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Reaction to Ferguson

Dec 4, 2014   //   by Al   //   blog  //  No Comments

by Kevin Varney

I’m on the other side of the world and I’m watching reactions to the Ferguson grand jury decision unfold over social media…and I’ve been struck by something in the nature of the statuses, articles, or photos shared by my facebook friends back home.

Each and every one of them reflect that person’s own experience in America. It’s fairly obvious to me who’s liberal, who’s conservative. I can tell who has experienced some form of racism, and I can tell who has been pretty sheltered from it. From my conservative friends, I often see a certain color-blindness and desire to uphold “personal responsibility” as the issue. They sincerely believe, with all their heart, that America is the same for everyone as long as you work hard and act respectably.

Now, I’m not a conservative, I’m definitely more progressive on most social and fiscal issues, but I have always admired that very basic ideology underlying conservative thought – That anything is possible if you work hard. Doesn’t matter what you look like, or where you started from. It’s all about where you want to go. It hearkens to an incredibly idealistic view of our country, which I sincerely want to believe in. But I think that where this way of thinking fails is in its inability to reconcile certain realities in our country’s past and present which go against this view of America.

There are very real harsh realities in our country. To put it in the most basic terms, life is different for people based on their background. If you’re black or brown or yellow, it’s different than if you’re white. If you’re a woman, life is different than if you’re a man. If you’re poor, it’s different than if you were rich. If you identify as LGBTQ, life is different than if you identify as straight. If you’re an immigrant, it’s different than if you were born here.

For young men of color, especially black men, these difficulties are all too real. These difficulties are institutionalized and present at every level of our society. It doesn’t matter how you dress, what degree of education you have, etc…Black men are always looked at with a level of suspicion and distrust, especially by law enforcement. And then, when things go wrong, the victims are blamed. As if their way of dress or demeanor was somehow responsible for the misguided perceptions of the perpetrator. This is wrong and it needs to change.

There’s something profoundly wrong in our national dialogue when all I see or hear is the dehumanization of the “other side.” This mentality must stop.
We must try to understand the other side. We need to stop vilifying the anger that is displayed at the verdict of the Ferguson case. There is a reason that this incredible anger exists.

To my friends (especially my white and non-black friends), who espouse the ideals of personal responsibility and to those that sincerely doubt the prevalence of racism in our society- instead of just writing off the peaceful protesters or even the violent rioters, please try and understand what these people are feeling. There’s a reason that so much emotion is behind this whole case. It’s opened all kinds of wounds in America that have long been simmering beneath the surface.

It is time for us to embrace true equality in America. And true equality doesn’t just come into existence by pretending that it’s here. We must all work for it. And we start that important work with a little empathy for people that are different from us.


~Kevin Varney is a former intern at Gandhi

The Young Men of Industry

Oct 16, 2014   //   by Al   //   blog  //  No Comments

by Erin Thompson

The Gandhi Institute has been working closely with the Industry Juvenile Detention Center in Rush, N.Y. to establish a Nonviolence Club at that facility. Recently the Institute brought senior Kingian Nonviolence trainer Jonathan “Globe” Lewis to Rochester in order for him to conduct a two-day nonviolence workshop (October 3rd and 4th). The overlapped timing of these two endeavors created a small window of opportunity – on Thursday, October 2nd, which is Gandhi’s birthday – in which to introduce Jonathan and the Industry youth to each other. The results were equal parts sobering and heartwarming.

The afternoon at Industry started with our small group being buzzed through the double doors of the heavy, barbed wire-topped gate. Institute Director Kit, interns Al and Hoody, Globe and I all patted ourselves down to ensure we weren’t carrying any restricted items. Despite Industry being categorized as a “limited secure” facility, the reinforced doors, metal detectors, loops of barbed wire and curt demeanor of the Industry personnel all smacked of law and order, and an undercurrent of tension permeated the somber halls.

