About East Point Peace Academy

 

Founded in 2013, East Point is more than just a nonprofit organization. We are a community of practice and exploration, training and education, healing and resistance.
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    An Inspiring Collaboration

    May be an image of 6 people

    Most people who come to know of East Point’s work are introduced to the organization through a training or public offering of some kind. So it may come as a surprise to learn that one of our main focal points during 2022 has been a behind-the-scenes collaboration with a dynamic and innovative performing arts organization. 

    Since its founding in 2008, the Embodiment Project (EP) has been sharing transformative stories of harm, survival, and liberation through dance and multimedia performance, in and far beyond the Bay Area. Begun as a hip hop healing collective of street dancers, EP honors and expresses Black social dances and street dance, and recognizes them as healing modalities.

    East Point has had the privilege of serving as consultant and coach for EP for the past several months as they undertake a major organizational restructuring process. This exciting collaboration is strengthened by fortuitous timing. The Embodiment Project has opted to implement Sociocracy as their governance and decision-making model. At the same time, the two of us offering them consulting and coaching (Leonie Smith and Chris Moore-Backman) are in the process of earning our certification as Sociocracy trainers through a year-long training program and community of practice, Sociocracy for All. This has set the stage for rich mutual learning and experimentation in the arts of liberatory governance, nimble decision-making, and co-holding of power and initiative—all of which Sociocracy is designed to foster. A key experiment in this mix is to leverage the flexibility of Sociocracy to imbue its structures with practices that open up relationships between collaborators to address repair, trust building, and care. (East Point, by the way, is also in the process of adopting Sociocracy!)

    Our coaching and consulting work with the Embodiment Project has catalyzed other powerful possibilities for collaboration. After learning more and more about one another’s work, we have begun to envision ways of blending East Point’s community organizing and direct action work with EP’s dance-centered liberatory storytelling model. New dreams abound: of public gatherings infused with dance, grief-tending, installation art, music, and direct action for racial and climate justice. We’re also exploring visions of prison-based offerings that combine restorative dialog, East Point’s Kingian Nonviolence training, and the Embodiment Project’s embodied movement approach.

    For years now, East Point has been reflecting on the dilemma we’re in given the limitations of conventional organizing and activism in the face of social and ecological collapse. Our instincts have steered us again and again to visions of culture-shifting work that will open up space for a fuller collective experience of our humanity during this extraordinary time. We wonder if such culture-shifting work can serve a much needed evolution of activism, nurturing our spirits and relationships as we go. We’re excited to see the fruits of our unique collaboration with the Embodiment Project as we continue to move in this direction. 

    Stay tuned: We may soon extend an invitation to you to join us in direct action that’s very different from what many of us are used to!

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    Retreat Reflections

    Below is a reflection on East Point's Core Team retreat, held over 4 days at the end of May in the Santa Cruz Redwoods - Ohlone and Awaswas lands.

    East Point Peace Academy's Core team. 


    On an ordinary Wednesday afternoon, under the waning full moon and ten days
    before 端午節 (duan wu qie, Dragon Boat Festival), I climb into the iron man and journey across water to greet Leonie for the very first time, after nine months of joy and learning on the pixelated screen. Together, as the wild crashing sea and the cool waves of fog accompany us to the west, we travel south 

    to another time.

    When our ears hear only the conversations
    of tiny birds
    the flap of raven wings
    and the whistle of brother wind 
    through the magnificent redwood teachers. 

    My two yellow feet land on 土 (tu, earth) and I am instantly transformed. 

    After weeks of barely sleeping, dreams of caverns deep within the earth, of traveling in the dark with family known and unknown, each night like a crucible— rest arrives like an oasis in the desert. Rest in the form of play, of laughter, of delicious food, of connection, of inspiration and I remember the collective question—

    How can we affirm life and create beauty in the middle of collapse? (Kazu)

    Like points of star, the six members of East Point Peace Academy’s team come together over five days to create an academy for prophetic dreams (Luis). 

    We begin by humbly seeking relationship with the land— first inhabited by the Popeloutchom (Amah Mutsun), Ohlone, and Awaswas peoples. We begin by remembering the earth of the body, and our innate connection to water, fire, earth, metal, and wood. In a ritual I learned from Indigenous elder Dr. Eduardo Duran, we each introduce ourselves to the land, naming our ancestors, and kneeling on the rounded mound to open our ears, our hearts, our minds, and our bodies as students. 

    Guided by my 爺 爺 (yeye, paternal grandfather) lineage of China (from 遼寧 Liaoning by way of 河北 Hebei), I call on the spirit of mountain—with the qualities of sovereignty, stillness, dignity, and deep joy— to support us in our time together. 

    The breath slows to its natural rhythm and we meet in connection, built over years months days, as our ancestors did. Understanding that the work we need to do is only possible if there is room for all of us. How we are together is more important than what we do, says Leonie. 

    Although we are here to “work,” we live into the question of whether work can be like kittens learning to hunt— full of mischief, wonder, and trust— with the mettle of persistence as a compass. 

