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November 22, 2011

Catchment for Convening 2

Four major takeaways surface from the second convening: healing, articulation, transformation, and sustainability.

The second convening offered the cohort many opportunities to learn about each other individually. As I learned more about my cohort members, I began to realize that for each of us, our work was tied to a very, very personal place. Through our dialogues, I re-discovered the purpose behind my work: as Che Guevara put it, “the true revolutionary is guided by great feelings of love.” Confirming Che, I am coming to realize that at the core of my work is a love for my community. I also recognize that for myself, my family, and for my community—having materialized on this side of the world due first and foremost to US military intervention—there is a deep need for healing. As I am undergoing a process of my own healing, I am also trying to engender this process in the Vietnamese community at large. Decolonizing the mind and the spirit is part of the process of healing; and that community building and organizing Vietnamese people is turning out to be my method of choice.

Articulation, then, is vital: to be able to articulate the vision is to move with a compass in hand. As leaders and story-tellers in each of our own socio-political locations, the ability to tell the story of our vision(s) is critical. By the end of the second convening, and after a rigorous process of articulation and “pitching” to each other, I’ve settled on the following articulation of my purpose: My purpose is to engage in culture based organizing as a healing practice for myself and my community. However, the challenge for us as a cohort will be discovering how to articulate a vision that will-- as one cohort member put it –“moves a nation.”

The third lesson is how to understand my work, or my practice, as being an intrinsic part of personal transformation.

These ideas encouraged me to be more mindful about bringing this type of understanding to the everyday work of my team. What if all of we all understood our work differently? Our work is our lived practice, and this lived practice is actually part of our personal transformation and the transformation of our community. Underlying every aspect of our work is one small act of transformation. What if we always have the ability to transform, we just need to pay attention to that potential aspect of our work?

Finally, Norma Wong, one of our faculty members, introduced a very important concept to the cohort: that we were actually born with access to an unending reserve of vitality, a connection that, as we grow, actually is diminished. As a young leader navigating my own growth and my own ability to hold up more and more work—a big question for me is: how do I also expand my capacity? How do I hold more and more conflicting truths together and make sense of them? Norma reminded us that we must bring our awareness back in, to move forward with the knowledge we were born with a connection to that reservoir and the ability to call upon a “limitless source of vitality.”

Taken together, these four concepts are opening new doors to me. If we learn how to articulate our vision—and if our personal connection to the work comes from our place of resilience—than our potential for movement work becomes ever more possible. As I am writing this, a different “movement” is pushing forth at the various centers across the nation. Under the banner of “We are the 99%,” tens of thousands have assembled, protesting but also learning how to build unity. The banner is a tempting one, but recently Angela Davis spoke on the occupiers, noting two very important and simultaneous realities: she encouraged all of us to build towards a more “complex unity,” while at the same time being aware of and thwarting the “seductiveness of a false universal.” Walking through the Occupy encampment at City Hall in Philadelphia, one will find people from of all walks of life, from all across the political gamut. That we are all the 99% is a fact, but what is the vision that links us beyond that banner?

This is a learning moment for all of us in the cohort. As we move forward on our individual arcs of learning, curved along the bend of our interconnected learning edges, I’m hopeful that we will be able to articulate a complex and unified vision towards a world without violence against women and girls—a just world that we can all struggle towards.

Art by lizar_tistry