“Wherever I go, thou art my companion.
Having taken me by the hand thou moves me.
I go alone depending solidly on thee.
Thou bearest too my burdens.
If I am likely to say anything foolish, thou makest it right.
Thou hast removed my bashfulness and madest me self-confident.
O Lord, all the people have become my guards, relatives and bosom friends.
Tuka says, I now conduct myself without any care.
I have attained divine peace within and without.”
—Book of Prayers, M. K. Gandhi
“All things in creation and manifestation, even all things in existence, are held together by Ishk. This is Divine Love. It is difficult to express it in such a limited way, but we know that sunlight contains electricity, magnetism and numerous other forces or aspects of cosmic force.”
—From Spiritual Brotherhood, Samuel Lewis
“Gravitation, light, attraction, adhesion, and cohesion are all aspects of this Divine Love in the physical world. But even these aspects extend far into the unseen, and it cannot be said that Divine Love is limited or qualified by its mental aspects and characteristics…Behind all mysteries, behind all activity and behind all life is Love or Agape or Karuna which holds all things and persons together, which creates the beauty and harmony of this cosmos.”
“I desire you
more than food
hunger for your taste
I can sense your presence
in my heart
although belong to all the world
with silent passion
for one gesture
from you. ”
—Rumi, The Love Poems of Rumi
“In your light I learn how to love.
In your beauty, how to make poems.
You dance inside my chest,
where no one sees you,
but sometimes I do, and that
sight becomes this art.”
—-The words of Rumi
“Love is the greatest component of life. It unifies everything. It attracts and draws to us all that is good. Through love we become more aware and responsive to the needs of humanity. We see the oneness, commonality, and the spark of God in each person. We can begin with our family, friends, and coworkers. We can love them even if we think they have done something wrong. We can be there for them, with compassion, kindness, gentleness and acceptance. That is how we demonstrate our human love.”
—James Van Praagh
Sometimes it is best to let the speaker have their own time. There is nothing I can say that this courageous young lady doesn’t say better. We are raising up many brave voices and I hope and pray that the world will listen to them.
And bless this girl with protection, hutzpuh, and love. May her life be a shining light.
My youngest grandson is 5 years old, and in pre-school. He has lived his entire life in conservative areas, first in Arkansas, now in Oklahoma. I talked to his mother today, and she told me that when he came home from school today, the following conversation took place:
“Mom, Mr. Obama is our President, did you know that?”
“Yes, honey, I did know that. Did you know that he’s our First President of Color?”
“No, mommy! He’s not the First President! And he’s not the President for Color, he’s the President of All of Us!”
A 5-year-old can get that, but Congress, or at least many Republicans, apparently can’t.
Obama is the first President of Color, but to the youngest generation, that doesn’t matter. What matters is: He’s President of America. Period.
Color is irrelevant, at my grandson’s age, because at 5, he has not been taught to hate people who…
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I am writing today to share something that many of you who have followed me here at WordPress have heard me say before. We are not born racist. We are born completely loving and accepting of goodness. We are born not seeing each other differently but as a version of ourselves. We are not racist at birth. What happens? Well, we are taught by others, by adults to be racist. We are taught to care what color we are and what color others are. We are taught that color has value. Some colors are more important than others.
Being a painter as well as a photographer, color is important to me. The color of a flower, a bird, a tree, the color of sand at the beach, the color of the majestic mountains which scrape the sky. When I am painting, I often mix two or perhaps three colors to create the perfect color for what I am painting in the world. One color is not needed more than others. Some colors are needed in just a little dab. Sometimes you wash a little color over what you have already painted to enhance the color. It doesn’t really change it. It deepens or accentuates the color. Every color on my palate is just as important to me as the next one. Yes, they are different, but each has equal value to the heart and to this beautiful Universe.
I included the Iris below because it is an unusual color. I raised it and photographed it. It not a common color for an iris, but it is a pretty color. And the photograph is my gift to you. I can’t really give you a gift but this is as close as I can come. Please accept it in the spirit in which it is given.
I am also writing this blog in memory of every human being, adult or child, who has suffered in any way or has been killed because of the color of their skin. I am writing for every grief stricken parent who will never be able to fill the hole within themselves. I am writing for every sibling left behind because their sister or brother is dead because of the color of their skin. I am writing for every lost sibling who will never laugh together over a private joke. I write today for everyone who is different in some manner and is afraid that one day someone will kill them for their differences.
