Random Acts of Interaction Challenge

Our first post and picture of Visible Unity’s RAoI challenge.

Cindy Ford

In working with Visible Unity’s founder, Pam Fields, I have learned that my life is not as diverse as I perceive it to be. It is also not as diverse as I would like it to be. I think we all tend to gravitate to encounters and situations that will keep us in our comfort zone, and therefore in a place where we interact with those that most resemble ourselves.

If you have ever had the “pleasure” of spending time in the Central Jury room of the George Allen Courts Building, you know it is very large and most times very full of a diverse group of people. Normally, I select a place where I can sit by myself, with ample space on either side of me. Even then, there is always the risk that someone will sit down beside me, but I would rather just do my “duty” in my own space, with minimal distractions.

A few months ago, I showed up for jury duty and the place was packed with people. Getting a seat with some amount of personal space would be next to impossible. It was time for Plan B; pick a seatmate. It would have been easy and comfortable to sit next to a group of women that were near my age, and the same skin color as me. But Pam entered my head. What if I pick the seat next to someone different? Different generation; different skin color; different gender? What if I not only did that, but stepped past them, as they sat on the end of that row, and then sat right next to them?

So that is what I did. I asked this gentleman if I could step past him to take the seat right next to him. We did not have a deep, meaningful conversation. After all, it was jury duty. But I did learn something about him. This was the first time he had ever received a jury summons. He has a school-age daughter. He took the bus to get to jury duty, which likely meant he had to get up way earlier than me to make the trip and be there early enough to get that good end seat. Also, he was just as exasperated (and relieved) as me, when more than an hour after they selected a handful of jurors to head up to one of the courts, they announced that the rest of us were not needed, and we were released.

In retrospect, I truly wish I had formally introduced myself, and asked for his name. But I did learn that even if you do not know someone’s name, you can still get to know a little about them from a short, casual conversation. I also learned that most people, if approached in a friendly manner, will share a part of their story and enrich you. I hope he found this Random Act of Interaction enjoyable as well.

Thanks and keep them coming!

#randomactsofinteraction #comfortzonesucks

Othering & Belonging Conference

On April 8-10, I attended the Othering & Belonging Conference in Oakland, CA. It was so great to be in the midst of like-minded people. I have added new activities, new vocabulary, new books and a renewed excitement for this work. One term that I want to share right now is Belonging. They use the term belonging rather than inclusion. Inclusion still has hierarchy attached to it. We, people of color, are being included in the majority work. However, Belonging is where all people come together and co-create their community/society. Thus, the opposite of ‘othering’ is belonging. Othering splits people into groups (breaking) but belonging allows for all and welcomes all (bridging).

This has been the work of Visible Unity from the beginning. We seek to bring diverse people together and help them to develop relationships across cultures. In the words of Othering & Belonging, we have been building a bigger ‘we’.

At the conference a poem by Warsan Shire was recited by a young person.

Home by Warsan Shire

no one leaves home unless
home is the mouth of a shark
you only run for the border
when you see the whole city running as well

your neighbors running faster than you
breath bloody in their throats
the boy you went to school with
who kissed you dizzy behind the old tin factory
is holding a gun bigger than his body
you only leave home
when home won’t let you stay.

no one leaves home unless home chases you
fire under feet
hot blood in your belly
it’s not something you ever thought of doing
until the blade burnt threats into
your neck
and even then you carried the anthem under
your breath
only tearing up your passport in an airport toilet
sobbing as each mouthful of paper
made it clear that you wouldn’t be going back.

you have to understand,
that no one puts their children in a boat
unless the water is safer than the land
no one burns their palms
under trains
beneath carriages
no one spends days and nights in the stomach of a truck
feeding on newspaper unless the miles travelled
means something more than journey.
no one crawls under fences
no one wants to be beaten
pitied

no one chooses refugee camps
or strip searches where your
body is left aching
or prison,
because prison is safer
than a city of fire
and one prison guard
in the night
is better than a truckload
of men who look like your father
no one could take it
no one could stomach it
no one skin would be tough enough

