Nonviolence, privilege and grief. Thoughts on South Carolina and a child I love.

Art by Demar Douglas, found on pinterest

Art by Demar Douglas, found on pinterest

This morning I sat down to write a letter to a beloved recent teen in my life, a newly minted thirteen-year-old. We go to protests a lot, and museums where we learn about farm workers and the Black Panthers and the American Indian Movement.

This beloved recent teen has been to hell and back, and the amount of resilience that is demanded of her is, to my mind, stupid. By which I really mean unjust. By which I mean I wish I could protect her and it makes me furious that I can’t. And by furious, I mean helpless.

I debated whether to mention the shooting in South Carolina. I debated it because she may not be watching the news these days and I don’t know that it is helpful for her to know about more suffering in the world. Mostly because I don’t want her to have more to be sad about or to be scared of or to hate the world for.

I’ve been reminded recently that it is hard to talk about any issue in a way that speaks to everyone’s lived experience, and when talking about anything related to race, it is that much harder, because we do have the same amount of skin in the game, but the way the game goes does not affect us the same way. (That is, even White people who HATE racism benefit from it, and Black people don’t, and the rest of us have a very complex terrain to navigate.) A great illustration of how privilege and oppression shape our responses to racial issues is that popular Facebook meme about police brutality and Black Lives Matter that reads “Black people are saying ‘STOP KILLING US!’ and White people’s response is ‘But…'”
More recently, though, (more…)

Guest post: A celebration of singleness (Or, as originally titled, “I s***.” Just so you’re warned.)

Many of you have been following my posts about my Season of Singleness, which officially ended on December 31, although I’m definitely not rushing into anything serious right now. One of my good friends from the justice movement, Beth Trimarco, was inspired enough by the series to write her own observations about what is GREAT about being single as a source of joyous reflection for all of us who are single, whether by choice or not. And she does not spare her candid observations about what seems potentially UNfun about partnered life. ENJOY this piece by Beth! And I promise to do a final installment myself by the end of the week. And for those of you who know me as a pastor and are shocked by the curse words and sex references below, please know that I thought this piece was really fun. 🙂 And if you have a perfect married life with lots of sex and no chores, tell your married friends about it.

I shit. It stinks. And I get to leave the bathroom door open when I do it. That’s just one of the benefits of being a single gal in my 40’s. At every twist and turn in American culture: from the media to the workplace to our communities, single women hear messages designed to make us feel less than everyone else. But I am here to celebrate being single and invite you to join me.

Firstly, there’s sex. Unlike my coupled friends, I actually have it. My friends in long-term relationships all seem to have an endless list of “chores” to do regarding their households. Empirical evidence shows time and again that when people decide to cohabitate, their chores exponentially grow. By the end of a day full of laundry, rearranging the furniture, toilet scrubbing, and cat food making, no one has the energy for sex.

In contrast as a solo habitator, my dishes don’t get done for a week, and I don’t care. I go out to eat; I have friend dates; I have date dates; and sometimes, I have sex with a woman I’m dating.

Secondly, there’s money. Almost all of my coupled friends have disparate incomes. One partner makes like $25-50K more than the other partner. The low-earner feels powerless, like they can’t keep up, and in a constant state of having to put constraints on the relationship. The high-earner feels guilty for having too much power, resentful that they foot more of the bills, and in a constant state of pretending like it doesn’t bother them that the couple can’t do more. This dynamic plays out through terrible power dynamics and people feeling bad about themselves.

In contrast, I have a middle class income which no one tells me how to spend. Sure, I work at a nonprofit and will likely be living under a bridge, eating cat food in my retirement (and not the homemade kind.) But right now, I have total authority over my funds, and I don’t have to be in comparison with somebody else. I can either afford something, or I can’t.

Lastly, there’s freedom. And friends. When I try to make a plan with a friend who’s in a couple, they have to either ask their partner’s permission, or they drag their partner along. Coupled people act like they have an overzealous mom at home overseeing their schedules who also need to chaperone on friend dates.

In contrast, I want quality one-on-one time with friends to have coffee, go out to dinner, go on hikes, or just visit. As a single gal, I have total freedom over my schedule. I do what I want, go where I want, and never have to compromise how I spend my time.

I’m sure you’re saying, “Yeah, that sounds great, but what about loneliness; solo holidays; no family; the lack of security of a double income; and not having someone who always has your back?” Okay, I hear you, and yeah – I’m sure I’ll meet someone special someday and trade it all in for a life of chores.

But I ask you, when was the last time you thought about the positives of single life? It’s time for single women to start enjoying our singleness instead of bemoaning it. And through that enjoyment, there’s power. We have so few role models for this kind of powerful woman, so it makes sense that we all walk around hating ourselves and wondering what’s wrong with us that we are still single. I say “STOP!” Every minute not spent sitting in that power is a minute we deny ourselves the joy of freedom. And the joy of spending time with some amazing people: ourselves.

Building Community in a World Uninterested in Community

My roommate and I reached an impasse yesterday.

I could be wrong, but I think the impasse ended with him feeling sorry for a poor old thing so lonely she needed the young man she cooked for to keep her company and me feeling sorry for a young man more focused on making it big in the future than in enjoying what is good about the present.

But since I own the apartment, impasse might be the wrong word. Cuz brother’s gotta find new digs, which probably won’t be $500 including utilities and food, while I get to stay in my trendy pad with a view of the city skyline and start throwing parties again.

See, I was seeking community.


