LEADING IN DIFFICULT TIMES, Conversations Among the Clergy of San Mateo County, CA

2792b2bb-5918-4580-bf07-9355acdf4291It’s not poetry but it’s important.  As we struggle to understand, to digest pending or potential changes with the new U.S. administration, to figure out what we can do to help insure stability and to ease the pain of others, those who nurture our spiritual lives are struggling with the same questions.  Through interfaith collaboration clergy support one another, coming together in conversation, in protest and in solidarity as they stand in the love of our country, all people and the world.

img_2075On Wednesday, November 30, 2016, twenty-five clergy representing Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, Unitarian Universalism and Christianity responded to a call to meet for a working lunch at the Congregational Church of San Mateo to discuss Leading in Difficult Times. I was a butterfly on the wall with the good fortune to listen in.

They discussed the same concerns and fears that you are writing about in your poems, essays and editorials: scapegoating, suppression of free speech, immigration policy that will split families and is creating anxiety among children, Islamophobia, empowerment, economic distress, women’s rights and violence by individuals or orchestrated violence in the community/country.

One rabbi pointed out, “The to-do list for the world … we never imagined so much would be pressing us with the same sense of urgency. How do you know what to do first? With all that needs to be done, how do we make sure no one is left behind and that we don’t take away the dignity of others in our process? … How do we juggle all the needs?”

“later that night
i held an atlas in my lap
ran my fingers across the whole world
and whispered
where does it hurt?
it answered
everywhere
everywhere
everywhere.”
excerpt from “what they did yesterday afternoon”  Warsan Shire

Just as we ponder how to support one another in our art and activism, our clergy explored the ways in which they can support one another in their roles as spiritual leaders.

  • Show up for each other and stand by the values we share.
  • Keep the spark alive. Hear the spark, the spiritual spark, hopefulness and joy.
  • Create a safe place to talk about personal journeys relative to the times.
  •  Encourage one another in a clear sense of values and priorities … to act the way our traditions dictate and God wants. Stay grounded in a place of values and faith.
  • The heart has a need for practical things to do; we can echo the sorts of things other faith groups are doing so we can collaborate.

They explored faith at the intersection of shared values, the same values we share through The BeZine and under the banner of 100,000 Poets for Change.

  • Love of all humankind and the value of nonviolence.
  • Dignity and worth of all people.
  • Hope that all places of worship can be a safe space for everyone.
  • The value of listening.
  • The value of acting to move through the whole project without stopping.
  • The value of not leaving people behind. Blessing and curses go together so where there is a curse there’s a blessing and we create the blessing.
  • The sanctity of speech.
  • Concern for the poor and disadvantaged.

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“Remember, remember always, that all of us, and you and I especially, are descended from immigrants and revolutionists.”  Franklin D. Roosevelt

After the clergy meeting I attended a similar discussion among the members of my own congregation.  We broke out into groups to explore and agree on actions for a specific areas of concern: environment/climate change, racism and Islamophobia, women’s rights and immigration. I was in the group on immigration, where priorities are the school children now living in fear of being separated from parents or sent back to countries where their lives are at risk, the 65,000 undocumented youth graduating from high school each year and having conditional status in the States under The Dream Act*, and the brutality and aggression faced by illegal immigrants escaping violence in their countries of origin as they are rounded up for deportation by ICE officials. There is special interest in the Sanctuary Movement and making our church sanctuary. We are already a “Welcoming” community.

These have been among my activities as I took some time away from writing and poetry to think about what promises to be a different sort of world. We might have a long haul ahead of us and though . . .

The task [may not be ours] to complete,
. . . neither are [we] free to desist from it. Rabbi Nachman

* These are children who are culturally American and bilingual with only a tenuous connection to their countries of origin.

Clerics interested in connecting with the Planning Team for the San Mateo clergy group featured here today and professional journalists interested in covering their activities, please contact the Planning Team at clergyhousingsummit2@gmail.com.

These activities are what I think of as “Best Practices.” I share them here because they can be easily adopted by other communities.  I would encourage those of you who are part of our The BeZine: 100,000 Poets for Change Facebook discussion page to share information and/or links to initiatives in your community that might interest others. Our poetry like our prayers must have legs. The Facebook discussion page is one I moderate along with colleagues: American-Israeli poet, Michael Dickel and Rev. Terri Stewart, Associate Pastor at Riverton Park United Methodist Church, Seattle, WA

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something … and what I can do, by the grace of God, I will do.” after Edward Everett Hale by the Sisters of St. Joseph who were my teachers and role models

RELATED:

“The Endless” . . . and other poems in response to the last Wednesday Writing Prompt

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“What, if some day or night a demon were to steal after you into your loneliest loneliness and say to you: ‘This life as you now live it and have lived it, you will have to live once more and innumerable times more’ … Would you not throw yourself down and gnash your teeth and curse the demon who spoke thus? Or, have you once experienced a tremendous moment when you would have answered him: ‘You are a god and never have I heard anything more divine.”  Friedrich Nietzsche, The Joyful Wisdom



When I posted the last Wednesday Writing Prompt, Elusive Soul, July 10, I wasn’t sure anyone would want to come out to talk about death and reincarnation. But lo! Here we are. We have a poetry feast, sometimes surprized by humor and quirkiness, but mostly fed by experience, observation, intuition, and the sacred. Prepare for a few laughs, a lot to think about, and maybe inspiration for a poem of your own.