I am writing this today for a young man. A young man who worked for me along time ago. He was a hard worker, he had a good sense of humor, he had a good and loving heart. He offered someone a ride home one evening and the person slit his throat because he was different. He bled out all alone. I am sure he was afraid, and wondering why? Why? Why?
Because he was different and this person hated him for being different. Labels were applied by the stranger who killed him and so he slowly bled out behind the wheel of his car alone. Alone and gone too soon.
“Immature grapes are made by the breath of the Master.
Then the sourness of duality, hate, and strife disappears,
and they are peeled of their skins to become one in the wine.”
I was having a really interesting conversation with a friend yesterday, and my friend, who has never been to any of my houses up north, where I had room for gardens, asked me if I have a green thumb.
I decided that, rather than just answering, “yes, I do”, I would post some pictures of gardens and flowers that I loved so much. It is one of the very few things I miss now that I moved to the South, because I no longer have room for gardens.
I hope you enjoy them, and perhaps even become inspired to add your own gardens.
Traditionally women have been seen as and forced to be second class citizens. All throughout written history, they have been expected to obey their husbands, accept any and all violence. They have been supposed to tolerate adultery. They have been made to feed their families with little or no help from their man. Marriage was a business arrangement to solidify relations between countries, as a mediation between warring clans or families. Marriage also used to require a bride price. Marry my daughter and I will give you 10 horses, 12 goats, and 6 bracelets of silver. We like to think times have changed but women continue to cook, clean, have babies and never speak about anything important.
Violence is happening around the world to men, women and children, but the women and children carry the brunt of the scars of the violence. Women may not look strong, but millions are strong. This is the story of such women and what they chose to do when violence drove them from their villages.
To the bravery and strength of every woman who surmounts her poverty, illiteracy, and homelessness and carves out for herself and her children a better life: I say you are heroines. Be proud of yourselves and children be proud of your Moms. Their strength keeps you all alive. Their bravery has shown the people of Colombia that women and children do matter. It shows that violence does not always win.
Displaced by violence, Colombian women build their own city
Some 6 million Colombians, more than half of them women, have been forced out of their homes due to a decades-long conflict between leftist guerrilla groups and parliamentary forces. On a plot of land outside the municipality of Turbaco, a group of displaced women have convened to build themselves a new home. They call themselves “The League of Displaced Women,” and their village the “City of Women.”
According to a feature in The Guardian, the idea for a female-fronted village was first conceived by displaced women living in El Pozón, an impoverished neighborhood of Cartagena. “We realized we had so many things in common that were affecting us,” said Yajaira Mejía, whose husband was murdered in 2001. “We were in a critically vulnerable state.” With the help of Patricia Guerrero, a lawyer from Bogotá, the women lobbied government agencies and eventually were granted enough money to buy land on the outskirts of Turbaco. The League of Displaced Women trained in construction, and began building houses. There are now 102 homes in the City of Women.
The League’s path to independence has not been easy. Because they were labeled as leftist guerillas, they have been susceptible to violence by right wing forces. Unidentified men once set fire to the City of Women’s communal hall, and the daughter of a founding League member was murdered. The partner of another League member was killed and dismembered.
But the women have not been deterred from their mission to empower female victims of internecine violence. The League has submitted a complaint with the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, claiming that the Colombian government failed to protect them from gender-based violence. And Patricia Guerrero, who is now the director of the League, has been pressing the government to expand the City of Women. “We built 100 houses,” she told The Guardian. “The government should build 100 more for other members of the organization.”
Colombia’s City of Women: a haven from violence
Women who had lost everything to conflict came together in their struggle for survival, learning the skills to build a neighbourhood of 102 homes
Wednesday 20 April 2016 06.01 EDT
As with most Colombian cities, the roads of the busy northern town of Turbaco are laid out in a grid of numbered streets and avenues. But in one particular neighbourhood the main thoroughfare has a special name: Street of the Women Warriors.
The designation is a fitting tribute to the indomitable spirit of the women – all victims of Colombia’s decades-long internal conflict – who came together, organised themselves and built the neighbourhood of 102 homes with their own hands.
The community, known as the City of Women, has been an experiment in empowering women who had lost everything to the country’s rampant violence. It could prove a model for the future as Colombia prepares to sign a peace deal with leftist rebels of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc), who have been fighting the state for more than 50 years.
The idea for the City of Women was born in El Pozón, a poor, crowded and impoverished neighbourhood of Cartagena, far from the stunning colonial architecture that draws tourists from around the world. The city’s marginal neighbourhoods instead attract hundreds of thousands of people forcibly displaced from other areas of the country.
