Monday, May 30, 2016

Forgiveness? Why We Can and Why We Can't

Forgiveness begins in the heart.

C. S. Lewis writes, "Everyone says that forgiveness is a good idea ... until they have something to forgive." I would add that forgiveness is a good idea ... UNTIL one needs to be forgiven." The last few days, I've been reminded of the need to forgive as part of the steps towards healing and reconciliation. These thoughts about forgiveness came subtlety. Yesterday's sermon included an admonition that the trials of the last few weeks must include forgiveness before we can work on coming back in fellowship with one another. And today, walking a little slower, hurting a little bit (okay, a lot), after a long and wonderful weekend, a friend prayed for me. She prayed that I learn to forgive so that my healing might be complete. It resonated deep in my very being, and as my tears flowed, I realized that I've been holding on to my anger and that is not healthy. But forgive? I don't think I'm ready.

Much has happened over the last few weeks and I've been sad and angry, sometimes both at the same time. That is why, first, I would ask for forgiveness. Forgiveness for holding on to this hurt and my failure to recognize the harm it does to the body and the spirit. There are probably several people from whom I should ask forgiveness, even as I might not know exactly why I've offended them, but often because I do know why. As I ponder on my need to be forgiven, I've learned that in order to be forgiven, know why. I get why someone might be put out with me, and I recognize how I might have done something differently in response to those situations I'm thinking of, but I'm human after all. Still, I need to ask for forgiveness in order to give the forgiveness to others who have wronged me. How magnanimous must I think I am to walk around forgiving people while needing to be forgiven myself. Just who do I think I am?

I'm not perfect. I've never claimed to be, but arrogance has a way of conveying the message that while not perfect, I might consider myself as least more perfect than you. That you being anyone who does not agree with me, who I believe could have done something differently, and who I judge to have known better makes it hard to consider that I have to forgive, too. If I judge their actions malicious, when it is something else, I'm the one who should ask for forgiveness. But, whether malicious or innocuous, I should forgive because it is a standard for the rest of the work. It is not impossible to do, but the heart must be willing first and foremost, and the person must know that forgiveness, for all intents and purposes, is a gift you give yourself.

So, the prayer for me was anything but subtle. It hit the nail on the head. Okay, let's be honest. It hit me on the head, waking me up. And you know what? I felt better physically because I named my pain. As I said, I first ask for forgiveness, because when you don't recognize those things that hold you back, when you fail to name those problems that hamper your ability to forgive and to ask for forgiveness, we continue the spiral or discontent and it manifests in ways that affect the body, mind and spirit.

So, here's to prayers answered and it is my hope that you have forgiven me as I commit to making a forgiveness a permanent attitude. So be it.

Peace.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Again, Hard Conversations?


AND even if you think no one is listening.
Yes, we are having the hard conversations today. As we celebrate Malcolm X's birthday, while celebrating at the Pan African Festival at a community center called SHAPE (yes, they are at the forefront of my week worth of advocacy), we are talking about it. Today, we hosted a documentary and talk about Malcolm X and a conversation about modern day slavery. SHAPE has been shaping the well-being of a community for almost fifty years and throughout all of the decades, it is famous for the hard conversations.

Look, no one wants to really talk about the problems of the world. It would be nice to be in a cocoon of our making, shutting out the ills of the world, praying that we will remain safe and unaware. Alas, it is not to be, partly because if you are reading this, I won't let you. Apologies, but I'm not really sorry. You can guess why, but the reason: you don't get to ignore the problems of society and wanting to feel that they can't or won't affect you is not an option.

Apathy is ignorance. More, it is a state of being that cannot be sustained. You think that the poverty of children or the sex trafficking in your city is not worthy of notice? Or rather do you think that somehow these problems are only the problem of people affected by them? And the reason I'm raising this issue to you, someone who may not want to know or if you know, not want to be bothered with it, because I know that I can't do this alone. And my role is to find a way to get you to hear because if I know you and call you friend, I know something about you and that you are needed.

Today is a good day to get involved. Today is the day to think about what role you will play in the healing of a world gone sour far too long. And today, celebrating the life of Malcolm and others who made a difference in the way I think today, the way I approach this life, and the work I do, I think you might find that joining me will make it easier on all of us.

