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Rockwood Institute

President's Message



Ok, I admit it. I’m bored. B-O-R-E-D. Bored. Of racism.

It used to interest me. I’ve worked to challenge it my whole life, and for many years I made my living doing “diversity” work. I used to get shocked whenever it occurred, but lately it’s been so ubiquitous, so pernicious and so persistent that it’s become ordinary. To quote Hannah Arendt, it just feels like more banality of evil. There’s really nothing fresh or new about racism.

When I heard about the incident between Walter Scott and Michael Slager, my first reaction was “Oh, again?” While I was horrified by what happened, I was even more horrified that I registered the news as though shooting and killing black people were “normal.” While I understand my reaction as a way to ward off heartbreak (when I heard about Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin, I was so devastated I could barely function) the fact that I was becoming “used to it” shocked me to my core.

So I began to wonder why we are still behaving in ways that deny our humanity. What more could we possibly be learning that would justify lynching, the prison pipeline, or simple, everyday slights? 

Fearing that I was alone in my exhaustion and boredom, I did a short survey of the staff here at Rockwood. I asked: “What bores you about racism?” Here’s a sampling of their responses:

  • “I’m bored that it is a new concept to people who have been around for a while.” 
  • “I’m bored that people of color are the only ones who ‘hold’ it or talk about it consistently.”
  • “I’m bored of its persistence - it’s exhausting.” 
  • “I’m bored because we never move past the same old conversation even though we know better by now.” 
  • “I’m bored because today looks a whole lot like it did 50 years ago.” 
  • “I’m bored by the lack of willingness to call racism racism.” 
  • “I’m bored of the ‘professionalizing’ of racism - that there is only one ‘right’ way to analyze/understand/talk about it with no room to fail.”

Admittedly, Rockwood’s staff is a unique sample. But I was struck by the fact that everyone had a ready answer to my question. My guess is that we are not anomalous, and that there are probably many out there who are similarly bored and fatigued.

So why are humans still perpetrating something so horrific and hateful that it results in such a tremendous waste of precious life? Are we learning anything new? I don’t think so. I think it continues to simply be a means to control/dominate/subjugate/colonize other humans based on the false distinctions of skin color. That’s certainly not new. And our boredom and fatigue is part of what allows it to continue.

So what to do? What could have occurred such that the bullet that entered Walter Scott’s back was never fired? How might we interrupt tired old worn-out patterns of racism?

The only answer I’ve been able to imagine is to focus on our collective kinship. What if Walter and Michael had recognized their (inevitable) common ancestor? What if they knew themselves as the cousins they most certainly are? What if Michael, in seeing Walter’s broken tail light had said to himself: “I need to pull my cousin over because I want him to be safe”? What if Walter, in seeing the lights in his rear view mirror had said: “Oh, there’s my uncle - he must want to see how I’m doing”? I can’t be certain, but I imagine that the scenario might have had a vastly different outcome.

What if we refuse to see each other as anything other than the relatives we really are?

Clearly the situation around race in the US is neither viable nor life-sustaining. Our historic and current ways of dealing with race are undoubtedly insufficient. What if we have been paying such exquisite attention to the intricate nuances of difference that we have lost the thread of our vast and common humanity? I wonder what might be possible if we were to spend the next fifty years paying equally exquisite attention to our similarities - our common heart? What would the conversation about power sound like within the frame of kinship?  As we can see in this video from love has no labels, “Before anything else, we are all human.”

I’m going to try on the practice of paying much more attention to kinship and paying much less attention to the banality of everyday racism. This practice might not work, but the way of the past is not leading us to where I believe we are capable of going, and we need new paths and new ways.

Come along, if you’re willing.

From my heart to yours,

Akaya Windwood
May 2015

How do you pay attention to kinship? Share your thoughts over on our blog.



Rockwood Leaders Changing the World

Julia Bacha named 2015 Guggenheim Fellow

Zahra Billoo was featured on MSNBC's All In with Chris Hayes.

Alicia Garza discussed co-creating #BlackLivesMatter in Yes! Magazine.

May Boeve talked about the climate change movement with The Guardian.

Stacy Anderson was part of the effort that repealed the death penalty in Nebraska.

Are you a Rockwood Alum? Send us your news.


  15th Anniversary  

Happy Birthday!

Rockwood turned 15 this year, and it's all thanks to you - our amazing alums, partners, and friends. To show our gratitude, we're throwing a party... and you're invited!

Join us for photobooths, music, laughter, a touch of Rockwood, and - yes - delicious food.

Monday, July 13, 2015
6 – 8 PM
Impact Hub Oakland

Can't make it? You can still celebrate with us online! Use #rockwoodlove on Facebook & Twitter to share your Rockwood story: how you discovered your purpose, what personal ecology means to you, selfies with other alums, or even a picture of your certificate. 

RSVP Today »


  From The Blog  

Interview with Maria Ramos-Chertok

"When I walk into the training room, I am surrounded by people who inspire me and they keep me relevant." ~ Maria Ramos-Chertok

Maria Ramos-Chertok a consultant, trainer, writer and mediator with over 20 years of experience in conflict resolution, team building, managing change, and cultural competency. She earned her law degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law, and her bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley. A Rockwood trainer since 2008, Maria shared her thoughts on leadership, motivation, her most important teachers, writing, and more.

Read the interview on our blog »

Experience a training with Maria at Strengthening the Practice, September 24-25 »


  From Our Partners  

9 Secrets for Truly productive Meetings

Our most popular post on social media this month was this incredibly useful list of tips for making the most of your meetings, from our partner Social Transformation Project.

Read it over at STP's blog »



Congrats to the 2015 Rockwood JustFilms Fellows!

In partnership with the Ford Foundation’s JustFilms initiative, the 2015 Rockwood JustFilms Fellowship convenes leaders at the intersection of media and social justice. This new program continues Rockwood’s work from the 2012 and 2013 Fellowships for Leaders in Arts & Culture.

This year's 12 Fellows are established leaders in the film and digital storytelling sector as creative administrators, media impact producers, executive producers, filmmakers, film directors, and executive directors. 

Learn more about each of the fellows anf their thought-provoking work »

  From Our Network  

Leadership Opportunities

Here are the latest jobs shared with us from members of our network:

Baltimore, MD: The Annie E. Casey Foundation is looking for a Vice President for Talent & Leadership Development.

Sonoma, CA: Hidden Leaf has two part-time positions open in their Finance & Operations department.

Multiple Locations: Move to End Violence is hiring a Deputy Director at The Raben Group.

San Francisco, CA: The Cultural Conservancy is seeking a Development Director.

Seattle, WA: Washington Community Action Network is hiring an Executive Director.

Berkeley, CA: East Bay Community Law Center has an opening for a Staff Attorney in Immigration Practice.





Letting Go of Worry

For Yes! Magazine's Winter 2015 National Student Writing Competition, students from middle school to college responded to "Letting Go of Worry," a piece written by Akaya that was originally published in 2010. 

Their essays were beautiful, heartbreaking, and inspirational. Read the winning responses, as well as Akaya's letter to the students, over at Yes! Magazine's site.



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