The Poop Loop!


Since turning 35 and giving Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for Peace’s annual lecture on nonviolence, religion, and peace, I’ve plunged deep into the global conversation on sanitation (or lack thereof). This conversation is connected to everything I’ve done in the past…work with social justice movements, intersectional peace studies, community health & wellness, nonviolent direct action campaigning, and my ministerial training.

But it is also unique.

All my education and experiences have prepared me to engage this specific topic: the defecatory justice movement is where I plan to focus much of my life’s energy in the next decades!*

The heart of my work in the area is to redefine “waste” as a resource. It can be if we treat it well and return it to the source. SOIL (Sustainable Organic Integrated Livelihoods) in Haiti is doing just that. I’m here learning from them, and their perspectives on liberation ecology. Here is their diagram:

SOIL's Poop Loop

The area of sanitation is one neglected place where I believe the violence of the interlocking systems of oppression is unseen and routine. You have the lack of adequate facilities for 2.5 billion people on one hand, and on the other, an excess, the practice of urination and defecation in fresh water in the global north. Unless you are using a waterless toilet, closed-loop system, or composting-toilet of us participate daily in perpetuating this crisis. Outdated sewage systems are being exposed, and ecological solutions are being revealed, but why isn’t there as much conversation about it as other needs on Maslow’s lowest rung—food, water, air, etc.?

The reason we don’t talk about sanitation is because it’s taboo to talk about poop. From little on up we are told not to use “bathroom words” in the formal western public, as it creates discomfort because it’s not considered polite.  English doesn’t even have a neutral word to use to describe the nutrients and leftovers that come out of the body. The word “poo” is childish, “shit” offends people (though the word has noble roots), and “feces” and “excrement” are too scientific for a normal conversation. Our politeness conventions have gotten us stuck in not talking about it, thereby blocking new ideas from being shared in discourse at every level of society where innovation could be happening. I believe that our social movements, institutions, organizations, etc. are just like in our bowels, when something is stuck, it is not good. We need to get the flow going to be healthy.

SOIL in Haiti

Global North city & state architecture is designed to facilitate separation from the extreme consequences of our mundane actions by the push of a button, the jiggle of a handle, or the click of a mouse. 

Me and many of my pals know in our bones that we cannot keep up business as usual, the Earth is breaking down and busting out under the weight of our militarized systems that enshrine endless growth and protect corporate profit over the lives of masses and other-than-human species with whom we share this fragile planet. We have to deal with our crap. This is both an internal and external process. In this infinite loop, it is my prayer that we can embrace our humanity and not throw anyone or anything away.

If we think of our daily duty as a “health smoothie for tree roots” then we’ll find ways to design for re-use and sanitation in ways that do not compromise the health of our neighbors and future generations.

Any ideas, reflections, jokes, or anecdotes you have on the topic of sustainable sanitation are welcome.


Filming Welele & Samba Zao.jpg

*What is the meaning of defecatory justice, you ask? It is indeed a word I made up (cuz being an academic I’m supposed to do that, it surfaced as a term while sitting with friends and being hilarious and sparkly in Berkeley, California on St. Valentine’s day in 2017). I’ve toyed with it since then and now I am publishing said word, so I have a record of when it all started. From now on I’ll toy with it some more. In a nutshell, defecatory justice is my thinking about how nearly everyone needs to make an adjustment to what they are doing, in order to move forward together as humanity. We need to make different adjustments in how we defecate, understand “waste,” and challenge taboos. Some of us need to reduce water usage, others must find ways to release that prevent disease-spread, and all of us can continue to reflect on ourselves in relation to the other members of the ecosystem we’re in. I’m planning to pursue this via doctoral work at place where my theological scholar-activism can continue.

Presenting the Nahar Family


Nahar_2“Peace is flowing like a river,
flowing out of you and me!
Flowing out into the desert,
setting all the captives free!”

Confluence: (noun): flowing or running together so as to form one. The graphic to the side illustrates the flowing family names of our immediate tributaries running into our Nahar river.
Nahar means river in Arabic (نهر), as well as in Hebrew (נהר).