Peace.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Chronic Illnesses--A Sign of the Times

Taking the "Dis" out of Disease
Autoimmune disease occurs when your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body, destroying healthy tissue. Scientists aren’t sure what triggers autoimmune diseases, but it often runs in families. We know that women are at greater risk of having an autoimmune disease than men, especially African-American, Native-American, and Hispanic women. The immune system normally and adequately works to protect the body from disease and infection, but when you have an autoimmune disease or deficiency, your immune system attacks healthy cells in your body by mistake affecting different parts of the body.
In 2008, I was diagnosed with the multi-tissue diseases of Rheumatoid Arthritis and Lupus. My whole body ached and my joints swelled to disproportionate sizes in my knees and hands where I could barely stand or hold a fork or spoon. It hurt to lie down and hurt to walk, a conundrum of sorts. I could not go backwards or forward with the onslaught of this disease and then my world was shattered into fragments of disability, where a sort of madness took over. The doctors, after tests gave me the diagnosis citing they could not decide which of the two diseases I had. The symptoms for both are similar, but the rash and skin degenerative factors weighed on the side of Lupus. Plying me with pills (with tremendous side effects so that blood work must be done every 3 months to make sure my liver and kidneys are not affected), the journey began. However, it was not the journey to health. It was merely the journey to survival at all costs.
Flair-ups are the bane of this disease, but I generally had 3-6 a year. Then they started to be almost once a month for the last couple of years until February of this year, when I had 4 back-to-back attacks. The increase in severity was so overwhelming, I took to taking pain pills before I was in pain because chasing the pain was not an option if I wanted to continue to work. The last attack, however, after spending 8 days in San Francisco, and coming home on a too-crowded airline, sent me to the hospital where the doctor exclaimed, "You have Lupus and RA. You're going to have pain. You just need to manage it." Then he decided to up my dosage on pain medicine. It did not bode well for my future.
That afternoon, tired, discouraged, I asked my daughter to get me something from Sunshines, a health food grocery and deli. The founder of Sunshines was there that day and he told my daughter to stop giving me pain medicine and gave her some herbs that I now know are nature's own to counter what drugs had been doing to me. It wasn't instantaneous, as I wanted to down a whole bottle of pain pills the next day, but I committed myself to try because the next option was a morphine drip. It has been a month and a half since I've started this homeopathic method of cleansing the body and allowing my body time to find its healing. I can't turn from this, but it got me to thinking. Yes, I have another point to make.
Doctors say they don't know what causes or triggers autoimmune diseases, but I do. One particular trigger is stress, but stress can only do damage when it has a body that is wracked with bad eating habits and not resting enough. I've noticed that a lot of individuals, women, with autoimmune diseases are Type A personalities. They work themselves to exhaustion and in my case, ran to Wendy's or McDonald's for their pick-me-up. Since allowing my body to acclimate to better eating, drinking lots of water, and getting rest, my body feels different. My mind is sharper and I find myself wondering what took me so long. This is not an overnight fix. It's a lifetime change. I'm in love with myself again because I'm rested enough to appreciate myself, which leads me to the last point of today's blog.
Right now the world (our Earth), has an autoimmune deficiency where the healthy immune system (healthy relationships, conflict resolution, compassion, empathy, and caring) is compromised and attacking "good cells (people and good work)" on a daily basis. We see flair-ups more than ever before and it is crippling our societies. In America, especially (because this is where I live), I see the affects as we fight against injustices, which continue to attack across a plethora of issues (mass incarceration, domestic violence, poverty, etc.) and we are trying both placebos and bad medicine to cure it. It won't work. Today American needs to complete detox and it's coming whether we realize it or not. Make no mistakes, what goes in, must eventually come out or we're going to have a continuation of the clogged systems that make America a dumping ground for hate, ignorance, greed and more. We've got to stop our fast food-type solutions and restructure healthy living as the core and embodiment of a new America that is inclusive and welcoming to all. It takes hard work because we didn't get in this fix overnight. It took centuries to do this, but once the healing starts, there is a change that happens. The Earth remembers its goodness. The hearts of people begin to feel better about themselves so that they can be more generous to others. We can be better. It's not impossible. Some of us are already on the road to recovery. We just need to infect others with our recovery so that they, too, can recover.
Peace.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

GET ON WITH THE MORE


    We are the solution!

