Oscar Grant, Israel and Reaching for Grace

July 16th, 2010

Over here in Oakland, CA, we are on the cusp of hearing the verdict on the Johannes Mehserle trial. (SF Gate: Summing up the Two Arguments in the Mehserle Trial) I’ve been speaking with a lot of folks, and our communities are on tenterhooks. Many of us are teetering between hope and heartbreak.

A month ago, I was in Israel co-leading our first Art of Collaborative Leadership for social justice leaders there. I arrived two days after the flotilla incident. (BBC: Q&A – Israeli Deadly Raid on Aid Flotilla) The world was watching as things unfolded, with many of us teetering between hope and heartbreak.

And woven throughout both events are outrage, fear and blame.

As I boarded the plane for Israel, I wondered if participants would choose to drop out at the last moment because of the intensity of what was transpiring there. Everyone chose to attend. Some were wary, many were tired, but they came. Today, I considered waiting to write this column until after the Mehserle verdict came in. I’m writing anyway.

I’ve come to realize that we are always on the brink of something; that we are teetering in every moment. One of our Israeli participants told me that of course they would attend, saying, “If we stopped working every time something happened, nothing would ever get done.” The same is true here.

What happens in the world is often out of our personal control. What we do have choice about is how we approach what’s going on. Right now I am praying mightily that my city will not erupt into flame and chaos in reaction to the verdict. I am simultaneously praying mightily that those in the Middle East will find a path to peaceful co-existence.

In either case, I’m not so sure what the solutions leading to peace and justice might be. There was a time not so long ago when I thought I knew — I could point to them with my finger, could name them clearly. Now, I’m not so sure.

I am sure, however, that I am tired. Tired of fear and death and war. Of children dying at the hands of the state or each other. Of needless pain and suffering. I’m tired.

So I’m choosing to look beyond outrage and blame. I’m reaching for grace — for an emerging generosity of spirit.

Grace happens between people — it is a community event. And as we all know well, good leadership depends on strong partnerships. We can no longer afford to lead in isolation.

What if we who are working for fairness and equity stopped nit-picking at each other, and in the words of my friend Roz, lifted each other up instead? What if it ceased to matter which strategy someone chooses, or whether or not our politics perfectly align? What if we looked at those of us working for social transformation (in whatever ways we can imagine) with gratitude rather than judgment? What if each of us vowed to never disparage any other person working to make this world better?

So this is a call to community — an invitation to you to reach for your peeps, your allies and co-conspirators. They are myriad and many. Let us not splinter across our differences — let’s keep reaching for each other.

Reaching for grace.

From my heart to yours,

p.s. — About a half hour after I finished writing this letter, the verdict came through. While there were some violent responses, I have been impressed with the mostly peaceful protests. I appreciate the actions of community activists who offered places in which people could come together, and the way the police and city government worked proactively to contain the response.

July 2010

Rockwood Brings Training to Israel

Twenty social change leaders in Israel came together to experience the Art of Collaborative Leadership training on June 6-10, 2010, in the beautiful desert town of Mitzpe Ramon — making this Rockwood's first international offering.

The project was the result of over two years of planning, including having several social change leaders from Israel participate in the Art of Leadership here in the U.S. The training in Israel was made possible with generous support from the New Israel Fund and the Nathan Cummings Foundation.

As with all of Rockwood’s programs, the participant list included a diverse learning community. Both Arab and Jewish leaders participated, including those working for human rights, women’s issues, the environment and many other national, regional and local issues. While the context in Israel is different from the United States, NGO leaders in Israel face similar challenges of preventing burnout, strengthening relationships with others, and being purposeful leaders.

Jabir Asaqla, the Director of Palestinian Programs at Shatil, shared his experience as a result of the training: “I will be able to act more effectively; deal better with obstacles and challenges, both internal and external; and identify and forge partnerships that will safeguard me from feeling lonely and disempowered, as I felt recently."

Rockwood will continue to support social change leaders in Israel by bringing the Art of Collaborative Leadership and a Strengthening the Practice refresher course there in early 2011. For more information, contact Stacy Kono, Director of Programs, at stacy@rockwoodleadership.org

Boost Your Skills at Advanced Courses

The Advanced Art of Leadership: Leadership In Action
This four-day residential seminar is designed exclusively for Rockwood alumnae/i to support you in deepening your leadership skills. You'll explore interpersonal leadership styles, effective communication, personal ecology and responsible leadership.

As one participant told us, "The Advanced Art of Leadership was helpful on so many levels: concrete skills, useful discussions, personal revelations, improved relations with colleagues — it had everything!"

The next Advanced Art of Leadership training takes place September 19-22, 2010, at the beautiful Edith Macy Conference Center in New York.

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This 24-hour refresher course offers Rockwood alumnae/i the opportunity to reconnect with some of the foundational leadership practices: Purpose, Resourcefulness and Partnership. The fees for this course are on a sliding scale from $250-$350. The next Art of Leadership Refresher takes place October 14-15, 2010, at the Capital Retreat Center in Waynesboro, PA, just an hour outside of Washington, DC.

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Selah Partners With Rockwood

The Selah Leadership Program, a project of Jewish Funds for Justice in partnership with Rockwood, is taking applications for the Selah Executive Cohort — an intensive training for Jewish leaders dedicated to social change.

The Selah Leadership Program is rooted in the belief that by transforming leaders, we are better able to transform society. The Executive Cohort will bring together about 24 social change leaders for eight days of intensive leadership and management training over six months. The cohort is designed for Jewish leaders dedicated to social change who have at least 10 to 15 years of experience.

The Executive Cohort provides unparalleled training for senior leaders, new tools to enhance your vision and facilitate organizational change, and the opportunity to learn alongside some of the nation's most innovative and inspiring Jewish social change leaders.

The application process, open to senior leaders in Jewish and secular social justice leadership positions, is highly competitive.

Applications are due by September 27, 2010.

Training 1: January 9-12, 2011
Training 2: June 12-14, 2011

Learn more about Selah, get an application, or nominate someone you know.

Selah is a collaboration between The Nathan Cummings Foundation and Jewish Funds for Justice, in partnership with Rockwood Leadership Institute.

New Development & Communications Team!

Rockwood welcomes Robin Woodland and Liz Bohm, our new team dedicated to fundraising, public relations, and improved communications for the Rockwood community.

Robin, our new Director of Development & Communications, brings over 25 years of experience working in nonprofit and corporate settings doing fundraising, marketing, public relations and community organizing. He recently spent four years as Communications Director at Seva Foundation, an international public health organization.

Liz, our new Development & Communications Manager, has spent the last 12 years doing outreach, marketing and communications, fundraising and events management for organizations including Informed Democracy, California Youth Connection, San Francisco Freedom School and Zen Hospice Project.

Robin and Liz are both delighted to be part of bringing the benefit of Rockwood programs to more and more people. And they'd both love to hear from you! If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to send an email to robin@rockwoodleadership.org or liz@rockwoodleadership.org.