Jodi Lasseter

Mar 282013
 

As I took a seat in the circle of chairs, I entered a welcoming space to speak my heart, bear witness and make meaning of the hurdles in my life. Reflecting now on the many women’s circles I’ve participated in and led, I recognize that the practice of Circle has shaped my understanding of how to build a radically democratic, inclusive community. I believe that a missing link in today’s organizing is the gift that circle process offers–a form that supports the wisdom of the collective to arise, honoring all voices as equal.

With respect to women’s history month, I acknowledge feminist leaders of the 1960s and 1970s who employed consciousness-raising circles as a potent form of political action. Sharing individual stories enabled women to identify how sexism and misogyny impacted their lives while also providing a structure for support. Today’s feminist groups such as www.everydayfeminism.com offer invaluable online resources to understand the specificities and connections between all forms of oppression. But I’m hungry for some old-school consciousness raising…and perhaps you are too.  Check out Spirit in Action’s Circles of Change Guide to gain practical tools for cultivating social justice with people in your neighborhood, organization or community group!

Download Excerpt of SIA’s Circles of Change Guide

We selected 10 pages from Spirit in Action’s Circles of Change Guide that we are offering to you as part of  our community. This excerpt focuses on the power of circles and provides tools for creating these intentional spaces. The excerpt is rich with insights, stories and exercises that can support your community and movement building work. To download your excerpt click on the image to the right. Please do not hesitate to reach out to us at Spirit in Action if you have questions or would like a copy of the complete Circles of Change Guide.

Oct 152012
 

 

Welcome HOME!

Formerly known as EMERGE, our new network of environmental leaders is now called HOME (Healing Our Movement Ecosystem). This new name highlights how this network aims to bridge conservation, environmental justice, and ecological innovation perspectives and strategies. In collaboration with Yes!, HOME just held its first national retreat for 10 diverse leaders to reflect on the opportunities for building a more cohesive environmental movement. HOME also continues to gain traction regionally through the development of Resilience Hubs in the Southeast and the West.

Jodi Lasseter is the network weaver for HOME. If you are interested in learning more about HOME please contact us.

Jul 262012
 

Over the course of three days, we connected, shared, strategized and transformed in a beautiful home where streams of sunlight flooded the space, giving life to the multi-color décor. Our stories of love, trauma, struggle and resilience were as bright and rich as the colors in the curtains, etched into artwork from around the world and painted onto walls.

The first Standing in Our Power (SiOP) core leadership team retreat was held on June 6-9 at the blessed abode of core member, Shilpa Jain, in Berkeley, CA. One of my favorite memories was sitting around a large, round wooden table–that felt like it was made just for us—while we shared communally prepared food.

We began our core retreat with ritual, led by Dayanara Marte (Dee) and Omisade Burney-Scott. It was a beautiful, co-creative process that allowed each of us to honor something greater than ourselves. Shilpa led a ‘Snowball Inquiry” activity that surfaced questions that are real for us at this time. It was like sewing together a quilt with disparate yet strikingly interconnected patches.

From the discussions that ensued, a thread began to weave throughout the retreat in the form of an inquiry: How can we embody a new way of ‘being’ and release the constant pressure of ‘doing.’ Honoring that question, we were able to slow down, breathe and be present. We agreed that the inaugural SiOP retreat, scheduled to happen October 25-28 in Ohio, will focus, in large part, on who we want to be as Women of Color leaders. We will explore how to embody new ways of leadership and release the overwhelming sense of anxiety and inadequacy that comes with needing to do the next best thing.

We then took a deep dive into some much-needed healing work with Dee and Piper Anderson through a process called “Emotional Release,” which has been developed by Dee in her work with Women of Color in the New York City. It was an incredible individual journey inward and then back to the collective. I personally uncovered traumas that I had packed away so well that I forgot they even existed. Together, we laughed, cried and held space for each other as we explored how our hearts had been broken.

Meizhu Lui, our amazing elder on the core, then led us through a process to deepen our political analysis and framework. We examined historical and contemporary data that spoke profoundly of the social inequities experienced by Women of Color. This process definitely got us fired up. As Meizhu tells us: we need to know how we got here to then be able to transform our present and future. Cherine Badawi led us in a World Café process – as we walked in pairs throughout Shilpa’s neighborhood – which explored Women of Color leadership by tapping into our experiences and visions. As the retreat came to a close, we appreciated each other, shared gifts and celebrated with music and poetry.

The retreat yielded a powerful draft agenda that we plan to continue refining as we finalize our list of attendees for the first national SiOP gathering. As we continue our deep listening phase and begin building the next circle that will help to develop the larger network, the energy of our core retreat guides us. These next few months will be a time to continue focusing on how to be, while we also manage a series of tasks. I have no doubt that it will also unfold and flow in a truly magical way.

Jul 252012
 

Our circle gathered in the outdoor pavilion, surrounded by constant birdsong and the shade of massive trees.  Knee to knee with a new friend, I listened for the sentence stem I was supposed to complete: “Something I love about being alive at this time is….”   My long list of responses surprised me because I’ve been so overwhelmed by feelings of frustration with the political trajectory of our country.  I felt a wave of relief to be able to focus on the beauty and bounty of our world. And I was delighted by my partner’s answers, too, noting how many things we shared in common while appreciating the things that were distinctive based on our interests.  We had begun our journey together by remembering our gratitude for life.  This was the auspicious beginning of a 10-day Intensive in a body of practices called the Work that Reconnects.

From May 25-June 3, we gathered at the stone house in Mebane, NC, to learn from pioneering eco-philosopher and activist, Joanna Macy.  Developed by Joanna and her colleagues over the course of forty years, the Work encompasses a transformative process that builds personal and communal resilience. Our group included 51 people from a wide spectrum of backgrounds and identities; our ages spanned 7 decades!  Through deep dialogue, ritual and personal reflection, we learned how to face the enormous uncertainty of this historical moment without succumbing to panic or paralysis.

As the network weaver of EMERGE–Spirit in Action’s newest network focused on healing the divides between various ecological movements–I saw the Intensive as a vital opportunity to build the kinds of deep relationships and group skills that are necessary for our very survival.  Too often in our movements, we swallow heartbreak without stopping to bear witness to one another.  In order to become resilient in the face of ecological and social upheaval, we must cultivate spaces for authentic connection, information dissemination and community building among diverse groups.

I am deeply grateful to Joanna Macy, her staff, the local organizing committee, the stone house staff, the donors and all the participants who made the Intensive extraordinary.  I am filled with a sense of possibility as the Intensive gives birth to ongoing local and regional gatherings–“Resilience Hubs”— that will support activists to find respite and enable non-activists to learn meaningful ways to engage in issues that impact us all.  We will continue to strengthen our connections that stoke the fire of positive social transformation.