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.
Our Principles Around Money & Giving
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.
As you have heard, East Point Peace Academy is working with the Yet To Be Named Network to prepare our Bay Area communities for mobilization around the November elections. We believe that there is a real danger of political violence regardless of the result, and we also know that this is a moment with the potential of massive transformation and we cannot turn away from it.
Chances are, you’ve probably been sitting with a lot of anxiety as we move towards November. If so, you are not alone. Part of the anxiety comes from not knowing: Not knowing what will happen in November, not knowing the extent of the violence that may occur, not knowing how this current administration will respond, not knowing how our own communities may respond.
Part of how we choose to respond to the anxiety of not knowing is to reclaim our power, and to know that despite our inability to predict the future, we know the kind of world we want to live in and we have the power to initiate action.
We do not have to simply wait in anxiety, to “see what happens” and react to whatever chaos may ensue. We can envision how we want to engage and what we want to offer to the world in a time of such turmoil. Our actions, intentions, and spirit is not dictated by the chaos surrounding this election.
So, we accept what we can’t know and can’t control, and empower ourselves by being in community and taking action together to fight for the world we want.
This Tuesday, white-identifying people in the Network began a 7-week study and practice group for Remsaa Menakem’s book My Grandmothers Hands. Next weekend, people who identify as Black, Indigenous and People of Color will spend the weekend in a virtual Fierce Vulnerability workshop. These two events are a way for people to drop in to a felt sense of how we want to show up in the world, while we figure out what we want to offer to the world.
There is still time to register for the Fierce Vulnerability workshop, but the My Grandmother’s Hands group has already begun. We are currently creating a process for those who could not make these events to still be able to join our efforts. This will most likely take the form of a weekly mini-workshop where we will share some of our thinking about the how and the what of our plans.
East Point Peace Academy celebrates the efforts of friends and colleagues around the nation who are steadily, diligently preparing for November. It stands to be a November of unprecedented importance and quite likely of unprecedented political and social chaos. An increasing number of us believe that an election-related coup attempt by the Trump administration is extremely likely, and have begun to organize ourselves accordingly. While East Point's efforts are focused on organizing local direct action teams within the framework of the Yet-To-Be-Named Network, we're relieved to know that others are focusing on strategy-building for national mobilization. We expect that the teams we form here in the Bay will soon lend strength to a concerted nationwide effort to protect the most basic tenet of democracy: to count and honor the votes of the people.
We encourage courageous conversations during the coming days. One of the most powerful enablers of authoritarian takeovers is the psychological denial of well-meaning people. Sharing with loved ones that what we're seeing today are the tell-tale signs of an imminent authoritarian power-grab is key to building community readiness to actively and effectively respond.
And we encourage folks to get plugged into the growing movement! Check out East Point's local offerings, geared toward the formation of local direct action teams: My Grandmother's Hands Study & Practice Series for White-Identified People and Fierce Vulnerability for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color).
And also check out ChooseDemocracy.us, a national effort to protect the fragile remnants of our democracy during this wild election season: "by voting, making sure all the votes are counted, and preparing to take the streets in the case of an attempted coup." Our friends, social movement giant George Lakey (check out George's talk during East Point's "Where Do We Go From Here?" Speakers Series) and community organizer and author extraordinaire Daniel Hunter (check out Daniel's powerful organizing guide Building a Movement to End the New Jim Crow) are two of the engines behind this important effort. We're hoping that a critical mass of folks in the wider East Point community will attend the two-part training sequence that George will be offering with co-facilitator Zein Nakhoda, September 23rd and 30th, titled "How to Beat an Election-Related Power Grab by Donald Trump". We're hopeful that this training will spark ideas for how Bay Area changemakers can contribute to this pivotal national struggle. Toward that end, East Point is picturing a local debriefing session after the conclusion of the training.
Lastly we recommend that interested folks check out another powerful offering called Listen, Learn, Act: Nonviolence for Community Safety, led by friends from the Nonviolent Peaceforce. Listen, Learn, Act is a 10-hour training process "designed to support our right to public protest by building capacity in local groups to prevent violence during civil resistance actions and provide protective accompaniment for human rights activists."
Let's get plugged in!! Now's most definitely the time.
2020 seems more perilous by the moment. We face an unprecedented web of compounding crises: the racial injustice crisis, COVID-19, the newest wave of wildfires and hurricanes - which of course signify the intensifying climate emergency, plus a horrifyingly uncertain presidential election that may be the most fateful, life-and-death election in our nation’s history.
It’s terrifying. And many of us are struggling to figure out what we can do to make a genuine, noticeable difference.
Shortly after COVID-19 touched down in the US, East Point launched a virtual speakers series titled “Where Do We Go From Here?”. We’ve had incredible presenters offering deep insights and invaluable guidance for changemakers during these chaotic times. We’ve learned a lot from these friends.
