From Black Women’s Lives Matter to the Solidarity Economy as Social Innovation: Graduating Student Presentations

The August residency for the Goddard Graduate Institute featured a rich expanse of workshops from our graduating students. Congratulations to them all, and here’s what they presented:

Robin after graduation with her family.

Robin after graduation with her family.

Black Women’s Lives Matter: A Narrative, Womanist Approach to Self-Care, with HAS graduating student Robin D. Stone. Part consciousness-raising, part confessional, my study uses narrative techniques to help Black women embrace self-care through engaging with the stories of their bodies. It is anchored by and expands womanist and Black feminist theories by elevating Black women’s experiences and perspectives and by linking their health with the ability to effect social change. My study’s centerpiece is a video series of deeply reflective interviews with 17 Black women (including myself) revealing evocative experiences tied to family, identity, sexuality, and belonging that influence body consciousness, eating, exercise and response to stressors. I will screen the video and briefly discuss producing the work and some of the disciplines from which it draws. I intend to use the video and a companion writing workshop to create a space for Black women – storytellers and story witnesses alike – to consider their health in the context of the curves they love, the foods and traditions at the heart of their families, the stressors they face, and changes they can make toward individual and collective healing.

Casualties of Civilization: Indian Removal and the Construction of Moder1262933_567102583351738_1677540989_on American Identity, with IMA graduating student David White. Why do we believe the things about ourselves and Others to be true? What does it mean to be an American and how do our various understandings of American history shape the ways that we perceive ourselves in relation to Others? This presentation analyzes a number of the racial and gender constructions that emerged during the 19th century as white Americans navigated unprecedented social and cultural upheaval. By exploring the ways in which white Americans portrayed Native peoples and appropriated “Indianness” throughout the century, this work aims to provide insight into one of the ways that the American identity was established and has been upheld well into the present day.

Leading the graduates to Commencement, Susan Sakash on trompone followed by Kate Miller (left) and Karen Faraca (right).

Leading the graduates to Commencement, Susan Sakash on trompone followed by Kate Miller (left) and Karen Faraca (right).

Embodied Addiction Recovery: Intuitive Recovery of the Sacred Authentic Self, with HAS graduating student Karen Faraca. Addiction is a common experience today. Chances are that we all know someone who has been affected by addiction to alcohol, opiates or other drugs, food binging or restricting, shopping, relationships, etc. Predominate cultural perspectives pathologize addiction as a physical, cognitive, spiritual or moral disease, which has led to a general societal disdain towards addicts and addiction recovery. What if addiction was perceived as a state of healing? What if addiction was merely the manifestation of authentic needs being satisfied by inauthentic means; misguided efforts driven by our innate drive to sustain a balance within the dynamic creative tension of body, mind, spirit and the sacred earth? Embodied Addiction Recovery is an independent journey, one of self-exploration (self-Recovery) through perceptions of the sentient body and innate wisdom arising from the sacred reciprocal nature of all living beings, which I understand as intuition. My personal journey is offered in testament to the power of Embodied Addiction Recovery, the reintegration of felt experiences to intuitively reclaim the sacred authentic self.

Healthy Schools: An Insider’s View about the Reality of the Systemic Failings of our Current System, with HAS graduating student Lorie Grant. This presentation is to educate stakeholders on the challenges that exist within the current school structure that make it difficult to make positive healthy sustainable changes that are needed to help improve the health of our future generation.

Incarnate Words: Writing from the Body, with IMA graduating student Kate Lidfors Miller. My presentation is an informal talk about how I came to this project and my investigations into embodiment studies as a path to writing from a place of deep connection with one’s body and the natural world.  I’ll offer my thoughts on what “embodied writing” is and why it can be transformative.  I will provide a few examples of “incarnate words” by other writers and read some selections from my own work.  I look forward to questions and discussion, and if time permits, I’ll lead a brief writing exercise for those who’d like to join in.

