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The Revolution of No Shame

Blog by Associate Joachim Seelos, OPA

What an amazing time to be alive! — to witness the activism of no shame, to know nothing compares to love.

It has been 50 years since Stonewall, when the LGBTQ Community (including persons of color, transgenders and drag queens) stood up against the brutality of the police and the silence of society. It was a revolution; the beatings and arrests (now part of our history) gave way to the first Gay Pride march one year later in New York City – evidence that love will conquer all.

Many things have happened since then — the crisis of HIV/AIDS hit the LGBTQ Community and our nation was falling into graves; 111 people protested against Cardinal O’ Connor, laying on the floor of the Cathedral of St. Patrick. The Cardinal during that time refused to allow instruction about condoms in AIDS education programs in the schools, hospitals and youth programs of the Archdiocese of New York (despite the approval of such an approach by his fellow bishops). The beauty of resilience stands ever strong in our history of the LGBTQ movement.

We have come a long way. But let us never forget those who fought for us, like Harvey Milk; and the many who lost their lives to violence, like Matthew Shepard; and those who committed suicide because of bullying or abandonment. I am proud to be a part of history and to see gay marriage become legal and the beauty of our Transgendered Brothers and Sisters coming to their true selves.

Being a Dominican Associate has given me the opportunity to see myself as loved for who I am; and has challenged me to preach peace and truth to those who are struggling to understand my LGBTQIA+ community.

Volunteering at the Kansas City Center for Inclusion in Missouri has become my personal ministry. To be present in hospitality and to carry out the center’s mission of being there for the LGBTQIA+ community via education, resources, offering a safe space for members of the community and friends to gather for support groups and activities. Our organization is one of charity and we are called, most of all, to save lives in our community and society. I continue to echo the words of St. Catherine of Siena to “be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”

The Revolution of No Shame allows me to sit at the table with Jesus because the truth is: we all belong, and peace belongs to us all.

Now, I ask you to take my hand and pass on the olive branch, while we continue to bring change and become activists of peace for all people, including the LGBTQIA+ community, People of Color, Immigrants, Sexual Assault Survivors, the Incarcerated, the Disabled, etc. Stand with me against the injustices of all the isms — Racism, Sexism, Heterosexism, Classism, Ageism, Ableism, etc.

St. Catherine proclaimed the truth and did not let fear silence her. We must always do the same. Let us not live by ignorance and in fear. Instead, let us be dedicated to the passing of the olive branch, from hand to hand.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

When You See Them, You Will Grieve

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

I did something this weekend that I really didn’t want to do.

I watched the Ava DuVernay-directed When They See Us, the four-part mini-series streaming on Netflix that tells the story of the Exonerated Five.

I hesitated to view it because I knew it was going to be difficult to watch. I knew it would trigger the trauma of strategic and systemic racism – a system that devalues black and brown lives (meaning it would take me on a very rough emotional roller coaster ride).

I knew the story and its outcome: five black and Hispanic teens (ages 14 to 16), labeled the Central Park Five, were arrested, interrogated, tried and convicted of brutally raping a 28-year-old white female jogger, despite the fact that DNA evidence wasn’t a match for any of them. Twelve years later (when all but two of the five were out of prison), a convicted rapist and murderer (whose DNA was a match) confessed to the crime.  The five were exonerated and eventually received a $41 million settlement and have found life after incarceration.

But I convinced myself to watch it – even though I knew it would cause me to be an emotional wreck –because I knew it was an opportunity to hear the story from the perspective of the five – all now men in their 40s.

I made the decision after reading articles and seeing interviews of the five and experiencing their words describing the mini-series as a way to convey their “truth”; as a “sacrifice” to change the culture by becoming engaged; as a “platform” to start the conversation to prevent another Central Park Five; as a means to “effect change”; as a vehicle for telling their stories.

It became very clear to me that these men wanted and needed to be heard. I was compelled to oblige, knowing that my discomfort couldn’t possibly compare to their lived pain and trauma. So, I braced myself – still, their pain and trauma were transferable. I fully understand why a grief counselor was on the set while filming.

Ava DuVernay has said her goal in directing the series was “to humanize boys, now men, who are widely regarded as criminals” and “to invite the audience to re-interrogate everyone that they define as a criminal … I’m asking the question to everyone, ‘What do you see when you see black boys’?”

From my vantage point, black and brown boys continue to be seen as deviant in our culture. Isn’t it time for that practice to end?  Tens of thousands of innocent people continue to be incarcerated for years and decades for crimes they did not commit. Isn’t it time for that to end too?

When They See Us is the Exonerated Five telling their story. And as painful as it is to hear, I think they should be heard. They paid a terrible price, and I think we owe it to them to listen.

I hope you accept Ava DuVernay’s invitation to question who you define as a criminal and to answer the question: What do you see when you see black and brown boys?

 

Posted in Associate Blog

MINISTRY OF DEFENSE: PROTECTING THE FLOCK

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

The doors of the sanctuary are … locked?

