An occasional blog, Practicing Praxis by Lisa Albrecht (formerly a Warrior of the Human Spirit)

June 6th, 2020

Rage and Grief in Minneapolis: Another Black Man killed by a white Cop

it is a time of intense rage in Minneapolis. Four white police officers (two of whom had had a documented history of inappropriate use of force) killed Mr. George Floyd, an African American man who was shopping at a local corner grocery store. A cashier thought he was using counterfeit bills to buy something, and store policy dictated calling police. There is no video footage of anything that happened prior to police showing up. That’s when a bystander started filming as Mr. Floyd was pinned down by a police officer’s knee pressing his face into the concrete street outside the store.

When i moved to Minneapolis over 35 years ago, i rented an apartment with my former partner, Bev. (An aside…Thanks for coining the phrase, “happy hermit birthday.” I use it to wish happy b-day to my facebook friends). The apartment where we lived is just 3 blocks from where all this violence happened in South Minneapolis. I don’t live in that neighborhood anymore, but I know it well. Friendly folks from many places around the globe and the U.S. I liked living there. Young, old, in-between people. Many languages, many varied backgrounds. I felt safe most all the time. There were occasions where as a white woman alone at night, I became hyper-aware of my surroundings. I never feared for my life.

Now, these streets have been packed with demonstrators. This is all about collapse yet again. See below when I talk about my past involvement with Warriors for the Human Spirit. People on the streets are full of rage…for nearly 2 months, we’ve all been living in a world of masks and social distancing staying at home…you know the drill. Many of us have lost our jobs, and miss life before the virus. My direct perceptions (obviously I have plenty of bias) tell me that there’s been lots of rain and the green of this land is lush and overwhelmingly present. I miss gardening and getting my hands in the soil, but next year, i’ll garden again. Counter-pose green land next to grey tight urban space next to rageful people…THIS IS VERY HARD.

There are street scenes where there have been tear gas, flash bottles thrown, buildings on fire, people screaming, and media manipulation of what has occurred. The news junkies are coming out of their corona stupor. It’s like when Jamar Clark was killed by a cop here. (Look it up if you want to hear that story but know that it was a time of rebellion…four years ago. The emergence of the National Black Lives Matter movement, leadership locally from African American lesbians, tents pitched outside the police precinct near where Jamar died, food donated, blankets donated, white folks not front and center for once. Us white folks started to really understand what happens when predominantly white organizations start like SURJ: Showing Up for Racial Justice (see www.surj.org nationally to learn how to support communities of color and how to work effectively as white people challenging white supremacy…and also see www/SURJMN.org, our local chapter.)

I can’t breathe” is a familiar refrain from NYC that is similar to what is happening here.

The stories are way too similar…white police officers with knee jerk responses to men of color. Women of color of various backgrounds caught in the loop as well. With “lockdown,’ add in the possibility of domestic violence to the mix. And of course, we live in segregated neighborhoods.

So where does this leave us? For three years, I have been a Warrior for the Human Spirit, Our vow:

“I cannot change the way the world is

but by opening to the world as it is

I may discover that

Gentleness, Decency, and Bravery are available

Not only to myself but to all human beings.”

I no longer am involved with Warriors, but its influence has been profound on me. You can read Meg Wheatley’s Who Do You Choose to Be?: Facing Reality/Claiming Leadership/Restoring Sanity. By the way, Meg is a Buddhist. That doesn’t mean you have to become a Buddhist to understand Warriors for the Human Spirit. My story is rooted in Judaism, but I’m not becoming a “Jew-Bu;” The identities I’ve created and my stories…bring together many of my identities.

Since the start of this pandemic, I’ve made many changes. Moved, downsized, practiced serving people in my life as they have needed. I was on a waitlist for almost a year for Becketwood Senior Cooperative living community. On short notice, I got offered a one bedroom/one bathroom under 1,000 square feet and had to go into overdrive to pull off the move. It’s been a challenging — downsizing, getting a storage locker, donating books, selling lots of stuff. Practicing “Gentleness, Decency, Bravery.” Watched a beloved live with end-stage Alzheimer’s in hospice. For the three years of my involvement,Warriors for the Human Spirit and its community have helped me survive. I also Hang out with my kitties and adore their presence and love. No non-stop zoom meetings. No filling up days with people. Lots of reading and watching old movies (especially oldies in black and white). Little TV news coverage. Too many lies.

Before collapse (aka “BC” on my calendar), life felt normal, whatever that is. Now I parse my days by remembering that restaurant, or this street, or such and such a neighborhood—all BC.

I thought…use this pandemic and write, write, write! I have this lovely website created by Hayden Bui…https://lisaalbrechtsocialjustice.com, but I have not written my ass off. This blog is the first I’ve written in over two months. Shut down! I’ve been tested for the virus because I was hospitalized briefly, diagnosed with an ulcer in my esophagus and also sick with a UTI (urinary Tract infection). My health has been up and down. Not enough exercise, no swimming (my drug of choice), continued weight loss after having bariatric surgery almost two years ago, plus struggles to find food that my ulcer can handle.

Somehow, I managed some travel BC (before covid): a retreat with Warriors in Zion National Park; a drive to say goodbye to a beloved friend, Diane Finnerty, dying from cancer in Iowa; a cross-country Amtrak sleeper car train ride to Portland, Oregon to a conference (and seeing a dear friend); a drive to Iowa to do Tai Chi with Dr. Paul Lam, who teaches Tai Chi for people who cannot stand and balance due to various disabilities (I have this struggle); plus a planned trip where I put away funds for a year for an Olivia Travel trip to Puerto Vallarta in Mexico with 800+ fabulous lesbians (pre-virus).

Swam in the ocean in Mexico, did water aerobics in Mexico poolside, and ate great food; In learning about Buddhism, I’ve studied some amazing books… not sure how to create links on this blog, so I’ve written all the titles below…

Shambhala: The Sacred Path, by Chogyam Trungpa, and reading lots of Pema Chodron, Comfortable with Uncertainty: 108 Teachings on cultivating fearlessness and compassion, and Welcoming the Uncertain: Wholehearted Living in a Brokenhearted World, and Living Beautifully with Uncertainty and Change. Also studying Kabbalah, (Jewish mysticism). Rabbi Rami Shapiro’s The Sacred Art of Lovingkindness: Preparing to Practice, and my favorite – Kabbalah for Dummies by Arthur Kurzweil. To help me understand Buddhism as a Jew, I loved Einstein and the Rabbi: Searching for the Soul by Rabbi Naomi Levy. Toss in She Who Dwells Within: A Feminist Vision of a Renewed Judaism, by Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb, and Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning, plus Meg Wheatley’s Perseverance.

And I decided to take up the Ukele! My friend of 40 years, BG Goldberg who was on the Olivia Mexico trip turned me on to her Ukele musicianship. She plays with an all women’s group in Portland, Oregon. I’m beginning some on-line lessons in Minneapolis. Why not? Playing music keeps your brain moving in ways that are not about reading books. I did percussion in a women’s Klezmer band, and as a kid briefly played accordian and guitar.

As part of the Warriors program, I’ve practiced QiGong and T’ai Chi, doing some (but not enough) body movement work.

This blog started as a short entry about Warriors for the Human Spirit to describe the rage in Minneapolis. But now what was initially going to be a short description of what’s going on here has become a blog for Practicing Praxis. Long time coming. Stay safe, my beloveds!

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