only take 5 minutes of your time (and hopefully a generous donation as well!) – worth it, don’t you think?!

Will you join us and participate in this fun effort to both celebrate Michael and help ensure the longevity of our very important work in the world? If so, here’s all you have to do:

Make a short video (1-2 minutes) expressing your appreciation of Rabbi Lerner,Tikkun, the Network of Spiritual Progressives and/or his work. You can make the recording on your computer or even your cell phone (or tablet). Please be sure to hold a sign that says #TikkunLegacy and to both post the statement below with the video and end the video with the following statement:

“Please join me in giving Rabbi Michael Lerner a birthday gift that will celebrate him and impact our communities, and our society for generations to come.Tikkunis in the midst of creating a new website and social media strategy to help it engage with the next generation ofTikkun-nicks. We are aiming to raise $18,000 in honor of Rabbi Lerner’s 75th birthday to help secure the legacy ofTikkunmagazine long into the future. Will you join me? To donate, go to: tikkun.org/tikkunlegacy or click on the shared link above or below with this video.”

In addition to sharing the video (as explained above) on your social media, please also send the video (or any questions you have) to Chris at chris@tikkun.org.

Click here for an example video!

2. Donate to support Tikkun’s legacy, go to: www.tikkun.org/tikkunlegacy.


Thanks for your support!

Cat, Chris, & Simon at Tikkun and NSP

The Dangerous Unity in Community


by: on January 17th, 2018 | No Comments »

This Martin Luther King holiday, I attended an annual community celebration in East St. Louis that, this year, commemorated the 50th anniversary of King’s death. Its theme was “Where Do We Go From Here: Chaos or Community,” which is also the title of a book King published in 1967. This King holiday found the public discourse a buzz with the question of whether or not the president of the United States, Donald Trump, is a racist because of remarks he made calling Haiti along with African and Latin American countries “shitholes.” In a meeting with congress-members regarding legislation around immigration, he also expressed a preference for people from countries such as Norway to immigrate to the United States.

Many political pundits expressed outrage at the comments, and some told the stories of their families who had come from places that could have been considered “shitholes” at the time their ancestors left. The story of the United States is the story of people who had the get up and go to get up and go, searching for a better life. Trump’s grandfather was a German immigrant, and his mother was an immigrant from Scotland. However, the questions that kept coming to my mind, other than the obvious racial question, are: what is the definition of a “shithole” place? What are its characteristics? How do we know it when we see it?

Is a “shithole” place a place where poor people live? Does it lack basic infrastructure? Is there a high unemployment rate? Do young people leave because there are no decent job opportunities? Is there poor education, poor medical care, and high rates of violence because people make their living through an underground economy?

If this is the description of a “shithole” place, Trump ought to look at the states where people voted for him. He ought to concern himself about “shithole” America. The ten poorest states in the United States including the District of Columbia measured by the percent of its population who are living in poverty are: Mississippi 20.8; New Mexico 19.1; Kentucky 18.3; Arizona 18.2; West Virginia 17.7; District of Columbia 17.3; Alabama 16.8; Arkansas 16.8; Georgia 16.8; Florida 15.3. Trump carried all of these places except New Mexico and the District of Columbia. (United States Census Bureau)

East St. Louis is a poor small city. It needs infrastructure repairs. Our young people leave because there are not many good job opportunities here. They move to the suburbs or to other cities because there is not much decent housing. The underground economy thrives, and there are far too many gunshots in the night. However, we are also the City of Champions, East Boogie, and the 89 blocks. We have a great spirit of civic pride because we have produced significant figures in various aspects of human endeavor, including jazz great Miles Davis and Olympic champion Jackie Joyner-Kersee. A documentary about the championship season of the East St. Louis High School Football team – “89 Blocks” – aired recently on the Fox Sports channel.

Many people see East St. Louis as a “shithole” place. But, they would be looking with eyes that do not see its potential clearly. One reason that I believe Senator Dick Durbin was so deeply offended by Trump’s remarks is that he was reared in East St. Louis and now represents us in the United States Senate. He could recognize the vile racism of the remarks that were an insult not only to Africa, Haiti and Latin America, but were an insult to poor people all over the nation. Why did not Tom Cotton who represents Arkansas, one of the poorest states in the nation, and David Perdue of Georgia, also one of the poorest states in the nation recognize the insult? They did not recognize the insult because they were blinded by their own racism.

Fifty years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. celebrated his 39th and last birthday in Atlanta with a multi-racial group of people who were in the early stages of planning a poor people’s campaign. King and the leadership of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference had decided to shift its work from racial desegregation to attacking the problem of poverty. Poverty cuts across all races in America. It bares its teeth in every section of the country. King saw it as a part of the tripartite evils of America – racism, militarism, and materialism. King, one of the few leaders in America with the moral authority to bring people together across racial lines for nonviolent direct action with the aim of calling attention to and ending systemic poverty, became more of a threat.


