An evening of storytelling with Nancy Corson Carter

By Melissa Gamble

The Never Quite Ending War book coverOn Wednesday, June 27th, I attended a reading by Nancy Carson Carter on her new book,  The Never-Quite Ending War: A WWII GI Daughter’s Stories. Nancy illuminated stories of her family, both those that are her own and others that have passed down to her. Many of the stories she shared with us were typical childhood experiences and family memories that shaped her understanding of self, community, and family. However, these stories were all told with a lens that Nancy has developed years after her childhood. After years of learning, study, research and stories shared, Corson Carter has come to understand her childhood and family dynamics through the everlasting imprint of World War II.

Corson Carter spoke candidly about how the War followed her father for the rest of his life and as such, it stayed with her family too. Her father joined the military because “nobody in the Corson family fought in World War I, so I have to go, there’s honor to uphold”. She recounted the various ways patriarchal culture structured her father’s entrance into the War and parenting of his children, all of whom were girls. For example, the family’s desperation for a son manifested in her Father’s embarrassment and anger. A constant question that Nancy poses to the reader is, “What if I had been a son?” It is this question that permeated much of Nancy’s discussion on patriarchy, the War and how it was commonplace for men who had come back from World War II to “not talk about the war.” She wondered if her father would have shared more about the War with sons, had he had any.

The author’s storytelling relies heavily on visuals and poetry. She narrated her story with a photo board that contained newspaper clippings, photographs, maps and printed articles. It was a replica of the bulletin board she used in her writing process to connect her family’s story with broader narratives of the War. Additionally, she gave the audience great insight into the ways in which she utilizes haikus, letters to her dad, maps, and photographs in her book as a medium of connection and intimacy between the War, her father (who passed away in 1996) and her family experiences. Perhaps, it is in these visuals and poems that one can best communicate longing and  desires for understanding home, belonging and personhood.

Ultimately, Nancy reminds us that war never ends, as the aftermath is consequential and has everlasting effects for those who go to war, those who are victims of war, those who have loved ones in war, those who stay at home, and generations that come after its “formal ending.” Wars are never just events, but rather worlds that continue to shape the personal, the political and the relational. We are still haunted in the aftermath of our wars. As such, Nancy ensures that we remember that healing is intimate, and peace is too.

Meet the Intern: Melissa Gamble

image of three women, left to right: Melissa Gamble, Rebecca Welper, and Meghan Florian

Left to right: Melissa Gamble, Rebecca Welper, Meghan Florian

We’re excited that Duke Divinity student Melissa Gamble is joining us as an intern this summer. She’s helping with various projects around the office, including planning for the Homegrown: NC Women’s Preaching Festival this fall and collaborating on programming around LGBTQ spirituality.

Here’s a quick Q&A to get to know her a little better:

Where did you grow up?
Riverside, CA

Last book you read?
Killing the Black Body: Race, Reproduction and the Meaning of Liberty by Dorothy Roberts

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I wanted to be a neurosurgeon because I was obsessed with the show “E.R.”

What made you want to enter ministry?
One of the reasons I chose to enter ministry was the alternative ways of engagement in the Spirit by folks in my communities in California and in New York (where I was in between undergrad and divinity school). Being involved in queer/trans communities of color both inside Christianity and outside of its purview has radically changed how I understand myself, ministry and the expression of spirituality in places considered outside of sacred space. In other words, I decided to enter ministry because ultimately “I found God in myself & I loved her/ I loved her fiercely” (Ntozake Shange), and I desire a world where we may all say that we have found God in ourselves – and mean it.

What would you do if you were invisible for a day?
I would do absolutely nothing.

Favorite classes at Duke Divinity?
Introduction to Christian Theology by Dr. J Kameron Carter and How Blackness Thinks by Dr. J Kameron Carter and Joseph Winters

What’s the last place you traveled to?
New Orleans

When you’re not interning at RCWMS, what are you up to?
I’m mostly biking, reading, playing the violin, dancing wherever, and scheming ways to end the world as we know it (thank you, Frantz Fanon).

What’s next after you graduate?
I am planning on pursuing a PhD in African American Religions.

Changing the Race Dance

Photo Credit: Smita Misra

by J Zirbel [No pronouns, simply J]

I have learned from my participation in “Changing the Race Dance” that I can keep moving in love and wisdom, working to unravel and loosen the hold racism has on me. This workshop, led by visiting Artist-Scholars Soyinka Rahim and Cynthia Winton-Henry on Apr 20-21, was presented as a part of Interplay’s Body Based Methods + Performance Forms and co-sponsored by RCWMS.  

