Step Inside The Circle

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Could it be that the U.S. is in turmoil because too many of us have been living in a myopic bubble?

Is it possible that we haven’t been listening or seeing the way we could have? And haven’t been present to our own humanity, our humaneness and benevolence?

Have millions of us not only lost connection with each other, but have lost the connection to our own heart?

“Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.” ― Cornel West

“The problem with the world is that we draw the circle of our family too small.” ― Mother Teresa

There is a way to come together and expand our circles. The possibility to rebuild and reconnect is always there.

It just takes heart, and the courage to step forward.

In order for the collective consciousness to change, we must be different. We must think and live differently.

As we open up our eyes, and ears, and hands — our hearts open too. And the healing begins. Not just of the world around us, but the inner healing we all desire.

“Many men go fishing all of their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” ― Henry David Thoreau

“I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.” ― Rabindranath Tagore

We can do it in our own way. We can choose how we can best serve. But let’s not do it from a comfort zone.

Just like anything else you want to transform and change, (your body, your home, your finances, your relationships, etc..), you have to give something up. You have to work through the discomfort and be daring enough to risk.

The commitment to love and transformation must exceed the primal desire to live with what’s familiar and comfortable.

It has to be so strong that you will be willing to push past the fear and challenges. We must poke at the imagined boundaries and doubts, in order to see what’s on the other side.

“Do some selfless service for people who are in need. Consider the whole picture, not just our little selves.” – Nina Hagen

“It is a mistake always to contemplate the good and ignore the evil, because by making people neglectful it lets in disaster. There is a dangerous optimism of ignorance and indifference.” ― Helen Keller

Powerful questions to ask ourselves: Who can I help? How could I stretch outside my comfort zone? How can I educate myself, develop more empathy and be powerfully accountable for my part in the world? How can I help heal others and myself in the process?

“You have two hands. One to help yourself, the second to help others.” ― Audrey Hepburn

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is: What are you doing for others?” ― Martin Luther King Jr.

I came across the work of Fritzi Horstman this week. Have you heard of her? She’s amazing! I found out about her through this video:

And this interview too:

This is the book Fritzi Horstman mentioned in the second video:

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma

And this is Fritzi Horstman’s organization:

Compassion Prison Project
www.compassionprisonproject.org

There are also other great organizations to explore:

Essie Justice Group
www.essiejusticegroup.org/mission/

Defy Ventures
http://www.defyventures.org

National Bail Out
www.nationalbailout.org

Young Women Free
www.youngwomenfree.org

TGI Justice Project
www.tgijp.org/about.html

And can you imagine if these (list below) voices were not heard or helped? Their great works would have never been known. They were written while in prison. As I think of that, I can imagine all of the great works that will NEVER be known. Because people were ruthlessly marginalized and written off by society. We can break that cycle, and other cycles that hurt people. We always have the power to help someone. We can be there (in many ways), to let them know they are seen, loved, heard, and valued.

Examples of those works:

De Profundis, by Oscar Wilde

Soul on Ice, by Eldridge Cleaver

Civil Disobedience and Other Writings, by Henry David Thoreau

Conversations with Myself, by Nelson Mandela

Letters from Birmingham Jail, by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Sleeping With the Enemy, by Wahida Clark

The Enormous Room, E.E. Cummings

Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes

On the Yard, by Malcolm Braly

In the Belly of the Beast, by Jack Abbott

Orange Is The New Black: My Year in a Woman’s Prison, by Piper Kerman

and more.

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Bold, Brave, and Courageous

john_Lewis

33 years in congress.

45 arrests, and thousands of protests.

John Lewis passed away on July 17th. His legacy is an impressive one, and social media is flooded with people giving thanks for the life he led and all of the work he did for others.

There is also a movie about his life.

The following quotes are by John Lewis.

“When you see something that is not right, not fair, not just, you have to speak up. You have to say something; you have to do something.”

“You have to tell the whole truth, the good and the bad, maybe some things that are uncomfortable for some people.”

“I want to see young people in America feel the spirit of the 1960s and find a way to get in the way. To find a way to get in trouble. Good trouble, necessary trouble.”