We want to mark this significant decision to combine our lives by growing together into a name that emerged through prayer and joyful discernment. Once we married, we changed our last names from Brenneman and Thompson, respectively, to Nahar. Some explanation:

The Jordan River, and all the fresh flowing waters of the world, are important to us. From Palestine to Standing Rock we’ve experienced how water is life. While living in Elkhart (a city where two rivers come together making a heart-shaped island) we noticed how the riverbanks provide unique ecosystems where life-on-the-border flourishes.

As border-walkers both, our lives are full of fording many metaphorical rivers in service to connecting communities and bridging different perspectives. We’ve learned that sometimes it’s good to go with the flow, and other times it’s important to swim against the current.

In our partnership we have helped each other discern how to navigate troubled waters. We have reached out for help when we were drifting or drowning. Time and time again we found willing arms of support from each other and branches from our mentors to hang on to, anchored by faith in a God who is with us in the storm and brings us back to solid ground.

There are many who have gone before us in the river of life and we are grateful for the how they have poured into us, and prayed for us.

On a warming planet, we pray for a world refreshed by cool water.
For a thirsty land, we pray for the re-hydration of ecosystems and people.
In a dammed world, we pray for release of the floodgates of compassion…so that justice may roll down like waters, and righteousness like an mighty stream (Amos 5:24).

Every time we speak our last name we wish to remind ourselves of these prayers, our vast lineages, our commitment to each other, and our life’s work.


A view of the globe that features our predominant ancestries in Africa, Europe, and western Asia/Middle East

Thanks for being part of our lives! Catch the Livestream of the sacred vows ceremony here! We are grateful to Moriel, Kayla, and baby Nahar for piquing our awareness to this word, with such deep meaning.

I backdated the post to the first day of the wedding, which occurred the entire weekend between the International Day of Peace and the Autumn Equinox, Sept 21-23, 2018.

Conflict Literacy

Conflict Literacy

We need movements resilient enough to navigate the inevitable conflicts that arise when diverse people and perspectives come together to take on the daunting work of ushering in a better future.

Check out this website! It is the beginning of building a resource for have more generative conflicts, inviting us in with questions we can ponder:

  • What are your attitudes and beliefs about conflict?
  • How much stronger could our movements be if we learned how to deal with conflict?
  • What if conflict did not have to slow down our momentum?

I’ve been blessed to have the chance to work alongside an amazing group of people who are building on everything the conflict resolution/transformation/mediation/escalation field(s) have been doing for ages…making it relevant for this generation of change-makers

Conflict Literacy is the idea that if we can read the contours of a conflict, in context, then we’ll be able to assess what’s going on with greater skill, reflect deeply, respond with integrity and power, learn from the situation as we practice disagreeing without dehumanizing.

Conflict can flatten people – they can become a single identity, a single position.  Our work is to ask each other questions, check our assumptions, move toward complexity, give people the opportunity to be known for the many parts of themselves and all that they care about. This is part of living out the fullness of our diversity.   -John Sarrouf, Essential Partners

Amen to that! I know I’ve been flattened before. And have flattened others. As we pop and stretch back into our powerful, curvy, asymmetrical shapes, the Conflict Transformation Fund is here to help with grants to seed and spark the progressive movement’s appetite to get better at addressing conflict!

We don’t need to be down on ourselves if we feel like we’re in more conflicts. There are higher amounts of interaction between people, in multiple venues, than ever before. And more people alive due to nonviolent efforts to reduce conflict “resolution” through violence, means there are more people around to still have conflicts with! While the typical post-1880 (telephone era) face to face interaction has gone down, other types of interaction have increased. Barber shops & beauty salons, internet verbal, internet visual, internet forums, in-person public, spiritual, conferences, conference verbal calls, blogs, conference video calls, webinars, televangelism/TV broadcasts reach far because of cable, newspapers (I can get the Chicago Sun-Times here though I’m not in Chicago). So many places for there to be potential conflict. But fear not! Lean in!

Here are the current 10 core competencies to help us out…developed in conversation with over two dozen diverse scholar-practitioners in this field. I’ve really found them useful, let me know if you do too, or if you have suggestions/feedback!

