Now That It’s Official: Back to that Whole Safety Pin Thing

A moving, brilliant exploration by my old and dear friend and colleague, Dr. Jennifer Harvey, of how we can keep dissent front and center, and work together for the change we so desperately need. It is long, but read it to the end……it is well worth it!

formations. // living at the intersections of self, social, spirit.

Four days after the election I went for a run on the trail near my house. As I approached each person on the trail I wondered “Is this person gloating and gleeful? Are they relishing an outcome that has me and so many folks beloved to me feeling violated and terrified?” I felt raw, afraid and angry. Self-protective. I wanted to know.

Partway through my run an older white, heterosexual woman saw me coming. This is someone I’ve had occasional small talk with over the years, not someone I know. When she saw me about 25 feet away she stopped dead in her tracks and stretched out both of her arms, palms open, in a gesture of “stop.” I slowed. As I got closer she said to me these words: “I am so sorry. I am so, so, so sorry.”

I burst into tears.

This woman didn’t try to…

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The Continuing War Against Trans Women, Especially Women of Color

I came across this article, and want to post it here, to keep this crisis in front of us. You can read it in its original site here

Skye Mockabee Is At Least the Third Black Trans Woman Murdered In July, 17th Trans Person This Year

Time for Khalil, and Renaissance in Baltimore!

It’s been way too long since I wrote here. I still believe in the power of love to build community, but I need to remember the love has to be active. I express much of that love through writing.

And its not that I have not been writing–every week a new poem at and a new post by Malachi Grennell and I at, often about, at least indirectly about building community. But there are other topics near and dear to me–racial justice, undermining white privilege, justice for Palestine and true security for both Israel and Palestine, caring for our physical world, sharing theological visions and thoughts outside poetry.

hope sproutToday, I want to focus on the story of one young man in Baltimore–a story I encountered in the Washington Post recently, and which has renewed my hope and my desire for change in our marginalized urban communities, the places where hope seems impossible and where violence becomes a way of life. But even in these troubled, even desolate, places, sprouts of life spring up and somehow, by the grace of God and some good people, they are not destroyed. Indeed, they are nurtured and we see yet again that it is possible to make a way out of what seems to be no way.

I can’t recount the entire story of this young man, Khalil Bridge, but you can find the story, “Coming of Age in a City Coming Apart” here. The basic story is that he has grown up in a troubled part of Baltimore, with a lot of street violence and drugs, that his father is long gone, that his mother has so many ailments he has been raising her (and now she is in a care facility), and that he has led a checkered life–but thanks to some grit in himself, and some amazing educators and social workers he has graduated from high school, and is headed, thanks to a GoFundMe campaign to community college. The money and support really came about because of the article, linked above, by Theresa Vargas of the Washington Post.
Khalil Bridge

In addition to the report about Khalil Bridge personally, Vargas makes a powerful point about the presence of violence in the community served by the school from which Khalil just graduated, Renaissance Academy High School and Booker T. Washington Middle School (housed in the same building). In a survey by Promise Heights, a support program run through the University of Maryland School of Social Work, 41% of students surveyed reported knowing someone younger than 19 who was a victim of violence. In addition, 23% of the total sample reported being a victim of violence themselves, and 40% reported knowing someone who has a gun.

How students can succeed in such circumstances is pretty much a mystery to me. That is what makes Khalil Bridge’s story so remarkable. I really hope you read all three-plus pages from the Post.

I contributed a small amount to the GoFundMe campaign, which has raised more than $38,000 on a goal of $30,000. Thus, I am now going to support an organization started by the principal of Renaissance High, Nikkia Rowe, called “Seeds of Promise: Transforming Black Boys into Men,” which aims to provide support in the school for mentors and others to help some of the young men who show real promise. I think that is a wise investment, as does Rick Barth, the Dean of the University of Maryland School of Social Work. You can link to that funding page here.

It’s simple really. We’re never going to break the endless cycle of inner city violence and despair if we don’t begin to make special investments in at least some of the most promising, and simultaneously improve public infrastructure in those same communities.

Khalil Bridge and Antwon Cooper
Khalil Bridge and Antwon Cooper

Just because its simple, does not mean it is easy. But I am quite sure that my investment in Khalil, modest though it is, matched with those of hundreds of others, will help him go all the way to a brilliant career doing something important and a beautiful life he otherwise had no reason to expect or hope for.

And I am also sure that Antwon Cooper, the mentor who was one of the first four hired by Rowe in the Seeds of Promise program and who supported and challenged  Khalil Bridge, can do more good, and could, with his three colleagues, do even more if they had more co-workers in the program. That’s where we and others come in.

I have lived in Maryland for just shy of one year, and I can now see that Baltimore is one of the most dis-eased cities in our nation. I was born in Michigan, 40 miles northwest of Detroit, and that place has barely survived some of the worst social storms endured by any people, They are on the way back, I am told. I had thought I would try to find a way to invest in Detroit, but I think I will do this closer to my home. Real work by not only government and schools, but also private citizens taking initiative is required if we are turn to this beautiful place around. Again, click the program name here for the link to support “Seeds of Promise: Transforming Black Boys into Men.”

