A few months ago, I was able to experience my first climb up the mountainside to the Initiatives of Change conference center in Caux, Switzerland, where I shared ten memorable days with extraordinary people from all over the world. The complexity of our collective backgrounds, the solidarity and deep commitment to improving our world reflected amongst my fellow attendees, the stories of tragedy, resilience and hope, the other-worldly beauty of the surrounding landscape, at times overloaded my senses and mind. I was warned ahead of time that the experience might provoke much within. In fact, my days often ended with me replaying in my mind the stories I had heard, the challenges that were raised, and the many questions that perplexed me.
The one question that has most prominently stuck in my mind since descending from Switzerland's alpine air, is how does IofC USA ensure in 2017, and beyond, that its deep tradition of caring for and accompanying people through the "mountaintop" and "valley" moments of their lives continues to be impactful and sustainable? Our noble spiritual movement is rooted in inspirational standards for personal and societal integrity, which are consistently checked and reinforced within us through the discipline of quieting and listening. Is this enough to say with certitude that we are meeting people where they are? In other words, by proclaiming ourselves to be a movement centered in the "heart of community" we are committing to walk with people in a place that is often one of immense pain, brokenness and loss. Are we sufficiently equipped in skill, spirit and knowledge to help lift these burdens? Is our understanding of the individual and communal wounds, sobered and technical enough to truly grasp the depth and breadth of such need?
Neither our IofC USA team, nor any one organization or ministry, has all the required capacity, perspective and skill to fully understand and respond to such need. We may not even be aware of the manner in which our efforts to facilitate nonviolent change and healing from historical traumas can manifest as secondary trauma in our own lives and organizations. As Father Henri Nouwen boiled it down: "who can take away suffering without entering into it?"
These are complicated dynamics and I'll avoid pretending to have crisp answers in hand for them. What has steadied my mind since Caux has been my reflection on IoC's esteemed tradition of relationship building which has enabled it to establish an extensive and animated web of people and institutions who collectively hold the expertise, will and integrity needed to help us answer many of these questions. It is through these partnerships that we'll be able to continually offer communities something that is creative, exceptional and resilient, while also strengthening the health and sustainability of our own organization.
Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation
More than a vision, an imperative
By Rob Corcoran
Healing the racial divide is "the most important thing any of us can be involved in," said former Mississippi governor, William Winter, at the start of a Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT) Summit in December. A multi-sector group of 16 Richmond leaders took part in the summit held in Carlsbad, California, at the invitation of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The delegation convened by Initiatives of Change, included representatives of Richmond City Council, the city's Office of Community Wealth Building, the Police Department, Bon Secours Health Systems, Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority, the American Civil War Museum, Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, the University of Richmond, and the Richmond Hill retreat center.
"In Truth, Racial Healing and Transformation the power of love is leveraged to transcend the power of fear," said the visionary leader of this initiative, Dr. Gail Christopher, senior advisor and vice president at the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The Richmonders joined 580 participants from advocacy groups, faith-based organizations and local governments, as well as from academia, philanthropy, business and the arts. All are working on visions and strategies to develop new historical narratives, processes for racial healing and steps to building healthy, equitable communities. Groups came from Los Angeles, Minneapolis, Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Buffalo, Dallas, Washington, DC, as well as regions of Mississippi, New Mexico and Michigan.
"Our beliefs are shaped by the stories we hear," said Gail Christopher on the first morning. "Today is about stories...When we form a circle we suspend the hierarchy...we are not here to judge but to create a safe and sacred space." Essential to the healing process is overcoming false narratives that define us. Experienced practitioners facilitated healing circles where participants shared personal stories about times when they challenged and perhaps changed a false narrative about themselves or their identity group. Such healing sessions are powerful experiences that one practitioner describes as a process of slowing down, of showing up as your authentic self, and of deep listening and being listened to without judgement.