Let that sink in: limited access to a place of refuge and safety.

It has become the new normal in our places of worship – locked doors, armed security officers, barriers, surveillance cameras, bag searches, etc.

What in the world is going on with the Fort Knox-level security in places that have traditionally been open places of welcome? This is a question that I have pondered for years and one that emerged again  on Sunday, as I watched and listened to a news report called “Faith under fire: How 3 congregations moved on from mass shootings.”

The report took on special significance for me because it was aired on the weekend devoted to raise awareness about gun violence and to honor the victims and survivors of gun violence.

While security in houses of worship is not new to some parishioners, who have traditionally provided protection for high-profile religious leaders; it certainly was not the norm for most, until fatal shootings at faith-based properties (at least a dozen in the past six years) got our attention and raised questions of safety and preparedness.

I admit that I have no firm answers. In fact, I have more questions than answers because I believe that  there are dangers in under-reacting to security risks and in over-reacting to security risks in places of worship and that no place of worship can promise complete safety and security.

I also believe that any security measures taken need to be ministry-based and reflect a belief that God is our ultimate protector while offering preparedness for a real risk.

I’m not sure what that looks like – how do we balance concerns for safety with an open-door policy that can put our safety at risk?

Posted in Associate Blog, News

WE HAVE ONE JOB!: LET’S DO IT RIGHT

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

It is not our job to fix people, change people or judge people. It’s our job to love people. The rest is in God’s hands. Amen!

A friend of mine posted those words on her Facebook page the other day. My first reaction was: Amen! (as a declaration of affirmation).

Two days later, those words resurfaced in my mind and hit me a different way (and I am the first to admit that I sometimes have a peculiar sense of humor). I immediately thought of the expression: You had one job! And burst into laughter.

I thought about all of the memes I have seen across the internet, on social media, using that catchphrase to call attention to blunders made by individuals on the job. The images accompanying the phrase are typically humorous, like a right button with an arrow pointing left and a left button with an arrow pointing right or the word SHCOOL [SCHOOL] painted in a crosswalk.

The images tend to be funny because it’s hard to believe that such obvious errors could be made. While I am not advocating that it is okay to laugh at people who make mistakes, I am saying that we can find comic relief in the innocent mistakes themselves.

After doing a little research on the catchphrase, I discovered that the meme originated in a clip from the movie Ocean’s Eleven (2011). It implies that you had one seemingly simplistic task (one job) to complete and you messed it up.

Messing up the spelling of a word or the direction of an arrow is one thing. But failing to do the one job that we are here on earth to do – love people – is another. When we fail at that, it is no laughing matter.

Yet, we fail time after time –sometimes because we refuse to stretch beyond our comfort zone and sometimes because we put limitations, conditions, and restraints on how we will love others.

There are people in our lives who are easy to love. There are others who take a little work. And there are some who take more effort and energy than we want to (or are willing to) exert.

As people of God, we don’t have the option to put limitations, conditions and restraints on how we love others. If we do, we mess up the one job that we have – to help people experience the love of God through our lives.

Remember that our love for God is directly displayed in our love for God’s people. If we don’t show genuine love for one another, what does that tell us?

 

Posted in Associate Blog, News

God Plants Us Where We are Needed

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

Keanon Lowe is being hailed as a hero for tackling and disarming a student with a shotgun inside an Oregon high school.

Lowe, however, said in a television interview that he acted out of instinct and believes that he was “put in that room in that very moment for a reason … I think things in my life prepared me for that moment … I thank God that no one got hurt, and I thank God that I was in that room.”

Those words have stuck with me since I heard them come from the mouth of the former University of Oregon football standout who is now a football and track coach and security guard at the Oregon high school, where the gunman was taken into custody and no one was injured.

All I can say is “Look at God!”

God not only placed Keanon where he was needed, God gave him the tools that he needed to do what he needed to do in that moment.

I think we can all agree that over the course of our lives, we find ourselves in all kinds of places and situations – at school, at work, at home, at church, at the store, in a voting booth, in a restaurant, in our neighborhoods and communities, etc. Could it be that we are in those places for a reason? Could it be that God has prepared us to do a particular thing while we are there?

I don’t know about you but I have been in many situations when I couldn’t begin to understand why I was there or what I could possibly learn from being there.

But I have come to a place where I believe that God wants to use us for a purpose and that God plants us where we are needed at a given time. It may be for a long time or a short time, but God is intently involved in the process of where we should be.

I also believe that God is always preparing us for what’s to come, giving us the tools and skills necessary to deal with the situations that we face – even when we are not aware of the purpose.

God prepares us to weather the troublesome periods of our lives and to take on new roles and responsibilities.

Wherever you are right now, God has called you there to treat the people around you as bearers of God’s image who reflect the beauty of God’s kindness, love, truthfulness, justice, and grace to the world; to resist evil and chaos; and to share agape love.

I know that Keanon believes that God placed him for a purpose.

Where has God place you?

Posted in Associate Blog, News