on refuge + resistance | becoming a sanctuary

On Monday, I was overcome by emotion at the devastating stories of Muslim immigrants being cut off from their rightful homes — families, livelihoods, and beloved communities — here in the U.S. and of refugees, who had been promised entry on asylum, being sent back to waiting gallows. I became teary-eyed and shaky as I thought of my multinational clutch of friends, and of my family members, living and deceased, and ancestors, who have migrated within or emigrated from other parts of the world to this nation. The What-Ifs spiraled through my mind: What if friends I know are deported or denied re-entry? What if the ban extends to any immigrant who does not have full citizenship and my dad (who is not Muslim nor from a Muslim country) too becomes a victim of this gross xenophobia?

Angry and proud, I carried the flag of my father’s island into a city council meeting to show my support for a resolution to make our community an official sanctuary for all immigrants.

My family has crossed many borders and belonged to many nations.

My father is from Trinidad + Tobago and came to the U.S. with his steel pan band in the 70s. His father and his maternal grandmother island-hopped from Barbados to Trinidad. I’m told our people are scattered throughout the Caribbean. I have cousins from both islands who are now legal residents in the U.S.

My maternal grandmother is a 1st-generation U.S. citizen whose Canadian parents immigrated to Pontiac, MI. Her maternal grandmother was a Jew from Stuttgart, Germany who, at 17 years old, immigrated to NYC in 1880, then crossed the northern borders into Canada. Her maternal grandfather was a slave born on a plantation in Virginia. He enlisted in the Union Army, fought in the Civil War, and moved to Buffalo, NY following his honorable discharge before crossing into Canada.

My mother welcomed people of all cultures into our home and, when I was a child, even hosted two Belizean women as guests for a short stay. In her almost 40-year career in social work, she wholeheartedly served refugee and other immigrant communities. She bonded with them, kept in touch after their services ended — they invited her to dinners, baby showers, and birthday parties. She became a trusted friend who their children called Auntie or Gramma.

My extended family and friends come from many nations or are descendants of immigrants or are married/committed to and have built families with immigrants or descendants of immigrants.

My neighbors are from Vietnam and Cuba — I’ve watched their children grow up alongside my son.

There is no part of my life or my heart that has been untouched by an immigrant. 

My hope is that the #LoveLansing City Council acts in alignment with our mayor’s pledge to protect our refugee and immigrant community and resolve to declare my hometown a sanctuary city.

So ask me again why I am outraged? Why I’m sad? Why I feel threatened? I’ll gladly repeat it over and over and over: It’s literally in my DNA to give a damn!
__________

Read our Mayor Virg Bernero’s pledge via Fox 47 News.

the eightfold path: on skillful speech, skillful action + skillful livelihood

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Sangha is studying how we “live into community” and the purpose of gathering as spiritual friends to build our capacity for skillfulness and resilience. To that end, we’re contemplating the Eightfold Path as a set of embodied practices that help us develop wisdom, ethical action, and various faculties that support our meditation.

The Eightfold Path is the fourth of the 4 Noble Truths:

There is Suffering.
There are Causes of Suffering (craving/attachment).
There is an End of Suffering.
The Noble Path is the End of Suffering.


The wisdom pair of Skillful Understanding and Skillful Thinking carries us to gates of the three ethical actions where we may examine how silence and discernment give shape and dimension to:

Skillful Speech — What we choose to say, how we choose to say it, and when we choose to say it. Speech is a form of action (the cause of karma) that is fueled by the quality of our understanding, thinking and intentions. It may be guided by factors that create a more skillful impact (the effect of karma) in the world.*

*(I use world here to encompass our daily encounters with people, places, and all manner of things.)

Skillful Action — How we choose to respond to the world as embodied in our conduct (direct/indirect; personal/interpersonal; private/public). The behaviors/activities we engage in and abstain from that reflect the quality of our understanding, thinking, and intentions.

Skillful Livelihood — I am compelled to expand livelihood beyond its common denotation as the work we do to earn a living. This is also coupled with a desire to suss out the snares of privilege and shame that arise when we narrow in on ethical employment without considering socio-cultural and economic factors that influence where and how we work. Looking deeply at the root meaning of the word itself unearths a broad view of how we cultivate our “way of life” and includes all the choices/actions we make to nourish and sustain a sense of living well (values, interests, experiences and relationships). Our livelihood then reflects and is informed by the quality of our understanding, thinking, intentions and actions.

Our contemplation draws on Audre Lorde’s essay, The Transformation of Silence into Language and Action:

What is the quality and impact of our silence?
Where does our silence show up as fear or avoidance?
When can it cause harm?  When can it be a tool for healing? 

Where can it be shaped into a tool of resistance — a healthy boundary to guard against toxic communication?  A way of standing in our commitment to non-violent, compassionate action?
In what ways do we use meditation and practices of discernment as skillful means to transform silence into skillful speech and skillful action?



other liberating actions of the eightfold path

on skillful understanding + skillful thinking
on skillful effort, skillful mindfulness + skillful concentration