We drove from LA up to Oakland today for the CR 10 Conference (Strategy and Struggle to End the Prison Industrial Complex) and got in this afternoon. As much as I wanted to attend the open plenary, I needed space from crowds of people tonight, needed time to reflect on last night's discussion (and still need more time to think about before writing anything).
So I spent the night walking around Oakland's Lake Merritt, where I lived when I first moved to the Bay years ago (and which is about a mile-and-a-half from the old Bitch office, for anyone interested). I loved and miss living in Oakland. I always feel grounded and comforted by the vibe of class struggle and resistance that remains today.
As my friends and I were walking around the Lake, we saw what looked like one of those shiny new bank buildings -- mirrored and arched and... well, very fancy. Curious, and we all swore it was calling to us, we walked over to find it's a church. The Cathedral of Christ the Light. On the inside it looks a lot like the Evangelical churches I've been in as a child with my dad's relatives. Where people spoke "in tongues" and collapsed in convulsions and sobbing breakdowns.
On the outside, it looks like this.
We saw a flyer for the church's schedule and noticed they had services in English, Vietnamese, Tagalog, and Spanish and I was thinking to myself how effective churches can be at reaching out to their surrounding communities. And I was wondering to myself how in the world a church could convince people it needs a space like this.
Sorry. I realize it looks like I'm setting up for a big Oakland church story here. I'm not. It was just that religion has come up in dialogues of feminisms I've been involved in recently, and it was jarring to see such a blaring example of it.
Some of the dialogues about feminism and religion have revolved around a clearly articulated tension between, for instance, people who feel that religion is a root of our social ills and and others who feel familially/culturally attached to religion, even if they no longer pratice it. Some of the dialogue has centered on whether it's possible to build a social change movement based on a common vision while learning from and honoring religious/cultural differences -- and if so, how.
And then things like, How do we build a movement when what one person finds empowering another finds disempowering? How do we begin to dialogue with each other and unpack the layers of our identities, experiences, oppressions, and scars and help ourselves and each other heal? How do we hold ourselves and each other accountable? How do we be honest and open and risk making mistakes when it sometimes feels that people are ready to jump on us for the slightest mistake? When is it time to move dialogue to action?
So many questions.
For now I'm happy to be back in my old Oakland home. Tired but happy to be in dialogue about some of these issues, to be learning and listening, to be collaborating with others about vision, strategy, healing, hope, fighting, listening, learning, connecting our various struggles and victories...