Time to Wake Up! Guest post by Sue Park-Hur


Sue Park-Hur is the new denominational minister for Leadership Development for Mennonite Church USA. She is is a good friend, and I am excited for her to be in this position of authority. She wrote a piece for our church community today, and I asked her if I could share it with you.  Los Angeles also taught me a lot; it was a very meaningful place to participate in creative activism.

Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep. (Romans 13:11)

Last Thursday (June 21, 2018), I drove my 16-year-old daughter and three of her close friends to a park in Los Angeles. As expected, it was hard to find a parking spot near Alvarado St. and Wilshire Blvd., but we finally found a metered parking space seve

ral blocks away. As we were walking towards the park, we were joined by two young men heading the same direction, pulling what I thought was a large cart. Upon closer look, I saw that it was actually three large animal cages piled on top of another. Inside the cages were children’s toys — broken and dismembered. Foam alphabet mats were glued to the side of the cages spelling, “Kids deserve better.” My heart sank, but my steps quickened towards the park.

When we got to MacArthur Park, a crowd of about two  hundred people had already formed. Huge banners waved that said, “Families belong together.” Smaller posters read, “Children don’t belong in cages,” “Resistencia Migrante,” and “No child detention centers.” We heard speakers share pain and anger about ICE raids separating their own families and the trauma experienced in their communities. After each speaker, we responded by chanting, “familias unidas, no dividas” with tears and conviction that forced separation of families at the border is cruel and immoral.

When I heard a rally was being organized, not only did I feel compelled to attend, I wanted to bring my daughter and her friends who were planning to meet up in Koreatown just a few miles away. Knowing that these young women were frustrated at what they heard on the news of family separations, I thought that this rally could be an opportunity for them to meet people who are affected by these unjust laws instead of treating family separation as an issue to be debated.

Many people know that Los Angeles is a very diverse city including large numbers of immigrants. However, many of us live in silos, insulated pockets in the city surrounded by people like us. Koreatown is located just a few miles from MacArthur Park, but we hardly see any Korean faces in this park because most of the people using it are Latinx. It was important to me that my daughter and her friends knew that the park is only a few miles away from my h

usband’s office, to make the connection for them. This part of the city is part of our community. And those who gathered in the park are our neighbors. They are mourning the trauma and protesting the injustice that they’ve experienced.

We are to mourn with those who are mourning and stand in solidarity with those who have experienced injustice.

After the rally, one of my daughter’s friends asked if we could debrief what we experienced. This was the first protest she attended and she had a lot of questions. We sat down over strawberry shaved ice and talked about what we saw and why what is happening at the border should matter to us as Korean Americans.  One of the girls mentioned that Korea ha

s a history of Korean orphans who have been adopted abroad. The Korean War tore families apart and the pain of lost families and identity are with us still. I also added that for the past 70 years, many South Korean families have been separated from their families in North Korea. Since the Korean War was never officially over because a peace treaty was never signed, South Korean families cannot make direct contact with their relatives living in North Korea. The deep pain rooted in the loss of family connections and the inherited trauma of the war impacts Korean American

families and communities even now, and we carry the scars knowingly and unknowingly.

korean war orphans
This photo of two Korean War orphans haunts me.

Family separation is not someone else’s problem; it is one that must matter to us because it is also part of our story.

The discussion with the girls deepened as we sat down for some spicy beef soup.  What does it mean to be American? What is our relationship to this country we call home? How do we live out our belief that our ultimate allegiance is to God, not to a nation? We are recipients of privilege and contributors to this nation as American citizens, but when American laws contradict God’s laws, we need to speak up. There are over 100 scriptures in the Bible about how we are to treat foreigners or sojourners in the land. God, who has heard the cries of the Israelites and wandered the desert with them reminds us to remember who we are and who we all belong to. We all belong to God and we who are resident aliens have our citizenship in heaven (Acts 7:6).

Recently, Romans 13 has been highlighted on the news. At the end of chapter 13, we are reminded, “Besides this, you know what time it is, how it is now the moment for you to wake from sleep” (Romans 13:11). It is time to wake up and remind each other who we are and who we belong to.