I hope you can help.  Give if you can and pray, and even if you can’t give, pray for Khalil and his brothers–those who yet live and those already struck down–in Baltimore.


Why Do So Many People Want God to Be So Small?

After Thanksgrieving (see post on November 25, if this does not make sense to you), I am aware we are heading further into “Holiday Time.”

And I mean deliberately to use “the H Word,” because this is not the time of Christmas only–not a time for Christians only. Happy Holidays!!!

There, I said it. Now strike me dead, Jesus.

Except that of course he will do no such thing.

The dreaded Starbucks holiday cups

The defensiveness, the insecurity of so many Christians–and not only about holiday cups at Starbucks and well-meaning greetings at Walmart and many other retail outlets–belies the confidence and centeredness of the one we profess to follow. I believe it is this same sort of defensiveness and insecurity that causes so many U.S. citizens/residents to fly the national flag everywhere they can.

America love it or leave it

Why is that so many US folks feel such an acute need to repeat how great our nation is? Is it because they do not, deep down, really believe the claim?Do they secretly harbor the fear that we are not perfect (which many of the rest of already know and admit)?

It reminds me of the cynicism among gay men and lesbians when people have a need to broadcast how “straight” they are, and how ugly and awful same-gender-loving people are. Not all homophobes are deep closet cases, but there are enough of them (clergy and legislators and “ex-gays” caught having same-sex sex, e.g.) to keep the cynicism alive.

Certainly, psychologists and others knowledgeable about human behavior, have shown us how we often engage in outward defense against that which we fear, or even know, lurks inside us.

love of God and peace passes all understanding

I am not perfect follower of Jesus, my meditation and prayer life is uneven at best, I fail to love others as we are loved by God, etc., but I do rest in the confidence, the blessed assurance, that God, Jesus, and Holy Spirit, or any of the other ways people know and address the Divine, that no matter what I am loved. . . . and so is everyone else.

Which of course brings us to ISIL, and many other religious fundamentalists in the United States and around the globe, who persist in believing, and acting, on the belief that their way is the only way, that their understanding of God is God.

This makes God very small indeed.

golden calf worship

I suspect God must be used to this by now–the entire sweep of recorded human history is full of people making God in their own image–so I can only imagine the level of rejoicing among the angels when someone, any one, gives that up fantasy and chooses to accept the Big God, the God without limits, the God who encompasses all religions and belief systems, the God who can be, and is, found by many paths.

That is why I am quite comfortable saying “Happy Holidays!” and even wishing others a Happy Hannukah or Kwanzaa and other days, too. If I only proclaim my holiday, I am leaving out part of God. I don’t want to do that.

I love all of God as I know God loves all of me, and all of us and all parts of us. Thank you, God!

And Happy Holidays to You, too!





A History of Inspiration?

Except When He Forgets

What does it mean that the boy creates a fantasy world
where he is living only among other boys of his desire
and at other times he is the leader of the nation
with all the other leaders circling about him
could he be gay or lonely or just well
a little crazy in the head?
Or maybe even then he was supposed to write
word upon word for a new world
but that was too scary fantasy easier
no human trusted to share his secrets
God locked up office hours Sundays only.

Maybe the fantasies were gifts from God
keeping his soul alive
for a latter day when the saint in him
could claim it all?
Stop resisting and start flowing
blowing like wind free and easy or hard
water seeking its own level
not controlled by the damn others construct
in their anxious angry botherings to contain
the percolating of their souls
terrorized by what they see in the glass
afraid others will see it too
strike first at the other even if it is really you.

Now he knows to trust what bubbles
up from springs of sacred wisdom
knocking him off his perch of contentment
into the wild waters of life.

Except when he forgets.

Today Is National Poetry Day

National Poetry Day

New age of Know Nothings is upon us
Curiosity upon curiosity
Odd over odd yet weirder still
elected officials claim religious exemptions to avoid doing their jobs
presidential candidates claim constitutional provisions unAmerican
say stuff happens can’t stop gun deaths
Wall will stop immigrants
Russian bombs for Syria end up in Iran
House Republicans kill off another Speaker due to his weak Right wing

We need some poetry rhyme or no rhyme bad meter or good beat
to lift us from the morass of ego upon endless ego
masking helium-filled lives pretending to be full of more than gas
truth with capital T poking pretense upending lies
some say its only for sissies but some of the toughest folks are that way
poets a tough breed who can tell you off without your knowing
see things that do not exist until the word gives them life
prick a wounded psyche and make it sing
Send in the poets Let us breathe again

Thank You, Marvin Lebolt!

Eighteen years ago today, Jonathan Lebolt and I sat in the living room of his Chelsea (New York City) studio apartment, with his parents, Gladys and Marvin. We four had been out to dinner together, and then we came back so he could show them his new apartment.

I knew what was on my mind, but I did not know it was so obvious to others.

Marvin Lebolt
Jonathan’s father, Marvin, holding his first grandchild, Anna (daughter of Amy, Jonathan’s sister, and her husband, Michael)

Marvin knew, though, and he said, “Gladdy, we have to go now.” She said, “But Jonathan is making us some tea. We just got here.”

