Podbean #001: Entering Conversation

Structures of Interaction episode #001!

Transcript:

So now hopefully I’m recording something new. Chapter two, which is these conversations that I’m simultaneously participating in that have long histories. Maybe not in terms of the individuals involved at this particular moment but in terns of the content of the conversation. So race, whiteness, the original indigenous people of this land and how those obligations of engaging in a real conversation with each other should apply. It doesn’t matter if it’s a relatively new conversation for you to be jumping into or if you’ve also had many conversations over the course of your lifetime or even in a concentrated manner in a short, recent period of time. They tell this anecdote in the field of Communication, in communication studies, one of the early theorists described communication as a process of walking into a party and all these conversations are already happening and you just join in where you can with who you want to, and you go from there.

But the conversation is already been happening and it’s always like that. Whatever interaction we’re having, whatever we’re talking about, it’s ritualized. There are elements of it that are similar to other kinds of interaction and there are topical possibilities for connecting it to other conversations and different places with different people. And then there’s also the arc, right, the trajectory of every time you’re in that conversation in your own life. Yeah so there’s this Responsible Whiteness series that my partner and I are co-facilitating right now through the Truth School. It’s the Sojourner Truth School for Social Change Leadership. And we’re also doing a project with a local elementary school. We’re Organizers in Residence for the sixth grade which is really, really cool. And I’m planning an event in May and I’m involved with other individuals in groups who are trying to protect the Northeastern Woodlands, the forest that covers Massachusetts and other states, which needs a lot of protection right now. It needs the strongest protection we can possibly give it.

And also planning, starting to plan for this summer’s sacred water, Water is Life walk. That’ll be our second year supporting. And then there’s the daily stuff, right. So there’s what’s happening in the news, what the news is recording or reporting on. It’s pretty dire, a lot of it. I go back and forth between sensationalism and journalism. I think it does depend what outlet you’re getting it from and more important than that though, I think is how you listen to it and how you notice, how you respond to the choices that they make when they’re telling the news. Because everything they say or everything they show you is part of a conversation, and it’s part of creating the parameters for the conversation. What can be talked about and what can’t be talked about. So if you let what you hear set the boundaries for what can or cannot be talked about you’ve already curtailed the possible future.

So I think I started the first podcast or attempted a podcast with describing that I was going to listen to Sherri Mitchell’s interview with Travis through an app called Podbean and I’m drawn to it right now because of the timing. Sherri was in New Zealand last week when the mass murder of Muslims in their house of worship, in the most sacred act of worshiping, were killed by a person who has become so full of a certain type of rhetoric that the only thing he can imagine to do is act on it. And we all get full up in different ways with different things and think we can’t limit our ability to think through options and act differently or act according to principles that lead us toward a future that has more solutions in it. Yeah, so if you actually made it through listening to this, wow. Thank you so much. What an achievement, an accomplishment, a something something. I’ve been talking for eight minutes and 20 seconds. Holy cow. Yeah, hopefully it was coherent or coherent enough and made some kind of sense. I might do this again.

 

“Do What’s Right for All of Us”

gardening to grow food….understand the food economy where you live, because then you can identify what staples to produce for yourself and strategize whether and how to fill a specific niche for your community.

Dale gave me instructions for the shopping trip with Soirée and Triple.

Pre-packaged deli meat is the freshest it gets.

We went to the large convenience store chain that passes for a grocery in rural Tennessee. “They’re trying to make it look like it’s healthy, but its not,” Triple explained.

Tractor Supply was closed for the Easter holiday, so we rushed over to Home Depot. They were closing in 15 minutes, an hour earlier than usual: task focus commenced.

Actually, there’s been steady task focus all day. And since we arrived yesterday, too. This is one of those skills you need to have to do the work involved with gardening to grow food. Triple and Soirée are experts in steadiness. What’s cool is neither of them convey a sense of pressure. Just ‘this is what we gotta do let’s get at it” energy and action.

