Collective Liberation: Working with Race in Boston

The Summer has somehow rambled into August and the heat has finally broken. Many of our members have been engaging in retreats and bringing home fresh inspiration and I can’t wait to hear all of your stories and ideas. Since I last wrote, there have been leaps forward for the work of race and privilege in the Boston community. If you’re just coming to this conversation, please see my previous letter to the community introducing this work and the context for it: Bravery, Love and Race blog post.

At the beginning of June there was a workshop with Kara Dansky that combined meditation, contemplation and education about racism for white people. Later in June there was a People of Color meeting to gather Shambhala community members and discuss the needs and vision for a POC Affinity Group at the Center. Both of these experiences were brought back to the Listen, Learn, Connect Focus Group and we have been working hard to develop spaces for this important work to continue.

I wanted to say a little more about why we’re separating into different racial groups to process and learn about race. I’ve been asked about it quite a bit and I think it’s important to address. Affinity groups or what is also known as ‘racial caucusing’ is a tried and true method across social justice and buddhist groups in doing racial processing. It acknowledges that the experience and healing around race for people of color and white people is different and having a space that supports that is paramount.

White people and people of color each have work to do separately and together. Caucuses provide spaces for people to work within their own racial/ethnic groups. For white people, a caucus provides time and space to work explicitly and intentionally on understanding white culture and white privilege and to increase one’s critical analysis around these concepts. A white caucus also puts the onus on white people to teach each other about these ideas, rather than constantly relying on people of color to teach them. For people of color, a caucus is a place to work with their peers on their experiences of internalized racism, for healing and to work on liberation.

As this work evolves, the plan right now is to begin these two affinity groups in September under the name: Collective Liberation. This term points to the ultimate aspiration to dismantle racism in our minds, in our relationships, in our community and in our society. One’s liberation is actually dependent on another’s and we cannot separate the work that white people and people of color must do together to work towards freedom from ignorance and racial injustice. The affinity groups will start as self-education and peer facilitated. As this work continues we will be designing a third space where we come together in all of our embodiments; race, gender and different identities to share stories, practice and engage our Shambhala principles with the path of dismantling racism.

Collective Liberation: Beginning in September

Beginning September 8th
2nd Thursdays, 7-9pm
Next Dates: Oct 13, Nov 10, Dec 8
The intent of the People of Color Affinity group is to create a consistent and safe space for POC to practice meditation and engage in fellowship. The evening will operate under an evolving format and will consist of formal meditation practice, dharma study and group discussion and processing. Individuals from all spiritual traditions are welcomed, and no prior meditation experience is required. This is open to anyone who self identifies as a person of color.
Beginning October 6th
1st and 3rd Thursdays, 7-9pm
First Module: Oct 6, 20, Nov 3, 17, Dec 1, 15 – Register Here
A 3-month module, this group is for those who self identify as white and are wishing to learn, listen and unpack their notions of ‘whiteness’. The group will be held by a group of committed teachers in the Shambhala tradition building on the White Awake curriculum suggestions. The structure will include meditation practice, formal contemplation and contemplative discussion and dialogue. Designed to encourage bravery and compassion, this module will continue to evolve with feedback from participants.

Please join us on this journey. In all of my practice, none has had a more profound affect on my sense of self and identity as unearthing and examining race in myself and our community. It’s challenging, messy and heartbreaking and I can’t imagine a better place to do this work than in Shambhala.

Ashley Hodson
Executive Director
Shambhala Boston