One lens to look through...


Thinking Toward a Different Way of Doing

Questions that preoccupy my thinking in this moment:

How can I construct a critical response to the dominant paradigm that moves beyond deconstructing it to ask questions that allow us to imagine what if?

How can I bridge visionary thinking with the lived realities to push theory into action?

Once we imagine it, how do we repurpose the tools we have as we invent new ones to bring what if to what is?

When does intention become action…or when has it and how can we do that more?

Can we move beyond having the same conversations in new words to actually raising consciousness, making sanctioned ignorance something to be ashamed of and pushing these changes into real-life, brick and mortar, ecologically based, life impacting transformation?

As I sat down to write this I put in a CD by Doria Roberts-a tribute to Odetta-and the piece Because came on. It begins with Angela Davis’ voice, “People ask me, how did you become an activist.” She goes on to name events, but can’t quite pin it down. It seems that she watched and listened to the world, found herself responding as needed, as ethically and passionately as was called for, and at some point she became an activist.  We become through the becoming. For some, activism isn’t a choice; it’s the only reasonable thing to do. Davis and Roberts can’t imagine not being an activist in a world where there is still profound injustice, pain and poverty.

I move in the world in spaces and places that are invisible to each other. This is exhausting and a profound privilege that I respect deeply. I have stories that don’t seem to belong in the same book. I didn’t plan it this way. This is the particular path of learning and living that I’ve navigated, small step by small step, and often without the larger picture at the forefront of my decision-making. Now this is where I am. These worlds live amongst one another, or at least in close proximity. There are days when I cannot, for the life of me, wrap my head around the sanctioned ignorance that allows this blindness to self-perpetuate. Still, even as I sit in discomfort and disbelief I understand that the human pulls toward being in control, even when that means trying to control and maintain the dysfunction. Resisting change and staying in the familiar are still stronger than our willingness to see and respond as a whole.

I didn’t plan to be an activist. I listened and watched and landed here and I do my best to respond while still maintaining some semblance of equilibrium in my own house. Art became a tool for activism and sometimes a way to find relief from the literal. Academia is a way to be part of one kind of conversation. Clinical Social Work in an urban high school that houses 2000 kids, about 90% of whom live under the poverty line, is another kind of tool. There is activism in bridging these worlds, in making them visible to each other through the intentional use of voice, body and action. Knowing one another is the surest way to transformation.

My practice, in short, uses the vehicles of art, academia, teaching and learning, clinical social work, grass roots old school social work and dialogue (listening and communicating to build knowledges) to put talk into walk…theory into action…within the context of daily life in ways that aims to create questions that unveil us to each other.

Washing one's hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful, not to be neutral.

     -Paulo Freire

In other words, I would be giving in to a myth of sameness which I think can destroy us.

     -Audre Lorde

The question is no longer how did we get here, and why? but, where can we possibly go, and how?  

     -Suzi Gablik