As a white, transgender/gender non-conforming (T/GNC) person of Bohemian and German descent, paying attention to how I may move in the world in less harmful ways can bring liberation, respectful interconnection and joyful engagement to me and to us all.

Before participating in “Changing the Race Dance,” I wondered, how I can discern what harm is really happening to my body, harm that I may be passing on to others? I feel that we as people move through emotionally charged, hot button issues throughout the day due to experiences of oppression in our daily lives. How do I release the pain and follow the wisdom inside of me for healing and for renewal for me and for those I have harmed?

Photo Credit: Smita Misra

In the workshop we practiced large, expansive, free flowing movements of play. I learned to follow my body’s lead, bringing inter-connected integrity into the dance, freeing my body from staid, tight, self-enclosing, routine movements. Before this workshop, I hadn’t questioned nearly enough what I assumed others expected, or actually anticipated, from me.

The joy of moving more freely in being me is seeping through my body from the inside out as I practice the dance I am learning. I am amazed at what I had been missing, what harm I was causing while I was paying attention to following the myth of ‘the way things are.’   

In the face of the reparation and honoring of grief required by the racist oppression in which I have taken part, that which I might feel too much to bear, I have learned that I can keep moving. The rhythm is inside of me, it is the life-giving love that fills me and binds me through the energy of love to all people and all things. In Soyinka Rahim’s words, “BIBO” (Breathe In, Breathe Out) Love.

I have learned from my participation in “Changing the Race Dance” that I can keep moving in love and wisdom, working to unravel and loosen the hold racism has on my ability to live for racial equity and transformation. The dance goes on.

 

Circles of Gratitude

On November 29th, forty of Anita McLeod’s dear friends, colleagues, and family members gathered at the King’s Daughters Inn to honor her memory on what would have been her 78th birthday. Randa McNamara and Karen Ziegler sang songs that were special to Anita, and Elizabeth Manley reflected on her time getting to know Anita in the 1980s when they were both nurses. Jeanette Stokes recognized the various circles important to Anita’s life, which were represented by the people gathered. Anita’s husband, Mike McLeod, offered some very moving words that he has allowed us to share below.

I want to thank Jeanette and the Resource Center for this gathering tonight to honor Anita and her legacy of women’s circles. It is my intention to support the Resource Center in continuing her work around conscious aging and intergenerational circles.

This would be Anita’s 78th birthday and she had said to me during her brief illness that she knew her 77th would be “big” but she had no idea it would involve this journey. It has been a heartbreaking journey for me and yet as I go day-by-day through this grief I have brief glimpses of joy and gratitude for the life we had together and all I learned from Anita. Whatever I say in the next few minutes are my responsibility and I do not pretend to say what Anita would say at this moment. As each of you know she would have clear and strong opinions on these topics.

Anita felt circles allowed the creation of a safe container where women could share their experiences and be received and affirmed in the circle and in doing this could discover their own truth, listening to their own inner source of wisdom. For Anita, circles involved levels of vulnerability and the courage to discover who we are meant to be in the face of a culture that promotes living on the surface of life. She felt circles generated an energy that could be given to the center of the circle or taken from the center to the individual, depending on the needs. Circles also led to a sense of belonging.

As most of you know, her first groups centered on menopause as a natural transition and the potential for transformation. It was not a medical issue.

Entering her 60’s she was looking for “the road maps,” going on a vision quest in southwestern Colorado, gathering groups around the topic of conscious aging, to be fully awake to all of who we are, healing wounds around regrets and forgiveness. What parts of ourselves did we leave behind growing up in our families and culture, like assertiveness, enthusiasm, creativity, and sensuality?

Later Anita was involved in end of life issues and intergenerational work like Heron’s Walk involving women’s circles in nature, and later involved in intergenerational writing groups.

A second focus for Anita was the sacredness of nature, including the waters and she went to the woods often to be restored and to seek answers to her questions. As Rilke said to the young poet: “love the questions,” “live the questions.” I would say, living with Anita for 55 years, that she lived her questions.

A third and final emphasis was the importance of courage. We had many conversations over the years around fear and wanting to frame it as our growing edge, to face our uncertainty and walk the path.

Anita combined curiosity and courage. Courage to go on a vision quest in her early 60’s. Courage was choosing open brain surgery to remove the cancer while she was awake communicating with the surgeon rather than just biopsy and radiation alone. She had been told patients in her age group were usually given the conservative treatment. After thinking about her choices over night, she ask Lucy, our granddaughter, to go on a walk with her on the ward, telling her she would not let fear be her guide and would choose open surgery. Courage was there when we had a meeting with the radiation oncologist mid-way through her treatment. Despite what look like excellent surgical results, her cancer rapidly reoccurred. At this point Anita was paralyzed on her left side and had said to me she could not envision a life going forward where she could not walk in the woods, be on the boat or be part of her women’s circles. She told the radiation oncologist she was stopping the treatment, not wanting to risk any loss of her mental function for whatever time that remained.

