2018 has been an incredible year – thank you for all your support!
“No one can win the war individually, It takes the wisdom of the elders and young people’s energy”
– Glory from the Motion Picture Selma
Frederick D. Reese is a Legend. And although the acts throughout his life were incredibly courageous, his legacy of love for the next generation is what made him legendary to us.
The first conversation we had with Dr. Reese was in the midst of a battle. The forces of racism and oppression had come knocking at our door trying to stop a youth movement to bring unity to Selma. It seemed so intense at the time. With people calling the local government and threatening to pull funding from our school if we didn’t stop.
But Dr. Reese had withstood many battles of his own. From being a part of the Courageous Eight who compelled Dr. King to come to Selma, to leading his fellow teachers time and time again to the steps of the Dallas County Courthouse. Yet, here he was talking to us because he believed wholeheartedly that we mattered. And that a march led by youth, no matter how it seemed to others, was worth marching again.
Months before, we had met with government officials to plan a unity dance with youth from all over Selma on the Edmund Pettus Bridge, where the infamous Bloody Sunday occurred in 1965. As the date came closer, the city government was under a lot of pressure to pull support. When they told us we could no longer host the dance because “you can always do the dance somewhere else”, it ignited a fire in everyone to protest the decision and march on the day we had planned to dance.
But we needed guidance. And when we asked to meet with Dr. Reese, he gave us his full support. Not because we had done everything right, but because he believed our cause was right. Time and time again, he would invite us to teach the dance to kids at his church or talk to his members about the project. It was incredible to be walking in step with one of Selma’s greatest heroes, but also be so understood and welcomed.
Dr. Reese, thank you for standing with us. For never turning a blind eye to injustice, no matter if that injustice took away the right to vote or the right to dance. You lived a legacy of love and we pray that we can carry that legacy forward for more generations.
Trauma- a type of damage to the psyche that occurs as a result of a severely distressing event.
This word has become more real and relevant to me as we get to experience the incredible stories of some amazing individuals. Starting this month, we get to spend time with and teach middle and high school refugee students in Clarkston once a week. The students we teach represent many walks of life from Ghana, Kenya, Korea, Dubai, Sudan, Uganda, Congo and Zambia just to name a few. As we listen to their stories, the reality of their traumatic experiences come to life in living color. The persecution and violence they faced have given me a different perspective in how I view the issues here in the USA that we can address as citizens and New Way trainers.
Their stories also continue to validate and reassure me of the work that we do and how much it’s needed. Although the students’ circumstances may leave lasting psychological scars (and physical scars for some), you can feel hope. As we go through activities together, you feel hope arise through smiles and laughter, sometimes even tears. We feel how love touches the human soul and reminds each person of their gifts and value on this earth.
These weekly workshops have become one of the most powerful hours of my week as I see love conquer hate and heal brokenness in many. I see those that would not talk laughing uncontrollably with their peers. I see those that could not speak English well, speak the language of love that we all understand.
Although my natural experience are not anywhere close to being the same as the students, I am learning that any level or degree of trauma must be addressed with patience, love and understanding. I walk away weekly having learned more than I could ever teach. There is truly a New Way of dealing with the trauma in our lives. We must learn to go through the struggle together because we come out closer and stronger in unity on the other side. We are human! We are love. We are family.
“They tried to kill my child to shut her up. Well guess what? You just magnified her.” -Susan Bro
These are the words of the mother of Heather Heyer of Charlottesville Virginia. Heather, a nonviolent activist, gave her life during a protest in Virginia as she was struck by hate. Mrs. Susan Bro said; “You just magnified her.” Yes! This is the message we must remember–to magnify love.
Demonstrators gathered by the thousands on the UVA campus, illuminated by candlelight. Then they began to sing songs like: “We Shall Overcome”; “This Little Light of Mine”; “Lean On Me”; “This Land Is Your Land”; and a reprise of “Amazing Grace.” One student read the poem “Still I Rise” by Maya Angelou. Their voices of unity were magnified in unison as they lifted their voices together in song.
I believe that singing is one of the most powerful ways of connecting people together. It is a display of individuals, lifting their voices in their own tone, pitch and style but collectively bringing a harmonious sound. Using singing to stay encouraged was also common during the civil rights movement of the 60’s. When we sing together in love, the voice of love and unity is much more magnified than the voices of hate and division.
In times like we are in now, it is helpful to draw inspiration from history and examples of historical figures. Dr. Bernard Lafayette Jr (Doc) was a part of the nonviolent movement in Selma, Alabama (my hometown) in the 60’s. Doc, who trained me in nonviolence, would share with me how nonviolent protesters used music and singing to avoid the hate and violence that was on the outside from getting on the inside. Wow! Music and singing to find inspiration and stay encouraged. I asked him how people could possibly find the strength to sing when things were so bad? He so graciously said, “That was the point of singing. People were losing strength and getting weak internally to all the violence that was around. We would sing to lift our spirits and regain strength to keep going without hitting back with violence. Instead, we hit back with love.” Love was the driving force behind the songs they sang.
Just like those that gathered at the vigil on UVA campus and those of the civil rights movement of the 60’s used music to stay encouraged and inspired, so must we.
I am excited to share with you a playlist of songs that lift my spirits and help me see the beauty around me — even in the midst of darkness. I was inspired to share these songs because of Heather Heyer’s fight, Susan Bro’s words of encouragement and all that gathered at the vigil on UVA campus. Please lift your voice with me. I hope and pray these songs encourage and inspire you as they do me. Charlottesville, WE WILL SING!
Here is New Way’s #StickwithLove Spotify playlist – songs of OUR movement!
That was the top value that students at the International Student Center chose during their New Way training in Spring 2017. The students had spent time individually choosing from a list of 40 different values a person could have, ranging anywhere from “love” and “spirituality” to “hard work” and “ambition”. When the results were compiled at the end it was nearly unanimous that “family” was the top value among the group. Suddenly, all the things that made us different didn’t seem to matter any more.