In the midst of the terrorism that became the killing of South Carolina 9, I have been appalled at those who wring their hands going, "I don't know what to do." Really? After a few centuries, YOU don't know?  In the last few months, it seems that there is an escalation of all things that go bump into the night. The murder of a former school teacher who had fallen into drugs. The finding of a baby in a dumpster--dead. Terrible things. Then there was the man looking for an apartment and became frustrated because while he had the money, no one would rent to him because of a felony conviction. He has two boys who need him, but they were staying in a shelter for the time being. I gave him names of people and places that he could go, but he responded, "I've been there." He was running out of options and I had no others. Each of these incidents happened within a 24-hour period.

The truth is there is no escalation except in my awareness. More, I'm generally the fixer and it rankled that I could fix nothing. Later I spoke with my friend and mentor, Deloyd Parker, executive director of SHAPE Community Center. He told me. You did do something. You listened. Still, I thought it wasn't enough.

For 47 years, Deloyd has run an institution that supports our community. SHAPE has an after school program and a complete summer program. He gives space for our elder's wisdom circle where he feeds us (yes, I'm an elder) twice a week, a wonderful meal, fully vegetarian and "we" love it. More he takes young people on an annual freedom tour, where he brings the civil rights era into the minds and hearts of young minds lest they not know their heritage and forget the past.  In addition, he gives people second chances after they make big mistakes and allows them to do community service. There's a fresh vegetable market on Saturdays and much more (go to the website). With all that he does, including giving space to discussions, special events, he reminds me that sometimes all we can do is listen at the moment.

And, listening has a value. Don't ever forget that. Listening gives us an opportunity to understand and show compassion, but it also gives us information that helps us to find solutions.  Listening is an action, but it doesn't stop there. We must understand that in every circumstance mentioned above, the problems didn't happen overnight and these problems won't be an overnight fix. We know that our problems are first, systemic and and that these systems continue to widen the gap between groups of people; class, gender, race are just a few of those divides. There seems to be fewer and fewer opportunities to pull yourself up by the bootstraps because there's no boot and no strap. We continue to ask, "What can we do?" And that is the question that must be answered every day.

Here it is. We must get on with the MORE. More what? Someone recently wrote that it is not government's role to be compassionate, but to solve problems. Government is a resource run by people who benefit while deciding who should or should not benefit. They can't do that without compassion along with realistic responses. Compassion, however, is part of the foundation of the work for your fellow human being, no matter the color of his or her skin, his or her religion, or his or her background. Compassion is an action that helps you to listen and then respond to the individual each and every time.

We need to identify those who are doing the work on those issues in our community, defining community not by the circumstances of different groups of people, but addressing the needs of a community that includes all. That's the difficult issue and as I run this space of mine called Our House, I realize all are not equal in a community, causing a rift that is widening. How can we narrow those gaps? After all, it seems that you can't be everything to everybody. But, that's not the problem. I'm not trying to be everything to everybody. I'm working to bring my particular brand of gifts and talents to those problems that need them. And there are enough of us with gifts and talents to narrow the divide if only we would work together.

That is why this summer we created a Face It Friday, Move It Monday salon, a place where ideas can incubate and where we can face our problems and look for ways to solve them. On this last Friday, we talked about the recent issues of addiction, poverty, and homelessness, problems of individuals, but the greater problem of how we respond as a community. And we decided that there was a place and people already doing this work, primed and ready to do more if they had the resources of people and money. And this first foray into a Move It Monday, made me realize that my role as a writer and teacher, is to spread the word of our efforts, getting others (that's you) to listen and respond.

SHAPE needs volunteers and they need philanthropists to support the work that responds to many of the issues in our community. They need volunteers and people who see the value of human beings, including the drug addict, the desperate mothers and fathers who don't always make the right choices, children who need a place to go to over the summer, but whose parents are working minimum wage, and elders who still have much to offer being given that opportunity. And then there's you. My sister once wrote that she was in awe of the work that I do and realized that it was an easy thing to write a check so that I can continue to do what I do. I'm asking that we think of that when we consider the initiative of our Move It Monday, that we agree to help an organization that is doing the work. Go to SHAPE's website and give and if you're in Houston ... drop by and sign up for Saturday orientation to volunteer. And then you will be answering the question of what can be done because you will be doing it.

