Tag Archives: liberatory praxis

Some Days I Wonder …

Carol A. Hand

Raised Fist Image by Keith Tyler, Courtesy of Wikipedia. (Details below.)

***

Mr. Trump is coming to town today
“power to the people”
Long lines of supporters wait to hear him
“power to the people”
Lined up for blocks above streets
in dark sweltering skywalks
no power to the people
As they wait for electricity to be restored
on this quiet lovely sunny day
in the part of the city where Mr. Trump will soon appear
*
How fervently I wish real heart and intellectual power
would be restored to the people
as children are once again
being torn from the arms of loving families

***

A Pleasant Quiet Sunny Day – June 20, 2018

***

Note:

The “Raised Fist Image” by Keith Tyler, Courtesy of Wikipedia, “… is a variant of the clenched fist motif which has been widely used by leftist, workers, and liberationist groups since the nineteenth century. The motif itself is not under copyright.”

Keith Tyler’s image was released into the public domain by its creator February 2007. “The wider motif itself is not protected by copyright.”

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A Heartfelt Thank You

Carol A. Hand

A moment of contemplation
watching a lone seagull soar silently
wings shimmering in the morning sun
the call of a solitary song bird
barely audible as busy traffic whirs by

This morning, Ojibwe wisdom comes to mind
“Be moderate in all things –
“watch, listen and consider
“your deeds will be prudent”
act only when the time is right

After a long cold dark winter
the days are warm and sunny
calling me outside to prepare gardens
neglected last summer and fall
when the weight of the world was too heavy

Balancing action and contemplation
is an ever-challenging choice
when it’s so easy to lose oneself
with distractions to escape constant noise
or engage in purposeless busyness

If we’re lucky our lives will be blessed
by those whose sparkling sprits
light up the room when they enter
reminding us we’re all connected
indispensable parts of the tree of life

The Tree of Life, a treasured gift from a former student

Acknowledgement

This post was inspired by JC, one of the kindest people I have been honored to work with during my career. She is the most tenaciously committed person I have ever encountered when it comes to learning, discovering, and applying liberatory praxis principles (knowledge-guided action). This is my way of expressing my deep gratitude to her for her kindness and for sharing her compassion and light with all those whom she encounters.

Reflections about Adversity and Resilience

Carol A. Hand

Four crows sitting atop the willow tree
chattering loudly while surveilling their domain
reminding an old eagle grandmother of four dark souls
determined to keep fledgling eagles from taking flight
to travel to heights where crows cannot breathe

There was a time when crows were new to her
when she listened and watched them in thoughtful silence
as they crowed loudly about how clever they were
strutting about confident in their superiority
showing off shiny things they gathered in their travels

Nevertheless she naively believed that they could be friends
not realizing then how different she was
until she discerned a disturbing pattern
watching them band together to keep fledglings grounded
reveling in the suffering they caused

She understood then that lone eagles have a different path
to attract the focus of crows’ attention elsewhere
to create a safer space for fledglings to practice flying
so they could develop the strength of their wings
and study the nature of wind and weather and gravity

Trying hard, though they did, the crows didn’t darken her vision
as she learned how to keep them at bay
without harming them even though they struck her
repeatedly with increasing ferocity
crowing in joy at their collective power to wound

Scores of fledglings launched before she needed rest
before she could take flight herself and rise
though she heard that the dark souls continue
taunting and grounding those they fear who can fly higher
and explore vistas beyond the limited realm of crows

She watched as the crows in the willow tree grew silent
and departed one by one to the four directions
their lone cries echoing in the distance

She gave silent thanks for her freedom
and for the inner strength the crows helped her find
realizing that it might not have happened otherwise

***

Golden Eagle in Flight – By Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK, CC BY 2.0 (Wikipedia )

***

Choices

Carol A. Hand

 

Awakening to dystopia
Mainstream media yet again
trumpeting the offensive
buffoonish reality show
“The Donald Playing President”

 

It would be amusing
if not for the very real dangers posed
by gluttonous (glutinous) mean spirits
discriminately devouring lives
to feed their rapacious need for power

 

Yet the morning sun beckons
with promises of coming spring

***

March 16, 2018

***

The choice simple –
to wallow in fear, anger and sorrow
or gratefully witness life emerging anew
and find creative ways to sing
wiser, kinder possibilities into being

***

Too Busy to Write?