One of our key takeaways:
Nonviolence is about stopping cycles of harm; stopping cycles of harm is about healing.
Experimentation leads to learning.
When we’re brutally honest we must admit that we don’t know what to do. We don’t know what it would take to change the horrible course we’re on. As painful as it is to admit this, in a strange way doing so opens up a sense of possibility, and even a sense of relief. The space opens for simple, potent questions to arise: What actions do our hearts and imaginations point us towards? What do we have the power to do?
While we can’t know what the outcome will be, at East Point we’re convinced that our community has the capacity, creativity and courage to bring something beautiful into the world and to inject a measure of sanity into the madness of 2020.
We haven’t created a master plan for this “something beautiful”. But we have done our best to listen to how life is guiding us, and to discern next steps for how we might create the conditions for this “something beautiful” to emerge. We’ve decided to focus on two special offerings in preparation for November:
Fierce Vulnerability Weekend Workshop for BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and other people of color)
September 25-27 (Five 2-hour sessions beginning Friday evening and ending Sunday evening)
My Grandmother’s Hands Study and Practice Series for White-Identifying People
September 15-October 27 (Seven consecutive Tuesday evenings, 6:00 - 7:30PM (pacific))
We are envisioning both of these offerings as onramps to the Yet-To-Be-Named Network (YTBN). We anticipate that the Bay Area YTBN community will be a dynamic hub for action and organizing leading up to the November election. If you want to join us in preparing for that work please register for one of the above offerings.
We have been deeply inspired by the recent surge of popular uprisings. And yet, we continue to seek a place in this larger movement ecology where the work is seen and understood as healing work, and where the aim is to honor the dignity of all life and move us closer to Beloved Community. May it be so!
Originally published on August 18th, 2020 by Waging Nonviolence. Republished here under a Creative Commons license. Click Here for the original article.
We are traumatized. Let’s start there.
Trauma can be defined as your body’s reaction to experiencing or witnessing something deeply disturbing. Post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a condition caused by exposure to a distressing event “outside the range of usual human experience.”
A global pandemic. The resulting economic crisis. Videos of police killing unarmed Black people. Images of federal troops in military fatigues and assault rifles confronting protesters every night. The global climate crisis. The ever-increasing population of houseless people. Trump.
One could argue that none of these things are within the “range of usual human experience.” Even if you have not been directly impacted by them or do not know anyone who has gotten ill from COVID-19 ― and even if you have a stable income, have never been attacked by police and live in a wealthy community ― witnessing these events in the media over and over can cause what psychologists call indirect, insidious or vicarious trauma. We absorb it simply because there is so much of it in the air.
Perhaps you have noticed signs of trauma playing out in your own life, in your relationships and in your household. Common responses to trauma can include anxiety, short tempers, hyper-vigilance, withdrawal, fatigue, cynicism, lack of empathy and restlessness, among countless others.
And in recent months, I have witnessed all of that come pouring into the streets and manifesting as collective trauma.
I don’t know if I am overreacting, but I feel like in my 39 years on this planet, I have never witnessed a time when things felt so fragmented and polarized, where things are so heated that it feels like society is tearing apart at the seams. Whether it’s protesters getting shot and run over, deadly violence over face masks or the general tragedy that passes for our political system these days, I feel like we are experiencing a collective trauma response.
When trauma is triggered, our neocortex ― the part of our brain that gives us the ability to reason, think through consequences, solve problems and take in and process new information ― becomes disengaged. We begin operating from the less evolved part of our brains: the limbic system (responsible for emotions) and the reptilian complex (responsible for survival instincts).
When trauma is triggered, our lives may not be in actual danger, but our brains don’t know that. Our survival instinct kicks in, and we lose the ability to see nuance and see everything in black and white. Something is either threatening or it’s not. Something is either right or it’s wrong.
When trauma is triggered, we lack the ability to take in new pieces of information, to be creative, consider different perspectives or think about long-term consequences. If our lives are being threatened, there is no time to consider any of that. You simply need to react, to fight or run away so that you can stay alive.
When trauma is triggered, everything feels escalated even if it is not. The brain floods your body with adrenaline and cortisol, leading your muscles to tighten. You begin to feel that the next threat is around every corner. And that sort of hyper-vigilance goes against our natural resiliency.
A Black/white worldview. An inability to see nuance. Struggling to think about long-term strategy. Being unable to consider different pieces of information.
And it’s happening on all sides.
I believe that Trump is an incredibly traumatized individual who has not had any opportunity for real healing. And him acting out of a place of trauma is waking up the trauma of a lot of his followers and supporters.
And in movement spaces, activists are constantly facing militarized police violence and having conversations about historical trauma ― oftentimes in unskillful ways that open up trauma but do not help move through them.
And then we hit the streets, and it’s trauma meeting trauma. And that is not an interaction conducive to healing.