Day two focused on healing the wounds of our society that result from our belief in a racial hierarchy. David Williams from Harvard's School of Public Health shared data showing the devastating impact of racism on health outcomes for people of color. In a presentation entitled "the house that racism built" he called residential segregation America's "most successful political ideology." It impacts schools, employment, transportation, public safety - all of which impact health. "It is a truly rigged system based on skin color." In a city like Richmond, Virginia, there is a 20-year difference in life expectancy between some neighborhoods. Studies show that ending residential segregation would result in the elimination of disparities in educational achievement, employment, and health, and would reduce by two-thirds the number of births by single mothers.
With racial divisiveness rising across America, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), together with more than 130 organizations is committed to an emerging
Truth, Racial Healing & Transformation
(TRHT) enterprise. Communities across the country came together to celebrate a National Day of Healing on January 17, 2017. The goal was to spur efforts to heal the wounds created by racial, ethnic and religious bias and to build an equitable and just society in which all children thrive.
Richmond, VA, is fortunate in having many groups committed to justice and reconciliation.
Hope in the Cities
Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities
, and the Richmond Peace Education Center convened an interfaith gathering on January 17 to bring a different tone to the public discourse. People from all over the metropolitan region came together as part of the National Day of Healing. Events and proclamations were taking place in cities across America: Montgomery and Selma; in San Francisco and Los Angles; Phoenix and Denver; Atlanta, Chicago and New Orleans; Boston, Detroit and Minneapolis; Buffalo and Portland; Charlotte and Greensboro; Salt Lake City and Washington, DC.
Together they committed to these 10 things to help heal the community:
- Talk with your neighbor; or someone of a different racial, religious, or political background.
- Refrain from re-posting partisan social media posts.
- Recognize your own biases - we all have them! Try taking the Harvard Implicit Bias Test.
- Focus on what is right rather than who is right.
- Resist stereotyping and look for the good in each person.
- Learn about our racial history: walk the historic Slave Trail and visit the many museums that tell Richmond's story.
- Read a book about the legacy of racism in this country, e.g. Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson; When the Fences Come Down by Genevieve Siegel-Hawley; Something Must Be Done About Prince Edward County by Kristen Green; Trustbuilding by Rob Corcoran; Richmond's Unhealed History by Benjamin Campbell, and other books.
- Start a small dialogue group in your neighborhood, organization or workplace, and honor the life story that each person brings.
- Analyze the racial diversity within your neighborhood, workplace, local school, house of worship, etc., and initiate conversations about where and why there might be lack of inclusion.
- Imagine what a healed Richmond metropolitan community would look like and commit personally to work for racial healing and equity; volunteer with organizations that focus on healing and equity such as Hope in the Cities, Richmond Hill, Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities, Richmond Peace Education Center and others.
Caux Scholars Program in India
A sense of responsibility beyond their years
Patrick McNamara, PhD (CSP 1996) has worked locally and internationally with universities, corporations, governments, NGOs, and foundations for 30 years. He is the Director of International Studies for University of Nebraska at Omaha. He currently serves as Vice Chairman of the Board for Initiatives of Change-USA.
The 2017 class of the Caux Scholar Program - Asia Plateau (CSP-AP) was an impressive group. This is the second year I taught in CSP-AP and I was left convinced that the program and the participants will have an impact when they return to their communities. The group bonded more quickly than in the first year I taught and had a sense of responsibility that was beyond their years.
The class was made up of mostly 20-somethings from Asia and Africa. This group was incredibly engaged and already had great experience. Many were young professionals or advanced students who were looking for something more than the day-to-day work they were doing. Some examples include:
- Sahar from Afghanistan who was a journalist and filmmaker who was working on women's empowerment. She had made a short documentary about harassment of women on the streets of Kabul that won critical acclaim in her country, but also put her at great risk.
- Shiv who works in Corporate Social Responsibility for Tata Steel. He is from a tribal group himself, so shares a common perspective with the communities he is serving. This was difficult because balancing the personal and professional was particularly difficult for him.
- Oksana who works in Ukraine using theater as a means for social engagement. Her family conflict paralleled her country's conflict and was particularly poignant in her "Conflict where I come from" presentation that all students were required to do.
- Tiffany from Philippines talked of her human rights work which, in light of the new President Duterte's policies, has become even more difficult in recent months. She feared that Duterte's killing squads might strike her or her community.