Once we were processed in, we met with a friendly face in Youth Division Aide Debrine Williams, who has worked extensively with the Gandhi Institute in the past. Debrine has clearly taken her Industry charges under her wing, referring to them as her “nephews.” Debrine’s group was the first of three sets of young males to file into the auditorium where the session with Globe was to take place. As the young men took their seats, they eyed us warily, probably trying to find the common denominator in our motley cast of characters. Globe was outfitted in an electric green bubble vest, white tee shirt, loose jeans, sneakers and baseball cap. The appearance of the rest of us ran the gamut: from shaved heads, to twists, to flowing hair; from skinny jeans to baggy khakis. Black, white, female, male.

By the time all the participants arrived, a good 15 minutes of the one-hour time slot we negotiated for was behind us. I made some brief introductory remarks and quickly turned over the program to Globe.

A practitioner of Kingian Nonviolence strives to suspend snap judgments. Globe, as the hip-hop attired counterpart of his conservatively draped mentor Dr. Bernard Lafayette, brings this point to a head. Globe’s  power lies not only in his obvious mastery of the concepts he presents, but in his ability to meet his audience “where they’re at.” For this particular group of young men, this meant speaking directly to the decisions they made which led to their incarceration, and to the central role each of them plays in determining the trajectory of the rest of their lives. The stark reality is that for some time into the future, these guys (ages 12 – 17) are going to  be confined together and unable to exercise control over many elements of their lives that those of us on the outside take for granted. Globe proposed the adoption of a nonviolent mindset as a practical alternative to feeding into the destructive anger and aggression that can accompany incarceration. Do the time affirmatively, and don’t let the time do you.Emerge from within these confining walls with a stronger sense of self than when you went in. Your life matters! Without any air of judgment, personal responsibility and mindfulness were put forth as the foundations of purposeful living and community building.

Throughout the session, Globe made his way through the aisles handing over the microphone to those with something to say. The fellas quickly got over any initial shyness and many shared stories of their ongoing struggles and successes. They encouraged each other to avoid falling in with those who are fixated on negativity. They spoke about how they look forward to being out in the world, and putting their lives back together. One young man asked about how he could learn more about nonviolence training.

The short period of time we had with the young men of Industry felt both tragic and triumphant. If an ongoing Nonviolence Club is established, I am certain that good things will come of it. What is daunting is the recognition of societal norms which function to keep places like Industry at maximum capacity. The Industry session was humbling, and reinforced my appreciation for the work my colleagues at the Gandhi Institute do on a daily basis.

Artists Respond to Michael Brown’s Murder and the Ferguson Rebellions

Oct 13, 2014   //   by Malik   //   blog  //  No Comments

by Malik Thompson

During dire times, humans seem to have a natural inclination toward the arts as a mechanism to relieve the pressure of feelings otherwise incommutable. Whether we’re referring to the practices of the ancients to perform dance and song for their gods in exchange for blessings, or the sorrow songs passionately sung by enslaved Black people to convey their shackled inner lives and yearnings for freedom, art has been the medium people have turned to time and time again to give substance to that which can’t be said.

However, the so-called ‘cultural elite’, those who live under the impression that legitimate art is only that which is hung in the galleries of lavish neighborhoods, where hundred dollar wines flow like water. The art of this privileged few tries its best to erase the lives of the majority, giving special apathy to those who live on the margins. This is art produced under the delusion of plush fantasy, built upon others’ backs.

Despite the efforts of the upper classes to discourage the production of art that speaks to radically different experiences, where various societal structures are unabashedly named as the forces that cause suffering and notions of taboo are simply done away with. These works of art, where various societal structures are unabashedly identified as forces that cause suffering, have been essential components to movements for social justice; from Harlem Renaissance artists boldly proclaiming that “We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame.” , to writers living during the Civil Rights/Black Power era,  such as Lorraine Hansberry, who actively chose to depict Black people’s lives without relying upon misinformed notions of Black humanity to give their works zest. Arts, in all of its manifestations, have pulled movements for change in directions that would have otherwise been inaccessible, because works of art constructed with an abundance of integrity and technical skill can activate people’s imaginations in ways that speeches and lectures can’t.

