Silence Breakers – May Willows Surround

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WILLOWS OF WADI SURROUND – A poem by Ama Danesi

 

my mouth kisses my palm

and holds back welling tears

I remember I was a stranger there

his hands groping, seizing,

searching for certainty here

as long as wicked is in the room

may willows of the wadi

surround and mark me safe.

 

This pain is not measured

by the scale of years

but unraveled by melodies

and as shadows reflect mysteries.

if my river was turbulent

it is no longer frightened.

tree of harps are singing out

names and redemption songs.

 

once hushed and gray as a moth

my whole soul sings too, loud.

it had moved further from shore,

now, it’s rushing home in an exquisite

finery of light, sculpted in palace style.

 

 

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Time Magazine deservedly honored the “Silence Breakers” as Person of the Year 2017. These women and men challenged the status quo of sexual aggression and I stand with every girl, boy, woman, and man who has suffered the injustice and humiliation of sexual assault and abuse. We will not keep silent concerning our bodies and limbs.

We celebrate its splendid frame and the brave hearts rising across the world to confront small, weeny “gods.” We celebrate the power of each voice and the collective refrain. Hear our souls sing out loud. The sound barrier is broken and people will be silent no more!

In Service,

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Image Credit: Pixabay and Time Magazine 2017: The Silence Breakers

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Giving to Live

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“They throw caution to the winds,

Giving…in reckless abandon.

Their right-living, right-giving ways,

never run out, never wear out.”*

There are primarily two ways of administering our gifts to the world, as a matter of enthusiastic generosity or as a grudging obligation. Which defines your posture? Honestly, that’s about all we can control. I often find myself holding back when I prejudge or speculate about the reward as if I am entirely responsible for that. I find we can trust the blueprint and fearless design encoded in our being that gives rise to our natural abilities, to also amaze us with its commitment to reward our service and offerings beyond our expectations. A stingy farmer gets it stingy harvest but since many of us have sown love, laughter, care or blood, sweat, and tears; then as nature does, we must go through the process of seed, time, and harvest.

When we perceive the world as an inherited land, we can see ourselves as both the seed bearers and sowers. Imagine that every obstacle is an opportunity to learn from those who have gone before or time to color outside the lines. There’s a good reason why there are no easy, cookie-cutter answers to specific problems. Notably, those particular issues that test our enduring human spirit. University of Houston’s research professor and empathy advocate, Brené Brown encourages us to “Dare greatly.”

The best-selling author of Without Rival (2016) Lisa Bevere at the recent Confident Woman conference said, “Sometimes you have to stop looking around and look within because you’re supposed to do something that’s never been done before.” She asserts that we are not only unique, we are without rival. Therefore, in our authentic spaces, we bring an essence that can only be imitated but never duplicated.

We are all given something we can give away. Right-living demands we believe that. Right giving requires a full commitment. Excuses are for wimps. I know that because I’ve held that office for some considerable time, but the ache of floundering snarls and nags at you like an addiction that will not quit till you either leaving as dead or show up as your authentic self. The lyric from the band, United Pursuit’s Let it Happen (2015) says, “You’re full of life now. And full of passion. That’s how he made you. Just let it happen.” Every seed planted in truth will grow, and every tree that shows up will have enough headroom to flourish.

On a practical level, I believe that today’s superheroes are entrepreneurs and visionaries. People with the drive to create, develop, refine, and nurture a crazy idea till it becomes an empire or offering that enriches the lives of others. Risks and profits considered, these are “doing” people. The scary part of the equation is actually doing something, putting something out there. Talk is not only cheap, but it’s also mediocre. It’s like putting your hand to the plow and looking back to the safe zone or the cozy couch –  the place without judgment and expectation – warm as an eagle’s nest to get an oversized eaglet.

Let it happen. Verbs are the most potent expressions. They transform any passive line into an active and engaging one involving an action, the responsible party, and a reaction. My verb and doing word is “write, ” and because it comes easy, I often think it’s not valuable to anyone else. Now that’s a partial lie, applicable only to my journaling. Don’t buy into partial lies or let them stunt transformation. Greatness is not handed down, it is cultivated. If I want extraordinary results and life, then I have to work at writing, show up on the field daily and generously plant words as seeds. To others, the seed may be a new business, a new app, a sketch, a song, or another dance audition.

Final word to me and the wise – “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured unto your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured to you.”** And that is so you never run or wear out. Find your verb and do it every day you are blessed to see the sunrise.

In service,

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Credits:

Image – Pixabay

2 Corth. 9:8 (MSG)

Luke 6:38 (NIV)

Racial Justice Served Cold in a Test-tube

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Image Credit: Pixabay

The myth of race and idea of difference as an inferior ethnic identity lies at the root of the conflicting cultural landscape dynamics at Santa Clara’s Pueblo in the 1990s, my former colonial Nigeria, and the recent Charlottesville’s alt-right nationalists’ rally. Every historical and current account of genocide, ethnic cleansing, and racial discrimination stems from negative views about this myth called “race” and the manipulation of our ethnic variables by power groups for their benefit. 

