The Moral March on Washington

Yesterday, the Poor People’s Campaign held a virtual Moral March on Washington, and it was really powerful. I want to share the video with you so you can watch it as well.

Toward the beginning of the gathering, the Rev. Dr. William Barber II said a simple statement that will stay with me for a long time. He said,

“If you want to change the narrative, change the narrators.”

Then we heard hours of testimony from a huge cross section of people who live with the impacts of poverty, low wages, and low wealth. Rev. Dr. Barber rightfully shared that the people behind these testimonies are prophets. Their stories make up the bulk of the video.

You can watch here, or push play on the embedded video on this blog:

Masks for Vulnerable Lives

covid

Image Description: A person with light skin, brown hair, and brown eyes looks into the camera while wearing a blue mask with small white flowers. Public domain image.

Dear Very Loved People who rightfully say Black Lives Matter but don’t wear a mask,

This pandemic isn’t over.

Everyone is at risk, but by the numbers,

Black people are most at risk. Please wear a mask.

Native people are most at risk. Please wear a mask.

Disabled and chronically ill people are most at risk. Please wear a mask.

Our elders are most at risk. Please wear a mask.

The pandemic isn’t over just because we feel like we want it to be over.

Your life could be at risk.

Please wear a mask.

Renee Roederer

Day 100

June Calendar Picture | Free Photograph | Photos Public Domain

Image Description: A picture of a June calendar. Public domain image.

So… real talk: Today is my 100th day of isolation. It’s been pretty total. I’ve also been mostly okay. Or okay enough.

I’ve been wondering what I might say on Day 100 about Day 100. And the truth is, I don’t know what to say exactly. I just have some need to acknowledge it somehow. And maybe that’s mostly okay. Or okay enough.

I do want you to know I don’t just sit around and count every single pandemic isolation day as it stretches out. There’s no tally on a wall somewhere or even in my mind. At one point, I simply asked myself, I wonder which day is Day 100? Siri told me it was June 19, so now I know I’ve reached it.

So here I am, finding some need to acknowledge this. As I’ve gotten closer to this date, I imagined writing a post called, “No Silver Linings,” in which I would challenge myself to talk about this with no positive spin at all. No need to make it shiny. I’ve not gone anywhere public, even the grocery store, so I haven’t been the same room as any human beings for 100 days. 100 days straight. I’ve also had no hugs for 100 days. Me — highly extroverted me. It isn’t easy.

And sure, I could have written that post and talked about how I’m known for being so positive — which is actually authentic, by the way; it’s my number one strength on Strength Finders — and I could have challenged myself to say nothing positive about this time.

But the truth is, I’m mostly okay. Or okay enough.

Not always, but often.

Would I choose this? No.

Do I regret this? I don’t regret staying safe indoors, no.

Will I find ways to get a bit closer to others in the next 100 days? Probably. At least a bit. But the truth is, sometimes I sincerely wonder if I’m going to end up living like this for another year. I don’t quite want to imagine a year and a half without a hug though, so… perhaps something’s gotta give at some point. I’m living alone for a while, and I’m not the only person doing that. This means there are lots of folks out there who haven’t had a hug in 100 days. Maybe longer.

I’m very committed to not getting COVID or spreading it. I think odds are very high that I have some vulnerabilities in my immune system. I’m also not cowering, living in fear. Some may assume so when I haven’t even gone to the grocery store. But it’s not fear; it’s commitment.

So no positive spin, but here’s some real talk too: I am okay. I don’t like this, and I don’t think it’s particularly good for me in some ways. But. Or rather, and… I am taking very good care of myself. I sleep very well, and I can hardly believe this (used to struggle with this a lot). I love my work — all three jobs. Yes, I have three part-time jobs and three roles, and I dearly love all of them. Even though they’re within various organizations, I get to be a community-former in all of them. I am quite literally building community, even across distance, even virtually, and even over the phone every single day. And that energizes me.

I have also been astounded at how much care finds me, even living like this. This may be my number one take-away from this time. People send me mail. People call me. People text me. People confide in me. People invite me to confide in them. I am loved, and I know this every single day. I honestly feel lucky ducky — definitely not in the situation of this moment, but in that very real love. It meets me pretty much every single day.

So here we are. Day 100. I just need to acknowledge it. No silver linings. But also, no catastrophic misery. Difficulty and love, right together.

Renee Roederer

 

Contradictions for White People in Racial Justice Work

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Today, I’d like to share an image from the Instagram account @malefragility. It’s entitled, “Contradictions for White People in Racial Justice Work.” On Instagram, the caption to the image says, “If you’re leaning too far in one direction, try the other one.”

