I don’t know if you felt it today, but the world shifted. While I wrote social justice curriculum from my bed (there are many ways to be an activist!), while nursing a cold and watching the livestream of Women’s March, the air became thicker with the model of coalition building, collaboration, courage, strength and purpose. The earth shifted on its axis with the weight of togetherness, clarity of our collective power of a need for change. As we feel the joy of our successes, and our abundance of numbers – we have to recognize that there were millions that were not present with us.
It is the millions that don’t understand and don’t grasp why we marched. It’s the millions that still felt the exclusion of one of the most inclusive movements I’ve noticed in my lifetime. They too felt the shift, and are afraid. We cannot leave them behind. Some of them supported DJT. Some of them were so disenfranchised that they went about their lives watching football, binge watching tv, or even worse, they spent the time alone. Many have said all of our liberation is tied to each of our liberation. If that is true, which I know it is, we cannot leave them behind. Inclusion requires that we practice a few things in this shifted world for it to actually be permanent and get stronger.
The maintenance of this shifted world requires a SECOND BY SECOND PRACTICE of love. Yes, I said practice. Every single thing we do - is a practice. The breath I just took was a practice for my next breath to be deeper and more present. My staying home today was a practice of doing self-care in a more present way the next time I am worn down and sick. If we hold our love as a practice, we know that we are always growing, getting better, and moving towards excellence rather than perfection. We know that sometimes we won’t be able to love as deeply as we want or show compassion at every turn. But we’ll know we have another chance at practice. Excellence doesn’t have an end, perfection does. Excellence is a practice. Therefore let our love for those inside our communities, that marched with us AND those that we didn’t see today or that outright ignored or challenged us, also be a practice of love.
The survival of this shifted axis requires that we all become teachers and learners. That we understand a conversation with everyone has a value, and is a place of education…and patience. As I wrote these words today for the curriculum I am soon to turn in,
“Very simply, diversity is about difference, inclusion is about voice, equity is about understanding differing needs and supplying differing resources in ways that are equitable and that get people to what they need to succeed. Social justice is about so much more. It is about the creation of a society where all feel safe, supported, heard, and seen. It is about rights, resources, the elimination of structural and cultural barriers, physical and psychological safety. And the process of getting to that society, must be done in safe, supported, equitable, physically, verbally and visually inclusive ways. That is why each of these terms and concepts must be understood separately and together…”
I realized that there are SO MANY that have no comprehension of what any of that means. They wouldn’t understand psychological safety because it’s not in a reality that they live. They don’t understand diversity, because it does not exist in a human form around them (I say human because the natural world gives us diversity every day. Our consciousness is often closed off to it.) It’s not that they don’t care, they just haven’t had the conversation(s) that helps them understand. But too often, we give up. We’re not curious to what someone who might not think like us will be able to offer us. We have not trained ourselves to practice patience, then body awareness (to note when we are triggered and when it’s time for us to walk away from the conversation), and then to hand the conversation to the next educator they will run into. I do not suggest that each of us give ourselves away to ignorance or listen to abuse, but rather I suggest that we realize engagement – listening, learning, and educating (in that order) – requires patience and presence.
The new breathable air will require the release of fear. Know that I speak to myself as much as I speak to anyone as I type these words. Every word about fear that I speak at any workshop or keynote is as much for my own ears, as it is for yours. Yesterday, as sat waiting to fly to Creating Change in Philly to facilitate a workshop, I was in Chicago O’Hare Airport listening to and watching people cheer as DJT delivered his inauguration address. Fear snuck up right beside me and started to envelope me in its dangerous gaze. For a second, it felt comfortable – like an old friend that I had sat with many times in my life. A familiar embrace. And then I remembered that this new breathable air is not about familiar. It is not about the strange, and lulled lullaby of fear. It’s about our hearts beating faster. It’s about feeling the blood moving through our body in a different way. And it is about Life. Not about the survival of the status quo, which survives on fear and oppression, but it is about our living and breathing and staring down fear in the many forms that it chooses to show up. To practice staring it down mentally and physically every day. I think that’s what Eleanor Roosevelt (and many others) were trying to instruct us on when they said, “Do one thing everyday that scares you.” She was helping us to practice staring fear in its face and remind to remind it who is boss.
I commit to not leaving my sisters, brothers, and others who were not conscious to the reason for this global change today behind. I will not leave them to be confused about why their lives feel different. Because their lives will most definitely feel different. I know the shift shook some people awake. The movement ignited some flames in the spirits of warriors that are ready to erupt. Some people who were even present to the shift don’t even know that yet that they were awoken in a different way. They won’t realize it until they get to work on Monday and they don’t respond to the status quo in a spirit of fear. Or they show up differently asking for respect and honor in their relationships when they arrive back home. But I ask us…all of us… to bring those that were not present, not aware, not conscious, and even not ready…I ask that we bring them gently along with grace and courage. They are not our enemies.
“In a real sense all life is inter-related. All (people) are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be, and you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be...
This is the inter-related structure of reality.”
― Martin Luther King Jr., Letter from Birmingham Jail
Every time I finish a LeaderShape Institute session, as part of my closing remarks, I share the above quote. I share the quote with the students that I am working with because it has been a guiding beacon for my life since I read it over 20 years ago when preparing for a civil rights tour across the Southern U.S. as a graduate student. It reminds me on a daily basis that I am both connected to everyone and everything else and also responsible for my own being and doing. I share this today because I think sometimes we get so overtaken with our doing, that we forget about our being.
Yesterday, while attending Heart and Soul Center of Light, a church that my partner and I attend when I am in the Bay, we learned about the map of consciousness that (from my very baseline understanding) says that our expression of being vibrates on different energy levels. The higher level of vibration that we all exist at, the better for all of us and for each of us individually. (Again, this is my very simplistic read on a much deeper concept that I will do a much deeper dive on soon.) For example, when we are in a shame space or expressing shame, our energy or being is vibrating at a 20, where if we are expressing love or feeling love, we are vibrating at a level of 500. I was surprised to learn that from the perspective of this theory that courage vibrates at a very neutral level. Courage is what we profess and encourage in our fights for Justice. It is what we ask of ourselves as we stand up against injustice and the everyday acts that support the systems of oppression that keep the status quo in place. What struck me even deeper was that in our struggles for social justice, Joy, which exists at a higher vibration, is so rarely talked about or embraced.
When thinking about Martin Luther King, Jr. and the many photos that we see of him, we see him courageously standing in front of hundreds of thousands of people at the March on Washington or leading a march across Edmund Pettus Bridge. I think those images sometimes distances us from what is possible from each of us in the fight for justice. We see a man with a powerful voice and think, “that could never be me”, so we think our small thing that we are able to do to create change or that interruption of a racist or ableist policy or ageist or transphobic practice will never be enough.
I want to offer a different view of Dr. King this year – one that also sought out the higher vibration of joy, in addition to the courage that he showed. There are not enough images in circulation – like these of him playing pool, laughing with Sammy Davis, Jr. and Harry Belafonte, or just being a dad – that remind us that his joy seeking, his higher vibration probably fueled those moments of courage. Where we might wonder if we can muster our courage, joy seeking actually might be a way to find it. On this MLK Day 2017, I ask us to tap into the joy of Martin Luther King, Jr. and to tap into our own joy as a way of lifting up his memory. Seek joy, not in the absence of analysis, action, or courage, but right alongside those three ways of being in a fight for justice. My joy can fuel your joy, and vice versa. And it might just fuel the destruction of the status quo.