the
go home blacks
refugees
dirty immigrants
asylum seekers
sucking our country dry
niggers with their hands out
they smell strange
savage
messed up their country and now they want
to mess ours up
how do the words
the dirty looks
roll off your backs
maybe because the blow is softer
than a limb torn off

or the words are more tender
than fourteen men between
your legs
or the insults are easier
to swallow
than rubble
than bone
than your child body
in pieces.
i want to go home,
but home is the mouth of a shark
home is the barrel of the gun
and no one would leave home
unless home chased you to the shore
unless home told you
to quicken your legs
leave your clothes behind
crawl through the desert
wade through the oceans
drown
save
be hunger
beg
forget pride
your survival is more important

no one leaves home until home is a sweaty voice in your ear
saying-
leave,
run away from me now
i dont know what i’ve become
but i know that anywhere
is safer than here

 

My Trip to the Border

“Hatred became coalesced into policy.”

Spoken by a representative of Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network.

This quote speaks such volumes as to the depth of the destructiveness of US immigration actions. I was able to see this first hand on a recent trip to the Texas border through the Courts & Ports: Faithful Witness on the Texas-Mexico Border sponsored by Texas Impact and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas.

Late on January 13th, I boarded the plane excited about heading to Brownsville and the border. Early in the morning on January 14th, we headed out to sit in on the court proceedings. It was heartbreaking to see people in shackles for merely wanting a better life. To my surprise, it was not just Hispanic and Latino immigrants crossing over in Brownsville. There were 6 men from Bangladesh and 1 from Sri Lanka in court. They were going to be turned over to immigration officials because they were not able to get interpreters due to the government shutdown.

After lunch, we volunteered at a respite center where multiple busloads of immigrants were dropped off as a temporary part of their journey. They were able to shower, get new clothes, eat, connect with separated loved ones and contact their host in the US. Our group packaged hygiene items, helped people get clothes and shoes that fit, interact with the youth and just be a warm and welcoming presence in their lives. One gentleman kept walking by me with his infant daughter, which I thought was strange. On his third trip past me, I remembered that I had on my clergy collar and laid my hand on his daughter’s back. The biggest grin I have ever seen spread across his face. What an end to a very stressful day.

The next morning (the 15th), we went to the offices of the Rio Grande Valley Equal Voice Network, where we received more historical information about immigration as well as information on the impact of Trump’s ‘Zero Tolerance.’ From there, we went to two of the three ports of entry in Brownsville, TX. The first one was called the Gateway bridge. It is the main bridge used to go back and forth between the US and Mexico in Brownsville. At the top of the bridge was a make-shift camp of immigrants waiting to be called over to the US. They didn’t dare leave the bridge lest they lose their place in line since only a few were being called over each day. There had been a restroom, but it developed plumbing issues and they were not fixed, nor the restroom replaced by another.

The second bridge also had a make-shift camp, but their restroom was still working. They can expect to stay in these camps for weeks before being called. We encountered a man who had been an anthropologist in his home country. He was definitely not a criminal or a terrorist. In fact, most terrorists come here by plane, not through borders like these. Our last stop before returning home was a more permanent place where some immigrants can go while they are trying to work things out. At the respite center where we had volunteered, they can only be there 24-48 hours. At this center, they can stay 2-3months. Most of the people who come to this place, do not have a host and so the center becomes their host and helps them through the journey to citizenship. A few who had gone through the process now work at the center.

On this trip, we were taken through the progression of events that immigrants must seek to navigate, many without knowing English. We were given the history of immigration policies and information on the courts. We were able to sit in on the courts, visit two bridges that are ports of entry, visit a respite center and finally a more temporary/permanent shelter for those who need extra help.

I end this blog at the beginning. The day before I left Dallas I was at a workshop and a gentleman was leading a devotion. The focus of his devotion was, “We are God’s beloved.” Little did I know that this would help to prepare me for the upcoming trip. I led the following devotion for our group.

A devotional was shared yesterday about Jesus’s baptism. The clouds opened and God said this is my beloved son, in Him, I am well pleased. He challenged us to think of all of God’s creatures as his beloved.

This immediately brought our border trip to mind. The US does not see all of God’s creatures as beloved nor worthy of humane treatment. I’m constantly amazed at how passionate we can become around animal cruelty yet turn a blind eye to the sufferings of humanity.