- Ali from Lebanon who worked for an NGO serving refugees. He was particularly committed to seeking an end to the war in Syria in order to stop the suffering which results in refugees to his country. Read more
Cultivating cultural agility
By Kathy Aquilina
We are shaped by culture. The context of our personal identity is the culture we swim in. We are not often aware of this until we encounter those who are different from us, who are not part of our in-group. By meeting and understanding individuals from other cultures, we can gain an important understanding of our self, as well as the other.
On December 16, the DC Interfaith Network, supported by Initiatives of Change, held a workshop on "Cultivating cultural agility" in Washington, DC. The workshop was led by Julia Gaspar-Bates, Professor at George Washington University and President and co-founder of Intercultural Alliances (ICA). A group of 4 IofC US staff and one Board Member joined 28 participants from the Washington, DC, community to discuss culture, bias, and how we can reach across cultural divides to better understand each other.
But first, we have to determine: what is culture? It is our shared values and assumptions, the way we think, act, do and learn. Culture can often hide more than it reveals; it's a kind of code that outsiders can be puzzled and marginalized by. And what we see - behavior - is just the tip of the iceberg.
After discussing and defining culture within the group, we moved on to discuss how we could cultivate empathy to create a more inclusive environment in your work and community. "Reach out to others with a sense of curiosity," offered one person. "Having a better understanding of systemic structures, developing that awareness can help," stated another.
Time for a reset
Dick Ruffin was executive director of Initiatives of Change USA for 23 years. His work in the late 1980s led to the creation of the International Council, the change of name to Initiatives of Change and the founding of IofC International, of which he was Executive Vice President for eight years.
America's nightmare is over. Or is it? Toxins infused into the body politic through a protracted and horrific campaign are not easily purged. It was not only the candidates who flaunted basic values of honesty, respect and decency, abetted by a rating hungry media. We, voters and non-voters alike, were complicit, either by our silence, or by what we said or passed on or simply by the relish with which we watched the debacle, like kids at a food fight.
It would be both naive and irresponsible to expect the restraint of the President-elect, the Democratic opposition and the media to restore civility to our political life. The hurts are deep, the pains real and the benefits alluring. We should expect more provocations that mess with our emotions and release more toxins.
No, if the toxins are to be purged, it must be done by us, by citizens who choose to stop playing the game and accept responsibility for the mess. It means making a fresh start, resetting our inner clocks.
How do we do this?
Perhaps a first step is to pause and consider in the quiet of our own hearts how we might have behaved differently during the campaign.
Secondly, we could resolve to stop playing the blame game. Cease rehearsing arguments that demonize the "other." Turn off the hyper-partisan talk shows. Stop passing along social media postings that only raise blood pressure. Stop stereotyping and develop a healthy skepticism about what purports to be news.
Thirdly, let's start listening, especially to those with whom we disagree. Reach out to neighbors, workmates and those in our own families who think differently, and discover what are their real concerns. Read and reflect on varied viewpoints. Look for common ground and appreciate sensible observations from the other side. That's what problem solvers do, and we can do that.
We hope you enjoyed this issue of
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Journey to Equity
Closing the racial equity gap benefits all
Wednesday, February 8, 2017, 8:00-10:00 am
: University of Richmond Jepson Alumni Center, 49 Crenshaw Way, Richmond, VA 23173
: The Honorable Levar M. Stoney, Mayor of the City of Richmond
: Dr. Ronald A. Crutcher, President of the University of Richmond
Keynote: Reverend Alvin Herring is director of racial equity and community engagement for the W. K. Kellogg Foundation. His work advances the foundation's mission to support children, families and communities as they strengthen and create conditions that propel vulnerable children to achieve success in school, work and life. On an enterprise level, he actively guides the integration of community engagement and racial equity. As a much sought after speaker on campuses and in corporate board rooms, Reverend Herring has been described as a "messenger" of hope and inspiration.
There is no charge for the continental breakfast. Registration required by Friday, February 3, 2017. To register
Be part of the 2017 class!