Today’s feast is brought to us courtesy of mm brazfield, Gary W. Bowers, Paul Brookes, Anjum Wasim Dar, Irma Do, Deb y Felio, Irene Emanuel, Sheila Jacob, Elena Lacy, Bozhidar Pangelov, Sonja Benskin Mesher, and Pali Raj. New to our poetry family this week and warmly welcome: Bhaha d’Auroville and Melting Neurons. I didn’t have a bio from Bhaha, so I pieced one together and hope, Bhaha, that it works for you. Since Bhaga’s bio tangentially introduces Sri Aurobindo, I’ve included a photo and a poem by him, theme related.

Enjoy! and do join us for the next Wednesday Writing Prompt. It is open to beginning, emerging, and pro poets. Don’t be shy. Join us tomorrow for a prompt that I hope you’ll like though it won’t be as stimulating as this one. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to swap it out for something more challenging. It’s late as I put a wrap on this post and tomorrow is a big day for me. You’d be surprized how busy a homebound writer can be.


Tempting Topic

For once I thought ‘It’s Wednesday,
Let’s see what today’s prompting is…’
And couldn’t believe what it was!
What to write, if I don’t believe
In reincarnation, but live
With it since I was a newborn?
And how can I write about it
‘Just from my imagination’,
When memories are flooding me
From so many places and times
Which I have known and have known me?
Oh, I do feel universal,
Old soul with yet another face
On top of another body
Whose cells still hunger for the food
They used to live by long ago
And still act upon the old vows
That I pronounced, meaning well,
In so many monasteries
Of so many dire religions
All over the entire planet,
Imprisoning myself in them!
Or other vows claiming Freedom
Without knowing quite what it was…
Yet in this life it all came back
As a whole harvest of lifetimes
Leading to this one’s turning-point
In the true Light at last of Love
For myself and for all ‘others’:
Unconditional Love at last,
Healing all with its strong Delight…
Shall I try to express all that?
It is such a tempting topic…

© 2019, Bhaga d’Auroville

My Very First Memory

My very first memory?
Deep sadness.
Deep sadness within me at knowing, and telling myself:
“Here I am again,
having to pretend being a separate person again,
instead of a blissful part of the loving Whole… ”
Sadness like a huge sigh in my being,
in the Soul that I was
since ever
for ever.
The feeling of going at it once again,
out of a sense,
not of obligation,
but of accepted duty.
Like shouldering up again a burden
that has to be carried
to its destination,
whatever time it may take.
This was when I was supposed to be a tiny baby
just newborn,
arriving back into this difficult physical world
of planet Earth.

© 2019, Bhaga d’Auroville

copyright Bhaga

BHAGA d’AUROVILLE lives in Auroville, a conscious community in Puducherry in South India. Auroville is also, I believe, a United Nations supported site for sustainable agriculture and global human uniity. This self-contained diversely-populated community is dedicated to the vision of Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950), an Indian poet, yogi, guru, and philosopher. Sri Aurobindo was a nationalist who joined the Indian movement for independence from British colonization. He was also a spritual reformer who held a vision of human progress through spiritual evolution. Some Americans may remember that Woodrow Wilson’s daughter Magaret was a follower.  In the spirit of her community, Bhaga’s blog is Lab of Evolution, For Research on Conscious Evolution.  She writes,”Conscious Evolution is for you and me. It is for the whole planet. It is the Next Step which is simply the logical, to be expected continuation of all that Evolution has already made happen upon this little Earth over the eons past. The difference is that now the human species is there, and we human beings can consciously participate in our own gradual transformation into a more evolved species. Any progress in that direction, by any of us, will help accelerate the overall progress for the whole Earth and all its inhabitants. It is happening. Will you help?’



Sri Aurobindo / public domain photo

Life and Death

Life, death, – death, life; the words have led for ages
Our thought and consciousness and firmly seemed
Two opposites; but now long-hidden pages
Are opened, liberating truths undreamed.
Life only is, or death is life disguised, –
Life a short death until by Life we are surprised.

– Sri Aurobindo



The Endless

I’d ravage The Endless back into a savagely peaceful state,
where the darkness ceased against the ripping of sunlight
and flesh was made to stagger under new form and structure.
I’d break down amidst the ferocity of nerves completely aflame,
blazing mysterious life back in a rictus of fresh birthed anguish
that would howl up and out a throat misshapen to memory.
I’d rest my pained eyes on reflective surface and cast out,
cast out into the recesses of my mind to search for recognition,
failing and withering beneath the harsh gasp of true newness.
So I would be reborn, brought about by misguided hope,
faithfully preserved in the belief that housed in a new sanctuary
madness and sanity would restore to a natural balance
leaving me aware of a change, but aching with the loss.

© 2019, Melting Neurons

MELTING NEURONS resides in Wenatchee, WA where he lives with his wife, dog and stuffed owl. They hail from Bend, OR originally, except the dog, who’s a Texan death row survivor. He has lived in more than 75 cities across the country at various points including Boston and New Bedford, MA. His writing centers around a lifetime filled with adventures in schizoaffective bipolar, addiction, and the dichotomy of being everything from a corporate executive to homeless on the streets for years. He is a member of the Sudden Denouement Literary Collective and enrolled in Wenatchee Valley College studying English and Creative Non-Fiction. His blog is HERE.


plished

as a young dad he formed the
habit of when leaving the house
of telling his young wife and tod
dler with mock-solemn drama:
“i am going on a mission…
from which…
i may never return.”
he did that 218 times.
there was a thirty-five year
gap
between #217 and #218,
which was on his deathbed,
staring lovingly
into his daughter’s
tear-swimming eyes.

she laughed a little, then hiccup-
sobbed. but he ska-sneezed
her hand
and said “mission accom–”
and died.

in this life
i suddenly remembered.
and so i say
“plished.”