First, I want to commend you for not turning a blind eye.
Second, I want to challenge you to see God’s beloved creatures everywhere we go on this trip. In the judge’s seat, in the uniformed personnel, in the immigrants, in the concerned people providing services and goods, to those in our group.

When we can learn to love and show love (they are not the same) everywhere we go, great change is possible.

Let’s pray.

UN International Day of Peace 9/21/18

2018 has been a rough year for me personally and for our nation and world. In this, the 70th year since the United Nations adopted the ‘The Universal Declaration of Human Rights’, Visible Unity celebrated its first International Day of Peace (see flyer below).

Over the next several days, I will post the Preamble and the 30 Articles of the Declaration. We need people working on each of these Articles and I pray you are compelled to pursue one. Contact me if you need assistance in moving forward with the Article you selected.

I pray for God’s blessings and God’s peace throughout the world.

Pam Fields

Flyer

What’s Going On

Not long after I read about yet another shooting of another unarmed black person, I heard Marvin Gaye’s song on the radio.

“What’s Going On”

Mother, mother
There’s too many of you crying
Brother, brother, brother
There’s far too many of you dying
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today – Ya

Father, father
We don’t need to escalate
You see, war is not the answer
For only love can conquer hate
You know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some lovin’ here today

Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
Talk to me, so you can see
Oh, what’s going on
What’s going on
Ya, what’s going on
Ah, what’s going on

In the mean time
Right on, baby
Right on
Right on

Mother, mother, everybody thinks we’re wrong
Oh, but who are they to judge us
Simply because our hair is long
Oh, you know we’ve got to find a way
To bring some understanding here today
Oh

Picket lines and picket signs
Don’t punish me with brutality
Talk to me
So you can see
What’s going on
Ya, what’s going on
Tell me what’s going on
I’ll tell you what’s going on – Uh
Right on baby
Right on baby

There is an opportunity for us to begin having healthy conversations with diverse people around race.  We can’t fix the problem if we can’t even talk about it.

We can’t fix the problem, if we can’t even see others as uniquely created human beings deserving of the treatment granted to all humans.

We can’t fix the problem, if we can’t acknowledge our collective histories.

Come and participate in The Unity Process and let’s turn this around.  Let’s talk and see what’s going on.

Peace on Earth

I was anguishing about the state of this world and how there is chaos and violence everywhere you look. I wished there was more that I could do. While I know that relationship building, reconciliation and peace making are crucial, they sometimes don’t feel like enough. Visible Unity had a Weekend for Peace recently that brought together diverse people to pray, sing, view and discuss film clips around racism and integrate a worship service. A song came to me and our diverse group of peace minded people joined together at a police station and prayed for peace and sang the lyrics of the song – ‘Let There Be Peace On Earth.’

Let there be peace on earth, And let it begin with me

Let There Be Peace on Earth, The peace that was meant to be

With God as our Father, Brothers all are we

Let me walk with my brother, In perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me, Let this be the moment now

With ev’ry step I take, Let this be my solemn vow

To take each moment and live, Each moment in peace eternally

Let there be peace on earth, And let it begin with me

The peace that was meant to be, living in perfect harmony, and beginning with each one of us, should give us pause.  Not long after this, one of the board members of Visible Unity, Inc. sent me a link to a commentary on John 15:12-13 – ‘My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends’. The commentator suggests four things from this passage. The Obligation, the Sufficiency, the Pattern, and the Motive of Christian love. (http://biblehub.com/commentaries/john/15-12.htm)

The Obligation – cherishing a kindly and loving regard to all others; such an attitude is the only fitting expression of the mutual relation of Christians, through their common relation to Jesus; However unlike any two Christian people are to each other in character, in culture, in circumstances, the bond that knits those who have the same relations to Jesus Christ one to another is far deeper, far more real, and ought to be far closer, than the bond that knits either of them to the men or women to whom they are likest in all these other respects.

I like this focus on the obligation of Christians because I feel if we can get this right, then we will have a head start in loving non-Christians. I also like this because I think Christians may be lagging more so than other faiths in loving their brothers and sisters. In Christ, we are all one family.