To not give those artists committed to liberatory struggle as well as the production of quality works of art credit is detriment to cultivating a world where people are able to creatively live as their entire selves. Artists dedicated to these missions are extremely reliable for capturing experiences that would otherwise decay into vague recollections and dust. To deny the contributions of these artists is to erase skillful encapsulations of human reaction to social phenomena.

This said, when eighteen year-old Michael Brown was slain in Ferguson, Missouri by Ferguson Police Department officer Darren Wilson on August 9th, the outcry of the artists was imbued with a wave of indignant pain only the most tragic social phenomena are capable of triggering. This tragedy, within the context of post-Zimmerman America and continued further violence directed toward Black youth,such as Renisha McBride, was met with a global outpouring of art.

 Artists of all disciplines released wave after wave of material in the weeks following Brown’s killing and the community led protests against the FPD’s refusal to penalize Officer Wilson for his actions as well as general lack of respect for Brown and his family. A statement of solidarity, published on Red Wedge Magazine’s website,signed by artists across the country and abroad, serves as a microcosm of the energy artists have channeled into producing art which grapples with the reality that the state deems Black lives disposable.

Beginning with the writers, a poem entitled not an elegy for Michael Brown, by award winning poet Danez Smith, begins with the line, “I am sick of writing this poem”, and goes on to question the masses commitment to justice for Brown and other slain Black youth. In this same literary vein, various DC-area poets contributed to the development of Dear Ferguson – A DC Community Poem, searingly read by internationally renowned DC based spoken word artist Pages Matam. Both poems add compelling perspectives and fresh language to the discourse surrounding the events continuing to erupt in Ferguson.

In Philadelphia’s iconic LOVE park, two actors, Lee Edward Colston and Keith Wallace recreated Brown’s last moments right in front of the park’s eponymous ‘LOVE’ sculpture. By having Wallace wear a white T-shirt with holes resembling bloodied gunshot wounds torn into the back while lying face down and motionless for an hour, the two artists received mixed messages from spectators; from those in respectful awe of the artists’ creativity to those who degraded the pieces message to pure spectacle by having their portraits taken in front of Wallace’s still body. 

Within the musical realm, a deluge of tracks have been released by artists in various genres and all levels of fame. Releasing an intensely emotional track alongside a very vulnerable statement on the nature of living as a Black man in America, rapper J. Cole’s track Be Free is a somber conveyance of a simple desire for a liberty most African-American’s will never experience in today’s world. Getting to the root of the Ferguson community’s, and by extension all Black people engaged in struggle against the state, frustration, Lauryn Hill unveiled the melancholy Black Rage. Tenderly singing lines such as, “Black rage is founded on two-thirds a person”, a reference to theDred Scott Case of 1857, Hill centers the history of Black people being dehumanized, abused, and exploited, revealing the historical context of the Ferguson community’s rage.

And, although met with some backlash by local police departments, visual artists, such as University of Missouri – St. Louis student Howard Barry, have not stood idly by as their counterparts have been feverishly creating. From photographs depicting uncensored police brutality against Ferguson protesters to an upcoming exhibition of the works of two-hundred and fifty St. Louis area artists, the visual arts have been essential in tugging at people’s consciences, using the universal language of imagery.

In the city of Ferguson itself, a Before I Die wall was constructed by a group of teachers in hopes that the community would use the artpiece to support their efforts in imagining a future without the realities that led to Michael Brown’s death. And, in their calls for acts of solidarity, the people of Ferguson requested those capable of organizing street theatre performances join them on the ground, hinting at an abundance of artwork created, and in production, by Ferguson community members themselves.

Painter Cbabi Bayoc told Art in America, “…a lot of art will come of this”, in reference to the aforementioned events of this summer, and we have all the reason to believe him.

Originally published here at Grassroots DC.

