Saturday, January 28, 2023

Gun Violence, Trauma, and Wholeness

        While I was working at Peace Bridges in Cambodia, my friend and colleague Mony once explained how terrifying it was to live through the civil war. One description particularly stuck in my heart: it was cheaper to buy bullets than rice. 

I spent a very busy weekend last week welcoming the Lunar New Year with my Buddhist community. It was a great joy. We chanted and meditated, packed emergency meal kits for a local shelter, drank tea, shared delicious meals, sang karaoke, gave and received new year dollars and oranges and red envelopes, bowed in gratitude, took group photos, cleaned up after ourselves (more than once!), and generally celebrated the joy of sharing life together. I felt at home and safe. And yet, in the back of my mind, I was aware of the grieving communities in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay, California. Then, on Monday, two high school students were shot and killed at a charter school in Des Moines, Iowa in an apparent feud between rival gangs. Three days, three shootings, three settings: community dance center, workplace, and school. As Stephen Collinson observed on Tuesday, “Everyday life is a soft target. Anywhere can become the venue for the next preventable tragedy.”

Saturday, January 21, 2023

Claiming Space, Disrupting Structures: Communities of Resistance & Social Determinants of Health

        The tragedy was set in motion in August, 2020, but, like probably many of you, I didn’t learn the story until last week. That was when the family of Larry Eugene Price, Jr. filed a civil rights and wrongful death lawsuit after he died in solitary confinement in 2021 in an Arkansas jail. The 2020 arrest wasn’t the first time Larry had encountered the police. After all, he was a Black man with multiple mental health issues who was often homeless. As Newsweek reported, “Price’s hometown police knew him well,” “mostly for criminal mischief, squatting in buildings, disorderly conduct and for wellbeing checks when he, for example, would hurt himself.” But when Larry wandered into the Fort Smith police station on August 19, 2020, and pointed his finger like a gun, “threatening and cursing,” police “arrested him on a state felony – terroristic threatening in the first degree.” 

Monday, January 16, 2023

“Thinly Veiled Attempts” – Thinking about CRT and MLK

        On January 10, newly inaugurated Arkansas governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders signed seven executive orders. One of these banned teaching critical race theory in Arkansas schools, continuing a trend we’ve consistently seen over the last two years. EducationWeek has documented that:

“42 states have introduced bills or taken other steps that would restrict teaching critical race theory or limit how teachers can discuss racism and sexism, according to an Education Week analysis. Eighteen states have imposed these bans and restrictions either through legislation or other avenues.”