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Fall 2005 Newsletter ― Social Justice Edition

“At the risk of sounding ridiculous,
let me say that the true revolutionary is guided by feelings of love.”
― Che Guevara

"Another world is not only possible, she's on her way.
Maybe many of us won't be here to greet her, but on a quiet day,
if I listen very carefully, I can hear her breathing."
― Arundhati Roy


Transforming Organizing Culture:
A Gathering of Emerging Leaders
- A Remembering -

In modern Western society, our elders are not generally held in high esteem. Elders are often perceived as “finished” or “used-up”. However, in many non-western societies elders are important because they characteristically possess intelligence, knowledge, and wisdom on the history, culture, language, beliefs, and custom of their people. They are the educators, healers, advisors, consultants, spiritualists, herbalists, mediums, psychics, doctors and psychologists.

On September 22-25, an intergenerational multi-ethnic gathering of 6 elder mentors and 34 northeast emerging community leaders, serving as activists and organizers, gathered at the Garrison Institute, Garrison, NY, to explore the place of faith and the contemplative in past and current movements for social change. The participation of activists and organizers was a 100% increase over last year.

The gathering was a deep ritualized experience. Tired and excited when they arrived, everyone participated in the weekend’s opening to honor our social justice movement ancestors, those whose lives have offered tremendous source of strength and inspiration. At the end of the first night, one could feel a sense of trust, sharing, openness and community being built among people who only just met.

That night set the tone for the rest of the weekend. Our time together was driven by a sweet sense of excitement and longing to be in a place of rest and rejuvenation. We laughed, cried and saw the world through different eyes. And most significantly, our hearts were opened to embrace a deeper love for justice and each other. Over the course of the weekend, the mentors were accessible, and many participants met with them to talk about a variety of issues ― spirituality, the value and benefits of a contemplative practice, and the place of spirituality in social action in the 21st century.

Individual activists and organizers deepened their understanding of contemplative practices. Some delved into art and meditation, while others explored yoga, drumming and council practice. Other chose ritual and healing practices. And others took long walks onthe trails or meditated outdoors under the stars. Many uncovered that these ancient practices are a set of mental disciplines or training exercises which help to strengthen and focus the mind and open the heart, leading to more effective activism and organizing. In group and one-on-one sessions, there was a mutual exchange between elders and mentors.

At our closing, we positioned our bodies to form the infinity symbol. In the midst of singing and drumming, we set forth a dream of hope for a just and peaceful planet. In this arrangement, we shared the universal rhythm of one heart and the eternal heartbeat, the balance of feminine and masculine energies, and the interconnectedness of life. We then exchanged goodbyes and looked forward to coming together again next Spring.

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Responses to Hurricane Katrina

Here is a short list of activist/organizer responses to Hurricane Katrina

  • Refuge Project: Check out their website for a list of 10 principles and practices for spiritual and progressive activists in response to Hurricane Katrina.
  • The National Organizers Alliance has put out a comprehensive list of organizations helping community organizing groups or progressive service providers that were impacted by Hurricane Katrina. Visit http://www. and click Links and Resources.
  • Looking for Grassroots/Low-Income People of Color-led Hurricane Katrina Relief efforts, see http: //

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Recommended Reading

Hilda Gutiérrez-Baldoquin, Ed., Dharma, Color and Culture: New Voices in Western Buddhism.
Berkeley, CA: Parallax Press, 2004.

This edited anthology by 23 Buddhist practitioners of color is structured around the respective themes of the Four Noble Truths with a final section on 'The Truth of Bringing the Teachings Home'. The authors share their perspectives on dukkha in its general forms and specific manifestations for people of colour. All individual customer orders can call 1-800-863-5290 or order online at The discount rate is 25% for any order of 10+ copies (including sangha, seminar, retreat, or groups.)

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Recommended Listening

Sidi Goma: Black Sufi of Gujarat , Sid Goma, Kappa Productions, India/Gujarat, July 2005.

This is sacred percussion music performed by African-Indian Sufis in Gujarat, India, a community of East African origin which came to India eight centuries ago.

Tibetan Chants, Buddhist Meditation, Lama Karta, Milan Records, June 1996.

Sacred Tibetan meditative chanting.

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Recommended Viewing

Baraka, Ron Fricke, MPI Home Video 9/93 VHS/DVD, PG

Baraka is a Sufi word meaning “blessing” or “essence of life”. In non-narrative form it engenders a sense of compassionate action by expanding our awareness of the natural world and our place and connection to it.

Howard Zinn: You Can’t Be a Neutral on a Moving Train, Deb Ellis, Denis Mueller First Run Features Home Video 05/05 DVD

This rousing and enlightening documentary presents a 40 year portrait of Zinn’s radical political life for peace and justice.

The Beautiful Country, Hans Petter Moland, Sony Pictures Classics 07/05.

This film speaks about struggle, suffering, and perseverance of Asian emigrants.