The first night we made dinner together and ate, comfortably, talking about the vision that brought us here. Actually we didn’t explicitly talk about the vision, we’ve already done that a few times. We dove directly into the implementation of our workplan: test a design for next year’s inaugural intensive residency.

The first morning we took our time getting up and getting going. Each to their own pace. Eventually we merged into breakfast, agreed upon the tasks for the day, and got to it. Quite satisfying to clear the garden so Soirée can do more than comfrey. For the first two years she and Dale were here, getting the house set up had taken priority over putting in a garden. Now it’s time. We also identified and cut fence posts and took a tour to see where the camping platforms will be made, along with the outdoor privies and shower.

Mission: Acquire Items.

Roxy finally got let loose to mingle—that dog is fast! Me and The MeanGoose (doing his job, protecting the flock) are still facing off every time we’re in proximity, and Guppy trotted around the forest near our workspaces all day.

I hadn’t wanted to leave paradise to go to the store, but Leslie agreed that I needed to “suck it up, Buttercup.” It is critical to understand the food economy where you live, because then you can identify what staples to produce for yourself and strategize whether and how to fill a specific niche for your community.

 

Design “A” is a Success

I thought I’d have a minute to myself at the gate.

Colorfully dressed black woman jumping in the air, surrounded by trees at a driveway.
Soirée met me at the road.

Instead this blur of color materialized into a screaming Negro. Let me put quotes around the relevant words: “Negro” (as in her most common label of identity); “screaming” is the adjective chosen by me to describe what was happening.

We waited for Triple awhile past his ETA. I mean, I think Soirée was early, then I snuck up on her, then we waited. I’m not always patient, particularly when I’m hungry…

After arrival and unpacking, we were assigned tasks in the kitchen.

Then Soirée vanished and me and Triple had to figure stuff out.

At some point, I realized Design A is perfect as a guide for next year. With room for on-the-fly adjusting.

“We won!” Soirée hollered.

“Team B came in second!” Leslie added.

I was still waiting for dinner. Soirée got on it. “We’re scraping the bottom of the barrel!”

Leslie responded: “We were cleaning out the fridge! Where did the barrel come from? You been hiding it in the fridge all this time?!”

 

Podbean 000: “Which Avocado?”

Episode #0 of the new podcast, Structures of Interaction, in which Steph, Lindsey and Fugu talk about racial and cultural preconceptions getting in the way of efforts at social change.

The meal.

Moving from Woke to Woven.

Transcript:

Lindsey: It was pretty funny in her email-

Steph: What was it? “Please select.”

Lindsey: Yeah it was …

Fugu: It was-

Steph: It was well done originally.

Lindsey: “Please select.”

Steph: “Please select.”

Lindsey: “Which avocado?” I know, I’m like-

Steph: What was the other option? The other option was outrage or-

Lindsey: Not outrage, society– [crosstalk 00:00:24]

Steph: Or like, proactivity instead of reactivity.

Lindsey: Proactivity is too neutral. Because, in fact, you can be proactive in an asshole, kind of, outrageous way.

Steph: Right. Which is why-

Lindsey: So, it’s actually saying, to be in the world in a way that does not generate outrage.

Steph: Yes. And when you have the impulse in yourself to outrage-

Lindsey: That you work-

Steph: That you have some skills to go, “Whoa. This is something happening through me and, maybe it’s me, but maybe it’s not exactly me, and there’s some room-”

Fugu: But it’s- also, there’s also kind of a narcissism, right? The fact is, the minute people have outrage, they realize that, “Here is a way that I can get some attention.” Because the minute I put my outrage out there, “I said this first,” becomes a huge thing, right? “So-and-so says, or, so-and-so pointed out.” And you’re like “So, this is all about you getting a little moment” as you said, like this lady having a moment? It’s the same thing, everybody’s seeking that little moment, it’s got no, like, deep investment in the topic, or what is change, or any of it. And, I’m like “this is what we’ve created,” everybody’s hungry for their little piece.