© 2019, Gary W. Bowers

Gary’s site is: One With Clay, Image and Text

As some of you know, Gary is multi-talented, combing visual art with poetry or prose narrative.  He is also a potter. A sample of his work is pictured here. Gary’s pottery is available for purchase.  Further details HERE. Note the business card. We appreciate Gary’s wry humor.


RSVP

hi
Rabbi
i’m that girl
this Eden is
very beautiful
i’ve crawled on my belly
since the time of the Pharaohs
and i’m feeling deeply tired
today i make the case that gifting
me free will does not compare to heaven
when i close my eyes the cries of Mary
still echo in my ears while Martha’s
brother slumbers wrapped in linens
and the taste of chocolate
melting joy on my tongue
careless angels send
Your blessed signs
however
i am
done

© 2019, mm brazfiled

mm’s site is: Words Less Spoken


Knowing

Gone to ground
he sharply sees far below the hole
he crouches in,

his fellows hop and thump,
gust in his wings as he dives,
break of bone and fur,
bloodseep
of his daughters limp body
as he takes her to his perch
to feed hungry beaks.

Aware he did this once.

© 2019, Paul Brookes

This Soul Nonsense

Writers use the word without thought.
Expect readers to know what they mean.

Never define the word in their work.
A throw away word to mean something deep.

Used without care a word out of place
repeated so often it is meaningless.

Air, ether, fire or light once thought
incorporeal. If air perhaps our breath

actions at a distance. Breathe in spirit.
Perhaps we refer to our emotions.

Endeavour to give them gravity.
Don’t throw away, pick carefully.

From Paul’s collection Port of Souls (Alien Buddha Press, 2018)

© 2018, Paul Brookes

I See Daylight

when the blade
opens a gash in his skin,
a valley I can walk through.
The sharp edge
narrowly misses me.

I step out of his wound,
his valley.
Reborn.

© 2019, Paul Brookes

A World Where

I can’t recognise this pattern of words,
the timetables at work. I can’t make

a pattern is a world without form,
without substance, an out of focus

pictures in which there maybe more
than one of me. I don’t orientate

without signposts or landmarks or signatures.
All is blur. Meaning elusive.

If I make it could be false. There is grief
at a loss of shape, of pattern.

A gallery of random words and pictures
I can reshuffle so every time a picture

has different words, words you can apply
to any other picture. The application of shape

more meaningful perhaps. As we can’t say
when someone close will leave this earth.

Port of Souls is found landlocked sometimes.
Like marrow locked inside a bone, at other

Times it is a small island surrounded
by a repetition of water. Occasionally after

so many have passed into memory,
a port of souls occupies our inside.

From Paul’s collection Port of Souls (Alien Buddha Press, 2018)

© 2018, Paul Brookes

Traffic

I watch the traffic lights
consider a walk this way or
a green man allows me
to avoid bloodied bone

my mouth and ears
thresholds and doors
full of oaklimbs and leaves

reborn I stretch down
to deep dark moist

I stretch up to cloudlight
barkskin palmtouched
I let others breathe
shelter and endure.

© 2019, Paul Brookes

Prolific Yorkshire Poet, Paul Brookes

FYI: Paul Brookes, a stalwart participant in The Poet by Day Wednesday Writing Prompt, is running an ongoing series on poets, Wombwell Rainbow Interviews. Connect with Paul if you’d like to be considered for an interview. Visit him, enjoy the interviews, get introduced to some poets who may be new to you, and learn a few things.

The Wombwell Rainbow Interviews: Jamie Dedes

  • Paul’s Amazon Page U.S. HERE
  • Paul’s Amazon Page U.K. HERE

More poems by Paul at Michael Dickel’s Meta/ Phore(e) /Play


A Star from Afar

I believe I am an eight pointed star incarnate
I once orbited the central celestial dark space
where I was a reflector of pure light and peace
and was circling on duty on an invisible plate

many light years ago a new planet was born
and a twinkling dome was set as a guide, I
was transferred to move and shine, to pray
and light the way for those who would seek

for many more light years I remained suspended
and guided many lost sea and desert travelers
til some enemies down below started shooting
and one day I broke and lost my invisible footing

I am quite sure that I am in my third life now
from a star and a guide and in pure light, I
am in a different form called female, and in
a meteor shower mixup,got the spirit of a male.

and now my name though means a star
but am still in a state of confused war
many a times in lists and divisions I find
that my seat or chair is in the boys bar

the worst is when the organizers look me
up and down and refuse to believe that I
am a she and not a he’ as they had thought
shake their heads and reluctantly let me pass

so who is to blame if incarnation takes place
not according to what one wished or desired
or wished to be a prince or a princess royal-
when reality strikes you find, Oh, the change misfired

© 2019, Anjum Wasim Dar

Anjum Ji’s sites are:

“POETRY PEACE and REFORM Go Together -Let Us All Strive for PEACE on EARTH for ALL -Let Us Make a Better World -WRITE To Make PEACE PREVAIL.” Anjum Wasim Dar


Nirvana Knows 

a Pantoum

Redo my life please
I paid good money for that paper on the wall
It glares at me with disapproving rage
As I struggle with my final breath

I paid good money for that paper on the wall
A professional path to fame and fortune
As I struggle with my final breath
I think, “Regrets.”

