Serve Well Blog

Entries tagged 'Post-Service Term Reflections'

2.26.14

Little Things Console Us Because Little Things Afflict Us
by Nikkita Oliver - Krista Colleague

The Krista Foundation | Colleague Press, Urban America, Intercultural Development, Law, Arts & Culture, Community, Education, Global Citizenship, Integrating Service As A Way Of Life, Intercultural Development, Post-Service Term Reflections, Sustaining Service

Little things console us because little things afflict us.
- Pascal

 

I recently attended the "RACE: Are We So Different?" exhibit at the Seattle Center as part of a Krista Foundation outing with the Krista Colleague community. Once inside, I found myself at a unique display including a binder full of notecards where many visitors expressed both contempt and reverence for sports mascots.

A number of the commenters self-identified as Native, illuminating the trauma and harm that sports mascots inflict on them, their tribes, and communities. Juxtaposed to these heartfelt truths were the thoughts of those who see no problem with the manner in which sports teams have co-opted Native cultural images and in many instances commercialized the most stereotypical Native images. As if the dialogue were not complex enough, there were those who self-identified as Native who took no issue with the mascots and maybe even saw other issues as more concerning.

One comment stood out vividly. A member of the Tlingit tribe described what they believed to be the gravest issues facing Native communities. They discussed the life expectancy of Native males and the drop-out rate of Native teens, stating, "These issues are far more important than sports team mascots." To many, Native mascots do not seem like a big issue, but often it is the things that seem the smallest that have the greatest impact.

As a brown person in the white institution of law I constantly deal with small nuanced forms of racism that exist because of larger ones. The larger ones will continue to exist because we are afraid and/or unwilling to deal with the smaller forms of racism.

There is an overall acceptance of the co-optation of cultural assets in the United States with disregard for the impact on communities and people. Additionally, rarely do the owners and creators of those cultural assets receive any sort of recognition or payment for the use of their image even when the image is being used for profit. This process further contributes to the damage done to a community or cultural groups psyche and continues to propel a negative and oppressive relationship between the "minority" and the "majority"1.

While some non-Native people may not see the problem, and may even point to to those Native people who take no issue with it to legitimate their own point of view, the reality is there are Native peoples who are offended by the use of their cultural assets as mascots. When considering racial and ethnic concerns that may seem minute, it is important to remember that big things are often made of smaller things. A small cut can very easily become an infection and a small change can be the catalyst needed to spark a big change.

Dr. John M. Perkins speaks of these little things in his work. When I was in college I sat in a room of young leaders at Seattle Pacific University eager to make change in the world. He told us the key to community development is understanding that the most obvious problems are often symptoms of a larger underlying illness. He told us, "rarely is the solution to the most obvious struggle the root cause of the problem". He encouraged us to consider the small and often times overlooked concerns, especially if those are the concerns the community is point us towards.

He then shared with us this story:

A team of community developers arrived in a neighborhood. They interviewed the people, did research and prepared a list of things they believed the community needed to solve. This list had hundreds of items ranked from the most important to the least. The community members' response to the community developers was that the rat problem was the most important issue to address. The rat problem was ranked in the lowest portion of the list the developers created. Despite their own ideas, the community developers listened to the neighborhood and addressed the rat problem first. As the rats disappeared so did most of the list.

Dr. Perkins shared this story to remind us of two key principles in community development: The small things matter and a community knows itself better than an outside community developer.

At the University of Washington Law School, I listen to people daily discuss our systems and struggles - rarely reflecting on their own role in a problematic system. They hardly ever consider the importance and value of community voice and in particular those communities that are marginalized and disenfranchised. In these spaces there are few people of color, and like those who shared their opinions in the binder at the race exhibit, we do not always agree on the solution. This often becomes a tool of division, co-optation, and/or further marginalization of those voices who speak in opposition to the majority opinion.

Listening is of the utmost importance in addressing any and every situation. If we do not first listen, we will not know how to act in ways that promote wholeness and reconciliation. Too often in U.S. culture do we rely on our formal education (and our privilege) as clout for why we should lead or be in charge. We are not very good at following those who have less formal education, though the community members have far more experience and knowledge regarding their community.

Mascots may seem like a small issue, but when we consider our generational memories of historic racial violence and present afflictions we can see that the psyches of people of color (and white people) have been damaged by big things sustained by small consistent actions and inactions. This small act is the continued poking and prodding on a large wound and emblematic of how we often devalue other people and their cultures. Mascots may not seem like a big deal in light of drop-out rates and mass incarceration, but they are small piece of the puzzle in addressing the root causes of both individual and institutional racism. Our willingness and humility to eliminate the "small" things are a way we show our love and respect for humanity and lead us towards addressing the "larger" struggles.