Nationally, more than 6 million Colombians have been forced from their homes since 1985, when records began. More than half of those displaced are women, many of whom were widowed by the war and face raising their children alone.
Yajaira Mejía, 45, was forced from her home twice. First, in 1998, she and her family fled the town of Plato, Magdalena, for Valledupar when one of her brothers-in-law was killed and another disappeared. Then, in 2001, her husband – who sold fruit and vegetables on Valledupar’s streets – was shot dead.
By the time Mejía arrived in El Pozón with her two small children, joining thousands of other displaced people, women there had already started organising. They would meet in the yards of their homes, precariously built from plastic tarp.
They were victims of the warring factions, including leftist guerrilla groups, rightwing paramilitary armies and even government forces. But what brought them together was their new struggle to survive.
“We realised we had so many things in common that were affecting us,” says Mejía. “We were in a critically vulnerable state.”
Patricia Guerrero, a lawyer from the Colombian capital Bogotá, encouraged and guided them. They called themselves the League of Displaced Women.
“She told us about our rights and helped us identify our needs,” says Mejía, noting that most of the women were unaware that as victims of the conflict they were entitled to aid and support from the government.
“Patricia made us realise that we needed to demand our rights, not ask for handouts,” she says.
They were labelled leftist guerrillas, which put them at risk of retaliation by rightwing paramilitary militias that had a strong and growing presence in the area. When one member of the group was raped, the league took it as a warning for all of them.
Still, they continued meeting, organising, planning.
One of the most pressing needs for the women was safe and stable housing for them and their families. After years of lobbying and knocking on the doors of aid agencies and government offices, they secured enough money through grants and subsidies to buy land on the outskirts of Turbaco.
The women trained in construction, and set out to build their own homes.
“We wanted to do it ourselves, to make these houses really ours,” says Deyanira Reyes, 48, another member of the league who lives in the City of Women.
In the darkest days of her displacement, when she lived in a squatter village, Reyes had a recurrent dream of walking up to a house and opening the door with a key. “It wasn’t a mansion, but it was my home,” she says.
Her dream became reality in 2006 when the league completed the 102 houses comprising the City of Women, each 78 sq m with a combined living/dining room, a kitchen, two bedrooms, a small backyard and a front porch.
Things didn’t always go smoothly, Mejía and Reyes recall. In 2004, the partner of one woman disappeared. He was a security guard at the breezeblock factory run by the league.
When his dismembered body was found several days later, construction work was halted and several women decided to pull out from the project.
“We panicked,” says Mejía. “We were afraid to go out on to the streets.”
But the man’s widow begged the women to continue. “She gave us the strength to carry on,” says Reyes.
In 2006, unidentified men set fire to the thatched roof of the communal hall where the women held their meetings. They rebuilt it.
And in 2011 the adult daughter of one of the founding women of the league, who was living in the city, was murdered.
“We make some people angry with our persistence,” says Mejía.
Guerrero, the director of the league, says she is now pressing the government to build more homes. “We built 100 houses – the government should build 100 more for other members of the organisation,” she says.
But the league is not just about building homes. It is also about creating female leaders.
Throughout the process of discovering and demanding their rights, the women have become more confident. “When we started off, these women couldn’t look a mayor in the eye. Now they’re not afraid of anything,” she says.
Guerrero is turning her attention to demanding justice and reparations for the crimes committed against the women and against the league as an organisation.
Not one of the 144 individual cases of crimes against the women, which include murder, rape and forced disappearances, has been resolved. No one has been held to account.
The same is true for the crimes against the organisation.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is studying the admissibility of a complaint the league brought against the Colombian government for a failure to provide access to justice and prevent gender-based violence.
This comes as the government is preparing itself for a post-conflict scenario if a final peace deal is signed with the Farc, which could happen soon.
A study of the league’s experience by the University of Los Andes in Bogotá recommended that the group’s work be studied and replicated by other organisations.
“In particular we would like to underscore the surprising combination of concrete projects to relieve poverty with strategies of long and short-term legal challenges and lobbying efforts on both a national and international level,” the study’s authors wrote.
As a successful organisation, the League of Displaced Women is preparing the next generation to continue to fight for women’s rights.
“Boys and girls who are growing up in the City of Women suckled the breasts of women becoming aware of their rights, demanding them. They have grown up with it,” says Guerrero.
“And they will continue our fight.”
Let us all help them continue the fight, the work, the sacrifices. Let us lift up our voices and declare that all violence must stop in this world. Let us support all of their brave efforts.