It’s a Sin to Build a Nuclear Weapon


by: on January 14th, 2018 | 12 Comments »


I pulled out this old “historic” poster and put it up on our refrigerator today, after the false alarm went out to Hawaiians that an incoming (presumably nuclear) missile was on its way. My grown children will recognize the poster, because it was on our refrigerator for years. I began my career as an activist in 1979, when I realized the extent of the very real danger of nuclear war.I was engaged in the peace and anti-nuclear movement the whole time they were growing up. They remember carrying candles and walking from Pioneer Park to the Broad Street Bridge in Nevada City each year on August 6, Hiroshima Day. During the election year of 1984, I was a paid organizer for the Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign’s Political Action Committee (PAC), Freeze Voter ’84, which I worked on here in Nevada County. (Read here aboutThe Nuclear Freeze and its Impact.)

One morning, I was at home by myself, cleaning house while I listened to a tape of Helen Caldicott talking about the psychological effects of nuclear war on the survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, known as hibakusha. Listening to their stories about what they had suffered over the years, I imagined my own family going through what they had gone through and I began to weep.


Star Wars: Where Are the Black Women?


by: on December 26th, 2017 | 3 Comments »

A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away there was a world where there could be found no black woman who could speak more than a sentence. It was a world of the most strange creatures and robots and technologies, but black women could only be seen in the background, usually at a bar or some place of entertainment. It was a period of civil war where rebels were fighting a war of resistance against evil forces in the universe. It was a world where The Force, a power that holds all things together in balance, both the good and the evil, the light and the dark could be summoned for the sake of restoring justice and peace to the galaxy. But, there were no black women of any consequence to be found.

On Christmas Day, my children and I went to see the latest Star Wars movie. We have been going to see these movies since they were children. I suppose I have become inured to the absence of black women until this movie when it came to the casino scene. There were black women represented in the latest version of the Star Wars bar, then it occurred to me: There was no black woman character of any consequence. I started to pay attention, and I started to look for the black women. C-3PO has more lines than any black woman in the movie. I left the movie livid.

So, I came home to think about the presence of black people as main characters in the films. I could think of only three black men – Billy D. Williams as Lando Calrissian in “Empire Strikes Back: Return of the Jedi”; Samuel L. Jackson as Mace Windu in “Star Wars Episode I: the Phantom Menace”; and John Boyega as Finn Galfridian in “The Force Awakens” and “The Last Jedi”. I am not counting James Earl Jones as the voice of Darth Vader or Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata. They are black actors who did not play identifiable black characters.

Star Wars has been a multi-billion dollar franchise for movies, toys, and other merchandise for 40 years. Yet, the Star Wars imagination does not stretch to include black women in any major way. Why is this?

Perhaps the creative minds that created the Star Wars world are not familiar with human history and the place of black women in it. As of this writing, science tells us that all of humanity descends from a black woman in East Africa. Black women have been queens in Africa one of the most famous of which is Hatshepsut in ancient Egypt. Amina is a 15th century warrior queen of Zaria, Nigeria. Yaa Asantewa of the Ashanti Kingdom in Ghana fought against British colonization. Ana Nzinga Mbanda of what is now Angola resisted the Portuguese slave trade and colonization. The Dahomey warrior women are renowned for being fierce fighters and the last line of defense to protect the king.

Perhaps African history is too obscure to expect the creative minds behind Star Wars to know. They ought to know that there was a black woman who was Queen of England, Queen Charlotte the wife of George III, having descended from the Africans in the Portuguese royal line. Josephine de Beauharnais, the first wife of Napoleon Bonaparte, the first Empress of the French, was born to a wealthy Creole family in Martinique.


An Angel Tree Christmas


by: on December 25th, 2017 | Comments Off

As I write this, NORAD, the North American Aerospace Defense Command, has tracked Santa somewhere over Texas. As you know Christmas Eve is a long day for all four Santas. The northern hemisphere Santa starts east and travels west to work the time zones. Sometimes, if he has time, he will stop by my house of coffee and cornbread. But, not this year. He knows that my schedule is jammed with my own efforts of resistance against Trump, and Santa approves.

I did not even go to the North Pole to help in my usual capacity of address verification. There is a group of us who go every year to help Santa locate children who may have moved or become homeless or who have been displaced for some other reason. When I told Santa that I would not be able to come this year. He gave me a local assignment. “I want you to visit the Angel Tree program at your church,” he said. Santa never commands, but it is very difficult to say no to him.

