What does history mean to you?

IMG_7178.JPGWhat does history mean to you? How does the Civil Rights Movement resonate with you? What do you know about it? Why are we talking about oral histories?

These are the questions I posed to our group for an impromptu discussion (due to a technical malfunction) in a Oral History & Storytelling workshop I co-designed and co-facilitated last week on MLK Day for the Public Allies MLK Youth Leadership Conference.

These are the words and phrases that surfaced and guided our subsequent discussion. Each has its own story of the conversation it came from. They remind me of a quote I recently happened upon:

I think knowing one’s history leads one to act in a more enlightened fashion. I cannot imagine how knowing one’s history would not urge one to be an activist.

-Dr. John Hope Franklin

The words on this page and of Dr. Franklin resonate for me on many levels, as studying history (my own and our society’s) has certainly propelled the work I do and who I am.

What does history mean to you?



An invitation to something I love

In times of transition I tend to avoid silence. I fill up my time with people and music and doing and often lots of bad tv.

I’ve had quite a lot of transition in the last year and a half since graduating and leaving Ann Arbor.

Transition out of being a student.
Transition out of my house of two years. My city of four years.

Transition to Pocone, Brazil.
Leaving Pocone.

Moving to the opposite if rural Brazil: New York City. Transition to living with 6 strangers and creating community.

Transition from walking and walking to hours underground. Transition to full time employment and a hundred dollars a month. Transition from one job to another.

And as our convent in Harlem became home I transitioned from there too. Finished my JVC year. I transitioned from JV to FJV. As with all this transition, my JVC was ending ending ending and then simply done. The difference between a morning and an afternoon.

On August 12 I woke up in my room in my old convent in Harlem a JV. I packed my remaining bags and left. Later that day I returned to my home that was no longer my home with the new JVs. I showed them my room that was no longer my room. My roof that was now theirs not mine. From morning to night I became an FJV. The new JVs weren’t new JVs, just the JVs and I an FJV.

In the weeks leading up to that turning point and the transition to FJV and new work, a new home, a new job, building new communities with Public Allies, and renewing community with FJVs. In those weeks, especially after DisO, I watched a lot of the show Scandal. It’s my guilty pleasure when I need to tune out. When I’m avoiding and I know it because I’m not ready.

Scandal was my avoidance strategy of choice for this transition. I just watched it for hours. Click, next episode. Click, next. Click, next. It continued. A wonderful netflix binge. My community mates watching their own shows or were biding their own time on the couch next to me (because we had enough space for two couches).

I similarly employed avoidance tactics when leaving Ann Arbor, my house there, my friends, and the many spaces I called home. I constantly listened to music. Hung out with friends. And just slept. I can sleep for days when I’m in avoidance mode and little gets me up.

I know I’m avoiding during these times and it’s ok. I’ll get to my thoughts and feelings eventually.

And I will return to silence.

In that transition from college to post college and again in august from JVC to FJV life I eventually came again to embrace silence. I embraced silence at Nazare where I could just walk and walk and walk. Or sit out by the chapel under the intense Pantanal sun.

In silence.

Alone with myself. Able again to be with myself. Being present to my thoughts, feelings, & simply being.

During JVC I had the opportunity to make my first silent retreat. I looked forward to it from the beginning of the year. It would take many reflections to unpack all the gifts of that retreat. I flowed through my time on retreat in beautiful silence. From yoga to meals in silence to meditative walks. I simply let the spirit guide me. In the weekend long silence I was able to still and quiet myself to embrace the communal silence of my retreat. The central gift of that retreat was time to simply be. To be in this flow and to feel more open and whole and loved than I had in a long time.

I make space for silence when I am emotionally and spiritually healthy. I avoid it when I’m not or I’m not ready, as during these transitionary times. A good measure of my emotional and spiritual health is whether I am avoiding or embracing silence because I do crave it when I am being emotionally and spiritually attentive to myself. Especially living in an often chaotic city, I need to carve space for silence. To be with myself and God. To simply be as I was on my retreat.

So I invite you whoever you are–friends, family, strangers– reading this to spend some time in silence. No music. No purposeful thinking through problems or issues. Just some time with yourself to “be in your being” as a podcast I listened to recently says. I invite you to see what might be born of silence. See what happens for you when you quiet your outer world to listen to the inner world.

And let me know because I would love to share stories of silence.

Spotted in Midtown: A Cat Crown

Spotted: Cat perched on a man’s head strolling down the street

This week I shared an invitation to and brief reflection on silence. How I avoid and crave it.

On a different note I witnessed a curious sight walking home from work. I was standing at the bus stop with my favorite co-worker when we simultaneously noticed an odd sight: a man nonchalantly walking down the street with a cat perched on his head.

Most people didn’t even stop to notice or show if they did.

I work near Times Square. It’s not fun. It’s actually one of my least favorite neighborhoods (though I did have a uniquely reflective walk through Times Square earlier this year). It’s an area of New York where people walk around with cats on their head and no one notices. (Not all of NYC is like this at all. Most places you’d get stated at)

Yet, last week I saw a man walking his cat. On a leash on his head.

Cheers to this wonderfully wacky city.

Turtles and Birthdays

“I can’t say no to turtles and birthdays.”

These wonderful words of truth come from my roommate in a texting conversation on my way to work this week. After a year plus of living with her this embodies a bit of who she is and why I love her. Right alongside, “Don’t wait for the party. Be the party.” “Baby steps.” “You do you boo boo.” Celebrating birthdays every month. Unbelievably creative snap chats.  And many more important and unimportant and sparkling gold nuggets. I love my community-mate turned chosen roommate. (Let me be clear, though, the above in no way captures who she is in her sparkley rainbow glory.)

Yet, they do capture some of the imprint she’s made on me. My roommate unapologetically does her thing. Does her. And in doing so whether she knows or doesn’t (but probably does) invites me to do the same. Be unapologetically me. She reminds me-on my mundane commute rocking to and fro on the train-of all this and the need to be present to the wonderful absurdities and curiosities of this life I’m living. She often does.

If you’ve followed this blog at all (thanks family and friends), I’ve been off the bandwagon for some time. In an effort to write more, I’m getting back on. The plan is simple (like my middle school math teacher always told me, “Keep it simple, stupid,” or otherwise known as the KISS method). I’m on the look out for the absurd and curious in the mundane. Sometimes the mundane, as it can be absurdly curious. Perhaps something thought-provoking or at least what’s provoking my thoughts. Regardless, I’ll share something– a story, thought, picture, quote, etc– Sunday evenings. I am liking Sunday evenings more and more. They’re a quiet time usually. One to look back and look forward. Beginnings and endings again and again.