    Guided by Leonie’s question— Are you willing?— we continually check in over the day— how is your body, what is alive for you? — as the ancestral familial cultural stories that hold us hostage creep in. I bring with me a deep longing to belong, to be what I came into this life to be. We bring our families with us, our ancestral gifts and burdens, our health, our experiences of pain and triumph, we bring with us our heart’s deepest longings and our unwavering commitment to liberation for all. We bring our communities— Asian immigrants, undocumented folks, African diaspora, incarcerated folks, disabled, gender diverse, white America. We hold multitudes of stories in our hearts/minds and we each stand for countless others that are silenced. 

    There is enough safety that when we are activated, one by one, we can share our experience— so strongly conditioned by eons of violence— and we are met with care, with soft eyes, with nurturing silence, with interested questions and acceptance. Each incident of truth telling is an incredible act of courage— for it takes the boldness of a deity to risk— to step into the unknown, and name that for which we have been shamed, rejected, abandoned, outcast— for these experiences do not arise in a silo, but always in relationship, in the seeking of connection, as is our mammalian nature. Our needs for rest, play, movement, connection— the ways we seek comfort and shy away, how we long to be seen— rub against one another in the shared work of building Beloved Community. 

    When the naming of different needs is welcomed with openness again and again, I land more and more fully in my body; I feel the feet more solidly against the earth; the dignity of redwood lengthens the spine. I can bring more parts of me here, says laura. 

    Is it safe to be me?

    Can I name my needs and trust you to name yours?

    Can we stretch beyond preferences to create a circle of belonging for everyone? 

    I see that the work, country, culture and healing we are dreaming into being 

         = 

    the way we want to be in the world. 

    And I taste the sweetness that flows when I am connected to my heart and acting from my knowing and you are in yours. I know we are following the Tao when the shape of the river surprises us all— that we are moving beyond mind into the vast unknown. 

    The simple truths waiting for us like a lush waterfall nestled in rock in the womb of the forest— 

    I remember that the collapse of civilization is a moment that was predestined from when we split from the Great Mother (大 地 母親 da di mu qin)….that I am simply a speck in the vast unknown of the shining stars and the history of the universe…that courage is a gift that allows me to remember all the wounded and lost parts of me…and that healing is reciprocal.

    Held by the creative brilliance of nature, we experiment with the sociocratic method of decision making, facilitated by Leonie and Chris, and I learn the word equivalence— a radical egalitarian experience where there is room for everyone (Chris). I have the sense of intergenerational learning— that giants of movement are stewarding the next generation, preparing to pass the baton in pivotal ways. 

    Night falls and it is time for games, for peppermint lavender tea, for Kazu’s delicious cooking (sesame noodles and tea eggs were my favorite, although lasagna, dhal, and Japanese curry kept us sated for the days). For salty and sweet snack contests (shout out to Eastern Conference Champion fiery lime Cheetos), for singing, and for general silliness. 

    The darkness is perfectly still, unpolluted by the sounds of man, when I return to the corner room surrounded by the safety of earth, a mouse having eaten a stray Chinese medicine tablet lying on the night table. I scramble into the cool bed with a sigh of contentment— belly full, mouth loose from laughing, mind challenged. Happy to be alive in this body in this moment in time. We are a small circle, playing with belonging, seeking joy and meaning in the midst of collapse.  

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    A Tax Day Letter to the IRS

    April 15, 2022

    To Whom It May Concern at the Internal Revenue Service:

    Please find my enclosed 1040 form for tax year 2021. I’m including this letter in order to explain why payment for my calculated 2021 tax of $1970.00 is not also enclosed. 

    Since 2000, I have refused payment of my taxes because US law does not provide a means for me to ensure that my tax contribution will not enrich our nation’s military-industrial complex, prison-industrial complex, immoral immigration system, or our government’s treacherous compact with oil corporations, which continue to wage an unfettered—and ultimately suicidal—assault on the natural world. Because the tax system provides no legal way for me to avoid supporting these things, I find no conscientious choice but to withhold payment entirely as an act of civil disobedience.

    Conscientious objection to the payment of taxes and the redistribution of such funds to humane alternatives represents a longstanding nonviolence tradition. Tax resisters choose different methods. For example, some—like myself—file tax forms while withholding payment, some don’t file at all, and some live below the taxable income level. Some are content with resisting quietly as a personal practice, while others resist in a public way to raise awareness about our government’s misuse of tax income and to outwardly demonstrate the moral power of civil disobedience. 

    I am not opposed to taxation in principle. I know that tax dollars fund many things that are life-serving. In order to contribute to the general welfare of our society and the world, I have offered the full amount of my calculated taxes since 2000 to support humane efforts to build a more just society and world community. In recent years the majority of the taxes I've redirected have been offered as long overdue reparations to Black and Indigenous-led groups working for their own liberation. If and when our nation transforms its spending priorities to genuinely reflect a commitment to healing, justice, and ecological responsibility, I will be happy to pay taxes to the IRS.

    I send this letter with all due respect for the individuals who work at the IRS. My objections to the role your agency plays do not obstruct my care for you as human beings. In fact, my tax resistance is as much on your behalf as it is on my own.

