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Blog by Associate Colette Parker

They are us.

Those words — from New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, describing the people killed, injured, and traumatized in the two mosque shootings in Christchurch –   should be written on our hearts and minds every time we encounter another person.

They are words of peace, love, and support.

They are words of inclusivity that reject hate.

They are words that move us from an ”Us and Them” mentality, which causes division, fear, and hate and fuels attitudes that are ultimately responsible for the unacceptable violence that plagues our world, where horrific events are gradually becoming the backdrop of daily life.

They are words that move us to a mindset of “Oneness”, which embraces the philosophy that we are all human and we all call this planet our home and causes us to see our brothers and sisters as people to be loved and respected.

They are words that give us the courage to stand for what is right in the face of wrong. They are words that give us the strength to spread love in opposition to hate.

When horrific incidents like the shootings at the two mosques in New Zealand happen, we can be quick to ask: what can I do?

I suggest that whatever you choose to do, include “checking yourself” to see how often you view various groups as different, other, or inferior. How easy is it for you to view people as an “outgroup” and have negative emotions about them?  How quickly can you dismiss people as “not my kind”?

It is no secret that we tend to be more empathetic, more forgiving, and more generous with “our own kind”.

I know that it can be a great challenge to move beyond our closed-mindedness and narrowness to a place where we see all people as part of our human family, but we can do it if we try.

We can choose to make a conscious effort to see all human beings as “our own kind”.

Write it on your heart and mind: They are Us.

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Journey to Africa – Make Your World Bigger

Blog by Associate Rosie Blackburn

With great excitement and some fear I left the comfort of my world and embarked on an eighteen day journey to Kenya and Tanzania January 9th-27th.  Marybeth Irvine, OPA, my wonderful travel companion and I joined 18 other travelers led by Fr. Joe Mitchell and Donna Manuel from the Earth & Spirit Center of Louisville, KY.

I think I will be processing this trip for the rest of my life!  Kenya is our homeland, where we as humans began and I felt that as we drove thru the country and walked on the land.  The energy of the land is palatable.  It is truly God’s paradise.  The landscape is breath taking; I kept hearing the song “This is Holy Ground” in my head as I walked on the land and viewed it from the bus.  And the people – I struggle to find the words to describe the beautiful faces of these wonderful people.  They opened their hearts to us and welcomed us, celebrated life with us, fed us and shared their land with us.  The faces of God – loving us just because.

We visited Kibera, the largest slum in Africa, and played with these beautiful children that were so grateful we had come to visit.  They were joyful, very proud of their school and very interested in our physical appearance!  The poverty was overwhelming and yet these children found joy in what they had that day, a meal and visitors to play with!

Now that I am back home I find myself much more mindful and appreciative of my many blessings.  I am ever so thankful for water and hot showers.  My first trip to the grocery when I returned found me in tears at the abundance of choices and all the excess we take for granted.  I am forever grateful for these beautiful people showing me the face of God and the beauty of our wonderful world.

Posted in Associate Blog, News


Blog by Associate Colette Parker

Did you hear about the police officer who got caught on video playing with dolls?

If you didn’t, you missed a heartwarming story.

It goes something like this: Corporal C.B. Fleming — a 15-year veteran of the South Hill, Virginia Police Department — responded to a report of a gas leak at an apartment complex. Once first responders determined that the area was safe, Fleming took the opportunity to play with some of the neighborhood children.

Video footage shows Fleming laying on his stomach on the ground, playing dolls and talking with two young girls.

The woman who captured the video (identified as the mother and aunt of the two girls) lauded Fleming as a community “superhero” who took the time to help the children feel safe by interacting with them in a positive way (Fleming could also be seen in the video coloring with sidewalk chalk and talking with two young boys).

Fleming, of course, said he was just doing what he should.

“When I got into this job, I knew there was something different, other than just writing tickets and being the bad person all the time … I figured if I could be that bright spot in someone’s day, then that’s all that mattered.”