Carol A. Hand

Too Busy to Write
yet an image keeps coming to mind
unbidden
of a younger me
standing in the clearing
by my northwoods’ cabin
in Ojibwe ceded territory
on a warm sunny morning
many years ago
Like many mornings
I am humbly gathering strength
to face challenges with grace
With my fingers laced around the
latch of White Pony’s door
I pray
“Help me walk a path of love and light
and peace and joy
in thought and word and deed”

*

*
My prayer not quite finished
I hear a pounding rhythmic sound
drawing ever closer
my heart automatically beating faster
with surprise and a tinge of fear
“Bears can’t run that fast,”
I think to myself
as the sound grows louder
Suddenly it’s overhead
just behind me
then two bald eagles pass above
inches from my bowed head
flying south over the sunlit creek
I don’t remember what fearful
task I faced that day
walking into conflicts
between worldviews and cultures
but I knew the path
was where I was meant to be
on that day
and I would not be walking it
alone

 

Humility of Being All We Are

Carol A. Hand

In times like these

when those in power

spread fear, hatred, divisiveness

and cruelty with impunity

I try to speak the truths I see

even though it may sound arrogant

judgmental, or self-aggrandizing

Sharing gifts that flow through me

does not make me “holier than thou”

*

It takes courage to express the best we are

in moments of clarity

when we also see the darkness

that we carry deep within

It takes an unshakable belief in humanity

The certainty that all of us know better

and want to be better

That our spirits ultimately seek

to be one with the illuminating light

of as yet unrealized compassionate, inclusive

possibilities

*

Winter Sun Breaking through Clouds – January 2018

*

Exploring Our Roots

Carol A. Hand

Celebrities have never inspired me. I may appreciate their prowess or art, their courage, discipline or tenacity, but I wonder why that somehow makes them more worthy of admiration than the hard-working people we meet in our everyday lives. Fame-seeking behavior is not the best attribute for those who would be leaders or role models for others. “Making it big,” “being a winner,” in a society that worships status at any cost doesn’t mean one is kind, generous, wise or compassionate. Those are the hard-won characteristics I value far more than media recognition and acclaim.

The greatest gifts in my life have come from thoughtful neighbors, teachers, friends, or random kindhearted strangers who shared their wisdom and kindness because that’s what they do. They give of themselves to others without expecting recognition or fame. I only hope that I can learn from their examples to be humbler, a little wiser, and compassionate enough to do the same. To listen, to care, to give what I can without expecting anything in return.

Yet if I were to choose a role model to admire, it wouldn’t be Steve Jobs, it would be Jane Addams. Steve Jobs made a fortune by developing technnological devices that have, over time, increasingly distracted people’s attention away from their immediate surroundings. (In class yesterday, many students pulled out their iPhones or iPads to look at pictures of trees for an assignment rather than gazing out the window at the tree-filled college grounds surrounding us.) Jane Addams, on the other hand, used her inheritance to live among some of the poorest immigrants in Chicago during the tumultuous years at the turn of the nineteenth century to address serious health and social justice issues. She, and her friend, Ellen Gates Starr, wanted to be good neighbors in their new home. They wanted to help build a healthier, more inclusive sense of community.

“The essence of immorality is the tendency to make an exception of myself” (Jane Addams).

*

“… the good we secure for ourselves is precarious and uncertain, is floating in mid-air, until it is secured for all of us and incorporated into our common life” (Adams, 1961, p. 76).

*

“Social advance depends as much upon the process through which it is secured as upon the result itself” (Jane Addams)

*

“Nothing could be worse than the fear that one had given up too soon, and left one unexpended effort that might have saved the world” (Jane Addams).

Hull House, Chicago, Illinois – Wikipedia

 

Addams’ work has been a beacon of hope to many. Following is a poem written by Gwendolyn Brooks, an award-winning poet and author, to honor Addams’ many contributions.

Jane Addams (by Gwendolyn Brooks)

I am Jane Addams.
I am saying to the giantless time –
to the young and yammering, to the old and corrected,
well, chiefly to the children coming home
with worried faces and questions about world survival –
“Go ahead and live your life.
You might be surprised. The world might continue.”

It was not easy for me, in the days of giants.
And now they call me a giant.
Because my capitals were Labour, Reform, Welfare,
Tenement Regulation, Juvenile Court Law (the first),
Factory Inspection, Workmen’s Compensation,
Woman Suffrage, Pacifism, Immigrant Justice.
And because
Black, brown, white, red and yellow
Heavied my hand and heart.