“You must be bold, brave, and courageous and find a way… to get in the way.”

“You have to be persistent.”

“You cannot be at home with something that you feel that is wrong, is not right.”

“I believe race is too heavy a burden to carry into the 21st century. It’s time to lay it down. We all came here in different ships, but now we’re all in the same boat.”

“The scars and stains of racism are still deeply embedded in the American society.”

“There is a need for a movement of non-violent direct action.”

Artwork by Nicholas Konrad

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Art + Science = Joy Buolamwini

joy_buolamwini

I love when I discover people that blow me away. Joy Buolamwini definitely one of them. She is a poet of code on a mission to show compassion through computation. She’s a Rhodes Scholar, Fulbright Fellow, Google Anita Borg Scholar, Astronaut Scholar, A Stamps President’s Scholar and Carter Center technical consultant. She holds two masters degrees from Oxford University and MIT; and a bachelor’s degree in Computer Science from the Georgia Institute of Technology. I’ll let her work speak for itself, through these embedded videos. Also, join the Algorithmic Justice League! Stay up to date with her journey.

Joy Buolamwini

Joy-Buolamwini-A-I

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Adrian Piper : Think About It

Adrian_PiperPiper_1970

The voices (and works) of the past are coming in strong and are louder than ever. Everything that is happening today, the unrest and the breakthroughs, are built on the persistent work of those that proceeded it. We have so many to thank.

Adrian Piper, Thank you for the work you have made since the 1960s. Thank you for who you’ve been and for who you continue to be. Your presence is powerful and your contribution is beyond measure.

The Museum of Modern Art in New York held a major career retrospective for Adrian Piper in 2018, the largest show ever for a living artist. And the Hammer Museum is Los Angeles, known for its permanent collection of historical art presented a 50 year survey of her work. But the artist they were praising declined the invitation to attend. Piper was not present for the exhibitions, because she refused to return to the United States. Not even the holy grail of art world honors could bring her back.

photo of adrian piper

Adrian-Piper

An American conceptual artist and philosopher, Adrian Piper’s work addresses professional ostracism, otherness, racial passing, and racism by using various traditional and non-traditional media to provoke self-analysis. Piper was born in New York City on September 20, 1948. She received a master’s in philosophy from Harvard University in 1977 and her doctorate in 1981. In the 1970’s she was kicked out of the art world for her race and sex. Her work started to address attitudes around racism, intending to help people confront their racist views.

Piper taught at Wellesley College, Harvard University, Stanford University, University of Michigan, Georgetown University, and University of California, San Diego. In 1991, she became the first female African-American philosophy professor to receive academic tenure in the United States. Wellesley College terminated her tenured full professorship in 2008. During that time she was on the U.S. Transportation Security Administration Watch List. In 2015, she was awarded the Golden Lion for best artist in the international exhibition of the Venice Biennale. Adrian Piper currently lives in Berlin, Germany.

Whut choo Adrian Piper

Image: Adrian Piper, Self-Portrait as a Nice White Lady, 1995

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Image: Everything #2.8, Adrian Piper, 2003

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Image: Everything #2.13, Adrian Piper, 2003

Video: Keynote speaker Jörg Heiser, on the work of Adrian Piper

The following images and text are works and words of Adrian Piper.

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Image: Decide Who You Are #1, Adrian Piper, 1992

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Image: Detail from “Everything #21, Adrian Piper, 2010-13

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Image: Pretend #3, Adrian Piper, 1990 “Pretend not to know what you know”

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Adrian_Piper Art

Images: Close to Home, 2 of 15 photographs, Adrian Piper, 1987

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pretend adrian piper

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Image: Pretend #2, Adrian Piper, 1990 “Pretend not to know what you know”

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Image: Think About It, Adrian Piper, 1987, mock-up for billboard design

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Image: Adrian Piper, Catalysis IV, 1970. Photographer Rosemary Mayer

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Image: My Calling Card #1 and #2, Adrian Piper (1986-1990)

Adrian Piper Portrait

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Image: The Mythic Being: Say It Like You Mean It, Adrian Piper, 1975

“I am identified as “black” by others, both “black” and “white,” only when this serves to enhance their own social status, and not otherwise. Identifying myself as “black” had also very often served this function for me. I had regarded it as an honor and a privilege to be counted among the members of a community that had proved its mettle, its intelligence, and its genius by surviving and sometimes flourishing amid the most resourceful and sustained effort to destroy its humanity the world has ever seen.”