On Nonviolence

Oct 8, 2014   //   by Malik   //   blog  //  No Comments

by Malik Thompson

There is a force in our society, one that has come to manifest itself in countless forms, that many people are hesitant to name as a detriment to their lives. Most who dare to speak against this force, to utter the word that names it, are waved away as sentimental dunces, are charged with promoting lofty idealisms and are thereafter banished to society’s dim margins. Very few wish to acknowledge the hideous commonness of this force in its many manifestations.

That force’s name, that persistent presence, that scourge of pain, and fear, and shame, is ‘violence’. When most people hear the word ‘violence’, memories of physical brutality may replay in their minds. A vicious swat by an older sibling, a sailing fist cracked across a jaw, a bloodcurdling assault by an anonymous assailant. Although many are quick to decry the most intimate aspects of physical violence where it rears its head, the majority of those are also unwilling, or incapable, to enact healing work against those lingering traumas associated with having one’s body ravaged at another’s hands. Of course, they themselves are not to blame.

Ours is a society that seeks to, at every turn, devalue the significance of its citizens interior lives. We are encouraged to neglect our inner lives; religious practices are derided as narrow-minded and uncouth within increasingly secularizing cultural spheres, those who seek out therapists are snickered at in secret, and all who deeply ponder about human nature are handled with suspicion and apprehension. For most people, extended silences and solitude allow sinister things to bubble up to their conscious, and no one has taught them to be at peace with these haunts. Too many flee their demons by embracing addictions. Too many lack skills that would disallow past traumas to rend their spirits. Too many have been coaxed into allowing their interior lives to decay.

Yet, the state of people’s interior lives can never be divorced from the surrounding sociopolitical and sociocultural environments in which they’ve developed. Is it not violence when ours is a society that devalues the humanity of female-bodied people to no more than their sexual organs, their bodies violated time and time again, their appeals for justice ignored just as often? When young children, of all colors, point to dolls of darker skin and Afro-features as inherently nefarious? When indigenous voices of various tones seeking sovereignty over ancestral lands are constantly ignored and, instead, have the miniscule wedges of Earth they’ve been murdered onto bombarded with toxic wastes? When people of all races lacking in economic resources must either subsist on foodstuffs that poison their bodies, or nothing? What world do we inhabit where these realities often go acknowledged and, yet, unmanaged; where the suffering of another is commonly associated with a character flaw on the individual’s part and not symptomatic of systems of domination our society was built, and tragically thrives, upon?

Any path toward nonviolence that fails to acknowledge and work against physical, non-physical, and structural manifestations of violence is inherently lacking in depth. Any paths toward nonviolence lacking in strategies for justice and healing are underdeveloped. We are past the era where the division between mind, body, and spirit can be justifiably imposed upon the masses. We are past the point of presenting the populace with sparkling words in hopes that they will suffice for the arduous labor of transforming our world into one where harmony reigns.

Comprehensive nonviolent ideologies must offer tactics and solutions to address the historical roots and contemporary manifestations of evil, blatant and insidious. Nonviolence is only authentic when the livelihoods of all persons are accounted for, when voices resounding at the margins become centered and their requests heeded. Ultimately, the nonviolent path is one that aims for peace. However, peace will never exist without justice. Justice for everyone.

Reflection on Peoples Climate March

Sep 24, 2014   //   by Malik   //   blog  //  No Comments

By Kit Miller

Sunday, September 21 was the International Day of Nonviolence.  It was a holy privilege to pray, meditate and bear witness on 59th Avenue in New York City. Hundreds of thousands from the Peoples’ Climate Gathering streamed past

Attendees of the Earth Vigil meditating during the People’s Climate March

60 of us who participated in an Earth Vigil gathering organized by the Lost Bird Project and the Rochester Zen Center with support from the Gandhi Institute.  Our group arrived the day before (Saturday) and meditated for hours just past where the march officially commenced, on a knoll in Central Park next to the street.  We returned after sleeping on the floors of an empty building in Brooklyn and resumed the meditation by 7 am,  though some of us also joined a nearby sunrise gathering of indigenous leaders from throughout N America who gathered to pray for the success of the march and for planetary healing.