Lindsey: Ironically, I don’t know why I have to go here, but I have to go here. Ironically, the very thing you described, like, if you have this drive to, like, burst out, to like, go and do that work.

Steph: Yeah.

Lindsey: That’s, like, how I was trained.

Fugu: Exactly.

Lindsey: Inside of whiteness, and as being a woman inside of whiteness. Which is critiqued now, from, there’s a negative critique of that very dynamic.

Steph: Right.

Lindsey: So, part of the challenge, I’m just gonna say, for me personally, but I think it expands to, like, people who’re formed in a certain way. Um, and of a certain color, like, it’s, to figure out how to do that and not have it be re-investing in the, um, silencing culture.

Fugu: Yeah.

Lindsey: Because, there’s a way in which you can do that that’s silencing versus that’s, um, like, you know, whatever, real.

Fugu: Right.

Steph: Right?

Fugu: Good points.

Steph: Good points.

Fugu: All-

Lindsey: Outrage [crosstalk 00:02:36] point.

Fugu: Please select.

Steph: Please select.

Fugu: Which avocado?

Steph: Please select.

Fugu: [inaudible 00:02:45]

Steph: You said the larger one.

Fugu: I mean, it’s rather, like, self-explanatory.

Steph: Whew!

 

We Are Water: Walking the Howsatunnuck for the 7th Generation

Grandmother Carole Bubar-Blodgett, explaining aspects of the 220-mile Prayer Walk of the Howsatunnuck River (Housatonic).
Grandmother Carole Bubar-Blodgett, explaining aspects of the 220-mile Prayer Walk of the Howsatunnuck River (Housatonic). Photo: May 27, 2018.

Easily taken as just another crazy old lady, Carole Bubar-Blodgett talks a lot. Her stories are personal, about the lessons, teachings, and experiences she’s had walking the Good Red Road. Emotion runs through her, especially gratitude.

Grandmother Carole was at Standing Rock, where she gifted the Water is Life Eagle Staff to the youth of the Seventh Generation. “It was always theirs,” she explains, “I was just holding it for them.”

Healing

Beginning in 1999,  Carole danced the Sun Dance at Chief Leonard Crow Dog’s Paradise Grounds, and continued dancing for twelve years. Sun Dancers commit to a specific focus of their dancing in four year cycles. Grandmother Carole’s commitment is to the Seventh Generation, to strengthen the children as they lead us in healing the planet. She renewed her Sun Dance commitment three times. In 2011, Carole transferred her Nurture the Children Prayer from the Sun Dance to Walking the Sacred Water.

“Ceremony,” Grandmother explained during this year’s 8th Annual Water is Life Walk along the Howsatunnuck (Housatonic), “is about healing.” Carole had been raised white and learned by chance that her family had suppressed their native lineage. A decade before her first trip to the international Sun Dance at Paradise Grounds, Carole offered tobacco to Bill Soaring Eagle Martin (circa 1989-1990), asking him to become her teacher. Then aged thirty-five, Carole had a lot of whiteness to un-do. Soaring Eagle explained to her that the kind of instruction he could provide was primarily about healing. Personal healing. In the beginning, Carole did not comprehend how sincere he was. “I didn’t know I was going to be digging to China!”

About a decade later, Carole went to Sun Dance in support of a friend. Following communication with Spirit and strict attention to protocol, Carole was soon authorized to Dance. Like all Sun Dancers, Carole was required to conduct a Vision Quest prior to Dancing. In preparation, she was instructed to select and tie the prayer ties that she would need to a stick. Having never been exposed to a vision quest before, Carole did not know the traditional structure of how these ties would be incorporated into the Ceremony. Left with her imagination, Carole created a multicolored rainbow replete with seven ties of seven colors for the seventh generation, including extra yellow and a single purple tie for herself. She was abashed when she saw the sticks made by the other initiates, who used only the four standard colors of the four directions: black, red, white, yellow. Convinced she had “done it all wrong” and showed herself “an idiot,” Carole nonetheless was guided to an appropriate location and completed the Vision Quest.