I will type out the text below:

— white people are a particular liability in racial justice movements
— white people have specific and critical roles in racial justice movements

— it can feel humiliating to have not participated meaningfully in racial justice work before now and suddenly want to join
— in order to grow stronger and win, the movement requires new people to join

— when you’re working on ending an oppression that you benefit from, people will rightly mistrust you and be hard on you
— when you’re working on ending racism, it’s good to be nice to yourself and patient with yourself

— white activists need to listen to, defer to, and take leadership from POC
— because “POC” is not a monolithic identity that all believes one thing, white activists need to cultivate their own analysis and judgment over time

— one specific role for white people is being tough about holding one another accountable
— another key role for white people is extending compassion, care, and patience to other white people

— racial justice work involves people giving up or giving away their power
— another part of racial justice work is white people strategically using their power rather than hiding it, denying it, or pretending it doesn’t exist

Anti-Racism: Fixed to Growth Mindset (@HolisticAllyGrace)

No photo description available.

I saw this image today from @HolisticAllyGrace, and I thought I would share it. Posting the image text below:

Anti-Racism: Fixed to Growth Mindset

Fixed-Comfort:
“I don’t know where to start or what to say.”

Growth-Courage:
“First I will listen/read/watch. I will speak against injustice.”

Fixed-Comfort:
“I don’t want to get it wrong or get called out.”

Growth-Courage:
“I will make mistakes, no doubt about it. I will be grateful for the lesson.”

Fixed-Comfort:
“It won’t make a difference what I do. Nothing is going to change.”

Growth-Courage:
“Things happen when I take risks and become part of something bigger.”

Fixed-Comfort:
“I don’t get involved in politics. I don’t have time.”

Growth-Courage:
“This is a human rights issue. This matters. I will make time.”

 

 

But Actually Imagine Transformative Alternatives to Policing (Amber Hughson)

Image description: An image from Amber Hughson’s piece below. In the middle it says “But Actually Imagine Transformative Alternatives to Policing.” This title is surrounded by her flyers. You can read image descriptions for those flyers here.

Hello, everyone.

I want to share this post today from Amber Hughson, a friend of mine. She is the creator of the Alternatives to Policing flyers that have gone quite viral over the last few weeks. I have shared these flyers on this blog. I have also seen them shared by friends all across the country.

But Amber has deep concerns about how these flyers are being used and talked about in some circles, and she wants us to do what the title below says… actually imagine transformative alternatives to policing.

She asks us to do this and also share her piece below if we’ve shared these flyers. I’m also pulling these two quotes. The first speaks to the context of the creation of these flyers. The second is a call for us to act upon these flyers in particular ways.

“I was (and am) exhausted by the comments of ‘well-meaning’ liberals that visions of a world without policing and incarceration are ‘utopian’ and ‘unrealistic’ and ‘idealistic.’ These words were weaponized against Black, immigrant, trans, and poor organizers and survivors who detailed their experiences of having been targeted by policing and offered concrete policy changes that would affirm and protect their lives. In particular, Mayor Christopher Taylor (as well as City Council and recently fired City Administrator Howard Lazarus) have waged an insidious campaign to gaslight Black community members and organizers. In response to extensive incidents of harm from policing in Ann Arbor, Taylor responds in total defense of police actions — he cannot imagine a world in which he does not feel threatened by his own constituents to the point of requiring armed guards. He openly names white supremacy and racism as historic national problems, but tells community members and organizers that these same issues are not present in Ann Arbor and certainly not in the AAPD. Taylor absolves his officers and himself of wrongdoing while standing in a ‘safe’ (for who?) pleasantly white-dominant City which has gentrified historic Black neighborhoods. He, alongside most of Ann Arbor, willfully denies a connection between the hoarding of wealth in Ann Arbor and the extensive violence of policing and incarceration in neighboring Ypsilanti. We watched as community members stood by the mayor time and time again. Organizers were emotionally exhausted. Black organizers told me they were too traumatized to return to the work.”

and

“Do what no one can do alone. Sit down with these flyers and have conversations, rather than simply sharing them. Question the words that I chose like ’employee’ or ‘urgent responder’ or ‘crisis intervention team.’ Question the race neutral language and images. Push the boundaries of who could and should fill these roles and who could and should have the power to shape them. Push the boundaries of how rigid these roles would be regulated and imagine them being flexible to shifting conditions. Imagine the kinds of transformative changes that would be required in your specific context for Indigenous, Black, trans, immigrant, poor, and disabled people most impacted by policing to actually make the decisions of how land, wealth, food, shelter, and healthcare are distributed in a world without police.”

Please have a read:

But Actually Imagine Transformative Alternatives to Policing

Mental Health Monday: Follow Those Internal Nudges

Banana Free Stock Photos & Pictures, Banana Royalty-Free and ...

Image description: A sliced loaf of banana bread. Public domain image.

I have the pleasure of filling in frequently as a guest preacher for churches. I’ve been doing this locally for years; now, during a virtual time of pandemic, I am able to do this nationally as well. And when you travel around (okay, right now, from home) you can repeat yourself. This is something I often say at the end of the sermon or the end of the service:

“We are people who gather around sacred texts. The sermon is not ultimately what I said today. It’s certainly not something I typed out in a word document and then spoke aloud. The sermon is a moment we shared together as people who gather around sacred texts. And so… the people who popped in your mind today, the ideas that came to you, and the inkling toward prayer for specific individuals and situations… that’s the sermon too. And when we act on those things, we’re all preaching the sermon.”