I shall tell you a thing about giants
that you do not wish to know;
Giants look in the mirror and see
almost nothing at all.
But they leave their houses nevertheless.
They lurch out of doors
to reach you, the other stretchers and strainers.

Erased under ermine or loud in tatters, oh,
money or mashed, you
matter.

You matter, and giants
must bother.

I bothered.

Whatever I was tells you
the world might continue. Go on with your preparations,
moving among the quick and the dead;
nourishing here, there;
pressing a hand
among the ruins
and among the
seeds of restoration.

So Speaks a giant, Jane.

Source:  neenywritesagain, blogspot.com

*

In these times, US leaders whose ancestral roots originated in other “lighter-skinned” nations around the globe are spreading fear about newer “darker-skinned” immigrants, fomenting hatred and divisiveness. My colleague and I are countering those messages. We are asking our students to learn about their ancestral roots and the historical roots of the profession they wish to enter.

***

Module I – Exploring Personal Roots and the Roots of Social Welfare Macro Practice

How many of us wonder why people behave the way they do? Certainly as future social workers this is an obvious question we must answer. If we’re thoughtful, though, we quickly realize that there is no one easy answer. In a very real sense, how we think and behave depends on when and where we were born, what we experienced as a result of our inherited statuses in our particular social context, and how we have been socialized.

Understanding each client and colleague we encounter is only possible when we understand our own values and perspectives and how they were formed. Knowing more about our ancestral roots and how they have changed over time in response to changing circumstances provides a crucial foundation for beginning the ongoing journey of understanding who we are. The purpose of Module I is to help you begin to explore the importance of your ancestral roots within the context of changing historical environments.

Our work with clients is also influenced profoundly by the dominant values and beliefs embodied in the social institutions that prevail during our life time. Like the lives and circumstances of our ancestors, the values and goals of social welfare institutions have shifted throughout history. Changes in institutional values and beliefs have not always been beneficial from the perspective of social workers or the vulnerable clients they serve.

In order to assess where we are now, it is essential to consider the roots of social welfare and the shifting roles of social work in the US. The course readings for Module I describe the values and institutions adopted by the US in the early years, and the pioneering efforts of Jane Addams and the women of Hull House to address compelling human suffering, exploitation, and marginalization.

Perhaps your ancestors were among the thousands of immigrants who benefited directly from their work. Certainly all of our lives were affected in largely positive ways by the many policy and institutional reforms they inspired. It is our hope that a deeper understanding of your personal and disciplinary roots will prepare you to meet the challenges ahead in creative ways to foster healthy, inclusive communities as Addams and her colleagues did more than a century ago.

***

The work of Jane Addams, Ellen Gates Starr, and “the women of Hull-House” is an essential foundation for understanding how to build understanding and inclusive communities. No jobs were too demeaning.

“We were asked to wash the newborn babies, and to prepare the dead for burial, to nurse the sick, and to ‘mind the children.’” (Addams, 1961, p. 72).

Listed below are some of the resources my colleague and I have shared with students in case you are interested in sharing them:

Jane Addams – Biographical by Nicholas Murry Butler that is posted on the Nobel Prize Laureate website in honor of the Nobel Peace Prize she was awarded in 1931.

“Publicly opposed to America’s entry into the war, Miss Addams was attacked in the press and expelled from the Daughters of the American Revolution, but she found an outlet for her humanitarian impulses as an assistant to Herbert Hoover in providing relief supplies of food to the women and children of the enemy nations, the story of which she told in her book Peace and Bread in Time of War (1922).”

Chicago 1880s – 1930s: A Tale of Two Cities (5.42 minutes)

The Women of Hull House – Part 1 (12.46 minutes)

The Women of Hull House – Part 2 (15.01 minutes)

Although my colleague and I need to rely, to a large degree, on technological innovations Steve Jobs made possible, we are using those tools to enlighten rather than to divide and distract. Our integrated learning hybrid program helps students who work, care for families, and commute to access college education that might otherwise be unattainable. I just wish education was more affordable, or preferably, free. Perhaps someday it will be…

Acknowledgement:

After reading this post, my dear friend and colleague, Cynthia Donner, gave me permission to publicly thank her for being a supportive, inspiring partner in our ongoing experiments to make learning more engaging and relevant.

Afterword:

Tragically, Hull-House finally closed its doors in the spring of 2012. It was a warning sign of hard times ahead without the visionary leadership of gentle and unlikely giants like Jane Addams. (For more information, please visit the following link: World Socialist Web Site, wsws.org)

Work Cited:

Jane Addams (1961). Twenty years at Hull-House. New York, NY: Signet Classic.