I was crestfallen at the poisonous social ideology displayed on banners, and racist chants at the recent Unite the Right rally on August 12, 2017, by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. They spelled out their nationalist agenda – Whites are in; but Jews, Blacks, Mexicans, and Gays are out. Nationalism is always a contested space, identifying who belongs and who is excluded. Can I say that I was NOT surprised when President Trump condemned “…Violence on many/both sides…” He applied a false equivalency and failed to distinguish between activist groups of marginalized citizens like ‘Black Lives Matter’ who strive for racial equality from the privileged white nationalists who seek to mainstream or normalize their ideologies of exclusion and racial supremacy.

Other than the Native Americans, being an “American” is NOT a tribal identity but a nationalist and highly contested identity about who qualifies as one, and so this “made-up” nation tries to regulate who benefits from its cultural capital. The answer to bigots and supercilious agitators called Neo-Nazis is  – man-up, spit into a test-tube, and find your tribe – then they can talk about race and ethnicity.  Many will be surprised, and I bet crestfallen, to realize that their “pure” breed is another myth. Thanks to the paleoanthropologists and sociologists at the National Geo; we have this historical fact – That every living person shares a common direct maternal ancestor known as mitochondria Eve. She lived in Africa around the time of the Idaltu Skull* and had enough daughters to pass down her genetic signature through the generations. As they say, “Our mothers were her daughters.”

How many more mothers have to grieve before everyone realizes, that our biological differences are affected by natural selection, environmental survival, and genes that determine hair texture, skin color, and blood group? We bleed and pee the same. If all anyone has, is this claim to supremacy via the color of their skin, that person needs to dig deeper, get brave, and face the truth about their mitochondria. We are more complicated than our physiology and God has a great sense of humor – He made us all brothers and sisters. Anyone who seeks division is misguided and ignorant of the purpose of our collective humanity. Furthermore, the Confederacy lost the American Civil war in 1865, so any monument honoring the emblems of this nations’ torturous past, especially those on dismantled slave auction blocks should be taken down. 

Many were injured and hurt not just the nineteen hospitalized but every decent and unprejudiced human being. Sadly, we also lost three lives on August 12th – Susan Bro, the late Heather Heyer’s mother, at her daughter’s memorial service quoted her daughter, saying, “If you are not outraged, you are not paying attention.” The Alt-right is wrong. Racial discrimination is abhorrent. Thank God for our DNA that proves this. 

 

Notes:

  • Homo sapiens idaltu, also called Herto Man, is the name given to some hominin fossils found in 1997 in Herto Bouri, Ethiopia. They date to around 160,000 years ago. (Wikipedia)
  • My sincere condolences to the families and friends of Heather Heyer, Berke M.M. Bates, and H. Jay Cullen, as the nation mourns the untimely deaths of your loved ones. 
  • Interesting Article on White Nationalists reckoning with the results of their DNA tests. http://www.businessinsider.com/white-nationalists-genetic-ancestry-tests-dont-like-results-2017-8 ( A strange moment of triumph against racism)

Marching Past The White House

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President Barack Obama – Marching Past The White House

Sixty percent of Americans and billions across the world spent the last few months of President Barack Obama’s tenure in the posture of a ‘Standing O.’ Accolades have poured in from all nooks and crannies for the leader and man he remained over the last eight years. For his first night back as a private citizen, he will sleep in an unfamiliar bed somewhere in Palm Springs, CA. It might take a while for the familiar burden of caring for the nation and the world to slide off his shoulders like a well-worn backpack. We already miss him. We already feel the absence of his steady and sure hand on the nations’ pulse.

What we know for sure, is that he and his beautiful family will continue to be the model of class, temperance, and fortitude. That’s because the new President Trump has not displayed these leadership qualities yet. Obama leaves us a nation rebuilt economically, reminded of our guiding principles enshrined in the Constitution, and with marching orders to get involved in perfecting this great union via his new website (www.Obama.org )
A recurring theme in Obama’s philosophy was: We are not just our brothers and sisters’ keeper; we are our brothers and sisters. We stand as one or fall significantly diminished.

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@POTUS44 Historical Leader and Icon of Hope.

But even Obama could not save everyone in the entire nation and neither can Donald Trump, despite the loud proclamations he gave at the inauguration. The powers in Washington cannot bring change. With wisdom, they can make a difference, but only God can save wholistically. Change is an individual mandate. So we have to march past the White House, the Capitol, and find the hero within each of us.

“America First” is a selfish, myopic mindset in our collective, sharable existence. It aims to separate the natural rights of humans from the civic rights of citizens as if they are not one and the same. Nobel Prize winner, Toni Morrison warned about the peril of a “rights culture” which unhinges itself from the global capital, meaningful dialogue and our collective identity as human beings.
G. C. Spivak at a roundtable discussion reminded us that “Ours is a culture of convenience.” It takes too much effort to have empathy, to engage with the other side, hence our preference to bury our heads like the ostrich in the sand and just fend for ourselves. I assert, based on Spivak’s statement that because our identity does not [simply] disappear, Trump is proposing an impossible dream.

