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Rockwood Institute

President's Message


A couple of weeks ago a colleague and I were walking along the crowded waterfront in San Francisco, and coming toward us was a trio of young African-American men who were joking and playing. When we passed I greeted them, and just as the last of them walked by I heard him say “Thanks for seeing us.”

It took a minute for that to register. My companion said “Did you hear what I heard?” and it took me a moment before I could respond with “Yes.” My heart was breaking.

How could it be that I would be thanked for merely seeing someone? It took all of my self-control not to run back to those young men, gather them in my arms and apologize for every person who had ever overlooked them, averted their eyes or turned away. What must it be like to move through a world that refuses to meet one’s eyes, that refuses to acknowledge one’s very existence?

I could make an analysis and write this piece solely about the kind of pervasive racism which creates a very specific and limiting box in which African American men are expected to live (and why they might feel invisible). Yet as I scan the world with those young men still in my heart, I notice that many kinds of people are often overlooked. The bag clerk at the grocery market, the person at the front desk, the folks who carry our mail or clean our streets or who are considered too old, or too young, or too…

What could happen if every day we were to greet each human as though they were worthy of notice and respect? What could happen if every day you were greeted as though you were worthy of notice and respect? What could change?

There is a certain cult of personality even among those of us whose lives are committed to social transformation. A lot of jockeying goes on around who gets noticed for acclaim, who gets the big dollars, who gets the media attention. Many of our social movements are less effective than they could be because of this competition for limelight or resources.

The reality is that most folks working for change do so because they care about their community or issue, not because they are looking for recognition or awards. Nonetheless, their work is crucial and necessary and is deserving of respect even if it goes unheralded. They may be unsung, but they are certainly heroes.

I’ve said for years that everyone takes leadership in some way every day. Everyone. Most acts of leadership go unnoticed or unacknowledged, and that’s a shame. The cultural pattern of noticing only some types of leadership and ignoring others contributes to the erasure of large groups of folks — women, poor and working-class people, and, yes, young African-American men.

If we can find ways to see each other, to honor the existence of every being who co-inhabits this wonderful earth with us, if no young person ever has need to thank a stranger for merely seeing them, then we will have done a fine thing.

Here’s my invitation to you: let’s take a month and intentionally notice those we would normally not see. Let’s interrupt old patterns of not looking into the eyes of “those people” (whoever they are to you). Let’s greet and acknowledge the folks we generally walk by or around and watch what happens.

So let’s say “Hey” to someone new tomorrow. I’ll bet we have conversations that surprise us. I’ll bet we learn something new.

From my heart to yours,

June 2012


Group Discount Ends June 30th for Advanced Art of Leadership

WHEN: October 7-10, 2012
WHERE: Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor, NY

Rockwood is offering Advanced Art of Leadership: Leadership in Action October 7-10, 2012 at the Edith Macy Conference Center in Briarcliff Manor, NY exclusively to Rockwood Art of Leadership alumnae/i. Led by Rockwood trainers Jose Acevedo and Toby Herzlich, the Advanced training offers leaders the opportunity to bring leadership skills back to their organizations. In order to encourage you to attend with your colleagues — in your organizations and networks — we’re offering a team incentive that ends June 30th:

  • 15% off training fees for a second staff or network member to attend the Advanced Art of Leadership
  • 25% off training fees for a third staff or network member to attend the Advanced Art of Leadership

We hope you’ll apply today.



Rockwood Leaders Changing the World




An Evening in DC with Akaya Windwood

In these changing times, how are you maintaining your resilience — your ability to shift from reactivity to a state of resourcefulness in moments of stress and crisis? Please join Akaya for a Community Conversation with other Rockwood alumnae/i about leading with resilience, power and resourcefulness. Thursday June 28, 2012, 4-6 pm at The Madison. We look forward to being in conversation with you! Please RSVP here. For more information, please email Rockwood’s Director of Programmatic Partnerships Stacy Kono or call her 510.251.2500 x113.




See You at our Celebration of Growth and Connection

Westerbeke Ranch hors d’oeuvres and free coaching hours are just some of the delights we’re planning as we welcome you to our new office space. Please join us as we lift up and celebrate all our growth as leaders, organizations, and movements. June 20th, 4-6 pm, 426 17th St, Oakland, CA 94612. For more information, see the party web page, or contact Thea Hillman, Rockwood’s Communications Manager, 510.251.2500 x110.



Move to End Violence (MEV) Is Seeking “Movement Makers”

Move to End Violence (MEV) is seeking “movement makers” engaged in work to end violence against women and girls to be a part of a two year transformational experience. Rockwood is one of many partner organizations providing training in leadership development, social change and movement building. Find everything you need to know, including details about the 2 year opportunity, who should apply, and how to apply is on the web.



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