Original post here:

So much going on in the world…


I’m grateful for those working on the US/Mexico border to end family separation. If you want to send stuff, a friend’s synagogue is collecting:

Please send toiletries, toys and care packages to the border. Send care packages to:

Michael Blum, Social Action Chair
Temple Emanuel
4300 Chai Street (North C Street)

McAllen, Texas 78504

There are also people activating today to seek to make the country a more welcoming place, despite the Supreme Court ruling upholding the “Muslim Ban.” Thank you.

Looking to root causes, I was excited to be a part of one of the Roundtables of the Catholic Nonviolence Initiative. Through the leadership of Pope Francis, the Vatican may write an encyclical on nonviolence, imploring Christians to consider the example of Jesus and his constant creative responses to violence with a nonviolent commitment to change and challenging the inequitable power structures. More info here. This is a big deal because it would de-center the Just War theory, and increase knowledge about nonviolent social change tactics worldwide.
Jonathan and I are creating some videos on behalf of Mennonite Church USA to promote these concepts within our communities. Stay tuned for that later in the year…

Right now we’ve been focused on the 21st century’s Poor People’s Campaign:

In their own words: “In the coming months, we will focus on organizing, mobilizing voters and building power among the 140 million Americans living in poverty, particularly in the often-ignored South. Poor and low income people from California to the Carolinas are ignored by politicians from both parties. And even though there are 171 electoral votes from Maryland to Texas, much of the South is ignored in the political calculations made by campaign decision makers around elections.

A movement has to fight for the whole country and that’s exactly what we’re doing.” You can also co-sign a letter to the United Nations to ask the Human Rights Council to convene a hearing about the severity of poverty in the US. Click here to add your name.


It was a joy to hang out as mixed Mennos (biracial, multicultural) on Jonathan’s last visit to Atlanta, around the time when we celebrated 51 years since the Loving vs. Virginia case which was a landmark case overruling anti-miscegenation laws. Check out Ryan’s artistic work to lift up interracial partnerships:


Mixed Mennos

Overall, I’m still focused on the question of mainstreaming composting toilets. I’m currently learning from SOIL’s approach, in Haiti. Here is a vid that follows the “waste stream” from poop collection to compost.

Also, I’m still doing a lot of training for nonviolent direct action. Next one is in Pennsylvania during the Carnival de Resistance. There is some amazing innovation happening…Ruckus Society and It Takes Roots came together to do an action camp that focused on addressing BOTH natural and political disasters. We must be equipped, and many activists and communities are not. But that is changing. We are learning the old ways, with new tactics. Contact me if you want more info on that goodness.

Letter from Elder


Letter from Joanna Macy, May 2018

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Dear Family in the Work That Reconnects,

You are all very much in my thoughts these days for this is a critical moment for all life on our planet. It is both heart-shattering and, in its ferocity, promising of what we can become as planet people.  I feel our connections in the Work resonating in me like harp strings.

I’d like to share with you some ways I am finding the Work is helping me respond to the avalanche of bad news as a call to stay both steady and open.

I will go around the spiral.

The emotional challenges of this time require of me to be all the more grateful for the immediacy and sturdiness of Gaia’s gifts.  They flow in moment by moment: the air I breathe, the faces of friends, and my loyal, hardworking old body.

As I open to the pain of our world at this time it really helps me to remember, as we do in the truth mandala, the source, or tantric side, of the intensities of grief, outrage and dread.  Then, each emotional blow actually ignites my realization of the depths of my caring for the world. This caring comes from a deep interconnectedness that unites me with life and opens me to the strengths and insights it can bring.

Also, as I listen to the news–and it matters to listen, please don’t turn away–it helps me to bless the independent journalists that are bringing the news. Love them for the risks that they take to bring us word of what is happening. Thank each person on the information chain that is letting word come to you. And as these currents of information flow through you, don’t feel that you must personally respond to each situation. Don’t fall into that trap of the hyper-individualism of our old culture.  Imagine as you listen that you are allowing the information to cycle and flow through you into wider circuits, enlivening and circulating through the collective intelligence of our time.

