Statement of Support and Commitment in Solidarity with Racial and Earth Justice
STOPPING IN THE MIDST OF THE PANDEMIC
Dear Beloved Community,
Collectively, we are experiencing something so personally and immediately disruptive on such a global scale. The COVID-19 pandemic has forced our global community to stop with life and business as usual, and to reckon with this new reality.
We see how a human-centered extractivist relationship to the earth has caused the pandemic, and how crucial it is to reimagine a more balanced co-existence with our human and more-than-human world, in order to heal and stop further harms.
The disproportionate number of Black lives lost to COVID-19 has brought into sharp and sustained focus the underlying, deep-rooted ills of our society. We see that COVID is not the great equalizer, but has exacerbated the glaring inequities stemming directly from the structural racism built into our systems of health-care, economy, education, law enforcement, mass incarceration, detention, and much more.
As a spiritual community we are called to heed these somber bells of mindfulness. We are called to look more deeply into the poisons of greed, hatred, ignorance, violence, and disregard for Life that contribute to these systemic inequities and suffering. We stop, we breathe, and we see the inter-relationship of the suffering of our human family and that of Mother Earth. We see that when we degrade and disregard our fellow human beings, we continue to create the conditions that further degrade and destroy our environment, the climate, and our Great Mother Earth. We are entrusted to mindfully act.
With the Sangha as our container, our aspirations are to look and act together with our mindful breaths and peace in our steps.
Disconnection from one another and from Mother Earth has been a part of our collective experience since the colonization of Turtle Island / North America. Racial injustice and exploitation of both land and people – through the subjugation of Native Americans, the seizing of their lands, and the enslavement and forced labor of Africans on this continent – has been an under-acknowledged cornerstone of our nation’s history.
The inter-relationships between racism, environmental exploitation, and inequitable economic gain are one of the great untended wounds of our time. Left unchecked, it has metastasized into its present-day permutations and consequences: state-sanctioned violence, environmental racism, and the overarching, accelerating climate crisis that has been looming over us for many decades (becoming more apparent to some Westerners in the last century).
We, the Earth Holder Community Care-Taking Council (Turtle Island / North America), lift our voices in solidarity with the global community to bear witness to the suffering and tragic killings of Black lives in America, over centuries, continuing today – George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Rayshard Brooks, Dominique “Remmie” Falls, Riah Milton, and so many others. We Say Their Names and Say Her Name. More people are waking up and committing to acting to end this ongoing systemic oppression.
White supremacy in its many forms has created the conditions of deep intergenerational trauma in African-American communities. Countless more Black Americans continue to suffer from systemic anti-Black racism. We stand in solidarity with Black communities and affirm that Black lives matter, Black trans lives matter, every Black life matters. We raise up all of the intersectionalities within Black lives that society continues to systemically oppress, including Indigenous, immigrant, LGBTQIA+, religious, and disabled Black lives.
We support the reallocation of resources away from violent policing towards more nonviolent, healing, and community-based solutions. Current policing practices are based on the illusion that violent means leads to greater community safety, and further reinforces white supremacy. We are called to transform our inner and outer worlds.
ENVIRONMENTAL CARE = CARE FOR HUMANITY
“There is a connection between how we treat ourselves, each other, and the planet. None of these realms are separate. They all influence each other.”— Kaira Jewel Lingo, Lay Dharma Teacher in Plum Village lineage
Racial justice and environmental justice inter-are. The relationship that we have with Bodhisattva Great Mother Earth is not separate from the relationship that we have with all friends on the path of liberation. It is, in fact, rooted in our interbeing, compassion, and our ability to enact these ways of being inside and outside of ourselves.
Whether it is the disproportionate devastation of Hurricane Katrina on Black communities in New Orleans, the destruction of First Nations territories by Tar Sands, persecution of environmental activists across the Global South, or disasters wrought by climate change on marginalized communities, we see clearly that Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC) are disproportionately impacted by environmental degradation. Lamentably, racist environmental efforts in the Global North have also historically traded the survival of marginalized communities for wildlife conservation and the creation of nature reserves void of human presence. Dismissing thousands of years of BIPOC stewardship wisdom and traditional indigenous knowledge has too long been part of misguided and narrow environmental efforts. We know that earth justice includes social, racial, and ecological justice, and that protecting BIPOC lives on the front lines also protects the land and helps safeguard the rights of Nature.
RECOGNIZING CONTRIBUTIONS OF BLACK AMERICANS TO ENVIRONMENTAL & CLIMATE JUSTICE
Our Earth Holder Community rests on the accomplishments and courage of many Black activists. They helped ignite the modern environmental and climate justice movement in the United States. Actions for environmental justice rose alongside the US civil rights movement in the 1960s and 1970s to expose the differential impacts of pollution on poor and racialized communities. Black nonviolent resistance continued in the 1980s, for example, against the building of a toxic landfill in Warren County, North Carolina in 1982.
Especially now, anti-racism remains acutely needed in the white-centered areas of the environmental movement today. There is growing recognition that as long as the most marginalized of our communities remain unseen and neglected, we continue to create the conditions for environmental neglect and exploitation.
Black communities continue to be some of the most energetic and focused in addressing the climate crisis we are facing– from Dorceta Taylor, an elder movement builder, to many young Black climate activists who continue to advocate for a healthy, vibrant planet for all of us.
THE PLUM VILLAGE TRADITION OF ENGAGEMENT
Ven. Thích Nhất Hạnh came to the US in 1966 to give voice to the immense suffering being wrought by the American war in Vietnam. He worked tirelessly to light up the lamp of awareness and compassion, so that our society could awaken to the collective suffering of war.