Those who all too often come last in our society were first as hundreds of youth of color and indigenous peoples started the river of humanity that flowed past for hours.  Sitting in meditation, bearing witness, my tears also flowed for hours.  The beauty and the creativity of our species represented there felt like medicine.  The variety of issues represented-mountaintop removal, extinctions, rising CO2, fracking, economic injustice and many more-broke my heart open.

Hundreds of thousands raised their voices while millions worldwide watched, marched at home and hoped.It feels too early to say what is different now, though the Rockefeller family’s announcement to divest from fossil fuels feels like a good start.  Let’s join them in changing the business as usual mindset.  Thousands of individual acts of any size or significance, when gathered together as they were on Sunday,represent a mighty force.

What I learn as an Intern at Gandhi

Aug 6, 2014   //   by Al   //   blog  //  No Comments

I think in terms of my personal growth and trying to figure out how I want to contribute to the world, it was very inspiring for me to get to work and connect with people who genuinely have passion for bettering their communities. I really admired the way that everyone took time to share their ideas and grow in their knowledge as well as the openness with which they shared their experiences and views with me. Additionally, it was also inspiring to see the model of staying small and partnering with individuals and community groups. This was a powerful example of creating change through collaboration and community. Seeing people so compassionate and devoted to improving the lives of others and correcting perceived injustice was encouraging for me as I think about the type of career decisions I’m going to have to make in the next few years.

I also enjoyed learning a bit about Nonviolent Communication. Though from my own spiritual background there were certain things that I didn’t necessarily accept, I think learning about needs, making requests, and some of the mindfulness and self awareness tools opened me up to new ways to connect with my desires and passions. One aspect of nonviolence that particularly resonated with me was attacking evil rather than people doing evil, particularly as it pertains to restorative justice and creating constructive, positive systems and institutions rather than merely taking away unjust ones.

The most impactful experience was going into the schools and working with the youth because the impact that the clubs are having was so evident. It was also really interesting to observe the differences in environments between the suburban and urban schools and the different challenges and benefits that both environments foster. I learned a lot from watching Shannon and Anna about facilitating especially when the group is a energetic and rambunctious one.

I am also grateful for some of the skills I was able to develop by spending time at the Gandhi Institute. Though it may sound trivial, learning how to work productively with others to coordinate different projects in a work environment was something I was exposed to for the first time. Learning about all the different aspects of program evaluation was also insightful. I really enjoyed the openness and freedom that you provided for me to work with.

Overall, I want to thank you for this opportunity. I really appreciate everyone at the Institute being so welcoming and open as well as valuing any contributions I was able to make.

I am inspired by the work you are doing and would love to stay connected to the Institute through volunteering during the summer or any other assistance I can provide.

-Katie Engels

Reflection on Peter Jemison’s talk on Environmentalism in the Seneca Tradition

Jun 2, 2014   //   by Shannon Richmond   //   blog  //  No Comments

by guest contributor Sarita Benesch

Peter Jemison’s contact with nature is one without hesitancy, cruelness, or barriers. Perhaps his communicative abilities stem from his membership of the Heron clan of the Seneca Nation or his artistic touch, but regardless, it’s uncommon in the twenty first century. During his talk at the Gandhi Institute, he spoke of the undeniable importance between humans and their environment.

Since the beginning of civilization, humans have depended on nature. Ancient Sumerians lived in harmony with the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, the ancient Egyptians were in touch with the Nile River, and even the Indus Valley civilizations learned to appreciate the unpredictable monsoons. The moment humans learned how to control nature, the interaction between the two became infinitely more complicated. At first, the increased complexity was not negative. In fact, irrigation techniques or terracing to control the water flow aided the common person and allowed for easy access to a vital resource, without harming the resource itself. At what point did human’s control of nature become detrimental to society? When instead of modifying nature, we started destroying it. The process occurred gradually, until the point we find ourselves today; almost complete disregard for nature and living things.

