there are a hundred-thousand stories in the naked city …



… at least one of them is about walking fearlessly through the understated beauty of San Mateo downtown at night. I’ve been thinking of that as I settle into my new city and my new home in an area that doesn’t lend itself to evening walks with their peace and their quiet inspiration.

“Night is a time of rigor, but also of mercy. There are truths which one can see only when it’s dark.” Isaac Bashevis Singer

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© 2014, photographs (San Mateo, CA), Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved

Thousands Expected to Participate in SF Peninsula Inauguration Protest, inspired by the Philippine People Power Revolution

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THE BACKSTORY ON

THE INAUGURATION DAY PEACEFUL PROTEST 

ALONG EL CAMINO REAL

ON THE SAN FRANCISCO PENINSULA

I stood in the office of a friend who happens to be Filipino-American and he said, “we need to have a protest along the El Camino Real. We did it in the Philippines – The People Power Revolution – and it was a success.”

My friend was referring to a revolt (some may remember) in the Philippines in 1986, a nonviolent protest that to took place largely along the stretch of Epifanio de los Santos Avenue (EDSA). This avenue is a highway around Manila and the main thoroughfare in Metro Manila, which passes through six capitol regions.

The protest was implemented from February 22–25, 1986, a revolt against violence, electorial fraud and President Marcos. It reportedly involved over two million Filipino civilians, as well as several political and military groups and included religious organizations too. (Do you remember the news features on the “kleptocrat” Imelda Marcos – then first lady – and all her shoes?)

The protest resulted in the ouster of Marcos from Malacañang Palace to Hawaii. It culminated in a free election and the installation of Corazon Aquino (the widow of the assassinated Benigno Aquino, Jr., a former Senator who stood in opposition to Marcos)  as President of the Philippines. So, yes! This peaceful protest was a success … and an inspiration …

INAUGURATION DAY SIDEWALK PROTEST ALONG EL CAMINO REAL

Now we are not comparing the current situation in the United States with the violent and traumatic events that lead to the People Power Revolution initiated by our Filipino brothers and sisters. It did birth the idea though for our Inauguration Day Protest to be held on the 20th from noon to 1 p.m., the time of the inauguration.

13550802017232“[Nonviolence] is directed against forces of evil rather than against persons who happen to be doing the evil.” Martin Luther King Jr., Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story

El Camino Real (ECR) (Spanish for The Royal Road, also known as The King’s Highway), spans the historic 600-mile road connecting the twenty-one Spanish missions in California ), along with a number of sub-missions, four presidios, and three pueblos. It travels from the southern end San Diego area Mission, San Diego de Alcalá, to the trail’s northern terminus at Mission San Francisco Solano in Sonoma, just above San Francisco Bay. Relative to the EDSA and the greater length of El Camino Real, our effort is relatively modest spanning just the cities from San Jose to San Francisco.

The action call went out on December 31 when UUSM Minister Rev. Ben Meyers invited area residents and workers to stand in solidarity for peace, sustainability and social justice. “If you too are concerned about the rhetoric and proposed policies of the incoming administration,” Rev. Meyers said, “you are encouraged to come out and show that as a community we will stand our ground and fight for tolerance, decency, economic justice and democracy in our country.”

A site was set up – ecrprotest.blogspot.com – as an invitation/call to action. It details the event and some rules of behavior. There’s a link to the American Civil Liberties’ legal guidance for protest.  The invitation is translated into Tagalog, Spanish, Chinese and Simple Chinese, respecting the diversity of our communities. It can be printed out as flyers to be distributed.

We’ve been gratified with the response: 13,000 visits to the ecrprotest.blogspot.com site as of this afternoon … Hence, we look forward to thousands of participants.  If you live and/or work in on the Peninsula and relate to the mission, we hope you’ll join us.

This “Sidewalk Protest”  is coordinated by the Unitarian Universalists in concert with Faith in Action and Suite Up! Action Network Mid-Peninsula-SF Bay Area.

We have set up a Facebook Group to facilitate meet-ups.

– Jamie Dedes


Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1928)
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1928)

“I left India more convinced than ever before that nonviolent resistance was the most potent weapon available to oppressed people in their struggle for freedom. It was a marvelous thing to see the amazing results of a nonviolent campaign. India won her independence, but without violence on the part of Indians. The aftermath of hatred and bitterness that usually follows a violent campaign was found nowhere in India. The way of acquiescence leads to moral and spiritual suicide. The way of violence leads to bitterness in the survivors and brutality in the destroyers. But the way of nonviolence leads to redemption and the creation of the beloved community”.The Autobiography of Martin Luther King, Jr. chapter 13, “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence”

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

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the beauty is in the walking

gwynthomas0609But the beauty is in the walking — we are betrayed by destinations.” Gwyn Thomas (b. 1936), Welsh poet and former National Poet of Wales, educator

A meditative Sunday walk in San Mateo’s most beautiful “green space,” Central Park, which is in effect “my” garden now.

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© 2014, photographs (taken with a Moto G), Jamie Dedes, All rights reserved; Professor Thomas’ photo courtesy of Goodreads.