I will never forget what Anita said the first day after surgery, surrounded by our family, “this journey is about love and not just about me.”

These circles that will continue to gather through the efforts of the Resource Center are in their essence about love and the courage to open our hearts, letting down our protective walls, and willing to be vulnerable. Loving involves vulnerability, and as poet David Whyte says, are you “willing to live, day by day, with the consequences of love and the bitter unwanted passion of your sure defeat”?

The late Angeles Arriens, an anthropologist, borrowed 4 principles from the indigenous cultures she studied. I feel Anita lived these principles, planting her seeds of wisdom.

1. Show up and be present.
2. Pay attention to what has heart and meaning.
3. Speak your truth without blame or judgment.
4. Let go of the outcome. (Walking the path of the warrior, teacher, healer, visionary)

I thank each of you for coming tonight. I want to close with a poem by Pema Chodron:

Genuine Broken Heart

In the middle of the chest, deep, deep inside
Something has broken
And it hurts almost all the time.
Sometimes it gives birth to anxiety, fear and panic.
Sometimes it gives birth to anger, resentment and blame.
Sometimes it gives birth to tears.
This is our kinship with all who have loved truly-
From beginningless time.
You, my dear friend, understand it well.
This genuine heart of sadness can teach us great compassion.
It humbles the Arrogant and softens The Unkind.
This genuine heart of sadness can teach us great
Fearlessness.
It awakens those who prefer to sleep and pierces through
Indifference.
This continual ache of the human heart-
Broken by the loss of all that we hold dear
Is this not a blessing
Which when accepted fully, can be shared with all.

 

Freedom of assembly and speech at Tillis’ office

This summer, the RCWMS interns have attended weekly Tuesdays With Tillis protests in Raleigh, NC. You can read Savannah Lynn’s post about a “die-in” staged in June by clicking HERE. Below, Colleen Sharp considers issues related to freedom of assembly and speech at Tillis’ office. You can find out about future protests by liking the Tuesdays With Tillis Facebook Page or following them on Twitter, @TillisTuesdays.

by Colleen Sharp

First off, just so I don’t get accused of a crime, I have to be very clear that this is not legal advice. This blog post is intended to be an assemblage of information so you don’t all have to do the same Google searches I did. You could find all of this information on your own, but I am collecting it here as a resource for you.

To give some context: at Tuesdays with Tillis, we have faced increased restrictions on what we are allowed to do and how we are allowed to protest. We are no longer allowed to get past security in the building to meet with staffers and send along letters, we have been asked to take down signs, and we have been met with city police who now use police tape on traffic cones to block off the part of the sidewalk we’re allowed to be on.

While we’re discussing rights under US law, I think it’s important to acknowledge that the ground we are trying to walk on, and the land we are trying to occupy, is stolen from indigenous peoples in North Carolina, and the government does not have a valid claim to control it. That said, it’s important to know what the consequences might be for actions that we choose to take, regardless of the validity of the policies we’re examining. I’m writing this to help Tuesdays with Tillis protesters figure out what part of the restrictions on our weekly protests are constitutional, legal, or at the discretion of law enforcement.

Legal:

Tuesdays with Tillis is legally a picket, meaning that we are conducting an action “primarily promoting or objecting to a policy” in a public, pedestrian/non-vehicular area. Picketing is regulated by Ordinance Section 12-1055 through Section 12-1058 under the City of Raleigh, so please look these sections up to come up with your own interpretations. The requirements of picketing include submitting a notice of intent to picket to the chief of police, and the organizers of Tuesdays with Tillis have been submitting this notice of intent for each week of protest.

Now, for the fun part: the standards of conduct! I’ve learned that I probably should stop going to these protests, because vicious animals are prohibited, and I consider myself to be a very vicious animal. I also should not plan to use my body as a sign, because signs are not allowed to be over 36 inches and because signs are not allowed to have words that would “tend to incite violence” (if you look hard enough you can see that my freckles spell out “punch Nazis” in at least three places).