A professional path to fame and fortune
Bartered for super tight hugs and sticky kisses
I think, “Regrets?
No, I am dying happy.”

We tried to barter super tight hugs and sticky kisses
But the cancer still clutched my breasts
Now, I am dying happy
Nirvana knows I made the right exchange

The cancer that clutched my breasts
Glares at me with disapproving rage
Nirvana knows I made the right exchange
Redo my life? No, thank you!

© 2019, Irma Do

Irma’s site is: I Do Run, And I do a few other things too ….


Another Life

Once I was a worshipped cat,
I’m absolutely sure of that.
Whisker greys adorn my face,
which are the basis for my case.
At ease with every cat I meet,
without a cat, I’m not complete.
We greet and speak by sight and touch
and though that really isn’t much,
I swear the cats know who I was
when formally, I was their boss.
So when a cat is scared and hisses,
I shower him with gentle kisses,
until the present is the past
and he knows who I am at last.

© 2019, Irene Emanuel


ha!

in the fifties there was war
and hatred of those people
in the sixties there was war
and the hatred of those people
in then eighties, nineties, the same
then a new century came
no different now
war and hate
why would anyone
want to reincarnate
to be the hater or the hated
you lose either way
I’ll just stick
with Groundhog Day

© 2019, deb y felio


Second Time Around

Inspired by Joy Harjo

Let a roan mare house my soul.
Let her coat be blue.
Let her name be Ocean.
Let her spine be strong.
Let her mane flow unplaited.
Let her ears twitch at the growl of thunder.
Let her face be winsome and her eyes gentle.

Let her tail swish to the hush of the tide.
Let her be free from bridle, saddle and bit.
Let her run in the company of other horses.
Let her chase the wind across green fields.
Let her travel country lanes and city streets
and mountain paths dusted with pine cones.
Let her follow the river and reach the valley.

Let her drink from clear streams.
Let her graze under the stars.
Let her gallop across sand and shingle
and the sea’s frothing hem.
Let her whinnying breath scatter the clouds.
Let her dance on the beach at sundown
and trace the moon’s halo with silver-tipped hooves.

© 2019, Sheila Jacob


What if …

Waking up after centuries of silence
Old memories still linger, but their meanings are elusive.
My Self, woven deliriously at the intersection of the old world neuroses,
Is trying to reach out for mirrors
Searching for familiar worries and joys
Suspended and in need of direction.
And, all of a sudden, that need for change feels familiar.
Life is flooding my existence once again…

© 2019, Elena Lacy

Elena’s site is Hyperimage’s Blog


. reincarnationˌriːɪnkɑːrˈneɪʃn .

coming home can be.

frightful, in snow or heavy rain,

dark the days are, the evenings darker.

forecasts bring gloom and panic, then are cancelled

minutes later, the phone kicks off.

ice is predicted, mountains white

i may be reborn in this valley….

now there is a story, meanwhile

arriving home to candlelight, fire the same

and hopefully all will be well a while.

the mouse, the bear,

are quiet ones.

the word count is 62, the years are 8,

and i dreamed it was 2 months ; longer

than all the other numbers.

i may be a long time coming home.

© 2019, Sonja Benskin Mesher

Sonja’s sites are:


In the sunny mantle

In the sunny mantle
the souls fall asleep
They are returning to Earth
forever
(to calm the fast time)
And if ever
on the green hill
surrounded
from a clean river
someone woke you up
stretch your hands
with your palms up
and you will feel
streams of golden sparks –
the soul of the sun

© 2019, Bozhidar Pangelov

© Bozhidar Pengelov (bogpan – блог за авторска поезия блог за авторска поезия)


wish I wish I were born too stunned.
my mom must have sensed my presence.
don’t look at me as though I have grown another head.
what if, I can feel your nerves bubbling up?
elusive soul, a poem make a stand ….yeah
I shake my head smiling.
I smile a small smile.
p.s. it’s difficult to me to show outward affection.

© 2019, Pali Raj


ABOUT

Recent in digital publications: 
* Four poemsI Am Not a Silent Poet
* From the Small Beginning, Entropy Magazine (Enclave, #Final Poems)(July 2019)
* Over His Morning Coffee, Front Porch Review (July 2019)
Upcoming in digital publications:
* The Damask Garden, In a Woman’s Voice (August 2019)

A busy though bed-bound poet, writer, former columnist and the former associate editor of a regional employment newspaper, my work has been featured widely in print and digital publications including: Levure littéraireRamingo’s Porch, Vita Brevis Literature, HerStry, Connotation Press, The Bar None Group, Salamander CoveI Am Not a Silent Poet, Meta/ Phor(e) /Play, Woven Tale PressThe Compass Rose and California Woman. I run The Poet by Day, a curated info hub for poets and writers. I founded The Bardo Group/Beguines, a virtual literary community and publisher of The BeZine of which I am the founding and managing editor. Among others, I’ve been featured on The MethoBlog, on the Plumb Tree’s Wednesday Poet’s Corner, and several times as Second Light Live featured poet.

Email me at thepoetbyday@gmail.com for permissions, reprint rights, or comissions.


“Every pair of eyes facing you has probably experienced something you could not endure.”  Lucille Clifton

 

2019 PEN World Voices Festival: Open Secrets

Keynote Speaker, Arundhati Roy (b. 1961), 1997 Man Booker Prize-winner Arundhati Roy (The God of Small Things, The Ministry of Utmost Happiness, My Seditious Heart). She will deliver this year’s Arthur Miller Freedom to Write Lecture.

