“we are also heirs to those who won the peace”

On Monday morning, in the bright light of a cold January Martin Luther King Day, President Obama gave us an opening. Like many presidents before, he honored the sacrifice and strength of our soldiers, but then, he turned the tables:

“…we are also heirs to those who won the peace, and not just the war. Who turn sworn enemies into the surest of friends. And we must carry those lessons into this time as well.”

He reminded the world that bravery can mean something besides a willingness to engage in violence:

“We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully. Not because we are naive about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.”

He affirmed that an investment in peace everywhere is the key to security at home:

America will remain the anchor of strong alliances in every corner of the globe. And we will renew those institutions that extend our capacity to manage crisis abroad. For no one has a greater stake in a peaceful world than its most powerful nation.”

He linked our country’s security to peace and justice for the most marginalized:

“And we must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice. Not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes; tolerance and opportunity, human dignity“And we must be a source of hope to the poor and justice.”

In his first term, President Obama often relied on violence, assassinating Osama Bin Laden, authorizing drones, increasing detention and deportation of immigrants. But, in this moment, at the start of his second term, the most high profile figure in the world challenged the narrative that says violence is necessary to build security.

I reject that narrative.  I embrace this one.  My work has always been and will always be this.

Obama’s actions do not reflect his words, but I am happy he said them all the same.  I believe he is struggling as I do, as we all do, to walk the path of nonviolence.  In his speech, he also spoke of the evolution of humanity. Ending our addiction to violence is a part of this.

In our daily lives we each wrestle with moments of choice.  How do I respond when my child is screaming in my face?  With a spank, yelling back, walking away, manipulation?  My boss has sent me an email that makes me upset, what do I say to respond?  This driver just cut me off, do I give him the middle finger?

These are the weapons of everyday, every moment.  Few of us must deal with the availability of a vast army at our disposal and the righteous anger of millions fueling our impulse to use it.

He gave us an opening. He gave himself an opening. I want to walk through that door.


Open Heart Surgery

Last week I had open heart surgery at the Facing Race Conference in Baltimore http://colorlines.com/facing-race-2012/.   I was in serious danger of having a White supremacy -related cardiac arrest. The daily stress of race related slights, ignorant remarks, and racial stereotypes in the news, on TV, and in my daughter’s classroom were taking their toll.  The unhealthy diet of  judging my beauty against the norm, of basing “good, “right”, and “true” on “White”, of wishing for a new nose, different hair, eyes, lips clogged arteries. The pressure to be a strong bridge across the racial divide was pushing the damaged muscle to its breaking point. The everyday news of injustice, inequity, and the needless suffering of people of color,  people of gender,  people of difference,  people, was sapping my will to resist the oncoming collapse.

And then I stepped in to Facing Race.  Rinku Sen, editor of Colorlines magazine and executive director of Applied Research Center (ARC), hosts of the conference, stepped on stage.  I was breathing heavy. I was walking slowly with the weight, pain radiating.

Rinku Sen was the first responder.

“Transformative is what I am after. I don’t want to reverse the racial hierarchy. I want to take it apart. I want to change the course of human evolution.”

A jolt went through me.

“We are so well equipped to do this. We are such good strategists. We know how to run campaigns. We do this work with so much heart, and so much humor. We have so much resilience. We can survive anything. We can do this. We can take the country and the world closer to a new humanity.”

The weight began to ease inside me.

“If we do our part, then our kids will do their part. And their kids will do the next part and the next kids after that will do more. I am counting on you to do this with me…Our ancestors demand it. The dead demand it. The living demand it. And we can answer them, if we stand together. We can set the path for true human liberation. We must start today. I know that together, we will get there. “

I was revived, still damaged, still in pain, but ready to live, ready to fight, ready to be healed.  There is so much more to tell.  The power of the speakers, dancers, comedians, artists, children, elders, changed me. All the faces together facing the madness that is White supremacist, patriarchal, heterosexist, ableist, classist hierarchical lifted me up.  That weekend, my chest was opened up. Years of toxins were released. New connections were built.  I was transformed. I was ready to walk the liberation path again.


Peace Tree

I spent the morning
in the Peace Room at the Friends Center.
It sits in the light on the 3rd Floor.
Later that day I walked down
to the lower level, no windows.
The Justice Room is down there
I thought, “I wonder… why?”
“Why is the Justice Room below the Peace Room?”
“Is justice the roots sunk deep
from which the peace trees rise?”


I didn’t know,

and then I did.

I am not you.

We are not them.

This is not right.


We should fight.

We should shine a light.

We should make it right.


I didn’t know

And then I did.

I am not alone.

You are here with me.

We are all not free.

This is not right.


We should fight.

We should shine a light.

We should make it right.


I did not know

and then I did.

I am here to fight.

I will shine a light.

I can make it right.

We can make it right.


We will make it right.