Upon completion of the Vision Quest, Carole was sent to Auntie Diane Crow Dog in order to debrief the experience and share dreams. Turns out that Auntie Diane had anticipated the arrival of someone who would inherit her responsibility to pray for the children, and had previously instructed the men to watch out for this person. Carole’s unwitting deviation from tradition singled her out for this honor; it also identified her as a contrary, a person who works with opposites, heyoka.

Auntie Diane adopted Carole in a private Hunka Ceremony, and passed her a medicine bundle. “I will be an expensive teacher,” she explained, “because you will have to call me long-distance every week.” Today, Carole misses those weekly calls, which she made faithfully until Auntie Diane crossed over in 2006.

Water is Life Walks

In 2011, Carole was experiencing high blood pressure and took the question into Prayer about how to renew her next four-year commitment to Sun Dance: should she dance only three days each year? A white earwig appeared during her Vision Quest, with the communication that it was time to switch the four-year commitment from the Sun Dance to Walking the Water. Carole did not delay: she completed that year’s Sun Dance and conducted her first Water is Life Walk that same summer.

The next year, for her second Walk (2012), Carole was ready to embark when her friend, Raven Redbone, told her that Josephine Mandamin would be speaking nearby at Evergreen College. Josephine invited Carole to wait a few more days so that she could participate in the special “Paddle to Squaxin” sea canoe event. Paddlers from 102 canoes poured water from their points of origin (not only North America) into the Budd Inlet at the Port of Olympia. Carole then collected water from the shore. She carried that water across the country, along the way collecting discrete amounts of water from 28 sacred sites, all the way to Indian Island in Penobscot Maine. There she “married the waters” from the East Coast, the West Coast and points in-between to illustrate the primary lesson of water: unity.

Once water is mixed with other water, it is indistinguishable: you can no longer separate out which water came from where. This is a lesson of getting along with each other that humans need to (re)learn: we are all one.

“We Are Water”

The 2018 Walk is along the Howsatunnuck River (Housatonic) with Headwaters in Massachusetts and New York, running down through the Berkshires and Central Connecticut to the Long Island Sound.

This river was suggested to Grandmother Carole by Micah Big Wind Lott, who was supporting actions against the illegal extension of a fracked gas pipeline in the Otis State Forest in western Massachusetts. It is mind-boggling to comprehend the poison in this river, given the pervasive gorgeousness of the landscape. Fishermen, kayakers, and tourists gawk at the beauty. But what do they make of the signs warning of fish you cannot eat and water you cannot enter, should not even touch?

Sachem Hawk Storm, of the Schaghticoke, admitting to his daughters that he licks rocks.
Sachem Hawk Storm, of the Schaghticoke, admitting to his daughters that he licks rocks.

One evening on the Walk, we were treated to a cozy dinner with Schaghticoke Sachem Hawk Storm and his family. Grandmother and Hawk spoke of many things, but mostly we laughed. Some of the more serious topics included the inadequacy of the English language for conveying the sacred nature of water, the absence of a discrete word for time in some indigenous languages, and being heyoka. At one potent moment, Hawkstorm emphasized that we (humans) are water. The emphasis on language—how to say things properly—seemed (to me/nerdy white grrl) similar to the prayer Grandmother has taught us to offer whenever we cross a waterway: seeking permission to cross.

We ask permission, she explains, because water can either be soft and gentle or hard and forceful. The gesture of asking could be literal, yet it is the ritual of asking that is most significant because it is about an orientation to the water. Seeking permission is a way of showing respect and remembering relationship—of affirming kinship and connection of humans and water. Language and language use is also about orientation: soft and gentle or hard and forceful.

