From a poem by Marge Piercy:
… it starts when you say We
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.
Earlier this month our interim Clergy Leader Jone Johnson Lewis talked about “beloved community” including how to do that when we have different group identities that we bring with us. From the beginning, Ethical Culture has emphasized the value of difference, both individual difference and differences that our identity groups bring.
In this talk, with some chance for discussion and interaction, Jone will bring in the value of difference including in our group identities. It’s not a burden we deal with, it’s a gift all bring to community, large and small. If we were all the same, wouldn’t we each be redundant, unnecessary? If we pretend that our group identities have no influence on our uniqueness, is that truly respecting a person’s human worth and dignity? Yet if we are different, conflict is inevitable. So how do we stay connected in compassion and respect while honoring our differences?
Please join director and writer Storäe Michele as she celebrates her film, [the listening heart]. Performed with an amazing cast of incredible women of color, this film brings to life an original story grounded in Mayan and Yoruba cosmologies. The protagonist Ix Chel originated from collaborative conversations with Edyka Chilomé, as a child healer learning the word love. Through embodied poetry, song and dance, we uplift the feminine divine and investigate the ways we communicate the meaning of love to our youth. We’ll follow the film with some time for discussion and conversation.
This film features dynamic individuals: Jadele McPherson, Shantez Tolbut, Jaguar Mary X, Kevonnie Shelton, Cocoa Sarai, Jaye Watts, Alexandria Johnson, Esperanza Lin, Medina Ouida, Kay Lowry, Tamara Dumay Murad, and Jazmin Peralta–who are exceptional artist, performers, entrepreneurs, mothers, activists, singers, songwriters, dancers, poets, & educators. Brilliant avant garde make-up design by Janis Crespo.This piece is beautifully captured by our dynamic cinematographer Cspinfilms Chris Gman. Powerful program production by sacred arts activist, Je’ Hooper, founder of FrequencyHouse productions. Soulful & rhythmic sound production by Ony Irv.
storäe michele, [known by her ancestors as Michele Stanback] is an artist, art therapist, eco-feminist, writer, director and educator of ten years. As an Interdisciplinary M.Div. graduate of Union Theological Seminary, storäe infuses the arts into theological inquiries–exploring rituals, and breathing new life into sacred spaces for meaningful reflection. Her first film [the listening heart], is performed with an amazing cast of incredible women of color, bringing to life an original story grounded in Mayan and Yoruba cosmologies. Through embodied poetry, song and dance, she uplifts the feminine divine and investigates ways we communicate the meaning of love to our youth. storäe is committed to the sharing of these stories with woman of color as subject—[re]mythologizing and unearthing the narratives of our ancestors.
We value difference and yet difference can be used as a tool to divide. From the beginnings of this country’s history — and of course, in other parts of the world and many times — “divide and conquer” was a strategy of the powerful to keep others from challenging their power. Systemic racism, built on a strategy of “divide and conquer,” is a key example.
The answer won’t be to act as though differences don’t exist. Interim Clergy Leader Jone Johnson Lewis will draw some lessons from history, neurobiology, and community organizing to address how we honor and respect difference while we resist and transcend tactics of “divide and conquer” including our own tendencies to say “this injustice is more real than that one is” or even “we can’t address that injustice until we are done fixing this other injustice.”
“Non nobis solum nati sumus. (Not for ourselves alone are we born.)” – Marcus Tullius Cicero
While humans certainly have a strong tendency towards selfishness and self-interest, we are also social creatures, existing in an interconnected network of other humans and the rest of the natural universe. To be concerned with others is also a natural tendency, and, in Ethical Culture, we acknowledge that acting on such concerns is part of developing our own full personhood.
Some varieties of humanism have been mostly concerned with self-development and self-culture, ignoring or even dismissing social justice. Interim Clergy Leader Jone Johnson Lewis explores some of the values and challenges in building interconnected community and acting for social justice, moving from a narrow self to a wider sense of self and others.