If everyone, including myself, were to quite literally stop and smell the roses, we would quickly become more aware of our surroundings. With awareness inherently comes mindfulness, kindness, and irreplaceable understanding of life. It is my hope that even as heavy industry keeps expanding and technology becomes more prevalent, the human race can continue to appreciate the value of untouched nature. Knowing where the closest herbal medicine is located is just as, if not more, important than being able to find a local wifi Hot-Spot.


Sarita Benesch is a student at Brighton High School who volunteers weekly at the Gandhi Institute.

Angry young men: honesty is a path to avoiding Rodger’s tragic fate

May 30, 2014   //   by Shannon Richmond   //   blog  //  1 Comment

Written by Matthew Townsend, guest contributor

In a recent post on The Daily Beast (, Arthur Chu of Jeopardy! fame wrote a brave, incisive and even confessing analysis of the role that bright, socially awkward men play in sexual violence against women. These nerds, as Chu calls them (and self-identifies), are driven by a compelling and ubiquitous cultural dialogue about how attractive, socially capable women will always fall madly in love with the nerdy underdog:

We (male) nerds grow up force-fed this script. Lusting after women “out of our league” was what we did. And those unattainable hot girls would always inevitably reject us because they didn’t understand our intellectual interest in science fiction and comic books and would instead date asshole jocks. This was inevitable, and our only hope was to be unyieldingly persistent until we “earned” a chance with these women by “being there” for them until they saw the error of their ways.

Chu continues with a critique of this view, pointing out the challenge that young men will discover if they adopt this paradigm of women and relationships for their own lives:

We are not the lovable nerdy protagonist who’s lovable because he’s the protagonist. We’re not guaranteed to get laid by the hot chick of our dreams as long as we work hard enough at it. There isn’t a team of writers or a studio audience pulling for us to triumph by “getting the girl” in the end. And when our clever ruses and schemes to “get girls” fail, it’s not because the girls are too stupid or too bitchy or too shallow to play by those unwritten rules we’ve absorbed.

It’s because other people’s bodies and other people’s love are not something that can be taken nor even something that can be earned—they can be given freely, by choice, or not.

As a recovering nerd in my own life – as someone who has had to work to develop not only social skills but empathy with women – Chu’s arrow lands straight on the bullseye. Yet, as a student of Nonviolent Communication, I’m also concerned that Chu calls upon angry young men to “grow up” – to engage in an honest process of honoring women as free beings – without making any specific requests. In the hope that some angry and confused men may be reading this, I wish to make some of these requests. I base them upon Chu’s observations about relationship lies within our culture – stories that I also failed to impose upon reality.

To my fellow nerds:

Would you be willing to stop watching television and movies that reinforce dishonest views about the behavior and appearance of women?

Are you angry because you can’t find a girl who will turn her life over to you, even though you’ve made the right moves and done the right things? As Chu points out, there are no right moves. There is no way to make someone love or desire you, but countless television and movie plotlines hinge upon that notion. As I’ve had to learn and am still learning, some people like you and some people don’t. That’s normal and okay.

I’d also extend Chu’s criticism to any film or series that portrays relationships and women in ways that don’t quite seem to match the real world. This is one of the reasons I’ve stopped watching Game of Thrones, HBO’s smash hit series (based upon George R.R. Martin’s epic A Song of Fire and Ice novels). GoT’s penchant for graphic violence is well-known, but I also find the series’ reliance on stunningly attractive female actors (including former porn stars) questionable. Most women I know don’t look or act like the women in Game of Thrones. It doesn’t look like the world, so I find it dishonest.

Would you be willing to stop consuming pornography?

If you’re feeling frustrated because you can’t sexually express yourself as you’d prefer, you may wish to consider from where your preferences have originated. If you’re a young man, the odds are stellar that pornography has shaped your views of sex – a 2008 study in the Journal of Adolescent Research showed that 87% of young men had consumed pornography (

For nerds, abstaining from porn should be a no-brainer – it’s so laughably fake. But those who fall into frequent use expose themselves over and over again to stories about women involving raunchy, violent, instant sex. If you fall into this category, would you be willing to explore how your expectations of sex – how much, at what age, how often and with how many – may differ from what women actually want?