We are only allowed to be on the outermost half of the sidewalk, not in the street and not in a parking lot (so leave your parking lots at home, folks). We are not allowed obstruct or block the sidewalk, people entering and exiting cars, or the entrance to the building, as I’m sure everyone knows. If someone who really hates health care, justice, or puppies happens to come up to us, and they have already indicated to the police that they want to picket, then the police will make sure that they have their own designated space to picket their cause. However, these puppy-haters are not allowed to physically interfere with our use of the sidewalk or to use language that “would tend to provoke… a breach of the peace.” So, the puppy-haters are neither allowed to blockade us nor to suggest that we set off fireworks in the middle of the street on a Tuesday.

There’s also a section about how everyone needs to disperse if the police tell them to. The interesting part about this section is that the only activity for which the ordinance directly mentions arrest is failing to disperse after harassing an authorized picket, but I suspect that’s not the only activity that could result in arrest at a picket, so I don’t plan to rob a bank while picketing and expect immunity.

Constitutional:

As you probably know, picketing is protected by the first amendment to the US Constitution, and all government entities have to enforce the Constitution. As some of you may know from the country song, “Fightin Words”: “Son, the first amendment protects you from the government/not from me.” The government is not allowed to ever abridge protesters’ rights to gather and speak. Conversely, only the government is required to respect everyone’s right to freedom of speech; I can use my individual power to disrespect the heck out of speech I don’t like.

Now, it’s worth assessing whether the Raleigh ordinance is constitutional: although it’s totally constitutional to assemble, speak, and petition the government, cities can regulate pickets to keep “order,” so I guess we’d better practice lining up our protest ducklings in an orderly fashion. Municipalities are authorized by the Constitution to refuse to allow protesters to block off the sidewalk or prevent access to federal buildings. However, the municipalities’ ordinances cannot leave too much to the discretion of the individual law enforcement officers: so if law enforcement officers are tasked with only keeping “order,” they’re likely to view that as subjectively as we do.

However, these municipalities are not allowed to treat different protests differently based on the content of the speech. So, say, hypothetically, there were a group of our neighbors with silly red baseball hats who had also protested somewhere and did not face similar treatment under similar circumstances: that would likely constitute unconstitutional discrimination. But let’s say, hypothetically,  we wanted to sue for discrimination. We would have to first, find a pot of gold and second, find a comparable example of other groups picketing under the same circumstances who were treated differently.

This has been a very cursory analysis of Supreme Court cases, and I’d recommend checking out Cox v Louisiana, Shuttlesworth v City of Birmingham, Cameron v Johnson, Gooding v Wilson, and all of the footnotes of those cases, if you want to know more. Most of these cases are from the Civil Rights Movement, and a lot has changed since then, but the constitutional interpretations are likely pretty similar.

Officer’s Discretion:

As you can see, a lot of the legal questions that have come up during the Tuesdays with Tillis are precipitated by the actions of the individual officers and staffers at the federal building. The constitutional questions seem to indicate that if too much in the city ordinance is left to the officers’ discretion, and/or if the officers act in a discriminatory manner, then they are acting unconstitutionally. If the officers act in a manner that is not in keeping with the city ordinances, they are acting in an unauthorized manner. I hope that this information helps you to decide whether or not your rights are being violated, and to act confidently however you choose.

Colleen Sharp is a rising senior from Raleigh studying African & African American Studies and Gender, Sexuality & Feminist Studies. She spends her after-class time working on sexual violence victim survivor advocacy and workers’ rights on campus.

End of Year Update

Interfaith 2015 altarThis fall was so busy, we barely had time to catch our breath, much less catch anyone up on what we’ve been up to! We hosted five separate writing workshops (several lasting over multiple sessions), the second annual “Herons Walk on Water’s Edge” (an intergenerational eco-spiritual retreat), programs for Elder Women, book readings and discussion groups, and of course the inspiring fourth annual “Homegrown: NC Women’s Preaching Festival.”

This fall we also received generous funding from the Kalliopeia Foundation and the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, to support our current programs and expand programs for younger women, LGBTQ individuals, and racial justice. We’re very excited about sharing more about these new plans as they continue to develop.

Just before the winter solstice, we celebrated our 21st “Annual Interfaith Celebration for 12360246_10153176442887466_3165758883176770399_nCommunity, Spirit and Change.” Those who gathered felt a sense of connection and gratitude as we sang and shared stories and rituals from various traditions. We spoke of sorrows of the past year and hopes for the coming year. As a country we’d been reeling from tragic events around the globe and nation, but this gathering reminded us not to react with fear toward people of other races and religions. Instead, we joined together to build interfaith bridges.

We are so grateful to have spent such a creative, enlivening, and connecting year with all of you who have attended programs, read the newsletter, dropped by the office, and made donations to support this work. May 2016 bring even more deepening, exploration, and growth!