I have been familiar with the Angel Tree program for years. It is a program sponsored by Prison Fellowship where parents in prison sign their children up to receive Christmas presents from them. Local churches take the names and buy, wrap, and distribute the gifts. My mother was committed to Angel Tree. My Christmas memories of her include her shopping for and wrapping the presents in our basement. And she did it all with such joy. I find Christmas tedious. I am bah humbug about the whole thing. I consider the holidays female slave days full of shopping, cooking and cleaning until I hear the Messiah, especially the Quincy Jones adaptation, and then I can breathe in the true meaning of the season. This was not the case with my mother. She seemed to enjoy all the shopping, cooking, and even the cleaning for the holidays.

So, I did not mind going to the Angel Tree program. At our church, the Angel Tree families are invited to come and have breakfast and lunch. We break into groups for Bible study after breakfast, and then return for lunch and the distribution of the gifts. This year when I went, I asked how I could help and it turned out that the person who was supposed to work with children six and under may not be able to make it. So, here I was saying yes to working with little children.

Once upon a time in my life, I was a teacher, but I taught adults. Post graduate adults. Most were young adults, but adults none-the-less. I taught my first Sunday School class when I was sixteen- years- old, but the students were eight-years-old. This was way out of my comfort zone. Two other women and I took a group of ten to fifteen children into the nursery to play and to talk about the Christmas story. The older children sat with me at a table and we talked about the nativity. They had the experience of going on a road trip and having to stay at a motel. They could imagine how scary it would be not to have a room at the end of the day. When I told them Mary was about to have her baby and that the only place she and Joseph could go was the stable were the animals were, the six-year-old girl in the group was horrified.

I have become so accustomed to the Christmas story that it has become rote. It is routine. This little girl’s shock reminded me that the idea of a human being having to give birth in a stable is a shocking, horrible, heartless thing.


#GivingTuesday is tomorrow!


by: on November 27th, 2017 | Comments Off

Giving Tuesday logo superimposed over image of people gathered for Tikkun Conference 2016

Thank you for your support! Without you, we cannot continue to spread a vision of a world based on love and justice.

Tomorrow is#GivingTuesday–would you be willing to take a few minutes to help us? If you haven’t done so already, it’s not too late to set up a fundraiser on your personal Facebook page. Clickherefor more information about how to do that. Or, if you’d rather just donate, you can do that directly through theTikkun Facebook pageor theNSP Facebook pageby clicking on the donate button below the cover photo.Remember:starting at 8:00 a.m. EST, Facebook will be matching any donation you make–and we’ll give a free subscription toTikkunto anyone who donates $50 or more!

It’s also not too late to sign up for our next Spiritual Activism Training: Beyond Resistance – Strategies in the Age of Trump, which beginstomorrow! Clickhereto learn more. Want to know what people have to say about the training? Here are just two testimonials:

  • “I am pretty much blown away, in a very, very good way. I am grateful beyond words for the work you have done to create this most amazing (and so very necessary) course. Thank you for your vision, your work, your courage and your ongoing commitment.”~ Heidi Van Ert
  • “The Spiritual Activism training is a vital step for building the world we value and reversing the world-wide slide into anti-democractic and even fascistic ways of thinking. This training and the movement behind it deserve generous financial support and far greater visibility and participation.”~ Rabbi Michael Zimmerman

We hope you’ll consider setting up a fundraiser or donating tomorrow–and please think about registering for our upcoming training! We couldn’t do this work without you, and we greatly appreciate your support.

With warmth & in solidarity,

Rabbi Lerner, Cat, Rev. Carolyn, Simon, Rebekah, and Chris

An Interview with Frankenstein


by: on October 31st, 2017 | Comments Off

All Hallows Eve is the time when the thin silver thread that divides life and death, divides fact from fantasy from flesh, disappears. It is a time when imaginary beings come to life. As I write this, that time is almost over in the Central Time Zone. I worried for a moment that I would not be able to finish my interview with Frankenstein before the dividing line returned. However, Frankenstein, contrary to his persona, is a gentleman in every sense of the word, and he made sure to speak to me before the dividing line re-emerged, and we would not be able to communicate again until next year.

I must confess that these last two days have been difficult for me. I have been depressed. Just sad. I cannot quite put my finger on the reasons for my melancholy state. The weather where I live has finally turned to fall, and the past two days have been a gloomy gray. I am sad for my country, heartbroken for the United States of America. The perp-walks have begun. Indictments of people close to the Trump campaign for president are facing charges. One has pleaded guilty. I thought that this would make me happy, but it does not. I am happy that our system of checks and balances on corruption and power is working, or at least, it has the possibility of working if justice is served.