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Image: I Am Some Body, the Body of My Friends, #1-18, 1992-95, 1 of 18 photographs. Photo of Adrian Piper and her mother, when she was suffering from emphysema, towards the end of her life.

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Image: Safe #1–4, Adrian Piper (1990) “We are around you”

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Image: Safe, 1 of 4 framed photographs and audio, Adrian Piper, 1990 “You are safe”

black artist adrian piper

“I’m black.

Now, let’s deal with this social fact, and the fact of my stating it, together.

Maybe you don’t see why we have to deal with it together. Maybe you think it’s just my problem and that I should deal with it by myself.

But it’s not just my problem. It’s our problem.”

.

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Love Is Love!

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“No pride for some of us without liberation for all of us”, are the powerful words of Micah Bazant, that are linked to the spirit of Marsha P. Johnson.

Illustration of Marsha P. Johnson by @beeillustrates

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People Are Showing Up & Speaking Out

say black lives matter

2020 protests

black lives matter protest

Maria Shriver protesting for Black Lives Matter.

maria shriver black lives matter

“So many people have said to me in the past few weeks that they feel helpless and don’t know what to do or say. I tell them what I tell myself: When you lay there in bed in the dark of night, imagine the country you want to live in. Imagine the leaders you want to rally around. Imagine the ideas that make you feel hopeful. Imagine your best-case scenario. Then, pick a lane and get to work.

Do you want a better climate? Get to work. Do you want to fight against racism? Get to work. Do you want to push for gender equality? Get to work. Do you want to close the gap in health care disparities? Get to work. Do you want a different kind of media? Get to work. Do you want criminal justice or police reform? New gun laws? Mental health parity? A more inclusive church? You know what to do.

The work ahead of us is not for the faint of heart. Every one of us must put on our thinking caps and imagine a more evolved, inclusive, and equitable world. Yes, there is a lot to do, but that is not an excuse to do nothing.”

Quote by Maria Shriver

Natalie Portman shares thoughts on defunding the police.

natalie portman black lives matter

“When I first heard #defundthepolice, I have to admit my first reaction was fear. My whole life, police have made me feel safe. But that’s exactly the center of my white privilege: the police make me as a white woman feel safe, while my black friends, family and neighbors feel the opposite: police make them feel terror. And for good reason. Police are the 6th leading cause of death for black men in this country. These are not isolated incidents. They are patterns and part of the system of over-policing of black Americans. Reforms have not worked. Minneapolis, where George Floyd was murdered, is one of the most progressive police forces in the country, having undergone extensive anti-bias training. I am grateful to the leaders in the @mvmnt4blklives who have made us question the status quo. And who have made us imagine, what a world could be like in which we invested in nourishing people; (in their education, healthcare, environment, shelter)— rather than putting all of our money into punishment. I’ve gotten to the age in my life, where if my gut feels uncomfortable, I take the situation as wrong. But this concept initially made me uncomfortable because I was wrong. Because the system that makes me feel comfortable is wrong.”

Quote by Natalie Portman

Seth Godin shines a light on white supremacy.

seth godin black lives matter

“The systemic, cruel and depersonalizing history of Black subjugation in my country has and continues to be a crime against humanity. It’s based on a desire to maintain power and false assumptions about how the world works and how it can work. It’s been amplified by systems that were often put in place with mal-intent, or sometimes simply because they felt expedient. It’s painful to look at and far more painful to be part of or to admit that exists in the things that we build.

We can’t permit the murder of people because of the color of their skin. Institutional racism is real, it’s often invisible, and it’s pernicious.

And White Supremacy is a loaded term precisely because the systems and their terrible effects are very real, widespread and run deep.

The benefit of the doubt is powerful indeed, and that benefit has helped me and people like me for generations. I’m ashamed of how we got here, and want to more powerfully contribute and model how we can get better, together.