Moving further around the spiral. What a sweet moment to be together with other activists, joining them with our hearts and minds and with our hands as well. My granddaughter, Eliza, told me yesterday how she will spend the summer interning with in Minneapolis. We talked about how beautiful it will be to weave connections with the indigenous people of those northern Minnesota lakes, connections fortified by a common goal. Enbridge wants to bring an oil pipeline through the lakes that have yielded for centuries harvests of wild rice. To work together to protect those waters and the ancient culture of wild rice harvesting will bring solidarity and adventure and respect.

Now coming around to the going forth. I found myself thinking this morning that everything is clearer for us now.  The viciousness and brutality that have always been with us are so obvious now, and although terrifying, they’re right up front for all to see.  Their currency is fear–fear that distorts and deadens the mind. And now it’s clear: love must, and can, triumph over fear. If we’re not up for love yet– and a lot of the time I feel I’m not–we can lean into trust.  That’s something I can do. I can learn to trust, and I’m doing that.

And so, dear hearts,thank you for being here–to trust in and trust with.

Yours Ever,


More information on how to get involved with our network:

My specific work in this network: The Work That Reconnects

Letter for solidarity and inclusion in the Work That Reconnects here!

Guest Blog: A Vibrant Political Season


From Bartimaeus Cooperative Ministries. Please check them out!

Dear friends:

Today is the 50th anniversary of the most important liturgical nonviolent direct action ever to come out of the faith-rooted anti-war movement: the Catonsville Nine draft file burning (below).
Please take a moment to look at this commemorative site, as well as related articles here and here.  This watershed action, which included two of my mentors, Daniel and Philip Berrigan, changed the face of Christian resistance, and helped launch many similar actions that contributed to the eventual end of the Indochina War.  We give thanks for these pioneers, and for their “kin” who carry on this tradition today, such as the Kings Bay Plowshares group, who are in jail in Georgia for a disarmament witness six weeks ago on the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s assassination.

And there’s much more happening in this vibrant spring political season.  Be sure and find a way to support the New Poor People’s Campaign, also honoring and carrying on the legacy of Dr. King, which just launched 40 days of direction action at state capitols across the nation (right).  Watch this short video of our friends Revs. William Barber and Liz Theoharis being arrested in D.C. on Monday’s launch.

And half a world away, also on Monday, 60 weaponless Gazan Palestinians were murdered (including 8 children) by Israeli IDF sniper fire, and hundreds wounded, as their protest for their international Right of Return continues (with no mainstream media coverage).  Join the Jewish Voices for Peace petition to “Speak Up for Gaza” here, and find out what our friends in Sabeel are doing in Palestine here.

Meanwhile, here in the Ventura River Watershed our community is working for protection of homeless folk, immigrant rights and clean energy and water.  There’s lots to do everywhere. 

To help build courage, capacity and conviction, Chris has made our final 2018 Kinsler Institute plenary session on “Excavating Our Hearts: Personal and Political Disciplines of Recovery and Solidarity” available on Bartcast.  There are other new podcasts up as well, and check out the just-released Unsettling the Word: Biblical Experiments with Decolonization here, with contributions from Ched and many of our colleagues.

This is what people of faith and conscience are doing, and why we continue in the faith of Easter’s Uprising,

Ched, for the BCM team

Mennonites and the Holocaust


March 16-18, 2018 I attended the Mennonites and Holocaust conference at Bethel College, in Kansas. I would be hard on myself for not getting this out in the month that the event happened. But, given that Mennos didn’t study this history together, and publicly, until 2018 (2015 in Germany, 2017 in Paraguay………about 70 years after it all happened) I won’t begrudge myself the seven weeks. And this is not the end of the recognition. It is the beginning! We will begin to attend to trauma from here on out, particularly participant-induced trauma (as Trina Nussbaum from EMU puts it). We’re also going to grapple with this theologically (at a conference at AMBS in 2020, but there is a group that is part of the national church that has relationships with Jewish people that meets more frequently than that).