Peace!



Saturday, September 12, 2015

PEACE IS A VERB


PEACE IT TOGETHER AND SUPPORT THE WORK

Peace is not a trend. It is not a utopian idea, something so fantastical, so perfect that it will never happen. Peace is NOT unachievable.

Peace is not just a noun. Peace is also a verb. It is action, even as it maintains an elusive presence. Why? Because peace means different things to different people. Plus, not everyone believes that "EVERYONE" else is entitled to peace.

For almost twenty-five years, my life has been about this elusive thing called peace. I have participated in prayer vigils and earth dances; so many events over the years and each time I think I've touched peace, it fades away as the reality of those who abhor peace for all rears its ugly head. We struggle with why ALL LIVES MATTER negates the reason for BLACK (and yes, other) LIVES to MATTER. It's not so much as a conundrum (although it is), as it is a structural and systemic problem.

Over the years, I have evolved in my commitment to peace. I want to "make" it, "build" it and "keep" it and I believe that while I don't have the actual formula (because I can't do it by myself), I do have the plan ... a plan that works to build areas of respect and trust as the coin used to purchase solutions. But in order to get the coin, you must again "purchase" it with ... none other than ... LOVE.

Peace costs. And there is no way we can have it if we aren't willing to pay its price. It takes all of the tools to do this job. This is not a lone soldier act. It's community. Marketing is key. And so is financial support. Are you squeamish about giving to an organization or are you reluctant because of the people involved? Be clear that if you believe in the work, support it and not just with words, but action. Volunteer your time, your talents and your resources.

TPI's International Day of Peace Week-Long Series has come together with people currency and pure grit! Over the last 11 years, P. K. McCary (that's me) has along with a team of individuals, facilitated several successful programs: The Peace Hour, a Pacifica radio program to tell the stories of peace in action, 1000 KALEMA, a photographic odyssey competition and exhibition series for peace; ICDesignSTUDIO, a curriculum-based project to teach marketing, public relations, and graphics as a skills set for building critical thinking folks to work in community known as Our House; and several partnerships with United Religions Initiative, The Decade of Non-Violence community-based group, Peace Camp, The Beloved Community, The Rothko Chapel's Tribute to Mandela, and MLK Peacekeeping Initiative and the annual International Day of Peace.

As we embark on our continued venture of combining art, advocacy and activism with its incubation at Project Row Houses, this years conference leads to a year-long initiative to bridge cultural and generational barriers in America. Working with other groups, organizations and institutions, this initiative with build strong relationships to teach standards for partnering, to deal with the social constructs that include system and structural racism and oppression. TPI's has cultivated a non-violent method of working together that has spanned the Nation.

As we pursue several grants (that we stand a positive and strategized chance of receiving), we ask that you help sustain our work with the following support--either with helping us with our list of needed resources or with funds to pay for same. We want to raise at least $5,000, either with funding or some of the following resources.

NEEDS: 2 IMacs (new or refurbished); 3-D Printer; Office Supplies and printing and postage, travel.
WHAT WE HAVE: Space (Project Row Houses), Internet and Utilities

Make your commitment today. Call us directly with any questions you may have. BUT TODAY ... make that commitment. We've been making to our community. Please consider us today.



Sunday, January 25, 2015

Together We Stand

Believing in My Purpose
Mom, Dad and Me
Yesterday would have been my mother's 88th birthday. She left this world in 2004. All day yesterday I tried to find a quiet moment with her because I didn’t want to share her with anyone. Part of that has to do with the fact that I am her oldest child. Her last moments on earth were with me and I miss her every day. Yesterday I felt I had to finish things for and with others before I could find that quiet moment.

So, I didn’t get that moment I wanted on yesterday, falling asleep early and last night she came into my dreams. I love you, Mom. Waking moments were fused with many good things yesterday, but my Mother was good at patience.