The Solidarity Economy as Social Innovation, with SBC graduating student Susan Sakash. This presentation will unpack heady concepts like “the solidarity economy framework” and “economic democracy” by grounding them in our individual/collective vision of what a more just and ethical economy looks and feels like. With research based largely in New Orleans, I locate examples of the solidarity economy occurring within the city’s local food system, and how these reflect what I call community-envisioned and enacted social innovation in action. My hope is to start a conversation about how to strengthen, and what stands in the way of, the efforts of activists, social innovators, and community economic developers who are working to build true community wealth.

At graduation

At graduation

Timeblind, with IMA graduating student Linda Clow Lawton. What I learned about procrastination, self esteem and shamanic healing while trying my best to “trust the process”.  Calling upon the work of Antonio Damasio, Charles Kahneman, Tim Wilson and Russell Barkley to validate a novel approach to educational therapy for adults with ADHD, the composition of my thesis gave me an opportunity to do action research on my own methodology.  I’ll share some techniques that worked and some discoveries that allowed me to claim the authority of my intellect (quoting F.X. Charet) at last.

Posted in African-American Studies, Consciousness Studies/Transpersonal Psychology, Creative Writing, Deep Ecology & Bioregionalism, Economics, Embodiment Studies & Body Image, Environmental, Sustainability & Place Studies, Feminism, Women's & Gender Studies, Health Arts and Sciences, History & Political Science, Multiculturalism & Diversity Studies, Nutrition, Transformative Language Arts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Elizabeth Minnich-Fall 2015 Visiting Scholar

Elizabeth Kamarck Minnich is the Visiting Scholar for Goddard Graduate Institute’s Fall 2015 residency. Her keynote presentation, “If You Want Justice, Fight for Truth and Beauty,” will take place on Friday August 7, 7:15 pm. The presentation is free and open to the public.Minnich

Elizabeth’s groundbreaking book Transforming Knowledge has been essential reading for all those wishing to understand and question ways of knowing and knowledge that we often take for granted. The residency theme is “Transforming Knowledge,” in honor of Elizabeth Minnich’s visit and in keeping with the core values of the Goddard Graduate Institute.

THERE IS NOTHING “merely academic” about how we think and what we think we know. We are creatures and creators of meaning. Among the many meanings that interweave our varied worlds, the meanings of human being are central. They can sustain us in peaceful, caring, just relation with others and with the earth we share. They can divide and rank us within systems of dominance. They can open us to love, friendship, respect, justice, nurture. They can enable us to enslave, exploit, rape, kill those who have been defined as less than fully human. We are called by inspiring and by disturbing meanings of human being to keep thinking, to hold horizons open. We, who are conscious creatures and creators of meaning, remain responsible. –Elizabeth Minnich, from Transforming Knowledge, second edition

Posted in Epistemology (how we know what we know), Methodology, Philosophy & Neurophilosophy, Residencies | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Resource Generation and Learning to Give: Willa Conway

photoWilla Conway, a current student in the Individualized MA program, just wrote “How Do We Learn to Give?: On Giving to the It Starts Now Campaign,” for Resource Generation, a group that organizes young people with wealth and class privilege to become transformative leaders for positive change.

In calling for a recognition of the connection between wealth accumulation and “state violence against black bodies,” Willa writes,

The work of wealth redistribution, dismantling white supremacist consciousness and structures and ending state sanctioned violence against black bodies is not simple work. It is layered and complicated and tense and liberating and generative and creates spaces for beauty. It is facing the way that racial capitalism negatively affects people across the economic spectrum, even those of us who profit off the system.

Read Willa’s whole article here.

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The Knowledge of Knowledge with Danielle Boutet

GGI faculty member Lise Weil (left) with Danielle Boutet

GGI faculty member Lise Weil (left) with Danielle Boutet

“The Knowledge of Knowledge: a Transdisciplinary Journey From Interdisciplinary Arts to the Construction of Knowledge,” Danielle Boutet’s talk at the spring 2015 Goddard Graduate Institute residency illuminated how essential what we know and how we know it is to the future we seek. As she says in the talk:

Indeed, if we agree that knowledge is constructed, if we agree that the bulk of Western thinking is pervaded by biases and by the views of the dominant groups, if we agree that there is no objective truth, then we have to agree that how we will look at things and how we will conceptualize them and how we will understand the world is a decision. A most important decision – with personal and collective consequences. I think we have to dream what kind of life we want for ourselves and for the world, to construct a vision of what humanity means, and then think deeply about how to go from here to there.