“Writers imagine that they cull stories from the world. I’m beginning to believe that vanity makes them think so. That it’s actually the other way around. Stories cull writers from the world. Stories reveal themselves to us. The public narrative, the private narrative—they colonize us. They commission us. They insist on being told. Fiction and nonfiction are only different techniques of story telling. For reasons that I don’t fully understand, fiction dances out of me, and nonfiction is wrenched out by the aching, broken world I wake up to every morning.” Arundhati Roy in her speech Come September, Lensic Performing Arts Center, September 29,2009



On April 11 PEN America announced the full lineup of events for the 2019 PEN World Voices Festival: Open Secrets (May 6-12), focusing on the dissolving boundary between the public and the private in the literary, cultural, social, and political realms. The genres of literary memoir and personal testimony have flourished, in part through increased digital avenues for storytelling, revelation, and exposé. Movements like #MeToo and continuing reports of abuse within religious organizations have demonstrated the political velocity of deeply personal revelations, illuminating suppressed experiences and forcing society-wide reckonings. Personal narratives and individual stories have become catalysts for social change. At the same time, the digital revolution has enabled political micro-targeting and the leveraging of personal data in insidious ways that reshape attitudes, buying habits, and even democratic decision-making. In the seventy-plus events comprising the fifteenth anniversary of the Festival, New York and its most vital cultural institutions—from the Apollo Theater, the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, and Nuyorican Poets Café in Manhattan, to Museum of the Moving Image in Queens, to the Brooklyn Academy of Music, to BAAD! The Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance—will teem with stirring ideas and provocative debates. Fiction and nonfiction writers, poets, translators, journalists, thinkers, artists, and activists will gather to unpack the issues around what we withhold and what we reveal, and the opportunities and dangers inherent in the rapid reconfiguring of the public and the private.

“The voluntary surrender of privacy in return for convenience, access, and human connection is fast reshaping expectations of what remains personal,” says PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel. “As digital technologies steamroll forward, we aim through this Festival to hit the pause button to examine why these borders are being redrawn and how writers, creators, thinkers, and individuals can influence what aspects of our lives remain truly our own as well as how to shape narratives once they enter the public sphere.”

“PEN World Voices offers an annual occasion for writers, artists, and intellectuals to pool resources for a weeklong exchange of creativity and ideas. In our era of global and national discord, such collaboration is essential—both as a refuge and a way forward.  We hope that this year’s exceptional lineup, applied to a timely theme, will prove revelatory for participants and audience alike,” says PEN America President Jennifer Egan.

Roy delivering a talk “Can We Leave the Bauxite in the Mountain? Field Notes on Democracy” at the Harvard Kennedy School on April 1, 2010

“Presenting Arundhati Roy as the keynote speaker of this festival is nothing short of a dream come true for me,” says Chip Rolley, Director of the PEN World Voices Festival. “Throughout her illustrious writing career, encompassing fiction of arresting lyricism and essays of incisive urgency, Arundhati Roy has been one of the most valiant defenders of the rights of both the individual and the collective. She caps a week of events that confront our society’s fast-evolving approach to personal narrative, exposition, and exposé. Our participants include some of the most potent exemplars of how social norms governing gender, race, ethnicity, and sexuality have been up-ended by the sheer force of personal stories entering the public sphere. The festival offers audiences a ringside seat in witnessing the power of narrative in changing the world.”

New platforms of communication have enabled writers to discover the mobilizing power of their stories; simultaneously, exciting new literary voices have emerged, and established authors have been emboldened to explore highly personal territory. A signature Festival event of powerful personal testimony, It Happened to Me (May 11), hosted by The Guardian USopinion editor Amana Fontanella Khan, brings together authors Édouard Louis (Who Killed My Father), Scholastique Mukasonga (The Barefoot Woman), Pajtim Statovci (Crossing: A Novel), and Grace Talusan (The Body Papers), journalist and filmmaker Shiori Ito (Black Box), and poets Romeo Oriogun and Paul Tran. In Voices of the Silenced (May 11), Executive Director of Words Without Borders Karen M. Phillips will moderate a discussion with Scholastique Mukasonga, Idra Novey (Those Who Knew), and Marcia Tiburi (Feminismo em comum: Para todas, todes e todos) about placing survivors of assault at the center of works they’ve written. In Intimate Terrorism, on May 10, Shiori Ito, poet Gerður Kristný (Bloodhoof), authors Miriam Toews (Women Talking) and Anne Summers (Unfettered and Alive: A Memoir), and journalist Rachel Louise Snyder (No Visible Bruises) will speak of why we need to bring stories of violence against women into the public realm, and how they’ve done this in their own writings. In Secrets and Lives, memoirist Dani Shapiro (Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity and Love) and novelist and filmmaker Bridgett M. Davis (The World According to Fannie Davis) will share the extraordinary secrets that defined their families (May 12). Tara Westover’s 2018 memoir Educated described her harrowing childhood in a survivalist Mormon family in Idaho—isolated from society as they prepared for the world’s end—and her escape into the halls of Cambridge and Harvard; she will tell that story in The Cost of an Education, with author Min Jin Lee (May 6). Édouard Louis (The End of Eddy), Carolin Emcke (How We Desire), Masha Gessen (The Future is History), and choreographer Bill T. Jones (Story/Time: The Life of an Idea) will join in The Laws of Desire—a revealing discussion on sexuality and gender—and talk about how desire evolves beyond borders of orientation and can, over time, reveal its multi-faceted realities (May 6).