I believe that we would better serve each other and society if we learned to see multiple solutions, no matter how big or small, as viable and equally necessary; to address the mascots, drop-out rates and mass incarceration all at once.

The work of reconciliation is not easy and often happens in the least obvious places. Reconciliation, like a journey, happens one step at time; sometimes in small steps and sometimes in large strides. We often do not know the value of our small steps, but without them we would not have made it through the journey. Listening and acting on the small things makes the big changes possible.

 

1 The use of quotations around "majority" and "minority" is to signify an important nuance in the use of these terms. It is not to say one group is more major and the other more minor, but in this instance referring to specifically numbers or the size of the population of people. The majority being the larger quantitative group and minority being a smaller quantitative group. In the United States the use of these terms in this manner is appropriate, but in a place like South Africa, where the minority (Dutch/white South Africans) were in power and the majority (Native/black South Africans) were not, these terms must be used differently. 

4.23.13

Colleague Pledge Drive | Week 2 | On the Service Journey w/ Eli Burnham

The Krista Foundation | Krista Foundation Press, Urban America, Community, Community, Healthcare, Integrating Service As A Way Of Life, Post-Service Term Reflections, Sustaining Service


Click here to track the pledge drive progress.   

It is week 2 of the Colleague Pledge Drive. Thanks so much for joining in this journey of giving. As of last week, Colleague giving has helped us reach $4,520.00 in gifts and pledges; there are over a dozen colleague monthly donors! Our goal this year is to raise $8,000.00 - we're more than halfway there.  

Each week, we'll be releasing a video featuring colleagues at different points along the service journey. Today, we're excited to highlight 2012 Krista Colleague Eli Burnham who is in transition from service year to a life of service leadership (with dreams to become a nurse!) Eli continues to work at the organization - Lifelong AIDS Alliance in Seattle - where he served as part of his placement with Quaker Experiential Service & Training. 

Click To Make A Gift Of Any Amount. 

 

 

4.15.13

Longing for Racial Justice
by Brandon Casey Adams, '09 Krista Colleague

The Krista Foundation | Colleague Press, Krista Foundation Press, Urban America, Community, Post-Service Term Reflections, Sustaining Service

When it came time to register for the White Privilege Conference, I had to fill out the form quickly. That's because going deep into the topic of my whiteness always frightens me, and I knew that attending this conference would be the biggest uncomfortable race-related experience for me since my involvements in American Ethnic Studies during my time in undergrad. Despite the fears, I was glad to know that I would not be alone in the hard conversations about race and racism. In fact, out of the 2000 diverse attendees that registered for this year's conference, I was glad to be alongside 12 fellow members of Wallingford United Methodist Church as well as Zach, Stacy, Valerie, and Neah from the Krista Foundation. With deeply rooted community like that, meaningful dialogue on just about any issue is possible!

As you may know by now, one of the issues discussed at the White Privilege Conference is, well, white privilege. Even after many times hearing of or learning about the term white privilege, it's always nice to be reminded what this term really means. The term points to the fact that still today, whiteness carries loads of cultural capital. Without often recognizing it, I believe that we who are white actually cash in on the invisible advantages of our perceived "whiteness" each and every day. This gigantic form of inequality between white folks and people of color not only brings up the sting of white guilt, but much more importantly it does great harm to our relationships, especially with people of color who often encounter very different realities than many of us white folks experience.

Because I long for racial justice and healing within the human experience, I ended up feeling nothing but grateful to be present at a conference that was focused on creating racial justice from many different angles and approaches. Though it's not easy, being in a conference space (or book group space and/or community space, for that matter) where whiteness and racism are discussed has really helped me to more clearly identify the mechanisms that reinforce racial preference. And at the conference, being in a large group of white people who are also choosing to fight off racial privileging as a component of being in solidarity with people of color helped me to get more perspective on how I can continually contribute to co-creating a more just society.

