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Urgently Centering Love in Our Work For Justice: An Invitation

Updated: Oct 6, 2023

As part of my healing and learning journey last year, I spent a good chunk of time out of the United States. My spirit was telling me that I needed distance from the country’s dominant culture and news cycles for my nervous system to regulate into a calm and clear peaceful state. Upon my return, I was abruptly welcomed by the most salient cultural characteristic of our society: violence - a deep and sometimes silent violence that carefully chooses its target: anyone considered “other.” As someone who is considered “other” in so many of my identity identifiers, and who is part of communities routinely othered, I am particularly sensitive to this insidious type of violence.

The iconic Audre Lord wrote: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” My deepening relationship with the teachings of the greatest global spiritual deities and teachers across time and faiths has convinced me that this is one of the most important truths for us all to behold: we could never eradicate violence with more violence. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that, as the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught. Non-violence, however, does not mean passive submission to those committed to harming our communities. If you identify as someone who works towards healing, justice, or liberation, then our informed engagement in interrupting oppression and advancing justice is a must.

I am becoming increasingly clear that BridgePeople’s work to do in and for our world, in such a time as this, is to support leaders, stewards, and communities in urgently centering love in our collective work towards justice. There is NO feasible future for all of us without a radical re-centering of love in all that we do. Those of us most exposed to the ravages of structural violence and climate injustice are facing existential threats due to the decisions, choices, and leadership of the minority, corporate, governing class, which thrives on separating us through fear. It does not have to be this way. Sadly, the organizational structures that contain so much of our collective work are ill-equipped to help us unleash love as a driving and supportive force, and therefore limit our capacity for impact and transformation. Some may say this is by design.

I recently attended a transformational eco-dharma meditation retreat especially curated for Black, Indigenous, and People of the Global Majority (PGM) by a brilliant climate scientist and Buddhist Zen priest named Kritee Kanko, PhD together with renowned justice-focused meditation teacher Kaira Jewel Lingo. The retreat gave me language for what I have been sensing and feeling. We are in the midst of not just a climate crisis, or a racial injustice crisis, or an affordable housing crisis, or a healthcare crisis, or an immigration crisis, we are in the midst of a polycrisis. A polycrisis is defined as “a cluster of interdependent and compounding events due to climate crisis, loss of forests, soils and clean air along with rise of intense conflicts and inequalities. This polycrisis has deep roots in colonialism, racism, human supremacy and from a spiritual point of view “a mind of separation.””

I have been reflecting on the roots mentioned in the definition of polycrisis for some time, years really. I am currently relating to them as colonially-imposed paradigms that have been dictating our reality for far too long, and that are all rooted in lies. These are:

Superiority (or supremacy) is the delusion that there could be such a thing as a hierarchy of human beings. That it is possible for any human to be more deserving of safety and freedom due to an accident of location at birth. That there are countries that enjoy “peace and stability” due to the evolved and civilized nature of their culture, rather than the violence of the ongoing colonization and theft of resources from other geographies. It is difficult for those who hold supremacist views to believe that every human being has specific gifts and talents that are needed for our collective wellbeing.


Separation is the lie that somehow what affects you does not affect me, especially if I label you as “other.” Separation breeds a sense of greed for individual wellbeing at the expense of the wellbeing of the collective. Separation is an illusion, and a simple observation of nature at work (including humans and more than human lives) immediately demonstrates that all living beings are interdependent. If trees stopped producing oxygen or if all water was finally polluted by greedy corporations, life would be untenable for most species. Thich Naht Hahn beautifully wrote and spoke about the quality of interbeing, the concept that no one exists independently.

Scarcity is the lie that our economic systems are rooted in, it says that there are not enough resources to go around for everyone, while it allows the hoarding of resources by the few. Anyone who has developed a relationship with Mother Earth can clearly experience the incredible abundance of the planet that we inhabit and how it provides for all of our basic needs. However, those who hoard the resources also make the rules and write the histories, and then convince us that our inability to access those resources (protected domestically through the violence of police brutality and internationally through corporate-serving government interventions and military forces) denotes a cultural inferiority resulting in our individual and collective failures. Those of us who have our basic physiological needs met enjoy more abundance than most people around the world. The gratitude that could emerge out of that awareness holds the power to open doors towards healing for many of us and our relationships.


The three prior lies are weaponized through fear leading to Suspicion of one another, making us unable to work in solidarity to build and wield the collective power that we need to derail the murderous trajectory of the polycrisis. The weaponization of fear is an essential component to ensure that we do not organize and mobilize as the global majority to claim the rights and resources that belong to all of us. We resist these lies by coming together across our differences, rooted in our shared humanity and interbeing.

Radical love is the antidote to the poisonous path that leads towards more violence and death. What is at stake is our very ability to have a future on this planet, so from my perspective, we have strong incentives to be willing to reconsider all that we thought we knew (or all we have been taught or conditioned to think) about what is and isn’t possible and accessible to those of us leading for justice.


What I took away from that eco-dharma retreat is that it is incumbent upon us to build "islands of sanity," a termed coined by Dr. Krittee Kanko, communities to help us cope with a world of increasing threats, violence, and suffering brought on by the polycrisis caused by colonial paradigms that dictate their own self-serving truths to those of us who have been colonized (physically, mentally, or spiritually.)


Whether we call them islands of sanity, communities of care, or mutual aid, the fact is that it is up to us to self-organize into values-aligned communities and learn liberatory ways of being and relating – in the places we work, learn, rest, play, and pray. Enough of us have experienced that we cannot rely on the state to provide for our basic needs, the Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated that it's essentially up to us to look out for each other. Building values-based communities and equipping them to successfully manage conflict is part of the work we have ahead of us as new world-builders. Conflict is a necessary part of growth to achieve unity in diversity, and by up-skilling ourselves we can be sure to prevent violence and avoid - or at least reduce - harm to one another.

