Tapping into Joy for Racial Justice?

Filling in the blanks

Friends, this is a brand new venture for me and I’m so glad you joined in. It may evolve, but here’s what I’m planning to do with it, based on input from friends:

  • a brief piece on a positive way I’m witnessing racial justice in the world, maybe with a couple of ways you could participate, or just so you can be reminded you’re not the only one in the world invested in this work.
  • “What I’m reading” or “the podcast giving me life” and maybe a link to a song that’s really inspiring me, in case you need some inspiration.
  • How to connect with my racial justice work at the bottom.

If you don’t know me, I’m the founder/director of a nonprofit I’ll probably brag about in a future newsletter. I have been involved in racial justice organizing for about 20 years at this point, and I also provide anti-racism/anti-oppression trainings along with faith-rooted organizing, cultural competence/cultural humility and Diversity, Equity and Inclusion consulting for non-profits, for-profits, community members, educational institutions and faith communities. This monthly newsletter is mostly my way of reminding us all that in addition to dismantling systems of oppression, we are building something beautiful with every intentional act of justice. It’s my way of connecting to my community. I hope you enjoy it. And I hope you help me make it better.

Making racial justice a family affair

A friend of a friend is a fifth grade teacher just outside of Oakland where I live. She’s spending some of her online class time in October with her students helping them learn about activism and activists throughout history. 

In a couple of weeks they get to meet a real live activist…me! 😀

She’d like me to talk with them about what they, at the age of 10 or 11 can do to make a difference in the world right now.

I’m still collecting ideas, and I’m still stumped by a couple of barriers, truth be told. (Ideas from friends: video messages to legislators! writing letters to seniors to encourage them to vote! Participating in voting postcard campaigns! Barriers: what if your parents’ politics are not supportive of racial justice? How do you make your voice heard when they get to shape where you’re allowed to show up?)

But what has me inspired is that a teacher wants children to know how powerful they are, and that they can make a difference in the world right now.

I think part of why I love that is that I encounter so many adults with so much MORE power who think they’re powerless. I wish we could all have had this fifth grade teacher.

A few years ago I went through a training in Sacramento by an organization called TURN  to change a very boring law that causes poor people and particularly poor people of color a LOT of grief. The way the utilities monopolies in my state worked, people with electrical medical equipment or medicine that needed refrigeration faced risk of life if they couldn’t pay their utility bills. Families might end up homeless because there was no way to erase overdue electrical bills which could haunt their credit ratings for decades. 

What stuck out for me about my cohort in the training was that there was a girl there, around 10 or 11, who was going through the training along with the rest of us. She was learning with her parents how to tell the story of how these policies had hurt her family and her community. She was smarter than me and a better speaker, and her whole family saw it as their business to speak out about injustice. It was a family thing. (See if you can find her in the picture below from that training.)

I love an organization that believed a child should have an equal voice and that her story mattered. I love this teacher who’s letting her students know their voices matter. I love that my friend Tai Amri taught his second graders the story of Turtle Island on Indigenous People’s Day so that they grow up knowing a different origin story for this land than he and I learned. I love that my friend Innosanto Nagara writes children’s books like A is for Activist and Oh the Things We’re For. I find encouragement in every parent who’s having hard but necessary conversations about racism and helping their children learn how to show up for justice.

So today, I find encouragement not JUST in the next generation, but in the people of our generations who are supporting the next generation in finding their voice, making room for their leadership, and exposing them to ways they can speak out for justice. It means we’re moving together in the direction of thriving. 

I hope you find encouragement in that, too. I suspect you’re one of the people doing exactly that work. Thank you for giving ME hope.

-Sandhya