    Sincerely,

    Chris Moore-Backman

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    "Mourning the Gap": Ukraine, nonviolence, and the wider context

    Ukrainian soldiers take cover from incoming artillery fire in Irpin

    The day Russia invaded Ukraine, East Point’s core team member, Luis Miranda, sent an email to the rest of our core team. It began like this:

    I’m feeling powerless… I don’t know if there is anything appropriate for us to do or anything to do at all.

    Luis’s honest admission of powerlessness opened the door for the rest of us to give voice to our own versions of it. Our replies included phrases like “speechless and confused”; “helplessness and heartbreak.” We felt that some kind of solidarity statement from East Point might be meaningful, but we also struggled with the way such statements, when they aren’t combined with concrete actions in defense of life, can actually reinforce feelings of inadequacy and impotence. 

    Expressing solidarity with words is a pale substitute for our heart’s deeper longing for justice. As important as it is, the same can be said for sending money in support of relief efforts, for those of us in a position to do so. As thousands of people are being killed and millions displaced in this new and utterly unjust war, we wish so badly that there was something we could do to actually stop the senseless death and destruction. We want the suffering to end.

    This speaks to a kind of reckoning that nonviolence-oriented activists and organizers often shy away from. But we owe it to ourselves to be brutally honest: When it comes to countering extreme violence with nonviolence we are horribly unprepared. Nonviolence has undoubtedly made remarkable strides in the realms of community organizing, restorative justice, direct action, mass protest, and moral public accountability. As painful as it may be to admit, though, when these efforts come up short and the bombs start dropping, we and nonviolence are almost unequivocally left without anything approaching an adequate answer. 

    It’s a strange and somewhat disconcerting experience as a flagbearer for nonviolence to feel so deeply inspired by Ukrainian people and volunteer fighters from around the world taking up arms to defend what they love. In the face of such extreme violence, absent an adequate response from the world of nonviolence, what else can we do but pray for their safety and hope that against all odds they somehow manage to hold the line.  

    To add to the complexity, alongside our reality check about the inadequacies of nonviolence, we are also witnessing the paradox/irony that nonviolence may yet still be a primary driver to end this horrific war.

    Nonviolent action is already playing a huge role. In Russia people are showing up to the streets, confronting the dominant, violent, hegemonic Russian state, and being arrested in mass because of their moral convictions. Many Ukrainians have also been demonstrating the power of nonviolence: in the way they’re crafting their narratives, in the ways they are engaging the so-called “enemy” from an unwavering stance rooted in the kinship between peoples, appealing to the humanity of the Russian soldiers and their families.

    This is all to say that while our global nonviolence community may not yet have what it takes to stop a military invasion of this magnitude, it may still prove to be the Achilles Heel of the imperialists. We watch with such hope as courageous and creative practitioners of nonviolence steadily chip away at the impetus for war.

    Meanwhile, though, the horror continues, and the seeds of the wars of the future are sown.

    In her work as a facilitator and organizer, our friend Miki Kashtan often encourages groups to practice “mourning the gap” between what they have capacity to achieve and what they wish they had the capacity to achieve. This is vital, Miki argues, when a group’s work must proceed, even though some important need remains unmet. I think this practice has profound relevance right now for those of us committed to nonviolence.

    Grief, it is often said, is the measure of our love. If this is true, and I believe that it is, “mourning the gap” holds great power for us right now. Along with our statements of solidarity and whatever we’re able to offer in support of the heroic relief work currently being done in and around Ukraine, may our mourning be a catalyst for deeper expressions of commitment. May it move us to support and wherever possible join with those experiments in nonviolent resistance that reveal the sacredness of life in the midst of war. May it also move us to double down on the hard work of developing our collective capacity to meet extreme violence with extreme nonviolence.

    Another deeply important layer of this historical moment begs to be named. The humanitarian crisis in eastern Europe is of a monumental scale. In a matter of weeks nearly 6.5 million people have been displaced inside Ukraine, on top of 3.2 million refugees fleeing the country, and the belligerent megalomaniac who launched this war stands at the helm of a superpower more than capable of nuclear armageddon. As real and terrifying as this situation is, it is critical to remember that what is happening to the people of Ukraine is a continuation of a deeper wounded, traumatized human community reeling with its demons. 

    Alongside our immense grief over this war, we at East Point are nonetheless disturbed, though not surprised, at the way this new crisis has taken center stage over all the other crises that non-white People of the Global Majority are facing, and have been facing over the past many years: seven coups and coup attempts in African nations during the past year and a half, for example; the continuing refugee crises in Syria and Venezuela; the ongoing war and escalating hunger emergency in Yemen; Israel’s comparatively slow motion, yet ceaseless conquest of Palestine. Not to mention that fossil fuels and greenhouse gasses continue to ravage our climate and create sacrifice zones for marginalized peoples across the globe. 

    So it is that I close by saying to our brave and beloved siblings of Ukraine and of all places where people are standing against oppression and imperialism: Our hearts and prayers are with you.

    ~

    If you are able to offer financial support to aid the people of Ukraine, we encourage you to consider contributing to SLOT, a grassroots Polish organization helping Ukrainians fleeing the violence.

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