It’s encouraging to pay attention to those nudges, so to speak, and act on them.

Outside of a church context, on Saturday, I had just posted a couple of sentences on Facebook, sharing that I was missing the normalcy of being with people and being out and about. A friend of mine did not see that post, but immediately got an idea to come to my house and drop off some banana bread. It was delicious. This also allowed me to visit with her at a distance for a bit. She said the idea just came to her and felt like she should come right over. I am grateful.

Last night, I received a text out of the blue from an acquaintance I haven’t spoken to for a long time. In fact, we had only spoken a couple of times ever. We used to sing in a choir together. She left the choir a while back, but she ended up being present for one of my virtual sermons last week. I didn’t know she was a part of a Presbyterian Church. But it was the sermon this week from their pastor that encouraged her to send me a text. My colleague had shared, “Write a letter of encouragement to someone.” I’m not sure why my former choir acquaintance thought of me, except perhaps for my virtual sermon one week before. But she did write me a quick text to see if this was my contact information. It was, and when I texted back, she called me, and we had such a wonderful conversation. We connected meaningfully about things happening in our lives and in the world. And now she’s going to keep calling. I have a new friend.

These days, I keep a list of the kinds of nudges that come to me too. Contact this person… send this podcast you heard… say a kind word… ask a question to this person… ponder this idea…

Connection and change move through relationships. So who knows what’s possible — what care, what newness, what transformation? These can happen when we listen deeply to these nudging instincts. We can do much for our mental health and that of others when we live this way. It adds connection. It adds hope.

Renee Roederer

Everything Catalyzes Everything

Image Description: A series of black dominos with quite dots; the ones in the back have fallen, and the ones in the front are about to fall. Public domain image.

Everything catalyzes everything.

Everything affects everything.

This, of course, is so obvious that it’s hardly worth being the topic of a blog post. But perhaps it’s obvious to the point that we could think about it more often. Maybe with some intention, we might feel greater hope too. Because….

What we do matters.

Now surely, some actions have bigger impacts than others. And when we move in directions we regret, we can always change course. After all, everything catalyzes everything, and our course correction shifts the whole. Even the recognition that we need a course correction had a catalyst. Something woke us up to that. And now the shift will have impacts too, creating space for new possibilities.

So back to this:

What we do matters.

What we do – how we spend our time, how we speak, how we relate, how we create, how we care – it all matters.

Because it always initiates a sequence of effects, often well beyond what we might have imagined. It’s not about us. But our actions matter. We impact things, just as they impact us.

Renee Roederer

IRT’s Call to Anti-Racism

IRT

Image Description: The logo of the Interfaith Round Table of Washtenaw County. There is a light blue background. The letters ‘i’, ‘r’, and ‘t; are in white, and inside the letters, there are a number of religious symbols in blue.

Together with Dwight Wilson, I serve as the Co-Director of the Interfaith Round Table of Washtenaw County. This week, we released a statement on behalf of IRT with a call to anti-racism. Today, I will share that here.

IRT’s Call to Anti-Racism

In the midst of a pandemic, as we enter the summer of 2020, the nation has been raging because of a series of racist attacks, many of which have led to deaths, and some of which have been initiated by our employees in uniform. Coupled with these abominations have been frequent denials of responsibility. In the 1960s, civil unrest was almost a yearly occurrence. In more than fifty years, society should have advanced further. Instead, open wounds remain in Washtenaw County because of different interpretations of the 2014 police killing of Aura Rosser in Ann Arbor; Black students protesting their treatment at both Saline High School and Ann Arbor’s Pioneer High School; and a well-circulated tape of a law enforcement officer using his fists on Sha’Teina Grady El, an unarmed Ypsilanti woman. More pain and outrage have challenged us recently because of the months-long delay in justice for Ahmad Arbury and the nationally published law enforcement officer deaths of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd.

The Interfaith Round Table believes that we each deserve love and justice. It is the duty of spiritually grounded people of faith to take an anti-racist stand and help lead the country to positive change. IRT is calling those who want to help us heal the nation to come forward. We are asking each person and community to look within ourselves and our systems. Moreover, after silent reflection, we are asking each person and community to join us in open dialogues with people of different races and faiths. When so many of the ties that should bind us are in disarray, we are called to either reform or dismantle that which keeps us from being a just society. Continuing on the same brambled path seems certain to make this wilderness a maze.

When we bring our best selves to listen to each other we deepen our respect for cultures that may be unlike our own. By making sincere efforts to communicate peacefully we remember the lessons taught by Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. These were two men of different faiths and cultures who gave their lives to move the world closer to recognized and lived kinship.

Yours in the Light,

Dwight L. Wilson and Renee Roederer,
Co-Directors

IRT Board