In my dreams she had been asleep and had just come into my  living room. Awaking as she did, always cheery, wanting some oatmeal (although she didn’t in this dream), my Mom always made mornings better for me. Even not being a morning person myself, she managed to energize me without coffee. I think it was because she loved me and I felt it. There wasn’t much more to that in the dream as it was within the remnants of my waking in real time. Still, I got up immediately, refreshed and ready to write.

I am my mother’s daughter, as I am my father’s, too. I know I have gifts from both of them. I have my mother’s compassion and empathy, my father’s gift of teaching. The last 10 years have been the honing of those gifts more fully to do the work I do—that I’m called to do.

I didn’t get my mother’s gift of healing or my father’s skills of logic. I can comfort, but my mother’s gift of healing and taking away pain is not mine. My father was a wiz at knowing the way. He was a master builder. I don’t always see the way to doing and getting what I need—I struggle with step by step planning, seeing the bigger picture, but not always the steps to getting there.  What does all of this say to me?

My parents gave me the right gifts or rather the gifts I received from them are the right ones. What they taught me is that no one does this work alone. However, you don’t just learn from what our parents did right. We must learn from the challenges they struggled with and mistakes they made as well.

They didn’t stay married, but in the end they are together. They came together, I believe, because even though their stories were vastly different, they completed each other. Both grew up poor (my mother had days of abject poverty while my father didn't) but my mother was the first (and only girl) to finish high school in her family. She was almost 20 before she got her high school diploma. That is true perseverance.

My father, while poor by standards of the time, was the only son of a farmer and minister. He was able to finish school. He went into the armed services and was then able to finish college. While a black man living in America, he still had the support of a patriarchal society in that community. His own sister, who wanted to learn (and Aunt Luella was smart as a whip), was denied that because of her sex.

He was an educated man. That education brought him to a school where he became my mother’s teacher. Then he became her lover and later her husband. And here I am (not necessarily in that order). My father’s influence on my mother helped her to finish high school. It prepared her for accepting the gift of Dr. Perry Priest (for whom I’m named) to go to and finish nursing school.

My mother and father believed in education, especially of and for their children. We’ve all achieved learning in one way or another and we’re the smartest 5 individuals I know. But as the eldest child of Savantha and Henry McCary, I see that what I’ve become is an empathetic and compassionate teacher. What I teach is what I’ve gotten from my parents—life skills—as well as what I know best (creative communication skills). The rest …

Well, it comes from those of you I am willing to partner and collaborate with. I cannot do it all. We’re at the precipice of real change and it is going to take the willing and the strong. None of us can do it alone. Today, in the present, we must figure out how we’re going to work together. And, remember earlier I talked about the challenges and mistakes of my parents. They live inside of me, too. I must continue the lessons taught by them while alive, living in me now that they are gone. I will be the best that I can be and work with those whose gifts can be celebrated in making this a better world.

So, as they stand behind me, lifting me up in dreams and memories, I say Thank you, Mom and Dad. Oh, and a belated birthday wish, Mom. I didn’t get around to it yesterday, but I was doing the work I learned from you both. You did a good job.


Peace.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

THE FERGUSON VERDICT: THE MORE OF JUSTICE DENIED


November 26, 2014

“Where justice is denied, where poverty is enforced, where ignorance prevails, and where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them neither persons nor property will be safe.” 
                                                              ~ Frederick Douglass

In the last 24-plus hours since the Ferguson grand jury verdict in the case of Michael Brown, the media has skewered the voices of the sane into a haze of doubt and recriminations. This haze is focused on the vilification of young black men once again. In the secondary haze, however, is the notion that when black people are angry they resort to violence—a mark that continues to evoke fear in the hearts of whites in America.

From Shonda Rhimes, as an angry black woman, to Michael Brown, as a demonic possessed thief, the continued systemic persecution of black ethnicity reigns and that means that the lives of black men continues to be in peril. More, the media seems willing to evoke these stereotypes with what can only be defined as cruel and systemic racism. The real problem is that many of us buy into it, which leaves us little room to discuss the injustice of killing Michael Brown.