For a few millenia, the hard aspect of language has sent us spiraling toward disaster. We must re-orient ourselves, somehow, so that we can slow and divert the onrush. Humans have two unique tools for this task: our languages and our cultures. Spending a month walking 220 miles in the company of a river will not automatically cleanse it of pollutants or free it from dams. But devoting such time to thinking about and caring for the water is a way to signal the intention of doing whatever it takes to ensure this water is clean and free-flowing for the next seventh generation.

My First Risky Nonviolent Action

Going to Boston to counterprotest white supremacy following the violence in Charlottesville did not turn out to be dangerous, but there was no way to know this in advance.

Walking the Talk or keeping my plans?

When I first learned of the antiracist rally in Boston, it did not cross my mind that I should go. I was already booked on a flight away from Massachusetts that Saturday morning. However, on Thursday, a friend invited me to a preparatory training hosted by SURJ — Stand Up for Racial Justice. I was curious and that evening was free, so I went. Once I arrived to the training, I realized that I had been too busy to consider that I might change my plans. Nearly everything that I learned that evening was, to be honest, a reason to keep my original plans, that is, reasons not to go participate in the counter-rally and march in Boston.

Stellan Vinthagen holds the Endowed Chair in the Study of Nonviolent Direct Action and Civil Resistance at UMass Amherst.
Stellan Vinthagen holds the Endowed Chair in the Study of Nonviolent Direct Action and Civil Resistance at UMass Amherst.

There were more than 20 people attending the just-in-time SURJ training; emotion in the room was high. Introductions and conversation centered on personal motivations for participation—almost nothing about strategy, goals, or specific mission. Similarity of purpose was assumed. No one seemed to blink when we were told that the march organizers, the Movement for Black Lives, had asked for white allies to put our white bodies physically in-between Black activists and white supremacists, and also between Black activists and the police. Further, the leadership had decided not to commit this march to nonviolence: they reserved the right to self-defense. Finally, just as the Mayor of Boston was actively discouraging the white supremacists from holding their (so-called) free speech rally, the Mayor had also sought to discourage the counter rally — creating a pre-condition in which violent police intervention was more likely.

It had already been a long day at work. My energy began to fade as each risk, and their compounding interactions, became increasingly clear. About an hour 1/2 into the training, we divided into groups for bonding purposes. Since I didn’t think I was going, I let my friend know I was heading home. We had a quick conversation about the lack of input into the design process…for instance, were we being deployed disposably by black leadership? Did they care about or disregard our (possible) intellectual contributions and the health and safety of our bodies? A basic reversal of power roles is not the kind of society I’m seeking to help build. I kept to myself my worries that the white supremacists had planned the sequence and locations of rallies long in advance, so their prior planning was possibly more extensive. We could literally be marching into a trap.

Who was I kidding?!seeds tshirt

Before I’d driven ten minutes I knew that I was going to cancel my flight to Missouri to see the total solar eclipse with my closest longterm buds. Yes, the counter-protest felt like a set-up. Yes, it felt like if things went wrong, they would go wrong very, very, very badly. But I’d been talking all week with Patty Nourse Culbertson, who had been on the frontline in Charlottesville. She had explained that even though anti-racism activists in Charlottesville had an entire month to prepare, they still weren’t ready. I realized readiness has both existential and practical aspects. Practically, one can only be as ‘ready’ as one is, and this may never feel like enough.

Preparation

First, communication. Not intending to be dramatic, I just touched base with my main peeps, letting everyone know that I was going to be there. I deeply appreciate the support of my friends and family. It wasn’t that I assumed there would be violence and people would get hurt or possibly killed, but the reality is casualties do happen: prior to Heather Heyer’s murder in Charlottesville, there was Sophia Wilansky’s terrible arm injury protesting the Dakota Access pipeline at Standing Rock. The chances of being that individual are drastically lower in nonviolent than in armed, violent conflict, but I cannot pretend there is no risk. It seem important to at least attempt to minimize any subsequent mess.