It doesn’t matter how many blog posts about justice I write, or how clear I try to be about the power of diversity in our organizations. Not if I’m leaving doubt about the scale and enormity of the suffering that people feel, not just themselves, but for their parents before them and for the kids that will follow them.

It’s easier to look away and to decide that this is a problem for someone else. It’s actually a problem for all of us. And problems have solutions and problems are uncomfortable.”

Quote by Seth Godin

Illustrations by Meenal Patel Studio

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Current Mood

black lives matter

I love this cartoon by one of my favorite artists, Elisabeth McNair. It definitely represents my current mood.

For anyone that missed last week’s blog post, you can click here. As a continuation of that blog post, I wanted to add a little information about defunding the police. It’s the latest hot topic, and it’s not as scary or drastic as some people think. I see so many people reacting to the idea negatively that haven’t researched it. They are reacting to something they don’t understand. It simply means shifting some of the police budget into social services.

Below are examples of how New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco are already moving in that direction.

The Los Angeles Police Department was set to receive a large increase in its annual budget from $1.189 billion last year to $1.86 billion (most of the budget increases were for new police bonuses) for 2020-2021. Mayor Eric Garcetti has now decided to cut $100-$150 million from that budget to invest in youth jobs and health initiatives that serve the community.

Mayor London Breed announced that San Francisco officers will stop responding to non-criminal activities such as disputes between neighbors, reports about homeless people and school discipline interventions as part of a police reform plan. Officers would be replaced by trained, unarmed professionals to limit unnecessary confrontation between the police department and the community.

In New York, more than 40 city council candidates are calling for a $1 billion cut to the NYPD’s $6 billion budget over four years to help fund other programs such as the city’s summer youth employment program. New York state Senator Julia Salazar said, “I think we need to consider a divest/invest model. When we look at their resources, and how they’re deploying them violently and recklessly, it makes the case even stronger for reducing their budget, and then using those funds for social services…”

Think about it this way, what are your values? Do you want to invest in youth jobs, community centers, rehabilitation programs and health services? Or more policing, and continuing with what is in place currently that obviously isn’t working? Which plan sounds like a sensible and sustainable approach to you?

(The topic continues in the comment section below.)

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Meet The New YOU?

self accountability

Much of what I say will be explained the further (and deeper) you go in this blog post. If you decide to gloss over content and suggested watching/reading, then don’t wonder why you are remaining the same while the world is on fire begging for change around you.

Don’t miss the point of what’s happening. Don’t be imperceptive, indifferent or passive out of laziness and convenience (and conditioned heartlessness). If what is happening isn’t a wake up call that you need to do more, then expect all of this to get worse, because you stayed complacent.

Keep reading, keep going…

Victor Varnado

Have you or anyone you know, or anyone in your social media circles said something similar to the statements below? If so, please click on the links next to each sentence. Your environment desperately needs empathy, education and your personal accountability towards change.

“All Lives Matter.”
(read this, scroll down on that website to see article)

“I don’t see color. Everyone is equal.”
(watch this)

“The Black Lives Matter movement is dividing people.”
(same video as above)

“Black people are making it harder for themselves by looting.”
(see Trevor Noah video and other videos below)

“Why should I help anyone that’s rioting or destroying property?”
(see Trevor Noah video and other videos below)

“The riots and violent protests are messing up the next election!”
(read article, and watch video, and read article)

“How irresponsible to gather and protest during a pandemic.”
(watch the same video)

“If blacks would focus on voting, we wouldn’t have this problem.”
(watch the Christian Cooper video below and this video again)

“Thank goodness everything is fine where I live.”
(see this video)

Trevor Noah has a profound view of looting and explains the context of the protests. Cornel West also mentioned legalized looting (video posted throughout this post), and Bakari Sellers clearly states that the protests are beyond George Floyd and police brutality.

Keep reading, keep going…

This is Christian Cooper speaking. He’s the one that Amy Cooper (same last name, not related) tried to harm by using the police as a weapon. If you need more information, you can find it here and a great article here. Turn up the volume when you watch the video. The sound is low. Tap the sound icon at the bottom of the video to raise the volume.