Side note: There is also a group that has relationships with Muslim people who meet. I guess I could start one as well for Mennos with Buddhist relationships. I am really happy that our denomination is doing more careful thinking about interfaith relationships. However, some people still would like to convert other people…that’s not how I want to structure my relationships with people in other faiths. Well, that is a blog post for another time, but the idea of Christianity being supreme, when coupled with racism and ethnocentrism is what led to the very topic that I am writing about here.

Also, the delay is related to digestion. This conference becomes more potent to me as it all sinks in. I had read the conference material beforehand, and went there because I have so many relationships with Jewish people, comrades, friends, and co-workers. If I am to show up well in the fight against Antisemitism, I must study my people’s history. And study we did; it was a very historical conference. The organizers specifically chose to focus on the past and not on present day applications. But I must focus on what it means for me and the church now…so I needed to chew on it first.

So, I’ve waited until Passover 5778 and Easter 2018, so I could hold these stories in my heart through these holy days. Now here we are, the day after International Worker’s Day (Alle brider! Rise up! Workers of the world unite!). But I began to share my learning, personally, right away. From my sermon, a day after the conference:

“Future generations will look back at this extreme time and examine our actions. This was clear from the conference we were at this weekend. I am in town for the Mennonites and Holocaust conference. There we learned about the fact that Mennonites participated in the full range of activities during the time of World War II and the Nazi rule of Germany—from being active members of the party to material collaboration with German forces, to avoidance. In rare occasions we rescued Jewish people, but more often benefited materially from their dispossession. Post-war Mennonite migration and shifting identity included falsifying documents and denying complicity.

Whatever we did, we were far from innocent bystanders, or an especially noble group, as I was taught to see myself growing up. Some at the conference looked at the way this reckoning with our past disrupts a traditional narrative of ourselves as persecuted, victimized people who have had little power wherever we live. For some, the arrival of German military forces were a relief from suffering Menno communities faced, and because we spoke German and maintained a lot of that culture Mennos sided with the Germans, even changing our theology to eliminate the cognitive dissonance participating in war created.

Overall, for most people then, it seemed too difficult to challenge the status quo, because of the anticipated consequences. This conference was one step on what will be a long journey of healing and repair. There are many lessons I could take from the conference, but that is one. Don’t let your own experience of suffering stop you from speaking up—in whatever creative way that you can—for others who are hurting, especially when that means challenging the status quo.

While confrontation of the violent status quo can be an uncomfortable thing to do, Christian peacemaking requires us to learn how to strategically show up publicly to defy societal structures and systems that separate us from one another and this planet. That includes challenging readings of Scripture that render us powerless, oppressed, trapped, and traumatized.”

So, now that this conference has been off of the news cycle, hopefully this post can bring back a solemn moment of memory. International Holocaust/Shoah remembrance day is January 27, 2019.

Never Forget
I was in conversation assisting in putting this analysis piece together. Lisa’s work here is crucial: Keynote Doris Bergen told us that scholar’s job is “to break apart the myths. . . . Many groups are confronting and breaking the myth of their own innocence or noncomplicity in the Holocaust. This can be enormously liberating.” Lisa doesn’t feel liberated yet, she ends her article:

“As a witness to this conference and this history, I feel shame, grief, and immense sadness. This history disrupts my world, my identity, and my relationships.”

That makes sense, because it’s so disorienting for so many Mennonites who have been raised with the stories of our overall noncomplicity with empire, (even if they had some critiques already), our victimization by it (even if we are experiencing ongoing victimization/targeting within the church), and the stories of our “purity” (even if we don’t strive to maintain it).  There is a specific way in which recognizing the range of collaboration with the Nazis–and the non-telling of these stories for so long–is like a punch to the gut.

Steve Schroeder brought it home with intersectionality, who teaches at the University of the Fraser Valley in British Columbia, “described Mennonites’ failure to acknowledge their anti-Semitism and support for National Socialism under Hitler — whom many viewed as a German savior — as a denial of the past that can be corrected only by truth-telling.” He told people to learn of the indigenous people where they live, and never forget their 9,000 year cultivation and lifeways that were nearly wiped out by the same forces that tried to wipe out the Jews–European racism + Christian hegemony.

