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Sunday, April 19, 2015

Asheville, NC

Merry meet Friends,
Michelle here, bringing lots of love and light!

"Let your feet beat a healing rhythm into the earth.  Let your feet beat a strengthening rhythm for those who struggle the hardest. Let your feet beat a life-giving rhythm for all peoples, regardless of race or national boundary, regardless of whether we're human or whether we're the trees, the air, the fish, the birds, the buffalo, the bear, the crow.  We come out of hiding, we come back from the dead, and we dance, and our dance is a prayer, and our songs and our rhythms and our breath give life. ...Dance to heal the earth. ~ Dee Smith

I went to Asheville last week for a workshop called  Racial Equity 101. This workshop was for women of color and white women, who are associated with the Southeast Wise Women Conference in capacities as leaders, healers, teachers, tenders and work exchangers.  There were some issues at the conference in October which I wrote about in an earlier blog post.  The white women on staff with SEWW took a workshop in January called White Privilege.  The workshop in January was led by Kristen.  The workshop this past week was co facilitated by Kristen and Kifu. We had an equal mix of women of color and white women. Women of color means, Latino, Native American, African American and Indigenous Women.  

The conference started with an opening song that is usually sung at women gatherings hosted by Alisa Starweather.  We then introduced ourselves, although most of us knew each other, and stated why we were there.  Then we played a game called Crossover.  Words were called out and if one identified with the word, one crossed to the other side of the room.  I believe the purpose is to show that we all have things in common regardless of race, color or gender identification.  Next we were given a list of terms and definitions  We then read a timeline of events of racial inequality.  Afterwards, we broke up into a caucus of white women and women of color.  The purpose of the caucus was for us to discuss comfortably what we felt about the timeline.  Anger, sadness, indifference, shame and guilt were some of the emotions felt by participants.  We then had a working lunch.  Lunch was pot luck with everyone sharing what they brought.  Lucrecia made a raw chocolate pie with an almond crust and Corinna made a salmon salad; both were delicious!

The next segment was to break into groups of those who wanted to work with the microcosm and those who wanted to work with the macrocosm of the SEWW conference.  I worked with those who wanted to implement some changes for the upcoming conference and not the actual running of it.  We were split into two groups and told to draw our vision for the conference set up.  We came back together and shared.  We were asked to give a statement about how we felt. There were tears shed by some of the women. A beautiful song/hum was given by one woman from Europe with an apology following.  It was very heartfelt.  We ended as we had begun, with the song that binds us together as women.  

After the conference in October, those who worked in some capacity were asked to give feedback.  One of the issues that came up, was that there was not a woman of color on staff at SEWW. Kifu was offered the position either late last year or earlier this year.  She and Kristen worked together well to bring this workshop together and for truth to be spoken.  Hopefully this is just the start of many others.  I look forward to attending the conference again this year and at some point, this year or next, facilitating a class myself, as Kifu suggested.  

One of the highlights of the workshop for me, was the timeline. Even if we learned some of what was stated in school, to have it shared one after the other was eye opening.  Some of it made me feel "some type of way" as the younger people say.  It didn't  make me hate anyone or want to fight, but it did make me wonder why certain people thought that they could dominate and control other cultures.  It's not as if I haven't wondered before but hearing it at the same time was unnerving to say the least.  We, as beings on this planet, have a long way to go still.  We do need to let our "feet beat a healing rhythm into the earth"; "regardless of race or national boundary".  Thanks to OSIS for posting this last week, it was right on time.

My drive to Asheville was without incident.  It rained for a part of the journey.  I drove four hours before stopping and then another two. I was very sleepy and listened to anything to keep me awake. While I like some country western music, I'm not a fan of all.  I landed on a station with a woman singing a song about "Jimmy". She sung, "Jimmy came 'long and we sat up." , with a real twang. As I posted on Facebook earlier, I cut the radio off but then began to wonder about Jimmy.  Why was he coming 'long?, Why did they sit up?, Is this something that happens often? and on and on.  I was sleepy, remember.  I had to amuse myself.  LOL  Asheville was beautiful on Tuesday.  Kifu and I had dinner at a restaurant on the corner from the hostel.  We had a salad with red onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, pecans, cheese and spiced shrimp.  It was yummy!  

It rained on Wednesday, the day of the workshop.  We sat on the porch of the hostel later talking with one of the other guests.  Then Kifu made dinner; beans, rice, mushrooms, garlic and kale together; another yummy dish.  The hostel has a private cottage in back.  Two private rooms are on the top floor and two dorm rooms with five beds.  On the top floor we share the bath.  A full bath and a half bath were on the ground floor.  The owners are in the basement.  The place was very clean and inexpensive.  SEWW reimbursed me for my stay because I came so far.  I didn't expect that.  What a treat!  The hostel offers, coffee, tea, boiled eggs, fruit and toast for breakfast if desired.  The hostel is in West Asheville and is called Bon Paul and Sharky's Hostel.  I recommend it.  On Thursday I had breakfast at my favorite restaurant in downtown Asheville.  From there I headed to Charlotte to pick up my youngest, Jason.  He came into Charlotte on Tuesday for his job. Luckily he was in NC until Thursday as I was.  I drove for awhile and then he drove the remainder of the way to Richmond.  It was pleasant and we had a chance to talk.  Later that night we went out to dinner.  I always enjoy time with my children.  

May we all think about our role in the universe and what we can do to help race relations.

Until next Sunday,
Merry part and merry meet again,
Blessed be,
Gypsi Mama Michelle

1 comment:

  1. Great read/blog as usual.

    Don’t forget Asians, Italians and Jews; somehow anyone who isn’t a WASP (White Anglo-Saxon Protestant), i.e., pure white, is now a person of color or at the very least, non-white. Go figure.

    The conference sounds great. These types of dialogue are much needed and long overdue. At the next meeting perhaps you may want to remind all in attendance that race and white privilege are both social constructs. Much has been written on this topic and one of my favs is an essay titled - What White People Need to Learn by Mary-Alice Daniel - where Ms. Walker discusses in part “...If you went back to even just the beginning of the last century, you’d witness a completely different racial configuration of whites and non-whites. The original white Americans — those from England, certain areas of Western Europe, and the Nordic States — excluded other European immigrants from that category to deny them jobs, social standing, and legal privileges. It’s not widely known in the U.S. that several ethnic groups, such as Germans, Italians, Russians and the Irish, were excluded from whiteness and considered non-white as recently as the early 20th century.”