Keep reading, keep going…

I want you to watch this video of Trevor Noah in South Africa, visiting his 91 year old grandmother. He’s going to make light of things, but obviously it’s not funny. Jokes are often used as a way to release anguish and optimistically move forward. What you see in South Africa is not much different than how marginalized people live in many parts of the USA currently.

Keep reading, keep going…

If for any reason you are still not passionate about using your voice and time and resources to help Black Lives Matter and ending systemic racism. Please think of George Stinney and Kendrick Johnson, and all of the other gruesome injustices that continue day after day. It’s a longer list than anyone can imagine.

In 2013 a 17 year old Georgia boy was killed at school, his body was found in a rolled up gym mat. The evidence was covered up and the case was ruled as an accidental death. There’s school security footage of him walking into the school gym, but no footage of him walking out. Crucial security camera footage is missing. There are even organs mysteriously missing from his dead body (so there couldn’t be a full autopsy report). It appears that two white students killed him, and their father (who’s an FBI agent) covered up the evidence, along with white classmates, school staff, the local crime lab, state and federal officials and five agents of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. You can read about it here and see the Kendrick Johnson video here.

This case is not new, but it shows you how deep social injustice for the black community goes. George Stinney was a 14 year old boy that was sentenced to death in the electric chair for a crime he did not commit. Yes, you read that right. The United States of America executed a child. Who was completely innocent.

George Stinney

Keep reading, keep going…

Young people are facing police brutality during the protests. This girl was shot in the face with a rubber bullet by police while she was protesting this week. Video of it here and here and close-up photo of her face here. A lot of the comments under her photo have been buried and deleted, but when I saw first saw that post on Twitter, a large number of people tweeted that if the police did that to her, then it was justified.

If you want more videos of police brutality during the George Floyd protests, you can find over 600 vides (as of June 7, 2020) in this spreadsheet here.

You can also see a video about Black Lives Matter protestors getting set-up posted by Moby here and Joe Rogan mentioning set-ups here.

It’s no surprise that George Stinney and others were innocent. A study stated that half a million (500,000) people currently in jail have NOT committed a crime.

This is a fact, two-thirds (2/3) of people in jail haven’t been convicted of a crime. Most of those people are in jail because they could not pay bail. If you don’t understand how that all works or makes sense, read and listen to the links provided, and do what you can to help.

You can assist organizations like National Bail Out and Prison Policy Initiative read about about it all here.

Here are a few podcasts that could be helpful:

Justice is America

Serial Podcast – Season 3

black lives matter

And please watch this video. Professor Carol Anderson will fill you in on so much. You’ll see why saying BLACK LIVES MATTER is so important, and you’ll understand why systemic racism and police brutality needs to end NOW. This has all gone on long enough.

And these videos too. Listen to Dr. Robin DiAngelo, Professor Angela Davis and Activist Jane Elliott speak and answer questions.

Keep reading, keep going…

This was posted as a link above, but I hope you paid close attention. It covers so much of what I touched on, but in vivid detail. So I’ll post it here again. Listen to Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Dr. Cornel West and Bakari Sellers discuss the nationwide uprising.

Here are ways you can help Black Lives Matter:

Donate to causes that need funding.

Show up to a protests.

Sign petitions.

Say their names.

Show solidarity on social media.

Educate yourself.

Become an antiracist.

Follow black social media content creators.

Support black business owners.

And more.

To be totally transparent, when I say YOU throughout this blog post, I also mean me. The events of this week (the police brutality, people risking their health and life to protest, the riots and set-ups of innocent people, the racist comments everywhere online, as well as the mainstream news’ reinforcement of systematic racism), it all felt like a slap in the face.

I must do more, I must speak up, I must live differently.

Like I said in my blog post last week, “A better world depends on a better collective consciousness. And that depends on each one of us taking responsibility for our part in that collective.”

Please join me. Empathy, education and personal accountability is the route to lasting change.

Black Lives Matter.

Artwork credits:
“Alive” cartoon by artist signed (lower right corner)
“Getting started” cartoon by Victor Varnado
“Self reflection” painting by Paint In Hawaii

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