Kansas seems to be the place where I remember death. My arrival in Kansas marked 11 months to the date that I was at those places in Kansas, for MJ’s funeral. We recently set up a scholarship in his honor.  This is important because there is a current Holocaust in Congo. The count is 20 million dead now, but it’s not all about the numbers. The point is is that “never again” is happening, and we can do something about it. Check out Friends of the Congo’s work, and see what you can do.

There are

April with King


This April marked 50 years since the assassination of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. on April 4th.

Many of my friends and comrades went deep into remembering his life and work. I have been honoring him and the movement through giving time to the MLK Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

We were holding the question of what it means to live right now, 50 years since the

What follows are some photos related to the April 4th Peace Prizes, awarded to Attorneys Benjamin Ferencz (Nazi Nuremberg Trial Lawyer) and Bryan Stevenson (Equal Justice Institute and National Memorial for Peace and Justice)

My work at the King Center was to philosophically and logistically craft a special edition of the Beloved Community Talks, an initiative designed to bring people from diverse perspectives together, to talk about shared commitments to addressing the triple evils that Dr. King named in his 1967 Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence speech. It was called Together We Win…Facing Racism, Poverty & Militarism. 

Working with the creative alchemic force of Lead to Life was the highlight of the commemoration this year. They took 50 actual guns and melted them down to make 50 shovels. Then, mobilizing a permaculture analysis, they planted 50 trees. As they were inspired by Dr. King’s ecological analysis, they added to the richness of the various rituals by making the pain of ongoing trauma of being Black in the US real and felt by all. Sometimes Dr. King’s intersectional analysis and cosmic vision is sidelined in mainstream commemorations.

We must remember that the struggle of Black folks in this country is only as successful as the struggle of the Earth for respect and care is successful. For everything is interconnected.

The April 9 funeral march was also meaningful; I was blessed to march alongside bio-family and chosen-family.  Mary Gurley who sang at King’s Atlanta funeral also sang on Monday at this commemoration. I also helped out with an exhibit at the National Historical Park (one image is below). That was a really fun collaborative process working with all park rangers. It will be up until August 2018, so please come view it.

The photo reel ends with this image from Abundant LUUv, a new Afrocentric Unitarian Universalist congregation worshiping contextually in the heart of Atlanta. I think these folks help fulfill King’s dream because they invite people to bring their particular ways of being, melding together for the universal purposes of finding meaning, belonging, and producing the ethics of solidarity and inclusion and ecological responsibility.

Heritage Buddhists


I have learned a lot as a new board member of Buddhist Peace Fellowship (BPF). Today I would like to quote my colleagues as they expand our wisdom about Buddhism in the US/west, and seek to heal centuries of violent erasure.
Heritage Buddhist comrades at the first of Buddhist Peace Fellowship’s spiritual activism retreat ❤

Heritage Buddhists are Buddhists whose Asian ancestral and cultural heritages have historically preserved BuddhismHeritage Buddhists of diasporic communities in white-dominant societies like the US embody complex intersectionalities. On the one hand, they must honor the ancestral obligations and cultural identity of their Buddhist-inflected heritage, while negotiating feelings of tension and distrust towards the oppressive habits that can sometimes entangle Buddhist teachings with nationalist or patriarchal agendas. At the same time, they face the harms of racism, erasure, and cultural appropriation from living under white supremacy.

Inspired by the work of the late Aaron Lee, as well as others like Funie Hsu and Chenxing Han,  兄弟 brothers Ed Ng and Zack Walsh are planning a gathering with the purpose of amplifying the voices and visibility of diasporic Asian heritage Buddhists, and their allies. Quoting Funie, “To be clear, Buddhism belongs to all sentient beings. Even so, Asians and Asian American Buddhists have a rightful, distinct historical claim to Buddhism.”