“Yes, I know, dear,” he said, “I’m just saying we will drink our tea quickly. They, Robin for sure, have things other than entertaining us on the agenda tonight.” With that, he looked at me, and winked.

So he knew, too! And after winking again, and making sure Gladys saw it, too, she understood as well. “Oh, okay,” she said, with her big smile.

Robin & Jonathan Sept 2015It was unlike my father-in-law (now dead 14 years) to be so assertive, but this time he played his part to the hilt. For once, he ran the show.

So, although I dedicate this day, September 21, to the great love of my life, I also give special thanks to a wonderful man, Marvin Lebolt, who knew love when he saw it. Thanks, Dad!

And most of all, thank you, Jonathan, for 18 wonderful years . . . here’s to many more!

Black = Life

I grew up 60+ years ago in a culture where black was the color you wore when someone died.

It is also true that black was considered an elegant color for women to wear, e.g., the little black sheathe for a cocktail party.

But somehow what really stuck with me was black = death.

Black lives matterI remember, in my adolescence, reading, in Time I think, that Queen Juliana of the Netherlands (or was it Wilhemina?) said she wanted to be dressed in white for her funeral. I thought that was really cool, because it reflected her truth, and mine today, that death is not the end. However, that leads me to think I want to be dressed in my favorite colors (if there is a casket)–teal, purple, and pink.

But still people wear black to funerals, or at least dark colors, and people wear black arm bands to signify some deep sense of loss or despair or anger.

I have decided to change that for myself.

I am wearing black today to signify life. I am wearing black today, as part of “Black Lives Matter Sunday.” Black Is Beautiful. Black lives are beautiful. [The irony is that I am wearing a clerical collar for part of the day, and it is white–standing out against the rest of my clothing. I am thinking we need a black collar!]

There often is debate about whether black is a color or the absence of all color. In the science of optics, in the visible spectrum, black absorbs light and is thus the absence of color.

But still we see black. So it must be something. And because black absorbs light, we could say it is the wisest color, receiving and accepting all that is light and transforming it to black.

Whatever science says or does not say, I believe we–especially those of us who are white–must change our relationship with black. It is a social color even if scientists say it is not a color.

Healing our nation of nearly 400 years of overt and covert racism and white supremacy requires that we begin to truly value black.

I matter- young African American boyI live in a city whose infrastructure was built on the backs of Black slaves and marginalized workers during Jim Crow, and where today, as in our whole country, the poverty rate among Black people is much higher than among white people (and the gap continues to grow). And of course, Black men die, due to police actions as well as to neighborhood violence, at an alarming rate. Among transgender persons, the rate of murder against Black women is many times that of others.

This is not due to something inherent or inborn in them. Sadly, however, many Black people have absorbed this negativity, too.

But the truth is that white people create this monster. And we are the ones who can stop it.

I am starting here: Black = Life.

What are the rules on your playground?

Violence and punishment are the order of the day in so many places. From Syria to Ferguson, and a lot of locations in between and beyond, governments and groups and individuals use murder, mayhem, intimidation, and unjust rules and structures to keep people in their place, meaning of course where others think they belong.

The response to all this is often more of the same. It is the old playground “game” of when you are pushed, you push back.

Of course, such response is usually couched in terms of defense. “We have to defend ourselves.” It seems reasonable enough, except that is what the other folks are saying, too.

If everyone exercises their right to defend themselves, who will ever make peace?

A community in Denmark is trying something different, responding to Islamic warriors who return to their home in that northern European nation not with prison and punishment, but with help to live different, and better, lives.

You can read about it here.

Will it work? Is it practical? Will the effects last? All good questions.

But we can be pretty certain that the usual way–responding to violence and acting out with punishment and prison, perhaps even worse–has not not worked yet. If that way had worked, there would be less violence, not more.

Electoral Angst, and Joy

Election day always brings anxiety for me. And joy.

The anxiety comes from worrying about what it will be like if the candidates I think are pretty much wrong actually win. And the joy comes from knowing that whatever the outcome, we are blessed to have free elections, to live in a place where people get to choose their own leaders. And that probably we will “muddle through” (the phrase my freshman year poli sci professor at Michigan in 1965 used to describe the American political system).

However, today, awash in media ads–much of them untrue, or at best half-true, I wonder if we are choosing our leaders so much as they are choosing us. I know this is true in Congress and the General Assembly, due to redistricting. But I think money may be doing the same thing.

voting-paper-ballotsIf you spend enough money, can you buy the people?

Fortunately, there have been examples over the years of candidates who spent fortunes and still lost.

I have one other anxiety. It is about personality politics.

Much of the country seems to have decided they don’t like President Obama. He is too aloof, not a jolly fellow who can make us feel good. And then there are all those folks in the other party who just basically seem to despise him. In the sandbox we would have known that was because they didn’t think they he should have won, or more aptly, that they should have lost. Entitlement brings out ugly stuff.

I pray we can get back to issues, real issues, soon.