Collective Liberation: One Conversation at a Time

Good morning good community! I’m writing with some updates and events that you are warmly encouraged to lean in to. More and more, our practice is being tested and called upon and it seems important for our community to show up – with our full hearts.

Collective Liberation is an initiative within our sangha that explores welcoming our whole selves and our whole society on the path of awakening – particularly looking for habitual blind spots in a predominantly white organization. So far it has been been a series of events and affinity groups offered to explore, unpack and heal patterns of racial oppression and power dynamics that shut people out. We have gathered a few different ways to do this work, namely by caucusing as a group that identifies as white folks and a group that identifies as people of color. The people of color (POC) group meets monthly as a place for practice and discussion and the white people group has met in two different 6-week modules to explore curriculum and books to understand this whole notion of white supremacy racial caucusing, as this gathering into racially identified groups is called, is a powerful way of exploring these topics in a community.

As facilitators of these groups, the leadership of our Collective Liberation groups have been learning how to have conversations that are both kind and compassionate as well as challenging and messy. The next phase of the Collective Liberation work will involve partnering with outside organizations and beginning to cross the caucus lines more deliberately. Over the next few months we are collaborating with two different organizations to continue this work in our community.

First we are working with True Story Theater, whose mission is to’ promote social healing through theater’. This connection was led by Brandon Sloan, who is both a leader of the monthly POC group here, and also a member of the theater troupe. The format that True Story uses is called Playback Theater. From their own words “We perform and teach an embodied theatre of empathy, respect and creativity. Volunteers from the audience are helped to share what’s important in their lives. On the spot, actors then portray the heart of what they heard using music, movement, and dialogue.”

It’s with this sense of embodied dialogue that we are offering four events with True Story Theater. The first performance will be for a people of color audience and troupe (January 13th). The second performance will be for a white audience/troupe (January 20th), and the third and fourth performances will be a coming together of all audiences and performers (Thursday February 1 and Saturday the 10th). True Story has played with this format in the past with powerful outcomes and we welcome this as a way to engage in dialogue around the experiences of race, power and privilege from our own lived stories and insights. Please register to join us on this journey in January! This program is supported in part by a grant from the Brookline Commission for the Arts, a local agency which is supported by the Massachusetts Cultural Council, a state agency. See True Story Theater’s other upcoming events

The next organization we’re partnering with is the Anti-Racism Collaborative. They run a series of workshops for anyone to learn about systemic racism, regardless of their race. We’ve invited two of the facilitators to lead their 5-week course at the Shambhala Center. This series is open enrollment, meaning you don’t need to be a Shambhala member to participate. Read More about ARC and join us for their Training starting January 22: Register Here

One final step I want to highlight in the Collective Liberation work is a tangible direction of resources to support leaders and practitioners of color. Towards that end we raised $5000 for a People of Color Scholarship as part of our Harvest of Peace fundraiser. This scholarship, much like our other scholarship fund, is for people to take core path programs outside of the Boston Shambhala Center (mostly at land Centers like Karme Choling and Sky Lake). This is an important step and acknowledgement, not of the financial need for POC in our community alone, but of the importance of creating a seat that supports leaders and practitioners of color. It’s a simple step, but because it’s a new offering, it opens up the conversation of who easily gains access to our teachings and who doesn’t. Let us know if you would like to financially support the POC scholarship, there is room for growth and support for this new scholarship.

As a community we’re learning how to welcome each other, with our whole selves, on this path of awakening. As warriors of directness, the path of looking at our blind spots, neurosis and pain is important and holding ourselves to that honesty with gentleness and compassion is the work of Shambhala.

What are ways in which you would like to see your Shambhala community engaging in dialogue and supporting this important work around race?