Let’s start each school day with an acknowledgment of the Indigenous people’s land we occupy — Rise Up for Students

From the blog Rise Up for Students (a blog about education and equity in the Pacific Northwest) by Matt Halvorsen

A point that stuck with me since first coming across this article…

“alongside that (the) pledge (of U.S. allegiance), if it’s something that remains important to you — let’s also pledge our solemn respect and remembrance of the past and present by acknowledging that we are living, working and schooling on stolen land.”

Check out his work and his engaging insights…

The practice of land acknowledgment dates back centuries (at least) among indigenous communities, and is more common in the mainstream in Australia, New Zealand and Canada than in the U.S., but it is a growing movement here as well. The idea is that before an event — whether it’s a school day, a sports game, a meeting or even a family meal — you take a moment to name, thank and consider the people whose displacement allows you to be where you are. Whose historical trauma makes it possible for you to thrive as you do in the place you live?

Source: Let’s start each school day with an acknowledgment of the Indigenous people’s land we occupy — Rise Up for Students

Forum for Community Action at FICA Seattle

By Njoli Brown

I was graciously invited by FICA Seattle to facilitate a conversation on how cultural orgs can effectively engage in social action.  In Seattle there are a large number of groups which participate in the ethnic/cultural arts of Latin america, Africa, central – SE Asia and so on.  But, aside from the artistic endeavor, how many make the determination to actively and positively effect, in profound and long term ways, the communities within which these arts were sustained through centuries of struggle and an infusion of intellectual, emotional and spiritual energy?

The first thing that came to mind for me was a discussion on the spate of ongoing disturbing events throughout our communities, but it seemed that the first step needed to be a deep dive into “identity.”  One of the most common falsely held presumptions in groups is that, “if we’re all here then we’re all ‘down.’ ”  But before getting to the “what” we’re doing, there’s a lot of figuring that has to go into the “why” so that when it becomes difficult and laborious there’s a foundation that we’re working from in common.  I give FICA a lot of credit for often trying to provide opportunities for critical evaluations of itself by its members.

How does this collection of people see itself?  Does the collective mission align with each individual’s personal mission?  Are we willing to lose members if we determine the mission is of tantamount importance? From where are we garnering vital information and through what lens are we evaluating it? Do the actions we hope to take stay true to the missions we’ve established for ourselves?   Etc, etc.  There is a lot to be said for a group which decides to wrestle with itself and deal with the discomfort of recognizing the failings, doubts.. the humanity of all its members.

There is a long history of misdirected actions which can often times do more damage than help. Often times these are a result of not establishing all the predetermination that will provide you with the fortitude to stay in the process for the long haul.  Simultaneously, there are advocates who have, at times, been discarded without a dedication to the difficult conversations which provide soil for effective growth and leadership.  I hope to hear more from the participants of this recent forum, to hear if they found worthwhile takeaways, if there are plans for next steps, suggestions.  I also hope that other groups will make use of the currently aroused energy to figure out how they can utilize their organizations as nuclei for positive change.

*Gratitute to co-facilitator, Jabali Stewart, and to Mestre Silvinho (FICA Seattle), Leika Suzumura and Chelsea Rae for getting the ball rolling.

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Fertile Soil For Seeds To Grow

By Njoli Brown

I’ve recently returned from another visit to Seattle.  Pastinha Weekend, an event that the International Capoeira Angola Foundation hosts annually in order to acknowledge our lineage, to reflect on the roles of revolution figures of African descent and to reconnect with our family and friends.  The weekend was beautifully put together and had all the richness and love that I’ve come to expect from these gatherings.  As an educator though, I wanted to reflect a bit on Mestre Silvinho’s standout capacity to create a nurturing environment within which his group seems to have truly flourished.

Mestre Silvinho @ FICA NY, 2013
Mestre Silvinho @ FICA NY, 2013

Holding space as a mestre of Capoeira Angola, as a teacher and as a mentor presents a wide array of challenges and rewards. Profoundly, this person is both, responsible for the maintenance of a centuries old tradition and, simultaneously, must assert the viability of traditional culture in contemporary society.  It isn’t enough for them to deny the existence of the word in which they live but they must also have a critical and evolving vision of how to reconcile the humanity of their community with the society wherein they function.

What make Silvinho’s model so particularly distinct is the feeling of mutual respect that he propagates within his collective.  Not only does he humbly distinguish himself as a remarkably knowledgeable and responsible patriarch, but he so clearly and openly recognizes the strengths and hopes of the members within his group.

That being said, while he provides the trajectory, his group drives its own forward motion.  As a teacher the best example we can often set is in our capacity to allow leadership to disseminate throughout.  True, there is no one else who has the capacity to teach capoeira at the same measure, but their functioning grant writing commission? The healthy foods project? Their regularly organized occasions for fraternization?  The youth projects? All of these are student inspired and driven.

Fertile soil for seeds to grow.  Inspiring to see things come to fruit Northwest.

Washington, You Break My Heart

Washington breaks my heart

It breaks my heart with its beauty

It is heart breaking hard and is protected with pillows wrapped in solar panels and decorated with barbs

It holds my love

robes it in bicycle chains and forgets itselfForgets that it is stitching with cold and water and kisses.

Washington breaks my heart

when it won’t let itself be whole

when it cuts itself to pieces

when it loves itself

when it liberates itself

when it riddles itself with caves and hidden places

and broken ladders

-Njoli-

 

Left Coast, Right Coast

I came back out to east coast thinking that I was leaving nature behind.  I built associations between the left coast and self-nurturing, self-caretaking and something to do with ease.  I moved back out right for the sake of difficulty, for that very human need to encounter challenges, triumphs, failures, changes.  I came back to New York so that language could be hard at times and left Seattle so that aggression couldn’t be hidden in passive tongues and diversity wouldn’t just be for the pretty ones.  I came out here to learn to meditate over sirens and assumed I had to reconcile with a bit of heartbreak.  Figured I’d have to give up on trees and muddy ground and mountain lakes and overgrown trails and peace of mind easily found. Still, I’m back in Seattle a few times every few months, for work, or maybe to remember a part of myself, or to keep from idealizing a place or to touch base with something green and lush. On the right coast, I’m recognizing the manifestations of me in the place and remembering that I learned to hike on the AT, in the Kittatiny Mtns, the Berkshires.  I was young and rode a bicycle to school.  I’ve been realizing that the buildings obscure the mountains but don’t cause them to cease existing.