Fleming said he hopes his actions, and those of his fellow police officers, will lead to real change in police and community relations. In fact, according to his police chief, Fleming was doing what comes naturally for him – building authentic relationship with people in the community where he serves.

Can you imagine what would happen in our world, if each of us strived to be “that bright spot in someone’s day” and worked to build authentic relationship with the people we encounter each day?

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Watch Your Language!

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

It has been a week since I watched a video of the “doll test” and I still can’t stop thinking about it.

In working to determine why I couldn’t get the video off my mind, I discovered that it was because I was trying to figure out a solution to what I saw as a problem: black children identifying black dolls as “ugly” and “bad” while identifying white dolls as “pretty” and “good”.

Before moving on, let me provide a little background:  “the doll” test is a psychological experiment designed in the 1940s in the United States to test the degree of marginalization felt by African-American children because of prejudice, discrimination, and racial segregation. The test — based on the research of Mamie Phipps Clark, a black female psychologist — was conducted by Phipps Clark and her husband, psychologist Kenneth Bancroft Clark.

During the test, the Clarks used diaper-clad dolls, identical except for color. They showed the dolls to black children between the ages of three and seven. When asked which they preferred and which was “nice” and “pretty,” versus “ugly” and “bad,” the majority of the children attributed positive characteristics to the white doll.

The test was utilized as social science evidence in lower-court cases that were rolled into the 1954 landmark United States Supreme Court case Brown vs. Board of Education of Topeka, in which the Court declared state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional. The high court cited the test in support of its conclusion that segregation harmed the psyches of black children.

While some have argued that the test is not good science, I subscribe to the notion that it says something about internalized racism and how that internalization begins at a young age.

What disturbs me is that when the doll test was duplicated 70 years later (as shown in the video that I viewed a week ago), the results were the same: black children identified the black doll as “ugly” and “bad” (while acknowledging  that the black doll looked like them) but identified the white doll as “pretty” and “good”.

So, how do we help each other embrace a belief that diversity is beautiful?

One way is to “examine” and “modify” our language. Can we really expect anything to change when we continue to define the word black as dirty, angry, evil, depressing, and hopeless and the word white as pure, clean, hopeful, happy, and optimistic? (a white lie is better than a black lie; the most disgraceful person in the family is the black sheep; black ice is deadly ice; etc.)

More than 50 years ago, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke about self-determination and how language is used to further oppress and stigmatize Black Americans. He said:

“Somebody told a lie one day. They couched it in language. They made everything Black ugly and evil. Look in your dictionaries and see the synonyms of the word Black. It’s always something degrading and low and sinister. Look at the word White, it’s always something pure, high, and clean. Well I want to get the language right tonight.

I want to get the language so right that everyone here will cry out: Yes, I’m Black, I’m proud of it. I’m Black and I’m beautiful!”

Isn’t it time for us to evaluate our language to determine if it communicates the importance of respect and dignity to all?

Listen to Rev King here (

Posted in Associate Blog, News

Don’t Waste a Day of Your Life

Blog by Associate Colette Parker

I saw a comic strip of Charlie Brown and Snoopy a few days ago that got my thinking.

Charlie Brown: “You only live once.”

Snoopy: “False. You live every day. You only die once.”

Ain’t that the truth, Snoopy!

YOLO – You Only Live Once – is typically a call to live life to its fullest extent, even embracing behavior which carries inherent risk. I know some people find that to be encouraging and perhaps exhilarating; but I find Snoopy’s take to be more inspiring because it urges us to make the most of the time we are given.

Snoopy seems to understand that we should not take life for granted; that we should do good in the world while we are here; that we should make a positive difference while we can; that we should show people that we love them every chance that we get.

Snoopy seems to be calling us to embrace our “right now”, to lead by example, to appreciate what we have, to show love to those who are in need of it, to make every moment count so that when that one day comes, we will have lived a fulfilled life.

If you knew that you wouldn’t wake up tomorrow, how would you live your life differently today?

Posted in Associate Blog, News