Danielle  has long explored what it means to seek, unearth, and most of all, construct knowledge. A former student, and long-time Goddard College faculty member, Danielle founded the MFA in Interdisciplinary Arts program, served as Dean of Academic Affairs, and now serves on the college’s Board of Trustees. As a music composer, interdisciplinary artist, professor, and researcher at Université du Québec à Rimouski, she looks at “the phenomenology of the artistic experience, the creative process and art making as a way of knowing,” according to her bio.

She also talked extensively with students at a well-attended workshop at the residency. Read the whole transcript of “The Knowledge of Knowledge” at Danielle’s website here.

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Seema Reza, Goddard College Student, Wins USO Award for “Bringing Down Walls With Words”

Seema Reza with Stevie Nicks, Sebastian Junger, and Peyton Manning at USO Awards

Seema Reza with Stevie Nicks, Sebastian Junger, and Peyton Manning at USO Awards

Seema Reza, a current Transformative Language Arts MA student and BFA in Writing graduate from Goddard, just won a major award from the USO of Metropolitan Washington-Baltimore. She was honored at the organization’s 33rd annual awards dinner on March 26 along with Oscar-nominated filmmaker, author and war correspondent Sebastian Junger, singer-songwriter Stevie Nicks, and starting NFL quarterback Peynton Manning.

According to the USO, Seema received the John Gioia award “for her work with wounded, ill and injured service members at military hospitals and USO Warrior and Family Centers

Seema, her son, a service member, and Christylez Bacon

Seema, her son, a service member, and Christylez Bacon

at Fort Belvoir and Bethesda. Reza conducts workshops to help service members recovering from visible and invisible wounds express themselves through art, writing, film and music.” During the ceremony, she read a poem about working with service members while accompanied by Grammy-nominated, progressive hip-hop musician Christylez Bacon.

As one of the transformative language artists featured in Transformative Language Arts in Action, co-edited by Ruth Farmer and Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, Seema says:

I love most of all witnessing the relationship between participants as they help each other move forward. Writing can be an isolating endeavor. We sit with the page, immersed in our thoughts and experiences, uncertain if our voices are valuable or valid. When we share our work—either through public readings and exhibits or in a workshop setting—we begin to feel a sense of responsibility to contribute to the collective narrative of our time.

Seema is also an accomplished writer with a mixed-genre book coming out from Red Hen press, and she’s a member of the TLA Network. See this short video of the award winners: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ulCA1d0ikJ8  Read more about Seema’s work here, and see her superb website for more of her writing.

Posted in Narrative Medicine, Narrative Therapy, Poetry, Right Livelihood/ Making a Living, Transformative Language Arts, Transforming Trauma, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Power and Intricacies of Grounded Community by MASIS Student Rania Campbell-Cobb

In my studies at Goddard College I examine rooftop farming practices, food justice, innovative networks, urban community spaces, non-profit management, and community education. My studies are grounded within my life and work in Philadelphia. With every subject I dig into, I continually find that the power and intricacies of grounded community RaniaCCis present and of the utmost importance. American communities have become siloed and fractured. Our neighborhoods are increasingly separated by age, race, class, and political beliefs. Our divisions leave us weaker.

Philadelphia, like many post-industrial urban areas, is facing intersecting issues of community health, food insecurity, environmental degradation, and rampant inequality spread across neighborhoods siloed according race, class, and age. When our communities are fragmented, everybody suffers. Environmental issues kept out of view of the wealthy compound climate change. Racism, gun violence, and the school to prison pipeline are robbing us of insightful leadership, innovative ventures, and thoughtful collaborations. Julian Ageyman speaks of a movement Cloud9pic1for “just sustainability” that is at its core about helping both humans and the environment flourish. Our communities and ecosystems are more resilient with diversity, distributed resources, and innovations that develop in response to the ever-changing landscape. Change is the only constant and communities of all kinds are better prepared to observe and respond to change when diverse perspectives and skill-sets collaborate.

