peace

Things said and left unsaid at #MillionsMarchOAK

Thousands gathered in Oakland yesterday, joining with marchers in San Francisco, New York and Washington, DC. I marched with them, as part of the API solidarity contingent. And I found myself reflecting on what my solidarity looks like with this movement.

from the podium

What I did say:

  • Black Lives Matter. Sometimes I want to clarify, “Black lives should matter more than they do,” because a lot of people are irritated by the slogan and seem to miss the point. But without hesitation I said it.
  • Tell the truth, stop the lies, Mike Brown didn’t have to die. I’ve been surprised and disappointed by how much explaining away of Mike Brown’s death (and even Eric Garner’s death) has happened among people who understand themselves to be against racism. Additionally, good and decent citizens I know have explained away the undercover CHP officer pulling a weapon on an agitated protest crowd this past Thursday. Yes, when under attack in this country people do have the right to defend themselves. But perhaps this situation wouldn’t have arisen if they hadn’t infiltrated the crowd disguised as anarchists looking to break some windows at a moment that tensions between police and civilians are particularly high, particularly in relation to fears of a resurgence in COINTELPRO.
  • I…I believe…I believe that…I BELIEVE THAT WE WILL WIN! This was the chant that closed out the rally. It felt both desperate and hopeful, because the goal of this campaign is so big, and yet it is what many of us have been working towards for years without believing we will actually win on a large scale – the rooting out of systemic racism from our structures of government, including those systems that protect and defend.
  • APIs in solidarity with Black Lives. One of my favorite things about the community I have found here in Oakland is that other communities of color recognize that our own struggles for dignity and value matter, and that those struggles are deeply connected to the culture of anti-Blackness in America. In recent weeks, I’ve been in conversations with API activists who recognize that our immigration rights are connected to the civil rights struggle, and that we are often used as a lever or fulcrum in the racial hierarchization that keeps White privilege in place and keeps Black people on the bottom. (I am also grateful for the Model Minority Mutiny, which additionally brings attention to the ways the model minority myth functions to benefit Asian Americans like me at the expense of many of my API brothers and sisters who are refugees, poor, darker skinned, Muslim, and so on, buying the silence of those who benefit from the model minority myth.) And I am grateful that simultaneously some of us are taking seriously what it means to be in solidarity with the Latino community around both immigration and indigenous rights and dignity in this country. It all needs to happen.allives

What I didn’t say: (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…  

Then
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.)

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The spiritual journey to a secular job

I’ve got one thing on my mind, baby, and that one thing is…fundraising.

Sexy, right?

The Oakland Peace Center is hosting our very first fundraising campaign ever, and it is all I can think about right now.

I sent a couple of appeal emails to people I know through church, and it got me thinking about how a pastor ended up setting up a nationbuilder account and encouraging friends to host house parties instead of creating liturgy and preaching about stewardship. It also got me wondering, if I was called to the spiritual life, why does this secular work feel more spiritually fulfilling?

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When focusing on the “racist” upholds a broken system

or: When are we going to get real about poor people of color wanting to be safe and the underpinnings of the police force undermining the efforts of good police?

 

I just came across this article about an Oakland firefighter filing a discrimination case because he and his young sons were held at gunpoint by a police officer and forced to put their hands up when the firefighter went into his own firehouse to check that it was secured. The firefighter shared that this moment completely reframed his nine-year-old and twelve-year-old sons’ understanding of police officers from this moment forward. Quoting from the article, “I think they view black males as a threat,” the firefighter said.

(A police consultant said there was no racial aspect to the incident and that the officer was following protocol.)

 

I came across the article moments before heading to a Buddhist-led nonviolent protest of Urban Shield, (more…)

Homelessness, the woman on my patio and the Woman at the Well

Sermon preached at First Christian Church of Palo Alto, August 10, 2014.

Text: John 4:5-15 (with references to later verses), the story of the Woman at the Well

Preamble to the sermon:

I am known in some circles for preaching a really up-on-your-feet, clap and shout amen kind of sermon. I think that was why I was invited to preach. So I want to apologize in advance. Three things have happened to me this week that placed a more reflective message on my heart:

  1. A friend of mine from FCC Redding told me this week that when she went on vacation to Savannah, Georgia, she noticed there were no homeless people downtown. When she asked about this, she found out they weren’t allowed in the tourist district. Unsheltered people used to get locked up in jail, but too many of them tried to get arrested so they would have a roof over their head and regular meals. So now they get rounded up and put in an open air pen, to create a greater disincentive to be visible or get arrested. (more…)

A Tale of Two Cities: Redemption and gentrification in a “transitioning” neighborhood and a pop-up middle class neighborhood

When I was pastor at First Christian Church of Oakland, a couple of our regular members were homeless. They made most of their income by recycling. They could tell you where to go on Saturdays when the regular recycling center was closed, and how to get money for the wine bottles that don’t have the triangle arrow you need normally, and how to strip the plastic off phone wires to redeem the valuable copper underneath. (Although in retrospect they were a little embarrassed they admitted to their pastor that they knew how to do that last one.)

Monday through Friday, they took their recycling to Alliance Recycling Center in west Oakland, a few blocks from the home where some of my other congregants lived. You can actually catch glimpses of them in the documentary Dogtown Redemption, made by my now-friend Amir Soltani, whom I met and came to trust because my congregants had seen him in action and could vouch for him.

We showed a community preview of the film at the church in 2007 and would show it to youth groups who stayed at the Oakland Peace Center as a tool to discuss gentrification

This all came back to me because of a colleague’s post on facebook today expressing the same frustrations the film brought up for me: the debate between people who have moved into the neighborhood and the people who make their living from recycling continues to be an issue. The people who have moved into the neighborhood expect the neighborhood to be exactly how they want it to be and are frustrated with homeless people hanging out in the park and near City Slickers garden by the recycling center; they would rather see the recycling center moved to a remote area. And a little nuance I would like to add: some of the longtime residents are also ambivalent about homeless people hanging out in their neighborhood, but the ones I knew recognized that the people who recycled at Alliance needed to go somewhere and didn’t have a sense of a better place to send them. They also didn’t generally perceive them as a threat–the recyclers were generally recycling, they suspected, in order to avoid doing threatening things like robbery and violence.

The reason this has lingered with me isn’t just that I used pastor and continue to be friends with people intimately mixed up in this conflict. It’s that I now live a block away from a small-scale recycling center, too. (more…)