At the same time, it is a sad commentary on the state of our nation. Some of us resist daily the various ways that the United States of America allows injustice. We defend the right to protest, the right of NFL players to take a knee. We question the sanity of John Kelly, Trump’s chief-of-staff when he lies on a member of Congress or “misremembers” in a pathetic attempt to shield Trump. Now he says that the Civil War happened because the two sides could not compromise. What kind of compromise does he imagine? We resist the laws that are being passed under the radar, laws that allow Internet providers to sell our browsing history without our knowledge or consent and without compensation to us. We resist the law just passed that takes away the right of bank customers to join in class action suits. Trump is taking away the requirement that employers provide funding for contraceptives, and we will not begin to think about the various ways that this administration is weakening the EPA and other agencies intended to protect people. Immigration authorities want to hold a sick child in custody, preparing to deport her.

I say and say again that we get the government we deserve.

That was yesterday. Today, another human being decided that it was his duty to commit a mass killing. He thought it was his responsibility to some ideology, to some way of thinking that makes the murder of other human beings not only thinkable, but justifiable. All of this was on my mind when I finally was able to connect with Frankenstein. Here is a portion of our conversation.

VED: Mr. Frankenstein, I want to thank you for taking the time to speak to me today. I know that Halloween must be a busy time for you.

FRANKENSTEIN: Please, you do not have to call me mister. Frankenstein is enough. I am happy to be with you.

VED: Let me begin with today’s terrible news about another mass killing in New York City. This time, it was a young man driving a truck in a space for bicyclists and pedestrians. What is your opinion of this type of violence?

FRANKENSTEIN: First let me explain that I have lived many lives. Since I am a character of the human imagination, I come into existence at different moments in history in different forms. I exist to bring certain archetypes into focus so that humanity can see outside its own mind its deepest fears, dreams, desires, and capabilities.

In my first incarnation, in Mary Wollstonecraft Shelly’s novel, I was a murderer. I accidentally killed a young boy. An innocent woman was convicted of the crime. Then I killed as a matter of revenge. I killed my creator’s best friend and his bride. These were not mass killings. I did not kill for ideological reasons. I killed because of my own pain. The old saying is true: “Hurt people hurt people.” Human beings do harm out of their own pain.


Embracing the Stranger, Part I: Connected in Difference


by: Lauren Bodenlos & Madeline Cook on October 29th, 2017 | Comments Off

At Tikkun Magazine, of the many posters of quotes and inspirational images on the walls in our office, we also find this passage from Exodus. “Do not oppress the stranger,” it says. This passage serves as a reminder that we must work to know and understand the other as our collective liberation is intertwined with others as well. The mission of this series, Embracing the Stranger, is based on the commitment of activists, changemakers, and visionaries across different causes to create a more inclusive and loving world. Through a series of interviews, we worked to explore the personal and spiritual motivations behind their work. With the many issues present in the world, and much to be done, we wanted to know how people became involved in the activism they dedicate their time to. Would there be any connected ideas? Any connected struggles? Would there be commonalities among people even if they differed in identity and origin story? We at Tikkun feel that it is vital to do all in our power to highlight and support individuals and groups that work to heal the World. We hope to further the Movement of healing, repairing, and transforming the world. Through this project, we aimed to paint a picture of the unified human desire to heal pain and turn our world into one of peace, empathy, and love. By discussing the missions of different groups, we hope to discover possible connections across a variety of causes to show where our struggles can be connected, to further the creation of a world influenced by peace, love, and empathy that creates liberation for the diverse world we live in.

Stay tuned for parts II, III, and IV in this series!

Connected in Difference: Reflections of an Interview with AnaLouise Keating

Inspired by writers and scholars before her, Professor AnaLouise Keating is developing her lifelong work focusing on the possibilities of change in the midst of difference. She is currently a professor of gender studies, however, “If I could rename my field of study, I would name it transformation studies,” she says, “because my work focuses on discovering and inventing innovative ways to effect personal and collective change, in the service of social justice.” AnaLouise is the author of multiple books on women-of-color feminisms, spiritual activism, transformational dialogue, post-oppositional theory, and the work of Gloria Anzaldúa. Knowing the breadth of AnaLouise’s work, she has immense insight into the possibilities of developing commonalities within a world of difference.

Like many scholars, AnaLouise’s research and teaching has been shaped by her experiences and identities; unlike many scholars, AnaLouise is aware of her own evolution and the unique insights that creates. AnaLouise begins discussing her intellectual development by sharing that she has never been someone who fits in well with any specific group. “I’m a person of color but light skinned. I’m not gay, I’m not heterosexual. I wasn’t comfortable with my family’s very conservative Christian Protestant beliefs. So I just read a lot and tried to figure myself out and find myself. [...] Then I started reading women of color, especially lesbians of color, to find myself, and I was especially drawn to [Gloria] Anzaldúa, [Audre] Lorde, and Paula Gunn Allen. I think it’s because in different ways they didn’t fit into any monolithic race, gender, sexuality, or social justice group.” As outsiders, they could see the limitations in numerous group identities; they learned from their experiences and developed innovative approaches to building radically more inclusive communities.