 

 

December Reflections about Connections

Carol A. Hand

The U.S. Post Office still delivers mail 6 days a week despite ongoing efforts to cut funding and services.

***

Connections to the outside

constructed social world

controlled by external forces

convenient when working

***

The White Pony waiting to be shoveled out.

***

Complacency ensues

capturing us unaware in

cyber-powered dependencies on

capitalistic competition and consumption

***

The radio/CD player that keeps Queenie and Pinto company by playing classical music during the day.
Two very old television sets for my grandchildren and parakeet: one TV only plays VHS tapes, the other only DVDs.

***

Creativity is nonetheless possible

Communities can come together across divides

cultivating new networks, knowledge,

comity, and common–wealth

clearing the ubiquitous chains of oppression

***

***

Words of Wisdom from the Old Days:

“Come on people now, smile on your brother
Everybody get together, try to love one another right now” (Get Together by The Youngbloods (1967))

***

Reflections about Options

Carol A. Hand

Two childhood dreams
One of darkness, one of light
One that freezes action in midnight terror
The other daylight freedom flight
A tender child then, perhaps by fate,
could choose to observe life as if from above
detached, compassionate,
but is this really living love?

The reality now in the world today
reminds me of dark storm clouds rolling in
although this storm feels as if it’s here to stay
It’s time for us to stand alone, together, bearing light
to face these fearsome times come what may

***

***

 

August Reflections 2017

Carol A. Hand

August has been busy. Preparing to teach a research class, tending gardens, spending time with grandchildren and family, and taking time to simply live and reflect have kept me away from the blogosphere. Although my life will continue to be busy until the first freeze and beyond, I will try to stop by periodically to visit your blogs and share when I can. Your art and thoughts are thought-provoking and inspiring. Today, I’m sharing a few simple reflections recently penned as I send my best wishes to all.

Would-Be Dreamcatchers
August 9 2017

My heart is heavy as I think about my Native friends in Montana
Their incredible gifts and future visions palpable
They voiced so many hopeful possibilities
for the community health organization they guided
Valiantly, we faced daunting challenges
each carrying a compelling blueprint of what could be
We worked and laughed and cried together
as we overcame one obstacle after another
to help reweave an inclusive healthy community

***

Dreamcatchers – allowing only good dreams to survive and pass through to sleeping children

***

In the end, I had to leave for my own survival
before our task was completed
Vultures descended and shredded our dreams
Over the years I have learned of my friends’ struggles
against political adversaries and serious health issues
I wonder if I helped make their lives more difficult
by inspiring hope, by believing their strengths
and visions would be enough to overcome resistance…

And what of the people I refer to as vultures?
Perhaps they’re unaware that their actions
as agents in status quo structures of oppression
appear to motivated by protecting their positions
at any cost, destroying lives and what could be
Their actions limiting healthier possibilities for all in the process
Perhaps I will never understand why
this was the path they chose
and where it will finally lead them

Yet, I still mourn possibilities lost

It makes me wonder if it’s wiser and more compassionate
to simply find and live my own truths
though the suffering in the world remains unabated
weighing heavy on my heart…

Sufi Poet, Jalāl ad-Dīn Rumi, offers an insight I continue to ponder:

“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”

Today, I also send prayers for the safety of my friends and all others in Montana as the Lolo Peak fire rages so close to their homes.

************

Reflections about Shifting Light and Shadow
August 12, 2017

gazing close at hand
watching light and shadow
move across the land

August morning

revealing a constant in my life
one moment knowing peace and joy
the next difficulty and strife

often shadows bring gifts despite our sorrow
sometimes unanticipated miracles appear if we’re patient
to reignite our gratitude upon the morrow

A Hollyhock Surprise – I’m not sure how it grew here

************

Just Here Now
August 19, 2017

so grateful for the peace and love in this “now”
a brief quiet moment as the day begins
sunlight filtered by leaves of rain-nourished trees
and muted by unopened window blinds
a little dog resting, curled beneath the bird’s cage
a parakeet silent and still beneath his protective night cover
dog and bird both patiently waiting for music to begin
so they can join their voices in song
greeting the peaceful morning
illuminating our shared place in the world

Queenie and Pinto

***

peace – a privilege so many are denied
sending blessings to all who are suffering

***