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Black Lives Matter

Yogis,

Today I had an email scheduled to go out to you about the start of Pride month. I’ll send that later in the week. There is something more urgent I want to dialog with you about. 

Last night in my neighborhood protestors clashed with police. I’m sure you’ve heard by now that tear gas was fired by the police, which included them gassing empty side streets.

This neighborhood of West Philadelphia has a long history of organizing for black liberation. I am always surprised when I meet Philadelphians who don’t know the history of the MOVE bombing in 1985 (but then I temper that surprise, as I know the history we are taught is highly curated by those in power). Please read up on the bombing here, in which the police killed eleven people, including five children. 

As a white woman living in this historically black neighborhood, I know that I am a gentrifying force. I acknowledge that I benefit from systemic racism, and that I move through the world with a great degree of privilege, and that this privilege is often invisible to me. 

Acknowledging privilege, racism and white supremacy is uncomfortable but necessary for us to create a more just world. And just like yoga, what was initially uncomfortable gets easier with dedication and repetition. 

I owe a great degree to those in my life who were patient with me and helped me awaken to my own internalized racism. I pledge to be unflinchingly dedicated to the work of dismantling these biases. I am not finished with this- it is work to engage in over a lifetime. To all of the white folks who are part of the Maha community, I have compiled the below list of resources for us all.

I urge you to dig into these resources, and see them as just a beginning. 
[Quick side note on the terms ‘racism’ and ‘racist’ – I am not calling anyone a racist and implying that you or we believe explicitly in white supremacy. Racism is not only pointy KKK hats. It’s implicit bias, government systems like redlining and the prison industrial complex, and segregated schools.]
Here’s the truth: when we are no longer personally offended by those terms (racist, racism), we can get past our defensiveness and actually do better. After all, how could we live in this society and not have these forces inside us? Acknowledge racism, commit to anti-racism, and show up to do this work. 

I love you all, and I’m here for this conversation. Reply to this email (goes directly to my inbox) with any feedback or questions. Truly anything, even confusion or counterpoints. We’re in this, together. 

Love,

Justicia

Here is a start:

Skill in Action by Michelle Johnson. This book explores liberation for ourselves and others, while asking us to engage in our own agency, whether that manifests as activism, volunteer work, or changing our relationships with others and ourselves. Written by a yogi for yogis. 

Why you need to stop saying, ‘All Lives Matter’ – of course all lives matter and of course they are all valuable. This is necessary reading from Rachel Cargle (follow her on Instagram!), who eloquently explains why when we counter the necessary ‘Black Lives Matter’ with ‘All Lives Matter’ we create harm. 

Another great resource on how to counter common arguments to Black Lives Matter. Thanks to Francesca Ramsey for breaking down these common counter points, and how to have a productive discussion. 
White Fragility by Robin DeAngelo. This book helped me understand the common ways well-meaning white people shut down when attempting to discuss race. By understanding these tendencies, I’m able to have more productive discussions with my white friends and family about how we can do better. 

75 Things White People Can do for Racial Justice – This article has so many doable action steps, including calling your local police department to learn about body cams and de-escalation training, where to donate time and money, and many books to read. 

This is an important, sobering reminder of the brutal history of violence against black people compiled by Michael Harriot, and how our entire society has been built upon their suffering and exploitation. Please read through this a few times. I recommend reading it, taking a few deep breaths, and then reading it again 

Did you know a big component of establishing the modern American police force was to catch enslaved people who attempted to escape? That certainly contextualizes the ongoing police violence against black bodies. 
I listened to this podcast last year that dug into the murder of Reverend James Reeb in Selma, Alabama in 1965 and recommend it highly. It’s staggering how relevant it feels to what is unfolding around us today. 

What other resources are important to you? Please share!