‘Why,” you may ask, “is this important to you, Sarah, if I’m not Buddhist?” To me it is important because, “white supremacy affects all of us and how we relate to our faiths. Christianity, for example, hardly honors heritage Christians, Palestinians who currently suffer under a cruel US-Israeli military occupation…and often Christian practice in the US fails to recognize that it is not a western religion at its origin. White supremacy is the system of power behind this. We must attempt to free ourselves from it for the health of our worship and devotion. Funie says, “behind the suspicion and exclusion of Asian and Asian American Buddhists is the same system that justified the founding and building of the U.S. through the genocide of indigenous peoples and the labor of enslaved Africans” and I am adding Arabs and heritage Christians to that list. “Undeniably, America has been created by excluding people whose differences were deemed inferior—a process known as racial othering—so as to establish a seemingly natural superiority of white people.” In Christianity this led to waves of Crusades that have attacked the indigenous home of Christianity in Jerusalem, pillaging the land and killing/re-converting heritage Christians (as well as their neighbors Muslims, and Jews). These attempts have taken different forms throughout the generations and continue today. Sabeel and Dar al-Kalima represent the efforts of some autochthonous heritage Christians.

The same process of white supremacy has created an American culture in which other practitioners, namely white practitioners, have been granted the freedom to be Buddhist in safer and more public ways. Moreover, instead of facing systemic injustice for embracing a spirituality that departs from the Judeo-Christian norm, white Buddhists are often lauded for this difference. They may attain a certain cultural capital for their practice, for donning Buddhist symbols and using dharma names in Asian languages, all of which mark them with distinction as “interesting,” perhaps even “worldly”—anything but “suspect” or “foreign.”

This is white supremacy and privilege in Buddhism.

This particular angle of racial justice and intergenerational healing within Buddhism is often overlooked in the West, and here we have an opportunity to heal some of that harm.

This gutsy and visionary group will work with Buddhist Peace Fellowship’s national offices, building power and focus to intervene in the erasure of Asians from Western Buddhism, and forward a Buddhism that honors Asian practices, ancestry, and people.

So, your financial contribution to BPF to support an initiative of Buddhists raising this issue at the Parliament of World Religions or nearby site is one small wave in the oceanic shift away from transactional thinking, toward transnational thinking and gift and solidarity economies, so treasured by Buddhists everywhere. Donate here!

Ending with quotes from Chenxing Han’s article, that I resonate with as a person alive at this moment on planet Earth:

“The fact that there is no one face, no single voice, of Buddhist Asian America frees us to be “real Asian American Buddhists” in a multitude of ways. We can see our religious identities not as fixed labels but as ever-shifting processes. As Holly, a Buddhist chaplain of mixed Japanese and Jewish heritage, eloquently stated:

I think young Asian American Buddhists I know, including myself, face challenges in integrating and expressing multiple cultural identities—as young, American, Buddhist, and Asian. Yet I think we are all moving toward a more pluralistic world in which multiplicity of identity will be the norm. As a Buddhist, I know that the self is always inconstant and interdependent, so in a way my Buddhist practices help me be at peace in the midst of the tensions in multiplicity and diversity.”

I resonate with this as having strong multiplicity in identity requires a lot of bridging. At the spiritual activist retreat, we talked about the bridges of solidarity we wished to build between people of Asian descent/diaspora and people of African descent/diaspora. It was a healing time of discovering and recovering deep layers of our transcendent humanity. My work (as one with Christian roots) in learning and listening has continued since then…

(Back to Chenxing) Bridging—“constantly straddling cultural and spiritual worlds,” as one interviewee put it—is possible for Buddhists of all races and ethnicities. As culturally engaged Buddhists, we must contemplate the histories and intersections of the cultural and religious traditions we have inherited/adopted. If we are to weave different narratives about American Buddhism, we must also critically examine the racism and Orientalism that shape our perceptions of Asian American Buddhists.

We must “recognize the harm in erasing Asian American Buddhists from representations of Buddhism in America. Whether Buddhism is the religion of their family of origin, a religion they have sought out for themselves, or both, they recognize that Asian American Buddhists are not solely responsible for their invisibility. Remedying misrepresentations of American Buddhism must be a collective effort, one that includes Asian Americans and others who have been largely absent from mainstream portrayals of American Buddhism, as well as white allies who are willing to cede control of the Buddhist mediascape in which their voices currently prevail.”

From whatever path you walk, you can “actively work to give dana (generosity) by expressing gratitude for the Asian and Asian American Buddhists who have shared their indigenous ways of being as integral expressions of their practice.” Offer dana here.