The following is a summary of what is emerging for me out of my time spent reuniting with Mother Nature: a multi-disciplinary "model” for centering love in our movements and bridging together all of our movements for justice. This possible future is guided by a different type of AI: Afro-Indigenous wisdom. Through the practice of Sankofa, the West African concept of going back to get what we need to move forward, we can access the deep ancestral survival wisdom that lives in our DNAs and spirits.


(Yes, I drew this myself. Yes, my bridges need some work!) :-)


Love (at the center) Deep connection and belonging (to self, each other, nature, ancestors, and the Divine.) Faith (multi-faith, inter-faith, and humanist.) Hope (the kind that emerges from right-action and right-relationships.) Consensual communities of belonging.

Healing Truth: Stories, Education, Narratives that uncover the truth and lead towards healing and freedom (“The truth shall set you free.”). Collective healing spaces and modalities emerging from ancestral traditional wisdom. Reimagining of economic and political systems that are based on truth and humanity.

Conscious Peace: Eradicating violence from all spheres of life through compassionate (non-violent) communication. Conscious and consensual leadership. Conflict transformation. Communities of reciprocity and care.

Transformational Justice: Self-determination. Repair, restoration, and reparations. Cultures of Care. Legal access and policy reform. Abolition of systems of injustice and the carceral state.

Collective Power: Solidarity-building. Labor Organizing. Stewardship as leadership. Organizing for representative democracies.

Bridges: Connectors. Conveners. Weavers. Communicators.


While I am the humble learner and teacher of skills and strategies in many of these areas, I don’t know exactly where to start to bring all of them together in our collective work (I realize many of these are already happening in many places) and I am interested in building community with others who are learning and practicing new ways of designing our futures. I am learning that I am not required to figure everything out on my own or to have all the answers before getting into action. No extra points or kudos for rugged individualism or perfectionism, on the contrary.


What I do know as the humble keeper of Afro-Indigenous ancestral wisdom - particularly in the areas of Love, Connection, Faith, Truth, and Hope - is that I am compelled to contribute these to our collective work. As someone deeply rooted in life-long multi-cultural faith traditions and ancestral cosmologies with a clear bias for life - ALL life - one of my callings is to speak important truths as revealed to me (and many others) by Spirit (about the nature of our nature as Nature herself, amongst other things), to expose the lies of the systems that still enslave and separate us, to point the way towards the potential future we could have, and to extend invitations into supportive and consensual communities that support us in escaping the mindsets and paradigms that are not serving any of us and keep us from our freedom and self-determination.

The lie of scarcity has had too many of us think that we need massive resources to mobilize significant change, but if I have learned anything from the giants whose shoulders I stand on, it is that we can do a lot with very little if we have sufficient love, commitment, and courage. To combat these lies and embrace the truth of our already inherent freedom and agency, I am extending an invitation to join me on an adventure. An adventure of imagination that leads towards a shared vision for the future that we want to create for ourselves, and an exploration of the myriad possibilities that we could investigate or instigate to create a new world with the cultures of deep care for everyone that we declare are our birthright.

I am afraid that the constraints of most organizations that hire or employ us prevent us from accessing much needed wisdom emerging from each of our faith, spiritual, and cultural traditions. As Black, Indigenous, and People of the Global Majority, we are particularly impacted by this separation from our cultural traditions, but this also impacts our Euro-American siblings who were forced to depart from their own cultures to be assimilated into American whiteness. At such a time as this, we cannot afford to leave any available tools for our collective power, healing, and liberation unused.


For this reason, I will be placing my organizational consulting work through BridgePeople on hold for a season or two, while I invest my time and energy on human-to-human connections that weave and deepen the relationships and communities - local, regional, and global – across race, gender, culture, language, and faith differences. I feel a deep calling to convene us together to invent something new, something rooted in love, before it is too late.


(Side note: I wonder what would be too late??? Could it be November 2024? With increasingly growing far-right movements and a majority-corrupt Supreme Court in place, one that has clearly shown its disdain for the rights of women, Black, Indigenous, Queer, and Disabled folks, and anyone who is not a corporate billionaire. To be honest, we must admit that one of the key issues is that the American Constitutions (across the entire Americas) never intended protections for most of us who do not identify as white or male or wealthy or straight, or cis-gendered, so I have concerns to say the least, and I know I am not the only one.)

In the next year, I long to hope for the best while preparing for the worst, by connecting with the leaders and stewards who will not wait to be 'given permission' to do something different, to shift course, to do what must be done, in love, for our futures. I long to connect with and forge connections between those who are ready to say YES to allowing our hearts and spirits, not profit or outcomes, nor bosses or clients, be our guiding lights on this journey.


What will come out of this effort, I don’t know, but what I do know is that I see a gap. More than a gap, I see a deep canyon that we must cross together to get to the other side. And thankfully, we know a thing or two about building bridges. I envision as one of the possible outcomes the creation of both virtual and in-person local and regional communities that could gather with sufficient frequency to share knowledge, strategies, and visions for our futures. In full transparency, as the most impacted by the polycrisis caused by colonialism in the Americas, I see Black and Indigenous leadership as crucial to this effort, however, I want to be clear that this is an invitation for ALL who long for justice for ALL.


Will you join me and BridgePeople in imagining a vision for building communities of care and moving forward together towards a future imagined for us, by us? If you are keen, please fill in this interest form and I will be in touch during the first three months of 2024.


With gratitude and faithful hope,

Itzbeth


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