After the conference, I started paying more attention to the many instances where people affirm my (unearned) moral goodness, success potential, and ability to be influential. Often at a very micro level, I see instances of this happening literally every day. A few hours ago, an example of this arrived in my inbox at work. I received an email response from an IT person who informed me that an important email that had gotten caught in my spam filters was now "whitelisted" - meaning that it got the stamp of approval for not being malicious spam and was therefore given permissions to enter my inbox. Acutely aware of how racial micromessaging comes in all shapes and sizes, I wrote right back to her. I said, "Thanks for helping me with that!" Then I added, "And on a side note, I encourage you to join my effort to get people to say good-list and bad-list, because it's always been weird to me that white ends up meaning good!" Friendly enough. Clear enough! She wrote back saying that she liked that change.

Progress toward racial justice will certainly involve a combination of many big steps, and even more small steps. For me, each of those steps are a little scary, or a little messy, and are commonly not the ‘safe' thing to do. But if there's one thing that the White Privilege Conference does a fantastic job of conveying, it is that white people have an enormous opportunity to break apart the structures that hold racism in place. As we in the Krista Foundation seek clarity regarding our responsibilities as global citizens, I with my whole heart invite each of us to scoot in closer to this messy table of racial justice work. It may not always be easy, but when we struggle for this together, we edge nearer to the beloved community that we have so often imagined.

 


Brandon Casey Adams is a 2009 Krista Colleague with a service placement from Lutheran Volunteer Corps in Chicago. He taught video production to underserved high school youth and served as an advisor to a student club. In addition, advising several video projects that students did through Free Spirit Media. Currently, Brandon is living in Seattle with his wife, Kara. He is working at All for Kidz as a Digital Media Developer. 

4.22.12

Colleague Considers Transferrable Skills from Service

The Krista Foundation | Colleague Press, Developing Nations, Urban America, Business, Faith/Theological Exploration, Post-Service Term Reflections, Transitions Home & Beyond

Originally from the town of Anacortes, Washington, Dave Stalsbroten moved to Seattle with a passion, for "seeing young people mature to live in genuine, whole-hearted relationship with Jesus." Motivated by values of reconciliation, generosity, and justice, he followed a sense of call to serve with AMOS Health and Hope, a Christian NGO that offers preventive healthcare to underserved communities. In rural Nicaragua, Dave managed donor communications and logistics for short-term delegations from the U.S.

Dave and AbbyCurrently in a major season of transition, Dave just finished planning his wedding (Dave with his new wife Abby at left), and is working on building his professional résumé. Dave is an entrepreneur and connector at heart. He knows his service experiences have stretched and strengthened his skills. Visiting our office earlier this month he asked, "How am I supposed to distill these profound service lessons into business world one-liners?" His question is the launch point for a workshop we'll offer at our May Conference. What wisdom can you offer Dave? (PLEASE ADD A COMMENT BELOW)

 

5.2.11

Excitement Builds for 2011 Conference & Guest Day

The Krista Foundation | Krista Foundation Press, Developing Nations, Environmental Projects, Urban America, Community, Faith/Theological Exploration, Global Citizenship, Integrating Service As A Way Of Life, Intercultural Development, Post-Service Term Reflections, Preparing To Serve

windswept tree by 06 Colleague Megan HurleyExcitement is building for the KF's Annual Memorial Weekend Conference! This conference brings together Krista Colleagues, spouses, and invited guests.

Guest Day (Sunday) is open to the public who want to celebrate or learn more about our mentoring community-including mentors, parents, and other friends of the Foundation. Register if you'd like to come!

TO REGISTER click http://kfconference2011.eventbrite.com/

A Beautiful Struggle: Recognizing Hope, Embracing Tension, Living Grace

Troubles produce endurance, endurance produces character, and character produces hope. -Romans 5:3

Keynote Speaker: Ron Ruthruff has worked for the past 26 years with homeless and street-involved youth and families as Director of Ministry and Program Development for New Horizons Ministries. He and his wife, Linda recently opened a nonprofit Seattle café that provides job training and employment for young adults working to exit street life. Ron serves as adjunct faculty at Bakke Graduate School and guest lectures at a variety of seminaries and colleges.

Save-the-Date:
Memorial Day Weekend, May 27th - 30th 2011
(Lodge open on Friday evening, the 27th)
Clearwater Lodge, outside of Spokane, Washington
Krista Colleagues, spouses and children are welcome!

GUEST DAY is Sunday, May 29th. Come for Brunch, the Keynote & Krista Colleague Commissioning. Guests are welcome to sit in on afternoon workshops and share a festive dinner.

A special 10th anniversary welcome back to our Krista Colleague Class of 2001!

Come and reconnect with old friends, make new friends, be encouraged and encourage others as we continue to learn what it means to be a "Global Citizen"!

To register click http://kfconference2011.eventbrite.com/