My work as founder and Executive Director of Cloud 9 Rooftop Farm in Philadelphia forms the grounding center of my studies in Social Innovation and Sustainability (SIS). Cloud 9 began as a dream to produce more healthy produce in Philadelphia, create beautiful green spaces, and mitigate urban environmental degradation. Through my studies in SIS, I have come to see the importance of developing diverse, cohesive communities, and the potential Cloud 9 holds as a force for collaboration, inspiration, and discourse across boundaries of race, class, age, and gender.

I have worked in organic farming and education for ten years. I find that the work of gardening and the joy of sharing food is a practice that can foster honest human connection. All humans eat. Growing food requires the aid of many hands. Side-by-side, covered in dirt and sweat, we toil towards a common goal, laugh at our humanity, and find the time to listen to one another, the birds, the neighbors, or our own thoughts. We connect. This semester I am digging deeper into this process of connecting to one another Cloud9pic2and to the land. There are plenty of forces in our economy, our food system, and our history that serve to tear us apart. In my studies I am working to develop Cloud 9 Rooftop Farm as a vehicle for diverse community cohesion, discourse that advances social justice, a tool for community food justice, and a method for deepened sense of place and stewardship.

More information on Cloud 9 can be found at www.cloud9rooftopfarm.org

Posted in Community Building, Deep Ecology & Bioregionalism, Right Livelihood/ Making a Living, Social Innovation, Sustainability, Sustainable Businesses and Communities | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Social Innovation: Disrupting Paradigms by SIS Faculty Sarah Bobrow-Williams

The white policeman..finds himself at the very center of the revolution

now occurring in the world. He is not prepared for it – naturally, nobody is -and what is possibly much more to the point, he is exposed, as few white

people are, to the anguish of the black people around him…….

James Baldwin, Esquire, 1960
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What is social innovation? What is sustainability? And, who gets to decide? These questions weave their way through our “SIS” conversations.

Sustainability is about negotiating balance so that neither human or natural life is compromised. When we veer away from the affirmation of life in our systems, be they social or natural, multiple points suffer downstream. According to Donella meadows, nature teaches us that the most awe inspiring intervention in a system is its inherent capacity to transform itself. Meadows likewise proposes that the most powerful leverage point in transforming social systems is disrupting paradigms.

I find myself asking, “what will it take to disrupt a paradigm that upholds the notion that the systemic gunning down of unarmed black men by state sanctioned guardians is justifiable?” It will take nothing short of embracing “Black Lives.” Hopefully the surfacing of “Black Lives Matter” is an indication of our inherent capacity to transform ourselves.

The capacity to transform ourselves, whether we call it social innovation, sustainability or disrupting paradigms, requires openness – a willingness to connect and integrate insights outside of ourselves. Openness is not simply about acceptance, it is about breaking down our immunity and allowing ourselves to engage from the very core of our beings in creative possibility. It is in this space of rawness, and vulnerability and in the spirit of connection, where the possibility for building new relationships and discovering innovative and sustainable ways of doing things emerge.

In what can be termed “the practice of social innovation” there is important work going on around how to facilitate genuine engagement that leads to sustainability – strengthening our capacity for connection and resilience. In the next SIS blog we will hear from Rania Campbell-Cobb,  a 3rd semester SIS student and the recent recipient of Goddard College’s Sustainability Entrepreneurs’ Grant. Rania is the founder of Cloud 9, a non-profit partnership that engages local residents, youth, and a core group of unlikely allies in urban rooftop gardening as a means of nurturing connections essential to re-envisioning new ways of living and being in community.

Posted in Deep Ecology & Bioregionalism, Economics, Environmental, Sustainability & Place Studies, Faculty, Right Livelihood/ Making a Living, Social Innovation, Sustainability | Tagged | Leave a comment