Open Secrets will also include those who have boldly undertaken the dangerous—and monumentally important—work of exposing the abuses they themselves have experienced at the hands of governments. Thirty years after the Tiananmen Square Protests, the Festival will feature Rise Up: Tiananmen’s Legacy of Freedom and Democracy, a celebration of the dauntless courage and youthful defiance that challenged China’s authoritarian establishment, spotlighting and honoring those who continue to fight for freedom around the world today. Leading social justice advocate Reverend William Barber II and activist artists Fogo Azul, Sonia Guiñansaca, Aja Monet, Martha Redbone, Jesse Paris Smith, and Aaron Whitby have joined a lineup that includes Students for a Free Tibet board member Chemi Lhamo, exiled Chinese-born novelist and dissident Ma Jian, poet, novelist, musician, and documentarian Liao Yiwu, translator Michael Martin Day, and Tiananmen Square student protest leaders Zhou Fengsuo, Zhang Boli, Wang Dan, and Fang Zheng. Directed by Elena Rodriguez with a script by Catherine Filloux, this special event will be held May 7 at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine as part of its exhibit The Value of Sanctuary.

In a return of Cry, the Beloved Country (May 9), a stellar line-up of writers will offer eloquent accounts of the struggles in their respective countries, speaking in their original languages with simultaneous translation on screen: Ma Jian, Chilean poet Raúl Zurita, Egyptian PEN/Barbey Freedom to Write Award recipient Ahmed Naji (Using Life), author and PEN International President Jennifer Clement (Gun Love), Ukrainian poet Marianna Kiyanovska (The Voices of Babyn Yar), Greek novelist Christos Ikonomou (Good Will Come From the Sea), and Russian poet Kirill Medvedev (It’s No Good: poems/essays/actions). Ulrich Baer (What Snowflakes Get Right: Free Speech and Truth on Campus) will moderate a conversation between photographer and documentarian Daniel Blaufuks (Under Strange Skies), playwright Catherine Filloux(whatdoesfreemean?), Tanisha C. Ford (Liberated Threads: Black Women, Style, and the Global Politics of Soul), and Domenico Starnone (Trick), on how authors and artists can challenge nations’ self-idealizing ways of distorting and erasing inconvenient histories (May 10).

The 2019 PEN World Voices Festival honors poets with extraordinary bodies of work that blur interiority and sociopolitical dissent—and looks toward a new generation of writers driving the form. After Raúl Zurita’s imprisonment by the Pinochet regime in 1973, the legendary poet of resistance chronicled atrocities committed against the Chilean people, including attacks on their language; on May 8, Zurita will read his poetry, and will join poet Norma Cole and poet/translator William Rowe in conversation. In Poetry to Power (May 10), Puerto Rican poet, activist, and actress Caridad de la Luz, aka La Bruja, will interview acclaimed poet Juan Felipe Herrera—the first Mexican-American U.S. Poet Laureate—and both will read their own works; the evening will also feature readings of poetry written by undocumented young adults. On May 7, celebrated poets Morgan Parker (Magical Negro), Jericho Brown (The Tradition), and Fatimah Asghar (If They Come for Us) will read from their work and join in conversation about crafting deeply personal poetry that carries the grief and pain of historical crime and ancestral trauma. On May 9, in Essex Hemphill: Remembering and Reimagining, author/activist Darnell L. Moore (No Ashes in the Fire); writer, poet, and playwright Timothy DuWhite; interdisciplinary artist, performer, and writer Ni’ja Whitson; and filmmaker and poet Michelle Parkerson will pay homage to Essex Hemphill, the incisively political poet who gave voice to the experiences of black gay men in America during the 1980s and 1990s and who is among the generations lost to AIDS. May 11 will also include a day of programming in celebration of the life and work of Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Yusef Komunyakaa (The Emperor of Water Clocks), with events featuring many of his former students and peers. Black Arts Movement catalyst Sonia Sanchezwill perform with the Worker Writers School poets led by Mark Nowak (May 11), and in a second program (May 12), will be joined by Ras Baraka and April R. Silver to discuss revolution across generational lines and how to use art in the pursuit of justice. The Worker Writers School is a collaboration between Nowak and PEN America to cultivate and feature the poetry of low income wage earners from the Domestic Workers United, Taxi Drivers Alliance, Retail Action Project, and the Street Vendors Project.

Digital technology has the potential to democratize global politics, empower activists, and facilitate free speech, but recent events have also shown us how technology can exert a sinister influence on democratic practices. In Siri, Where’s My Democracy? Presented with The Guardian (May 11), Carole Cadwalladr—the celebrated investigative journalist who broke the Cambridge Analytica-Facebook scandal—author and journalist Sue Halpern (Summer Hours at the Robbers Library), and privacy expert Danielle Citron (Hate Crimes in Cyberspace) will assess the utopian potential against the dystopian outcome that can result from the interaction of tech and politics. In Orwell’s China (May 8), Ma Jian (China Dream) and journalist Leta Hong Fincher (Betraying Big Brother: The Feminist Awakening in China) will speak with Chip Rolley, addressing the heightening surveillance culture, police state, and attacks on feminism in China. In Surveillance Capitalism, Human Autonomy, and You, Shoshana Zuboff (The Age of Surveillance Capitalism) and Douglas Rushkoff (Team Human) will join Siva Vaidhyanathan(Antisocial Media: How Facebook Disconnects Us and Undermines Democracy) to discuss questions of free will and autonomy in an age where our online behavior is closely tracked and manipulated for profit (May 8). The Big Chill: Creativity in the Era of Data Mining—with Dave Eggers (The Circle), technology journalist and Recode Decode host Kara Swisher, H.M. Naqvi(The Selected Works of Abdullah the Cossack and Home Boy), and students from the International Youth Congress Ifeoma White-Thorpe and Iman Abdul—will pair two generations of thought leaders in examining the impact of digital surveillance on creative expression. Digital technology has also radically reshaped our personal lives. Love in the Time of Tinder, featuring Niviaq Korneliussen (Last Night in Nuuk), Gabriela Wiener (Sexographies), Mary H.K. Choi(Permanent Record), and BuzzFeed Books founding editor/#AMtoDM co-host Isaac Fitzgerald, will look at how literature reflects the tumultuous digitized terrain of modern love and sexuality (May 7).