The Sufficiency – Love will soften the tones, will instinctively teach what we ought to be and do; will take the bitterness out of opposition and diversity, will make even rebuke, when needful, only a form of expressing itself. The ‘one thing needful’ was that they should be knit together as true participators of His life. Love was sufficient as their law and as their guide.

Love is sufficient. What else is there to say?

The Pattern – Now He says, ‘Love one another as I have loved you.’ There stand the three, as it were, the Father, the Son, the disciple. The Son in the midst receives and transmits the Father’s love to the disciple, and the disciple is to love his fellows, in some deep and august sense, as the Father loved the Son. Christ’s love nailed Him to the Cross, and led Him down from the throne, and shut for a time the gates of the glory behind Him. And He says, ‘That is your pattern!’ ‘If He had never died for His enemies’ says one of the old fathers, ‘He would never have possessed His friends.’ The way by which we are to meet even alienation and hostility is by pouring upon it the treasures of an unselfish, self-sacrificing affection which will conquer at the last.

Enemies are future friends when love is involved and seeks relationship. Christians, we have our model. Turn to Christ’s love and allow it to infuse you that you feel compelled, obligated and equipped to love others.

The Motive – The novelty of Christian morality lies here, that in its law there is a self-fulfilling force. We have not to look to one place for the knowledge of our duty, and somewhere else for the strength to do it, but both are given to us in the one thing, the gift of the dying Christ and His immortal love. And so, brethren, if we would know the blessedness and the sweetness of victory over these miserable, selfish hearts of ours, and to walk in the liberty of love, we can only get it by keeping close to Jesus Christ.

From this passage, we should be motivated to reach out in love to all of our brothers and sisters. LOVE IS THE WAY TO RECONCILIATION!!!  LOVE IS THE WAY TO RELATIONSHIP BUILDING!!!  LOVE IS THE WAY TO PEACE!!!  If you have the desire but are unsure of how, please contact me. I will be happy to discuss with you possible avenues of reaching out to those different from you.

Weekend for Peace

This past weekend Visible Unity, Inc. declared a ‘Weekend for Peace.’

Friday evening was ‘Prayers for Peace’ where we met at the Southwest Dallas Police Substation and engaged in prayer, singing and talking.  Seeking to be fortified as we begin or continue in the work of bringing peace into our spheres of influence.

Saturday afternoon we gathered at the Meadows Conference Center for the I/Eye Perspective.  We watched film clips from the movie, ‘I Am Not Your Negro’ and a clip of the self-introduction of ‘Tim Wise.’  We watched these clips with our eyes (Eye Perspective) and then had excellent discussion about race from each of our own personal perspectives (I).

Sunday morning (the most segregated hour) was the Integrated Hour of Worship, where a diverse group attended services at First United Methodist Church in downtown Dallas, Dr. Andy Stoker pastor.

We are in a war.  Yes, a war is going on in our country.  And with all wars people tend to forget that the enemy is also human and has family and friends who love them and who has hopes and dreams for the future.  People also tend to focus on destroying the other.  There is no desire to try and come together and talk things over.  Hate is the focus, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to kill.  Lastly, people tend to believe all the propaganda about the other side.  That they are not human, good or worthy.  They are a bane to society and so on.  This provides the ammunition needed to keep the war going.  It helps people to believe they are doing the right thing, the good and necessary thing.

In his sermon, Dr. Stoker remarked that we have a tendency to turn practice into truth.  I would add that in the history of the US, there has been a practice of devaluing people of color and this practice has turned into a truth.  A truth that has to be dismantled.  A truth that is founded upon ignorance and mainly, fear.  James Baldwin, when talking about the nature of the rage between Black and White, said that, ‘The root of the black man’s hatred is rage.  Blacks don’t hate whites.  It’s more rage; they just want them out of their way and more importantly, out of their children’s way.  The root of the white man’s hatred is terror.  A bottomless, unnameless terror which focuses on this dread figure and entity which lives only in his mind.’

The way past this terror and this unfounded truth is through relationships, relationships across cultures and divides, relationships across gender and economic divides, relationships across faiths.  Visible Unity can help you with this.  Contact us and join us in peace-building and relationship building.

 

 

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