Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Move towards the centers of people's lives...
(Barack Obama on community organizing)...

I'm thinking of my recent FWN experience and the witnessing of how Fil Am women can organize for a common goal: the recognition of the "100 most influential Filipina women in the US" and the future of goal of returning in 2012 and confer on the results of "womantoring" between the influential Filipina and her protege. I was told that this award is a working award and there is expectation of results in five years.

I quote Obama above because my attendance at FWN can probably be summed up as a challenge to me to "move into the center of people's lives." To really learn to listen -- to strangers, to people on the other side of my ideological position, to women who are hurting, to women who need to tell stories but have no available containers that can hold their stories as sacred. To listen to women with vision.

There were many tears shed at the summit. As woman after woman talked about their journeys of struggle and success, many of them showed their vulnerable selves and their spiritual selves. I thought about how deeply spiritual many of them are even though this spirituality was spoken in various languages -- christianity, zen, even the "the secret," and political language.

Throughout the summit, I became aware that my "academic" and "community" hats would come on and off depending on how keenly I was paying attention to my inner urges. Are you going to connect with other women or are you going to analyze and critique? Are you going to be part of the solution or are you going to be the problem? What do you see? What do you want to see?

Reading now Obama's reflections about his early community organizing days, something resonates with me. I have always felt isolated from the larger Fil Am community in the Bay Area. It's just an accident of geography, really, but it has many consequences. One of them is this feeling of not being physically connected to community. The FWN days, just like the days of this past summer of listening to stories, I, like Obama, realize that:

...these stories taken together, had helped me bind my world together, that they gave me a sense of place and purpose I've been looking for. There was always community there if you dug deep enough. ...There was poetry as well - a luminous world always present beneath the surface, a world that people might offer up as a gift to me, if I only remembered to ask...(190).

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