THE IMPORTANCE OF CONSIDERING SPIRITUAL PRACTICE IF WE WANT TO SERVE HUMANITY
July 6, 2017 | Oakland, California
There are systems and structures that have socialized us to believe that race and environment, that land rights and environments, don’t intersect.
I am a descendant of enslaved Africans whose children walked free of that economic system that bound them, when slavery ended on paper.
As a child of the 50’s, I witnessed a world in which each social, physical, emotional and spiritual environment differed, according to financial wealth and the color of a human’s skin. I could see that this wealth provided access to the basic human needs that help a child to blossom.
I witnessed the lack of it in world of my childhood. It was a world in which people lived in their cars in the coldest of Southeast Washington, DC winters, experiencing the beauty of the winter snow from a different perspective. Sometimes no coats or boots or food. The snow could signal sickness, even death.
A few miles away there were people shopping for Christmas, bundled in the warmth of furs, their children’s faces glowing with anticipation reflected in the encased winter wonderland of downtown department store windows. The snow was fun—their houses warm.
My child’s eyes saw routine police abuse and community violence. The poverty of these environments of southeast was the breeding ground for despair and the feeling of invisibility.
There with my young eyes, I watched as some school environments provided a clear pathway to college; others, a clear pathway to prison.
At age 15, I attended the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. It was August 1963. I thought that if poor people, black people, had access to jobs, we would have access to a taste of freedom-equity.
Inspired by Lena Horne and Rosa Parks, that day in 1963 I made a vow to serve people for the rest of my life.
I planned to become a school teacher and uplift young people, clear the pathway to a greater life. MY mother sacrificed to enroll me in a historical black university.
On an all black college campus I read about the BPP for Self Defense. I read about Huey P Newton and Bobby Seale. For me they were models and spokespersons for poor and oppressed peoples living throughout this abundant United States.
I read the 10 Point platform that demanded an immediate end to police violence, a true education, quality health care, education and—the necessities of land, bread, housing, justice and peace.
I was 19 when I joined the BPP with John Huggins. I learned firsthand about the underbelly of the government. Threatened by young black men and women of the many movements of the sixties, the FBI Counterintelligence Program (Cointelpro), with the help of local law enforcement, jailed and murdered.
I thought then, about the land we live on. History informed me that this land belonged to indigenous tribal people. Some too my ancestors and guides. I called on their principles of listening, speaking truth, reverence to nature and human kindness toward all living beings.
I ask forgiveness for times I have forgotten on whose land I walk!
Shortly after my 21st birthday my dearest friend, my husband, John Huggins, was murdered. Our new baby daughter was three months old. I was immediately a single mom and widow. My heart broke.
Living under constant threat, two and ½ months later I was arrested. In May 1971 I began two years of incarceration awaiting trial on Conspiracy charges. I taught myself to meditate after a few months. Later, the tree outside the cell window was my link to nature. I got a glimpse of the beautiful environment of the Connecticut countryside.
My inner environment began to change. What we do to the land is mirrored by how we treat the people who live on the land.
Meditation taught me that all living beings are equal. This is the heart of human nature.
War, verbal or physical doesn’t bring peace. Yet, standing tall in one’s truth is always needed.
I was 23 when the charges against me, and Bobby Seale, were dropped. My daughter was almost three when we moved back to Oakland.
I re-entered a world that did not regard children of color—and poor white children—as deserving of equal access.
Already there was a budding environmental movement. It was, at the time, all white and disconnected from the needs of people of color. I recognized at a visceral level that there are linkages between race and the environment.
The earth is a whole living being, not an “issue”
Violence against animals is not an issue
Violence against people of color (½ of whom are women) is not an issue
This is the life of our precious, global environment: our planet, mother earth.
And still, the daily survival concerns for many preclude them from participating in a deeper conversation about the health of the earth and all of us on it.
We are on a precipice of understanding. Knowledge wanes without action. Action without knowledge is shallow.
What simple action can we each take, using our knowledge of the environment and the conditions of all the people who live in it?
I forgive myself for not taking care of me, and my family, as I care for humanity.
We can practice unity-consciousness. We say we are connected. We can model it!
By sitting still in reflection, in prayer or in meditation, in small kindnesses, in feeding the hungry, in teaching a child, in facing the coinciding realities of all living beings—through spiritual practice—we open.
When I recognize the love inside a human heart, even as the darkness struggles to gain power, I can breathe more easily, I have hope.
We can form alliances across formations and identities. We can rest in unity.
Starting with ourselves-we can end poverty, both physical and spiritual
We can restore justice by being inclusive in our thinking and saying; inclusive in our staffing, inviting and decision-making.
We can abolish the idea that any form of incarceration, as we know it, is our only option.
Love is a great power. Use it to transform your world.