The Motorcycle Diaries, Walter Salles, Universal Studios Home Video 02/05 VHS/DVD.

This extraordinary drama delves into the spiritual transformation of a sensitive young man (Ernesto 'Che' Guevara) as he is exposed to a world of suffering and deep poverty in South America.

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Upcoming Events


Circle Leadership Network Training

Sponsored by Spirit in Action
January 11 th-15 th, 2006
A new kind of leader for a new kind of movement!

  • Gain confidence and skill in using tools that support four core strategies for movement-building;
  • Grow your ability to work with group dynamics using a heart and spirit-focused perspective;
  • Develop relationships with people who share a commitment to transforming the work of making change; be nurtured as you take on the challenge of leadership.

For more information contact Pamela Freeman, 215 844-7566, or visit

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REFUGIO Training Series:
Fall 2005

Outside the traditions. Beyond 101. Interdisciplinary. Cultural. Emotional. Creative .

Are you an organizer who’s tired of the same ‘ole trainings? Are you looking for fun new ways to engage your members? Do you want an opportunity to meet with other organizers from around the city to share ideas and practice new skills? Then the REFUGIO Fall 2005 Training Series is for you! We’ve created a space for organizers to “next level” their knowledge, skills and network that pushes beyond the traditional workshops you’ve come to expect.

Below is a list of our trainings. If you are interested in registering for a workshop or two please complete the attached application form and e-mail it to by October 24, 2005. Slots are limited so send in your completed forms as soon as possible. You are expected attend all sessions. There are partial scholarships available for organizations and individuals that are unable to pay the full workshop fee. Indicate your request for scholarship consideration on your application form and be prepared for a short phone interview within 3 days of submitting your application. Scholarships are first come, first serve so apply EARLY.

For more information, contact Ije Ude at 917.673.8378 or

Mind Over Matter

Many of us are operating in organizing cultures that neither support nor respect the integration of our spiritual and political self. This one-day workshop will address how to use mindfulness practice to sustain activism in the face of suffering and “burn out.” Participants will explore cultivating imagination, a calmer disposition, intuition, creativity, values, ethics, compassion, and positive well-being. Co-facilitated by senior staff members from the Center for Contemplative Mind in Society, this experiential workshop promises lots of fun and laughter.

Language(s): English
Trainer(s): Dan Edwards, Rose Sackey-Milligan
Date: Thursday, December 1, 2005
Time: 10a – 4p
Location: REFUGIO; 40 Scholes Street, 1st Floor; Brooklyn.
Cost: $40

“Transitions” Training for Youth Organizers and Activists

This is a “training for trainers” geared for adult allies who work with youth organizers and activists. How do we set the “course beyond” for youth organizers and activists who have been trained through our organization and campaigns and who are now “graduating” to either college or the workforce? Keeping in mind that only a few can move on to adult staff positions within their organizations, this training, designed by the Movement Strategy Center, provides participants with the tools they need to develop a long-term “movement plan” for youth organizers and activists. The goal is not only to support youth organizers and activists to continue working in their communities as young adults, but to also broaden their participation in a variety of social justice movements settings. This transition plan is especially useful for those who have aged-out of their youth organizing group. It includes a national listing of internship opportunities, campus groups, training centers, grassroots political organizations, and movement groups across the country that can be drawn upon as a resource.

Language(s) : English
Trainer(s): Ibrahim Abdul-Matin, Eric Tang
Dates: Saturday, November 19, 2005
Time: 11a – 5p
Location: FUREE; 602 Willoughby Street (downtown Brooklyn)
Cost: $40

Media and Community Power

Building upon the premise that grassroots organizations seek “alternative” forms of power for their communities, this training begins with a basic question: What kind of power does the news media represent? How do we quantify this power, and what is our relationship to it? This workshop introduces participants to the fundamentals of “organizing the media” to serve the interests of the communities in which we organize. It provides an overall analysis of the news media across its different levels: ethnic press, alternative press, the major dailies, the corporate news networks. The training explores strategies, opportunities, and challenges to leveraging the news media in support of community organizing and activist efforts. Finally, it offers practical tools and tips on messaging, press releases, framing, and developing relationships with those in the news media industry.

Language(s) : English
Trainer(s) : Deepa Fernandes
Dates: Saturday, November 12, 2005
Time: 11a – 5p
Location: TBA
Cost: $40

The Mural

Throughout the world, the community-based mural has served as a medium for those engaged in struggle to assert their message and meaning in the public sphere. This is particularly true in Latin America and throughout the Latin@ diaspora (e.g., the boogie-down Bronx). This training is for those interested in creating a mural in their organizational space, neighborhood, and other movement sites. It will provide participants with the step-by-step process to collective mural making—from developing images, to securing a canvass, to drafting, to acquiring paint and

equipment, etc. The training will review the technical aspects of the craft as well: choosing color, mixing color, creating effects, and ensuring the longevity of your mural. Finally, the training will engage participants in a discussion of the history of the mural as form of people’s art, and as an _expression of political struggle.