As spiritual brothers with a life-long commitment to peace and justice, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Ven. Thích Nhất Hạnh stood in solidarity to work to transform the hatred, discrimination, ignorance, and fear in the hearts of humankind. Today, we continue in their footsteps to meet the needs of this time.
We see the work of earth and racial justice as intimately linked. It is an intergenerational endeavor, a marathon, the work of our lifetimes. And much like mindfulness, anti-racism is a daily, ongoing, and evolving practice that we, as Earth Holders, aspire to bring into all we do. To learn more, see for example, Zen teacher and climate scientists Kritee Kanko PhD’s resource list Climate & White Supremacy.
“Yes, it’s about Black Lives Matter… about needless brutality… about systemic inequity… and it’s about much, much more. It’s about reckoning, restoring and revisioning the very fabric of our lives in this land and this planet. Over the last two weeks, I witnessed something I never thought I’d see, and I’m old. I’ve always prayed for it. I saw non-Black lives standing up for Black lives. Here in America, and around this planet. I found myself moved to another kind of tears. Refreshment, gratitude, quiet joy, and deep inspiration woke up in me and was nourished.”
— Dr. Larry Ward, Lay Dharma Teacher in Plum Village lineage
“America, The Business That Tried To Become A Country”, June 12, 2020
OUR ONGOING ACTIONS AND FUTURE COMMITMENTS
“Mindfulness must be engaged. Once we see that something needs to be done, we must take action. Seeing and acting go together. Otherwise, what is the use of seeing?”–Ven. Thích Nhất Hạnh, At Home in the World
As Earth Holders, we uphold the framework of earth justice as the interweaving of social, racial, and ecological justice. Earth justice requires diverse and inclusive experiences and voices in our communities to truly address racial and earth inequities. Aware of our interconnectedness, we see that a necessary and heart-opening component of Earth Holding is the willingness to safeguard our most marginalized communities from being the repositories of environmental waste, neglect, and exploitation.
Therefore, from our hearts, we have committed to the following actions and engagements as EHC CTC:
- Created a CTC that is at least 50% BIPOC, with BIPOC-centering roles and initiatives. See: About EHC (scroll down for relevant past CTC actions);
- Continue to sharpen our focus on how social, racial, and ecological justice inter-are through our communications: EHC Newsletter, EHC FB & Instagram, EHC Online Sangha, and EHC Retreats;
- Engage with EHC Racial and Earth Justice Resources (continuously updated) and offer them to the larger Earth Holder Community; and continuously practice deep looking at our individual and collective privileges (i.e. gender, sex, race, class, age, religion, ability, and so on);
- Allocate a fixed percentage of EHC funds to support Black/BIPOC-led climate justice organizations annually;
- Commit to mindful and honest communication and action among ourselves about assumptions, sensitivities, hurts, and structures.
As members of the EHC CTC, we recognize that this is an ongoing process, and we are committed to continue deepening our understanding and acting more wisely from a place of interconnection and compassion.
We invite and encourage our Earth Holder Community to:
- Offer support in the forms of time, amplification, and/or financial resources to Black/BIPOC-led racial/climate justice organizations, e.g. Climate Justice Alliance and Indigenous Environmental Network;
- Regularly study Awakening through Race, Intersectionality, and Social Equity (ARISE)’s Contemplations on the Five Mindfulness Trainings: A New Paradigm for Racial Justice and the Global Pandemic as individuals and/or as sanghas;
- Read ARISE’s A Call to Love in Action, and actively support their given recommendations;
- For white friends, or any who wish, please read The Scaffolding Document and estimate where you are in understanding white privilege and white supremacy and avail yourself of the materials suggested for that stage;
- Begin or continue your journeys (as individuals and/or as a sangha) in being more skillfully anti-racist and inclusive (see ARISE Resources and other resources, e.g. NYT Race and Climate Crisis Reading List ).
We recognize that inclusion and diversity in our spiritual communities provide a necessary foundation for Earth-Holding, and therefore invite and encourage our Plum Village (PV) community to:
- Support an ongoing BIPOC Scholarship Fund to attend PV retreats;
- Support BIPOC-only Dharma-sharing groups and cultural sanctuary spaces for BIPOC group opportunities;
- Support BIPOC membership and active participation in the Order of Interbeing (OI) as Aspirants, fully ordained members, and Dharmacharyas (Dharma Teachers).
“We need to engage in skillful action and sometimes that may be difficult. We might trip over ourselves a little bit, but it’s important to start, to begin.”— Valerie Brown, Lay Dharma Teacher in Plum Village lineage
Skillful Action for a Path Forward, June 8, 2020
The above are some concrete ways that our spiritual community is engaging the teachings of the Four Noble Truths to address and transform the current ills in ourselves, our societies, and our planet. For further exploration of the teachings and practices of Engaged Buddhism, please see Plum Village.
Earth Holder Community Care-Taking Council:
Andrew Deckert (True Wonderful Direction)*
Chaya Ocampo Go (True Radiant Cloud)
John Bell (True Wonderful Wisdom)
Nomi Green (True Source of Virtue)
Sara Henry (True Manifestation of Offering)
Shephali Patel (Spiritual Action of the Heart)
Sister Clear Grace / Chân Trăng Thanh Ân
Sister True Vow / Chân Thệ Nghiêm
Stephanie Knox Steiner (True Earth Dwelling)
*(lineage or Dharma name)