This year’s festival will also amplify stories from those with a keen understanding of the most contentious space within our own national discourse—the southern U.S. border. Soledad Castillo and Gabriel Méndez—who, through the oral history initiative Voice of Witness, shared their stories of border crossing to escape manifold horrors at home—will speak with the platform’s co-founder, acclaimed author Dave Eggers (The Parade), and the organization’s executive director Mimi Lok, in My Story, My Journey, My Freedom (May 8). On May 10, in This Transfronterizo Life, Jennifer Clement and Willivaldo Delgadillo (Garabato)—two authors whose experiences span both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border—will discuss this fraught space and the cross-cultural influences in their work with Oliver Laughland, senior reporter at The Guardian US. Dreaming Out Loud will feature stories written by undocumented students and DREAMers under the creative guidance of authors Álvaro Enrigue, Lisa Ko, and Charlie Vázquez (May 11).

2019 PEN World Voices’ lineup of challenging and enlightening contemporary writing includes recent examples of literary fiction’s richest offerings from the U.S. and abroad. On May 8, Marlon James (A Brief History of Seven Killings) will speak with Victor LaValle (The Changeling) about his leap into the genre of epic fantasy, and about building a meticulous imaginary world around elements of African mythology for his Dark Star trilogy (whose first book Black Leopard, Red Wolf was released in February). Sheila Heti (Motherhood) and Elif Batuman (The Idiot) will discuss their approach to the autobiographical novel, and how they’ve blended memoir and fiction (May 10). In Women Uninterrupted, Elif Shafak (Three Daughters of Eve), Inês Pedrosa (In Your Hands), and Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Jennifer Egan (Manhattan Beach) will discuss their creating remarkable fictional female characters (May 11). Acclaimed Latin American authors Rodrigo Rey Rosa (Chaos: A Fable) and Rodrigo Fresán(The Invented Part) will discuss their work in The Library of Borges (May 7). Rodrigo Rey Rosa will also join Tommy Orange (There There) and Mohammed Hanif (Red Birds) in The Art of Violence (May 12), talking about their approaches to rendering brutal and traumatic circumstances on the page. Resonances—moderated by PEN World Voices co-founder Esther Allen—will feature Niviaq Korneliussen, Bridgett M. Davis, Gabrielle Bell (Everything Is Flammable), and Willivaldo Delgadillo reading passages from their own works as well as writing by authors who have influenced them (May 9).

As a festival that transcends genres and mediums, PEN World Voices will feature living legend Philippe Petit (On the High Wire), who famously walked between the roofs of the Twin Towers in 1974. He has, in the words of Mikhail Baryshnikov, achieved “a precise balance of chaos and creativity,” and will share what it takes to do this with fellow artist Elizabeth Streb in Artists of the Air (May 7). George Packer (The Atlantic) has written Our Man, a compelling biography of Richard Holbrooke, arguably the last great American diplomat, which he will discuss with PEN America CEO Suzanne Nossel and journalist Ahmed Rashid in A Very American Diplomat(May 7). Tibetan Buddhist meditation master and best-selling author Yongey Mingyur Rinpochewill speak with his student Laurie Anderson about his latest book, In Love with the World, and the transformative experiences he details within it (May 7). On May 10, the New York premiere screening of Kirill Serebrennikov’s film Leto will follow Kino co-founding singer-songwriter Viktor Tsoi on his early journey from underground experimentation towards Soviet Union-wide stardom. With the film touching on Soviet censorship in the 1980s, and Serebrennikov currently under house arrest in Russia, the event will, on multiple levels, serve as a tribute to uninhibited creativity in the face of institutional oppression. Last year’s One Book One New Yorkchampion Jennifer Egan will join BuzzFeed Books editor Arianna Rebolini, in an announcement and introduction of this year’s winner (May 10).

The Festival’s embrace of conversation-starting work further extends to live performance. World Voices: International Play Festival 2019a four-day festival within the festival presented with The Martin E. Segal Theatre Center—will feature readings of works by Nora Abdel-Maksoud, Sibylle Berg, Necati Öziri, Falk Richter, Yael Ronen, and Sivan Ben-Yishai, all playwrights connected to the Gorki Theater in Berlin (May 6-9). In Elyla Sinverguenza: Countering Colonialism: A Queer Ritual of Healing, PEN World Voices partners with BAAD! The Bronx Academy of Arts and Dance to present yet another expressive form: queer Nicaraguan performance artist Elyla Sinverguenza will perform their new work, Saint Peter Goose/Duck Pulling, reimagining a violent hyper-masculine ritual as a healing act (May 11). PEN World Voices also partners with the 2019 MATA festival to present Poetry in Concert:Blo∂hofnír (Bloodhoof), a work that expands audiences’ notions of how poetry can be experienced, in a sonic realization of Iceland’s Gerður Kristný’s Bloodhoof, her incisive feminist reevaluation of the classic Eddic poem “Skírnismál” (May 11).