“Do not put your confidence in powerful people (influential mortals); there is no help for you there.” (Psalm 146:3)

‘We the people’ did not get to choose who would be in power. Secretary Hillary Clinton stands stoic but regal, her three million plus votes advantage over President Trump, is evidenced in the overshot image of the sparse crowds compared to Obama’s at the inauguration and the parade viewing stands.

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Trump unlike Obama, was not the people’s democratic choice, but the product of the Republic’s mechanism, the Electoral College. However, we have accepted the inevitable and the call to pray for wisdom for our new leaders. As parents, we are compelled to step up and provide the example our children need. As a democratic society, we must engage in the process and hold politicians accountable. Speak up, loud! We have a responsibility to present a better world to the future generation. We must love like never before because we are humans first, then citizens.

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May God bless the United States of America and heal the fragmented dreams, realities, and cultures within our country and the world.

*Reference:
Morrison, Toni, Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, and Ngahuia Te Awekotuku. 2005. “Guest Column: Roundtable on the Future of the Humanities in a Fragmented World.” PMLA. 120 (3): 715-723.

Image Credits: Pixabay, Google & MSNBC

This New America and Other Random Thoughts

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When your child’s school leaves a recorded voice message, offering counseling sessions and use of their Office of Human Relations and Equity to support meaningful conversations and concerns that you or your child may have, following a presidential election, you know that this is not normal.
When the district superintendent follows up with yet another message, soliciting your help to encourage your child to use assemblies, classroom dialogues, and open-mic activities to address their frustrations, because the district is concerned about the uptake student rebellion, falling grades, lawlessness, and walk-outs on campus, after the same presidential election, again,  not normal.

When you have to wear an unflattering safety pin on your collar or put up a hideous poster of one in your office or business to show your solidarity with millions of people who are terrified of racist and anti-Semitic abuse, and vandalism, which is occurring at alarming rates, after the same presidential election, you know this is a new America.
The safety pin symbol inspired by Syndey’s 2014 #illridewithyou movement following the Islamophobic backlash after a terrorist attack and adopted by Brits in the wake of the BREXIT against xenophobic abuse, has finally arrived in the United States of America. In USA Today, experts report that post-election spate of hate crimes is worse than post-9/11.

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We now live in a country where post-election, people can fly the confederate flag on their cars. People can boldly blandish the swastika – a sacred symbol used in Neolithic Eurasia, Eastern Religions, and Europe for good luck and well-being – until Schliemann 1920’s volkisch movement adopted it as a symbol of “Aryan identity” and German nationalist pride.
This election was about American nationalist pride (for a country founded by immigrants, who displaced the native Indians, that’s an oxymoron). It was also about the economy and pocketbook issues. On both fronts, the more stable and reasonable candidate, Hillary Clinton won the people’s heart and confidence a.k.a the popular vote by a margin of over two million and counting; but lost the electoral college vote.

These last few weeks has seen passionate anti-Trump demonstrations in over thirty-seven states. I get the frustration. How can the country reward a man with questionable morals, twitter-happy fingers, checkered business practices, and pending court cases with the highest honor and office of the land? A man so uninformed, inexperienced, unprepared and undisciplined that over sixty percent of the voters agreed that he was not qualified to be commander-in-chief.

Our children are decrying this choice that the ‘adults’ have made. It’s not fair to ask them to accept that Donald Trump can break all the rules of decency and decorum when he shattered accepted norms like transparency, facts, and tolerance. That he who became the crusader for propaganda and deplorable views can now wield enormous power over the nation. Our kids are asking, “Why should we bother to do right, be kind and do homework?”

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As a parent, I could not find the right answers. Instead, I offer a few thoughts:

  • Life is not fair. Sometimes we do not get what we deserve. Other times, grace gives us what we have not earned.
  • Christians call God – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. (Remember Jacob? He was known as the heel-grabber, deceiver, cheat, swindler, schemer, and usurper) Even after Jacob’s name was changed to Israel which means prince, God still preferred the former name. Maybe because as a fantasist, Jacob had ideas and desires that were outside the norm. He was a passionate change agent. It’s the what,  not the who.
  • To settle the *rancor between his disciples, when Peter asked. “But Lord, what about this man?” Jesus answered,”…what is that to you? You follow me.” Our focus after this election returns to evaluating our lives, keeping our hope on the Lord who rules in the affairs of men and has a broader perspective.
  • Stock up on emergency supplies. In a climate of unrest and discord, be prepared in case of a lock-down.
  • Donald Trump has four years to prove the skeptics wrong. If he takes the oath of office and fails to be the president that American needs, it will be a rough four years because people are committed to holding him accountable to the ideals of the office of the President.
  • Get involved in the political process. Talk to those with opposing views.
  • Pray. Pray for Donald, our leaders, and the victors. Pray comfort for Hillary and those who are broken-hearted and scared. Pray for wisdom, hope, and healing.

This situation is not normal. Our children, friends, and neighbors demonstrating for over a week, is not the usual aftermath of a presidential election. The bitter, tart tone of the past election season is responsible for this new America, but we’ll move forward if we all do our part.

May God bless the United States of America and All of us.

Photo Credits: Pixabay Images and amadanesi.com
*John 21:20-23