It seems to me that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Frederick Douglass was enslaved at birth. Yet, he became the greatest abolitionist of his time. Moreover, while he doesn’t get the credit, we know that he advised President Lincoln in the necessity of freeing a people enslaved. So, why after his life’s work are we continuing with the same problems of racism in this country?

The system of slavery marks this country and we have yet to heal or reconcile this period of time. It marks us in speech and action, in attitude and reaction. It is not just the idea that slavery was a bad thing (oddly enough many in this country believe otherwise). Rather, it is our lack of understanding its far-reaching ramifications that create the systems where the killing of a black man is seemingly always justified; leaving us with a sense of rage that overwhelms a populace.

THE MORE WE LEARN, THE MORE THINGS CAN CHANGE

When will we learn? That’s the question I ask each and every day. In the wake of the killings of the following black men: Amadou Diallo, Patrick Dorismond, Ousame Zongo, Tim Stansberry, Sean Bell, Oscar Grant, Ramarley Graham, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, and Michael Brown, just a few of the ones we know didn’t deserve to die, anger is the least of our feelings. Fear is prominent, especially for black parents who know what can happen to their children in this 21st century. Every 28 hours, a black woman in this country loses her child to police or vigilante violence. When I think of the stereotypes placed on black men and women, I’m wondering why we are considered the metaphorical boogieman?

And that is the major problem in our community. By the external oppression and racism that permeates society in both subtle and not-so-subtle ways, we are the ones afraid, but are portrayed as people to be afraid of. Continued abuse of this nature is promoting a stereotype that is affecting not just those of us here, but those yet to be born. AND THIS BEHAVIOR MUST CEASE IMMEDIATELY.

Our children need to know more of who they are as well as more of who they are not. Ending this abuse must start now, which means that we must develop strategies and create more opportunities to end systemic racism and oppression in every corner of the globe. But it starts right here in America as we tout ourselves as land of the free, home of the brave. Well, it ain’t necessarily so.

It is also not a black thing. It is a human rights thing, and if we are to decimate stereotypes that trigger violence against a group of people (i.e., by ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion), we must work together. And the only way to do that is to know more about the seemingly “other” to develop relationships that help us to do so.

There is MORE to do. There are no easy answers, but there are considerable ways in which we can do MORE while we develop the strategies to find the answers we so desperately need. Someone wrote, “We are all Ferguson.” The killing of a young black man is only part of that. The portrayal of our young men is gruesomely stereotyped. It is evidently embedded in minds of those who think they have no stakes in the verdict that was given night before last. What they hear is that the killing of Michael Brown was justified and so we should just get over it. But, as Frederick Douglass said more than 150 years ago, “…where any one class is made to feel that society is an organized conspiracy to oppress, rob and degrade them neither persons nor property will be safe.”

MORE begins with us. Yesterday, when speaking with a white friend, he expressed his outrage, but also his impotence in addressing not the verdict, but the unfair system that allowed for it. It made me realize that people are thinking more about what this is, rather than what just happened. It is a revelation and says that together, he and I could do more than any march or protest. We have identified one of the problems—the current rules and system—and now we must strategize to rebuild our current system into a better one. The CHANGE begins with that knowledge and us.

And so, I said to my friend that I would love to spend more time together outside of the neutral ground where we see one another. Instead, we’ll meet in each other’s home (he’s never been to mine nor I, his). We’ll build a coalition in strategizing how we can build a better system that is fair to all, but we’ll build a stronger relationship at the same time. You can’t stand together if you don’t know one another. It doesn’t work, I know.

When Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, a few of my white friends dropped off my radar. It started a little bit with social media, with some of these individuals posting things patently in opposition to my belief or thinking. In one case, one of my black friends got into an argument with one of my white friends that were anything but cordial. No, I didn’t try and referee, but found myself on the black side, so to speak and therefore without my white friend anymore. I didn’t realize that the chasm was that big between us until then. However, here’s the good news. The people I’ve had the better relationship with were those I spent time and supped with on many occasions. We weathered the liberal versus conservative stratosphere and often found common ground. The MORE of friendship trumped the MORE of disagreements. Don’t get me wrong, people disagree, but we’ve also worked on addressing the real culprits of this society and I believe that together, WE WILL CHANGE AMERICA for the better. The alternative is unacceptable.


Peace