Spaces for nonviolent direct action can be intense, scary and easily trigger a trauma response. And yet, those spaces are critically important right now to push for change. Our responses to violence and injustice have to match the escalation that it is responding to. And we are responding to incredibly escalated forms of harm. Nothing short of a direct confrontation with the systems of power feels appropriate.
So how do we engage in those spaces in a way that is likely to bring about healing? How do we not meet trauma with trauma, panic with panic, fire with fire? How do we build movements that can tactically “shut down” a highway, while leading with a spirit of “opening up” possibilities for healing and transformation?
Racial justice advocate and healer Victor Lee Lewis says that every activist needs to have some understanding of neuroscience and how trauma works in the body. In addition to classic literature on nonviolence strategies such as Gene Sharp’s “The Politics of Nonviolent Action” or Saul Alinsky’s “Rules for Radicals,” we should also be studying books like “My Grandmother’s Hands” by Resmaa Menakem, “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk and “The Politics of Trauma” by Staci Haines.
Names like Peter Levine and Brené Brown should be as commonly spoken in organizing circles as Grace Lee Boggs or Leonard Peltier.
This nation is undergoing a collective trauma response. Trauma, whether it is manifesting in one individual or in a collective, will exhibit the same characteristics, and will require similar strategies to heal. The more we can understand the dynamics of trauma, the better position we will be in to help us move through it.
Move through trauma
Preparing our communities for nonviolent action should not only consist of the traditional “nonviolence” training methodologies ― blockades, medic training, legal observation, etc. It should also include learning emotional regulation tools in the short term, and a long-term commitment for each of us to learn about our own triggers and heal from our own wounds.
Gandhi spoke of the importance of “self-purification” as part of the spiritual preparation for a satyagrahi ― a nonviolent warrior. The language of “trauma healing” did not exist in his time, but part of our emotional and spiritual preparation as we get ready to face potentially traumatic events (getting tear gassed, pepper sprayed, assaulted and arrested) should be to have some awareness of how much unprocessed pain, grief or resentment we are holding, and releasing enough of it so that we are heading into the streets with spaciousness in our hearts.
Emotions like grief and rage are not only natural, but critical for us to honor and embody. And yet, I can’t help but feel that direct action ― with the yelling, the tear gas, the public and fast-paced nature of these spaces ― is not the most productive or safe space for us to be releasing unprocessed grief and rage.
Instead, we need to be creating more safe containers, held by experienced facilitators, that are explicitly designed for the purpose of tending to our grief and our rage. Once we have processed them and moved through them, the raging inferno of emotions can settle into a piece of charcoal: sustained, concentrated energy that is easier for us to utilize in skillful ways.
This is in no way to cast judgement on the outpouring of grief and rage in the streets. Particularly for marginalized communities, each instance of injustice can recall generations of violence for which the state that perpetuated them has never been accountable.
This in only an invitation for us to think hard about the right spaces to do the right work. Not every space can be everything for everyone in every moment. Direct action should be a place where we are inviting society to look at its trauma, not a place where we should feel safe processing our own pains.
Of course, moving through and processing our trauma is long-term work. In the meantime, nonviolence trainings should also emphasize short-term emotional regulation tools, like learning to bring awareness to our triggers, breathing or titration exercises or collective activities like singing. These practices can help us reengage our neocortex in a heated moment.
Shutting it down vs. opening it up
Finally, we need to be intentional about the purpose of our actions. Is it to simply overpower the “other side” and force change down their throats, or is our long-term goal to bring about social healing, transformation and liberation for all?
Are we simply trying to “shut shit down,” or are we trying to open up this nation’s wounds and clean out the infections of white supremacy, patriarchy, capitalism and other forms of separation and domination so that we can all heal?
If it is the latter, then let us be mindful of what kinds of actions may lead to healing. How do we balance the power and assertiveness that we so desperately need in these times, and maintain a commitment to the love and relationships that will bring about healing?
While I certainly do not have all of the answers, I oftentimes think about the power of silent marches, meditation blockades, or actions of spiritual atonement like the Reparations Procession that is currently making its daily walks through the East Bay.
When I was at Standing Rock, the elders told us, as we were preparing to go to town to engage in a direct action, “Remember, you are going to a ceremony.” What kind of creative actions could we think up if we viewed direct action as ceremony, or a modality of healing collective trauma? What possibilities could be opened up then?
In order for us to have that level of creativity, we cannot be in our trauma state. Trauma is not conducive to creative thinking. Which brings us to another paradox of these times ― how do we slow down enough so that we can fully utilize our neocortex and listen to our hearts while addressing the real urgency and opportunity of this moment?
I suppose it can start with something as simple as a breath. As the Rev. René August once said, “The struggle for justice is a marathon, not a sprint. The difference between a marathon and a sprint is in how you breath. Learn to breath.”