The PEN America Prison Writing Program has commissioned incarcerated writers to reflect on the tensions between the realm of public readership and the often hidden creative life in prison. A selection of their works—by Peter Dunne, Greg Goodman, Lacino Hamilton, Elizabeth Hawes, Matthew Feeney, Benjamin Frandsen, Arthur Longworth, Santonio Murff,and Anna Vanderford—will be read by a dynamic group of authors, poets, actors, and activists, including Mahogany L. Browne, Aja Monet, Jon Sands, Christopher Soto, Kirya Traber, and Jecoina Vinson, in Exposure: On writing in prison (May 8).

Next Generation Now is a daylong series of stories and activities for children and families to experience literature as a means to become socially engaged, curated by Meg Lemke of Mutha Magazine on May 11 at Town Stages. It includes the fun and fabulous Drag Queen Story Hour(ages 3-8) featuring Miz Jade; the creative workshop Spellbound Theatre: Today I Will Be Fierce! (for children up to age 8), with Nidhi Chanani (co-creator of I Will Be Fierce!); Finding Your Voice: Comics Carousel, with graphic novel pioneers Molly Ostertag (The Witch Boy), Nidhi Chanani, and Jerry Craft (New Kid), and emcee Robert Sikoryak (The Unquotable Trump) giving dramatic readings and visual presentations of their works (for ages 8-14); Hello, Planet(for kids up to 8) with illustrator Liniers, who will read from his picture book Good Night, Planet and paint a mural based on audience participation; You Kid: A Comics and Graphic Novel Workshop with Jerry Craft (for ages 7-14) and Make a Book with 826NYC! (for ages 8-14), both engaging and honing young people’s own storytelling potentials; and more. In Truth or Tales?, acclaimed YA writers Fatima Shaik, Martha Brockenbrough, Susan Kuklin, Torrey Maldonado, and Rita Williams-Garcia will discuss discerning fact from fiction in the digital age.

PEN World Voices Media Sponsors include WNYC, The Guardian, The New Republic, and New York Magazine.

This post is courtesy of PEN America; header photo of Arundhati Roy is courtesy of Augustus Binu under CC BY-SA 3.0; her photo in the body of the post is courtesy of jeanbaptisteparisFlickr: Arundhati Roy under CC BY-SA 2.0.

PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. It champions the freedom to write, recognizing the power of the word to transform the world. It’s mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible. 

HEADS-UP SAN MATEO, CA: Justice Action Mondays, Flash Advocacy

Rev. Benjamin Meyers, Minister, Unitarian Universalists of San Mateo
Rev. Benjamin Meyers, Minister, Unitarian Universalists of San Mateo

Rev. Ben Meyers and the Unitarian Universalists of San Mateo invite San Mateo residents to join in the creation of an open, drop-in community space where people can come together in a supportive environment to make our voices heard.

Justice Action Mondays: Flash Advocacy!
Mondays, 5:30 – 6:30 pm, Beck Hall, Unitarian Universalists of San Mateo, 300 E. Santa Inez Ave., San Mateo, CA  94401, Phone: 650 342-5946, Office Hours: Tu – Fri 10-5

This Week: The focus is on writing thank you notes to journalists and legislators who are challenging Trump’s falsehoods and investigating Russian involvement in the election. Cards, stamps, snacks and conversation provided. Do drop in for a fun hour of solidarity and activism!

A distribution list will be created to keep you informed of the topic each Wednesday.


Who are the Unitarian Universalists?

UU San Mateo
UU San Mateo

Unitarian Universalist congregations are filled with caring, open-minded people. Our faith encourages you to seek your own spiritual path. Our congregations are places where people gather to nurture their spirits and put their faith into action by helping to make our communities—and the world—a better place. We are committed to spiritual growth and transformation.

500px-Flaming_Chalice.svgPrinciples and Sources

There are seven principles which Unitarian Universalist congregations affirm and promote:

  • The inherent worth and dignity of every person;
  • Justice, equity and compassion in human relations;
  • Acceptance of one another and encouragement to spiritual growth in our congregations;
  • A free and responsible search for truth and meaning;
  • The right of conscience and the use of the democratic process within our congregations and in society at large;
  • The goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all;
  • Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part.

Unitarian Universalism (UU) draws from many sources:

  1. Direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces which create and uphold life;
  2. Words and deeds of prophetic women and men which challenge us to confront powers and structures of evil with justice, compassion, and the transforming power of love;
  3. Wisdom from the world’s religions which inspires us in our ethical and spiritual life;
  4. Jewish and Christian teachings which call us to respond to God’s love by loving our neighbors as ourselves;
  5. Humanist teachings which counsel us to heed the guidance of reason and the results of science, and warn us against idolatries of the mind and spirit.
  6. Spiritual teachings of earth-centered traditions which celebrate the sacred circle of life and instruct us to live in harmony with the rhythms of nature.

These principles and sources of faith are the backbone of the UU religious community.

UUSM is

  • a Welcoming Community
  • a Beloved Community in the spirit of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • a sanctuary congregation and active in the American Sanctuary Movement

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