Grover's signSecond, gear. I perused the links provided by SURJ:

I followed the recommendations for clothing, and selected first aid items, personal protective gear and snacks that I could carry in cargo pants (since backpacks were prohibited).

Action

Will and GroverWell, it was a beautiful day. Sunny, no rain, quite warm but not excessively hot. There were 40,000 of us. We had a marching band, witty and poignant signage, and many, many onlookers who showered us with thanks and gratitude. The free speech rally was fractional in comparison, about 50 individuals. A small amount of incidents with police occurred, some which seemed unprovoked and others that were in response to taunting. I enjoyed myself and remained vigilant, seeking to stick with my group members while staying alert for trouble. Thank god nothing happened because our group(s) had practically zero discipline. If something had happened we would have been scrambling. But nothing did, and so we had a successful march and, as a result, free speech rallies across the country were cancelled.

Aftermath

We returned from the march just in time to attend a free evening concert. I couldn’t muster the juice to celebrate, too exhausted. I went home, ate and went to bed early, sleeping for 11 hours. I was still groggy and out of it on Sunday morning. By a delightful coincidence, I was able to go camping overnight at a lovely spot on a beautiful lake. Sitting there in the woods, basking in the afternoon sun, watching the calm water, listening to the sounds of birds, children playing nearby, and the breeze in the trees, I began to feel restored.

Lake TullyLater, after dark, gazing into the flames of a campfire, I realized I was experiencing white fragility.

Think about it. I had just spent an entire day acting as if nothing was wrong, as if everything is normal, as if it was just a usual day…while at the same time remaining alert to the fact that super bad shit could happen at any second. I know it is not an exact parallel, but I had a small epiphany: this is what people of color in the US feel all the time. They must develop and allocate internal resources to manage this tension every day, all day long, and all night, too. 24/7.  No breaks. No 48-hour recovery period, and probably no easy access to nature in which to draw spiritual sustenance.

Not only was my fragility on display, but my white privilege, too.

 

The Plurilingual Advantage: Making the Business Case for Simultaneous Interpretation

Language has become a serious issue for multinational corporations and healthcare operations in the United States.

Research in this sub-field of international management has blossomed in the past decade, generating powerful data pointing to the need for interpreters within the daily operations of medical facilities and in international business. However, there is a strong bias toward language standardization so as to eliminate language difference.

If culture is a tree, the health of the trunk is composed by the practices of codeswitching among languages.
If culture is a tree, the health of the trunk is composed by the practices of codeswitching among languages.

Arguments in favor of ‘one corporate language’ rely on a managerial imperative for control, and depend upon people’s (seemingly) natural discomfort with the interpreting process. While language standardization does appear effective in some contexts, in most situations there are adverse consequences . These side effects interfere with morale, teamwork, innovation, and the achievement of company goals.

Extrapolating from the work of Appadurai (1990), Steyaert, Ostendorp & Gabrois (2011) coined the term linguascaping to describe the discourse effects of the “ongoing negotiations among accounts of how to ‘choose’ between languages” (p. 277) in companies that have two or more official languages. Linguascaping occurs with reference to local, national and/or global spaces, and is temporally-oriented either to short-term situational fixes or long-term enduring solutions.

This study of an mid-size IT firm in Bangalore, India involved interviews and observations about language use in a multinational with no formal language policy. The linguascaping accounts of codeswitching and using interpreters provide a significant point of comparison with research about organizations with formal one-language policies.

A poster presentation at Baystate Health’s Celebration of Academic Research.

Research in Bangalore funded by a Business Language Research and Teaching grant from the Illinois Center for International Business Education and Research (CIBER). View the presentation on Misunderstanding and Innovation: English as Lingua Franca (2011).