How will we heal?

Silence is not necessarily complicity. An important part of demonstrating my commitment to an equitable society includes resisting the temptation to control the narrative, to fill up space with my ideas when there are so many voices to be heard. Silence also creates space for reflection to ground our actions.

Yet, silence that is based on avoidance or lack of conviction speaks volumes. During challenging times, we have an opportunity to demonstrate care for others and our communities by offering hope, direction, comfort, and inspiration. We can use our voice and whatever formal or informal influence we have to contribute to positive change.

But whatever we say, it needs to be linked to meaningful, sustained action.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve asked myself questions like how could so many people not be aware or not care enough to get involved – in whatever way is meaningful to them – before now? How can companies conscionably use their platform to pander with trite sentiment when we all know their motives are questionable? Maybe you have had similar thoughts. These questions reveal my rage linked to systemic injustice and serve as a distraction from the most pressing questions. Which are:

How is it possible for four people to commit such abominable violence in front of a crowd of people and walk away perhaps thinking that they did nothing wrong, or that they did the right thing or what was expected of them; and why is it possible for police to remain accountable only to certain people?

And, secondly, how do we make sure this never, ever happens again?

I have a lot of possible answers to both of these questions, and I’m sure you do too. I believe there are many right answers. My head has been swimming with thoughts as you can probably tell from the scattered nature of this message, which I’m sharing with great vulnerability.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how we can heal. By healing, I do not mean complacency or retreating into the safety of what seems familiar. I mean putting in hard emotional and intellectual work and committing to consistent awareness and action to create a world that is ruled by love and compassion. I’m thinking about how we, all of us, can:

  • Lay down our arms and lift up our ideals
  • Value our connections more than our investment in the way things are
  • Ensure that all mothers can sleep soundly at night, each and every night
  • Enjoy our (non-consumer, non-militant) freedoms without becoming complacent or complicit
  • Allow or create space for others to flourish
  • Resist retreating into authoritarianism and remain curious about nuance and complexity
  • Create a world where it is no longer necessary to accommodate hate
  • Have hearts heavy with hope rather than despair
  • Gently challenge each other to keep learning and unlearning
  • Acknowledge anger and despair as openings to transformation
  • Safely and freely move in a world where connection to place is not based on a political or monetary system
  • Show up for each other when our people are hurting without competition or judgment
  • Be consistently engaged and committed to the creation of a more just, equitable, and loving world

I would love to hear from you. We need to be there for each other. What have you been thinking about? What actions are you involved in? What helpful resources have you come across? Is there anything I can do to support your involvement in this and other movements for human rights and dignity?

Slipping through the Cracks

I was recently visiting a local organization at which a membership card must be scanned upon entering the building. I walked in at the same time as a Latin@ family who were stopped at the entrance and carefully checked one by one. I slipped by in my high heels, skirt, and white skin and made my way to the room where I was giving a presentation without question. I’m white; I’m invisible; I’m background noise.

Changemaker Chat – Kevin Easterling

Kevin Easterling is a native of the Lehigh Valley. As executive director of the Martin Luther & Coretta Scott King Memorial Project of the Lehigh Valley Inc., he coordinated the construction of the only memorial in the world dedicated to Dr. King and his wife Coretta Scott King

How did you first become interested in social change?

Well, as a Black man and descendant of American Slaves, born and living in America, (Specifically the Lehigh Valley) my life experiences (and love of true history) has made it most important that I be engaged in what is now termed social change. If I had to pick a defining point however, I would say the first time I knew I was classified as different was when I moved to Allentown in the mid 70’s…the Allentown School District at that time still had the integrated busing system and I was required to (because I was Black and I lived in a certain neighborhood) attend an all white elementary school across town. It was part of the school integration laws in those days. My experiences back then as a child ingrained in me that things needed to be different.  I couldn’t put my finger on it back then but I knew something had to change.

How do you define social justice?

The abolition of American Chattel Slavery and South African Apartheid, the American Freedom Movement / Civil Rights Movement, pretty much defines the need for and definition of social justice for me. The need to change laws, institutions and economic inequalities that make a certain social, ethnic or economic class of people unequal or second class citizens to other human beings.

What has been your most exciting experience as an activist?

I’ve never considered myself an activist…it seems like when you’re engaged as a Black man, people (or the Press) often label you as an activist. I’ve pretty much somewhere down the line gained a self-empowering attitude for much of my life. Life in itself is exciting when I’m engaged. In my life time though, I had the experience of observing several major world and local changes that were exciting to me…a few that stick out are the fall of Apartheid in South Africa, (Nelson Mandela becoming president), Obama becoming the first Black president. While I wasn’t directly involved in these two events they were very exciting to me.

(Note: This raises an interesting point…what is an activist? What is activism? This is a great conversation starter for local communities! – Editor)

What is the most interesting project in which you are currently involved?

There are several, but if I had to pick one I would have to say the work I’m doing now as the executive director for the Martin Luther & Coretta Scott King Memorial Project of the Lehigh Valley.

What is your vision for a better world?

People have been so conditioned by the rich and powerful that they have settled for injustice because they don’t feel like they can make the world different. The capacity for moral outrage is in much deficit all over the world. A better world will come when all of man-kind understands how we are all connected. There is enough fruit and wealth for everyone on this planet… senseless war and greed has crippled this planet. Remove these two things and things could be a lot better for the world.

What are your plans for the future?

Not sure yet.