Language(s): English and Spanish
Trainer(s): Maria Castillo, a.k.a “Toofly”
Dates: Saturdays and Sundays, November 5, 6, 12 & 13, 2005
Time: 3-6p
Location: in Manhattan; exact location TBA
Cost: $80

The Organizer’s Database

If the office goes up in smoke, what’s the first thing you’ll want to grab (aside from your comrades)? That’s right, the organizational database! The database is perhaps the single most important (and irreplaceable) tool a grassroots organization owns. It can be used to recruit new members, develop resources, ensure the release of consistent and accurate information, and mobilize the base at the stroke of a button. But for many organizations the database seems difficult to develop, update, and maintain. This training aims to provide participants with the skills to create, manage, and make the most of their databases. It introduces a program known simply as the “Organizer’s Database” that is designed specifically for community organizers, offering an array of tools that meet the everyday needs of a grassroots organization. Participants will be instructed on how to create (or transfer) a database using this program. A follow-up session will be scheduled two-to-three months later to ensure that databases are running smoothly.

In addition to the basic training on the Organizer’s Database, a second set of trainings will be scheduled for those interested in a creating and using an “Online Database.” More details on this forthcoming.

Language(s): English & Spanish
Trainer(s): Josue Guillen
Dates: Tuesdays, November 15 & 22, 2005
Time: 11a – 2p
Location: 277 Grand Street , 3 rd Floor (downtown Manhattan)
Cost: $40

Circles of Support

Even the tightest strategic plan doesn’t account for everything. And what often falls through the cracks are the most essential elements to community based struggle: the positive mental outlook and emotional health of the membership. These days, to say that “the personal is political” is almost passé. And yet so few are the spaces within organizations where members can mutually support each other towards positive holistic health: mental, emotional, and physical. For some, the task seems too “service-y,” falling outside the organizing mission statement. For others, the task seems too huge, requiring a “real” professional to do the work of mental and emotional healing. This training introduces participants to some basic practices and tools that can be used by organizations interested in creating spaces of mutual support. Through the training, participants review the opportunities and limitations of developing spaces for positive mental and emotional support within political environments. It encourages the creation of such support spaces as one of several resources that political activists and organizers can draw from.

Language(s) : English
Trainer(s): Richard Austin, Ije Ude
Dates: Tuesdays, November 15, 22 & 29 and December 6, 2005
Time: 6 – 9p
Location: in Manhattan; exact location TBA
Cost: $80

Simultaneous Translation for Organizers

Being bilingual is not enough – a lesson learned rather quickly by bilingual activists and organizers who have ever been asked, on the spot, to translate during a political conference, rally, or even a small community meeting. Political concepts don’t translate smoothly, and there’s also politico-cultural translation that one needs to grasp. Designed by the historic Highlander Research and Education Center, this training draws on the techniques used to train courtroom interpreters, remixing these tools for social justice practitioners. The training also delves into an analysis of power dynamics within bilingual settings, as well as a discussion on the particular role that bilingual organizers and activists can play in a movement that is increasingly transnational.

Languages : Training is for bilingual organizers and activists in several languages
Trainer(s) : Paula Rojas
Dates: Wednesdays, December 7 & 14, 2005
Time: 6 – 9p
Location: in Manhattan; exact location TBA
Cost: $40

Keepin’ it Reel (Part I)

Long gone are the days when a simple brochure suffices. Increasingly, grassroots organizations are moving towards digital narratives to convey the depth and breadth of their work. This training introduces participants to the art of digital story-telling, beginning with the use of digital video cameras (mini-dv): shooting footage, conducting interviews, framing shots, and capturing sound. From here, it explores the process of developing the digital story – storyboarding and plot development. The goal of the training is for participants to gain the basic skills needed to produce a short video about their organization and the movements to which they belong. The end product will be a short video that can distributed as the new organizational brochure. (Three months following the completion of Part I, a Part II will be scheduled with those wishing to edit their footage and create a rough cut. Part II will focus on editing footage on a computer platform).

PREREQUISITE: You must bring in your own digital video camera.

Language(s) : English
Trainer(s): Nicole Burrowes, Eric Tang, & special guest, Iris Morales
Dates: Thursdays, November 3 & 17 and December 8, 2005
Time: 7 –9p
Location: in Manhattan; exact location TBA
Cost: $60

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We would love to hear from you!

Submit a letter, story idea, or tell us about events, conferences, retreats, books, or articles that may be of interest to others. Email your information to

We will gladly accept information on published nonfiction on healthy living, personal growth, and contemplative practices.


The Center for Contemplative Mind in Society
199 Main Street, Suite 3
Northampton, MA 01060 USA
phone: (413) 582-0071
fax: (413) 582-1330
general email:

Questions, concerns? This e-newsletter was made & sent by John Berry