Christmas values – Day 6: Charity

“Scrooge was better than his word.  He did it all, and infinitely more; and to Tiny Tim, who did not die, he was a second father.  He became as good a friend, as good a master, and as good a man, as the good old city knew, or any other good old city, town, or borough, in the good old world.  Some people laughed to see the alteration in him, but he let them laugh, and little heeded them; for he was wise enough to know that nothing ever happened on this globe, for good, at which some people did not have their fill of laughter in the outset; and knowing that such as these would be blind anyway, he thought it quite as well that they should wrinkle up their eyes in grins, as have the malady in less attractive forms.  His own heart laughed: and that was quite enough for him.”

It feels like at this time of year, liberal or conservative, we all grow a little more tender hearted towards those in need.

Ok, our definitions of who is in need are sometimes head scratching: a friend of mine in the midwest recently started pastoring a church that runs a toy drive among its working- to middle-class congregation (a lot of nurses and administrators and so forth), with the toys going to their own children at the church’s big Christmas celebration. When he asked about whether they might want to give to children in real need, maybe through the town’s fire and police annual Toys for Tots project, they stroked their chins and acknowledged that one year, they did give the leftover toys to charity.

But that congregation notwithstanding, we all donate a little more and smile a little more and hope it all balances out when we claim our tax deductions in April.

Of course, there are some people who worry that even this season is becoming less charitable as a warped version of free market capitalism becomes laudable in certain circles (what Ayn Rand horrifyingly referred to as “the virtue of selfishness”). Witness here Jimmy Kimmel’s rendition of the Fox News interpretation of It’s a Wonderful Life: (more…)

Thoughts on Serial, my killer ex, and Whose Lives Matter

I’m finally listening to the series Serial that everyone’s talking about (or at least all of my intellectual liberal White friends). It’s about a guy who’s been in prison for 15 years for killing his high school ex-girlfriend except he maybe didn’t do it.

(As an aside, I’m on episode 8, and finally an attorney from the Innocence Project at UVA just said something I found myself thinking in episode 1: It’s interesting that the guy in prison was pretty much their only candidate even though the case was pretty shaky, and that they described his “dark side” and how he was “controlling” in their relationship even though the ex hadn’t experienced him that way. He’s Pakistani, which is why I found the descriptions of his personality interesting. Hello, profiling.)

Listening to the show and all of the evidence gathering and so forth reminded me of my own brief interactions with the Baltimore PD back in 1996. I googled my ex-boyfriend who is still behind bars and came across a quirky after-the-crime story. He brought a case in 2000 demanding that Johns Hopkins University grant him the degree he had earned; he finished his degree work in December 1995 and killed his best friend on campus in April 1996. Hopkins didn’t offer early degrees, so he would have received his degree in May 1996, but the university decided that killing a fellow student on campus was grounds for withholding his diploma. The court supported the university’s decision. The homicide unit called me in the immediate aftermath of the 1996 shooting to ask a few questions but weren’t all that interested in my answers because it was such an open-and-shut case. (The ex’s defense attorney was much more interested in me because he had read all of my ex’s and my emails and said he felt like he knew me. If you wonder why I care about internet privacy, it’s because I know how embarrassing the violation of internet privacy feels.)

We’ve fallen out of touch over the years, but I remember the ex telling me in a phone conversation maybe 6 months into his sentence that the inmates were watching a cops-and-robbers movie and everyone else was cheering for the robbers, and he was still rooting for the cops. He definitely didn’t think he belonged there.[1] (more…)

This bridge called my back in this new civil rights movement moment

Navigating “not Black or White” and “Nonviolent but not non-violent” as an ally and activist

I suspect every woman of color in America has at multiple points felt that Donna Kate Rushin wrote the Bridge poem for her. As I wonder whether the bonds of friendship with my radical anarchist friends of color will hold and if the bonds of friendship with my White liberal friends will hold, I caution myself not to be so melodramatic as to think my experience is anywhere near as painful as hers, but I’m so grateful she wrote it:


In part, it reads,

I explain my mother to my father my father to my little sister
My little sister to my brother my brother to the white feminists
The white feminists to the Black church folks the Black church folks
To the ex-hippies the ex-hippies to the Black separatists the
Black separatists to the artists the artists to my friends’ parents…  

I’ve got to explain myself
To everybody  

I do more translating
Than the Gawdamn U.N. 

I’m not Black. (more…)

“Things taken: Finding Healing on foreign soil this Thanksgiving”

18th annual Berkeley Multifaith Thanksgiving Service

Northbrae Community Church, host

Message by Sandhya Jha, Director of the Oakland Peace Center and Director of Interfaith Programs at East Bay Housing Organizations


It is a real honor to be here this evening. I have worked with a number of you on affordable housing issues in Berkeley, where the faith community is deeply engaged. But I want to offer a word of confession this evening in relationship to my work with the Oakland Peace Center.


When the Oakland Peace Center was launched three years ago, I traveled across the country to speak, and wherever I went, I explained, “This is the Oakland Peace Center, not the Berkeley Peace Center.” And from Nashville to New Orleans to Chicago to right here in the Bay Area, people knew what I meant by that: we were about stopping people from shooting people in the street, and we were about ending the school-to-prison pipeline that punishes Black and Brown children much more than White children and we were about creating equity and justice and ending disparities. That was Oakland peace. Berkeley peace, to me, was about banning the bomb and saving the whales. (I told you this was a confession.)