The Caux Scholars Program teaches students to analyze conflicts, to understand the factors that create and sustain conflicts, and provide practical understanding of approaches to resolving conflicts - conflict prevention, negotiation and transitional justice.
Twenty students from around the world are selected for this four-week course held in Caux, Switzerland, during the Initiatives of Change global summer conferences.
: US $3800 (covers tuition, meals, lodging)
: Initiatives of Change conference center in Caux, Switzerland
: June 26 - July 24, 2017
: Limited to 20 students
: February 17, 2017
Apply now! More information
Plan on visiting Caux this summer!
June 30, 2017
June 29-July 2, 2017
Ethical Leadership in Business
July 4-9, 2017
Just Governance for Human Security
July 11-15, 2017
Caux Dialogue on Land and Security
July 17-21, 2017
Addressing Europe's Unfinished Business
July 23-26, 2017
Towards an inclusive peace
July 29-August 4, 2017
Children as Actors for Transforming Society
The 2016 Caux Report is now published online. Hard copies will be available from our office.
Healing the social ecosystem
By John Taylor
Last summer Duron Chavis (CTF 2015) was hired by the nationally renowned Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond, VA, as its first Community Engagement Coordinator. In this new position Duron is chiefly responsible for the Garden's outreach and relationship-building across a diverse community, expressly to foster greater collaboration and facilitate neighborhood-based urban greening and beautiful place-making initiatives.
Duron, who is a native of Richmond, graduated from Virginia State University, where over the past two years he has served as project director of the Harding Street Urban Ag Center, an indoor farming incubator funded by the US Department of Agriculture. He is known nationally for his leadership in urban agriculture and is an advocate for community-designed solutions to local challenges. He is a graduate of Hope in the Cities' Community Trustbuilding Fellowship program (2015) and Leadership Metro Richmond (2011); and is a certified Alternatives to Violence Project conflict resolution trainer.
Duron has been hard at work to design and develop the new Ginter Urban Gardener Program. Dozens applied for 14 spots for the 12 week training program that is teaching sustainable agriculture, urban greening and the important work of community building within and around the Richmond metro area.
The Ginter Urban Gardener training not only teaches participants the intricacies of how to garden, but also how to lead large-scale projects and coordinate volunteers. Most importantly, the training serves as personal development for citizens to learn how to work with the community, not just for it. Hope in the Cities facilitators Rob Corcoran, Tee Turner, Joshua Ballew, and John Taylor have adapted the HIC/IofC's principles, training and tools to assist the trainees with this aspect of the program.
now in paperback
by Rob Corcoran
Read Rob Corcoran's latest blog
A passion for economic justice and peacebuilding
By Charles Aquilina
Rajmohan Gandhi, who served as President of Initiatives of Change International from 2009 - 2011, was awarded an honorary degree of Doctor of Humanities by President Lou Anna Simon of Michigan State University on December 17 of last year. The citation read in part, "For more than half a century, you have been associated with Initiatives of Change, a group committed to trustbuilding, reconciliation and democracy."
Rajmohan Gandhi, noted author, statesman and scholar, was a Distinguished Hannah Visiting Professor at the University during the fall semester. He first became involved with the work of Initiatives of Change, (then Moral Re-Armament, MRA) in 1956, when he was an apprentice at a newspaper in Scotland. Gandhi, who has focused much of his writing on building greater understanding and bringing reconciliation between Hindus and Muslims on the Indian Subcontinent and between many groups in conflict around the world, was also cited in the award for his "passion and commitment to education, civil liberty, tolerance, economic justice and peacebuilding."
Initiatives of Change, USA
is part of a diverse global network with an 80-year track record of peacebuilding, conflict transformation and forging partnerships across divides of race, class, religion and politics.
We inspire a vision of community where a commitment to reconciliation and justice transcends competing identities and interests.
We equip leaders to build trust in diverse communities through a process of personal change, inclusive dialogue, healing historical conflict and teambuilding
We connect core values with personal and public action with a focus on racial reconciliation, economic inclusion and interfaith understanding.
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