November Update: A Place We’ve Never Been Before
Dear friends and family,
This has been an intense couple of weeks. It seems this country has come full tilt into its own adolescence and we’re seeing the full cost of having lost our collective rites of passage. I’m heartsick from the surge of bigotry and racism that have seen an uptick, though in some ways I am grateful that there’s no denying the systemic oppression that has been a reality for so many for so long. It was a deeply important moment for white, cisgendered people who were jolted into a state of anxiety, hypervigilance, and uncertainty that many people of color and the LGBTQ community feel on a daily basis and have for a very long time. I believe that feeling can contextualize privilege and power and act as a transformative agent in the work we each do and as part of a network arising from so many different kinds of communities.
In the immediate aftermath of the election, our Stewardship Council gathered together to look at what 2016 has been and what is needed moving forward to be of the most service to the dream of this organization, especially now. You can read our report HERE.
One of the themes of last weekend in making sense of it all was exploring together the metaphor first spoken by YPW Advisor Luis Rodriguez in the lead up to our 2016 Gathering. He described our work as trying to build a new house within an old and already crumbling one. This metaphor guided Youth Passageways to the theme for our gathering last April: Building the Foundation. After November 8th, I would venture to say it’s not just crumbling but being consumed in a raging fire, the smoke is pouring in, and we’re trying not to choke on it. I so often see our work done in this way: acting within a system that seems ablaze, undoing our gains as quickly as we make them. Sometimes I feel that we live in a world where the best we can do is to find our place among the wreckage, pick up debris looking for signs of life underneath, and seek out those doing the same. We’re often forced to expend so much energy simply trying to keep our own communities clear from that debris the larger picture can feel paralyzing. It’s such a vast concept, brimming with questions, and those questions seem like exactly what YPW has been convened to unpack:
- What is this new house we’re trying to build, who’s welcome, what (if any) are the boundaries involved?
- How do we come together in its design as both sovereign and integrated communities and cultures?
- How do we live into the real pull of being ‘in’ and often beholden to the old structures while trying to build the new?
- And crucially in this time, how do we acknowledge and reconcile that the house we’ve been living in was built on stolen land?
In processing it all, I find myself drawn to the London-based Somali writer Warsan Shire’s perspective:
“ It isn’t where I came from. Maybe home is somewhere I’m going and never have been before.”
Which seems so often (at least to me) as the central question: where’s that as of yet unbuilt ‘home’ in which we might bring out the best of ourselves while openly confronting the worst? Because there’s never been a more potent time to think about the kind of home we want to build. We’re charged anew to ask what kind of parents, teachers, practitioners, guides, and allies we want to be. Charged to figure out how we support each other so we can support our young people. What makes YPW something I am humbled to be a part of is that our partners and supporters are dedicated not to just to a future, but also to a present where we are all seen, held, challenged, and celebrated. Many of us have come together to continue to cast our lots with that beautiful vision of ‘beloved community’ championed by Dr. Martin Luther King, a community that looks to the crucial ingredient that has been seemingly separate yet also bubbling to the surface time and time again in our own community: the power and necessity of healing.
To heal while building means mindful allyship, it means not turning our eyes away from systemic oppression, tacit disenfranchisement, and the deep melancholy that colors our ability to see the world as wholly ripe with possibility. It means building spaces with open seats, it means taking hold of this, the greatest call of our time to not let scarcity overtake abundance, to stand for civility, the strength in difference, and the power of the human spirit.
One of the tangible ways we’d like to do that within our own network is by opening up a digital space for our partners and supporters to be with each other on a monthly basis. Starting on Wednesday, December 7th [5-7pm Pacific] we will have the first YPW Partner’s Circle in which we invite you to come and be with whatever is alive for you. We’ve often heard that our partners are nourished, inspired, and reminded of why we do the work we do never more vividly than when we come together. To offer a space where we can continue to live into the idea of being a community of practice, YPW will be hosting a monthly Zoom call in which our partners can be together, speak truth from the heart, and be current with where YPW is and is going. Click on the link above for more info.
There are a great many other things in the works from a re-imagining of our 2017 gathering, the new journal call for submissions, end of year asks and opportunities, but today, right now, let us just be with the abundance. More people than perhaps ever before are ready to stop sitting it out and start taking action in building a house whose foundation is poured in compassion. And no matter how it shakes out, our responsibility remains the same. Whether you’re a practitioner searching for the way forward or a parent explaining it all to your child (or both), our role right now is to not give into fear but to show up and tend to each other.
None of the work you were doing yesterday is any less important or valid today. In fact, it’s even more so. Together we can build that house, create that place we’ve never been before.
On behalf of the Stewardship Council of Youth Passageways,
Let us stand together in this great liminal space.