Would you be willing to stop listening to love and lust songs that portray women as doting or obedient?

While many nerds might express disdain for popular music (since it’s popular), there are many who quietly listen to it (since it’s popular). Are you feeling lonely because women don’t long for you in the way is promised in popular songs? Just consider some popular lyrics from last year, by men and women:

  • You give me that kind of something / Want it all the time, need it everyday / On a scale of one to ten I’m at a hundred / Never get enough, I can’t stay away (The Way by Ariana Grande)
  • I know you want it / But you’re a good girl / The way you grab me / Must wanna get nasty / Go ahead, get at me (Blurred Lines by Robin Thicke)
  • ‘Cause I don’t wanna lose you now / I’m lookin’ right at the other half of me / The vacancy that sat in my heart / Is a space that now you hold (Mirrors by Justin Timberlake)
  • ‘Cause you are the piece of me I wish I didn’t need / Chasing relentlessly, still fight and I don’t know why / If our love is tragedy, why are you my remedy? / If our love’s insanity, why are you my clarity? (Clarity by Zedd)
  • You ain’t gotta worry, it’s an open invitation / I’ll be sittin’ right here, real patient / All day, all night, I’ll be waitin’ standby / Can’t stop because I love it, hate the way I love you / All day, all night, maybe I’m addicted for life, no lie. (Come & Get It by Selena Gomez)

These are powerful and questionable messages about intimacy and desire between men and women. If you find yourself frustrated because you can’t achieve them, would you be willing to stop listening to these messages?

Would you be willing to stop participating in games or reading comics that objectify (literally) women?

Do I even need to mention Grand Theft Auto here? When I played video games in my early 20s, GTA was my preferred poison – but it’s hardly the worst or the only game to portray women comically. Both comics and video games tend to use women as plot elements – as objectives that the hero must achieve or even conquer – or as fringe benefits to defeating a villain. If you’re feeling frustrated because you aren’t connecting with women in the ways your heroes are, would you be willing to find new heroes? As Chu states, women – just like men – give away their love. It isn’t earned. You don’t level up, you don’t get new achievements and stunts make things worse. Even though you may detest how certain men objectify women as body parts, you may be objectifying them as a prize. Ask women if they like either behavior (and which they find creepier).

Would you be willing to find ways to befriend women without seeking sexual expression?

Imagine for a moment that you’re a woman: the nerdy men in your life are desperate to have you, turn you into an objective, or get you to dote upon them. How lonely do you feel?

Simple roleplaying questions like this help to build empathy – they allow you to recognize that women are just like you and have basic needs that often go unmet. The flipside of men who complain that they can’t find love is women who therefore miss out on friendship and community with men. Would you consider building friendships with women without developing romantic aspirations?

Would you be willing to explore your own emotions and motivations?

Part of connecting with other people is connecting with yourself. For example, if you wish to maintain healthy friendships with women, as requested above, you may also need to be aware of your own feelings and needs. Fortunately, there are many resources available for improving self-connection. Nonviolent Communication, therapy, recovery meetings, support groups, religious groups – they all give you the opportunity to assess what you’re feeling and where your feelings come from.

If you find yourself feeling lost because you don’t know what you want from women or even what to do next, would you be willing to spend some quality time digging deeper into your own personality with the help of others?

Would you be willing to seek help if you feel close to expressing yourself with violence?

Finally, if you find yourself strongly identifying with someone like Elliot Rodger, the man who murdered seven people (my number includes Rodger) last week at the University of California at Santa Barbara,  you may consider seeking immediate help to protect yourself and others from violence. Like everyone, you’re capable of violence, but it is never too late to choose peace, love and understanding in your own life.

Please consider seeking help. If you find yourself feeling hatred and anger at life, would you call a friend or professional to develop a plan for change? And if you find yourself about to commit a violent act, would you be willing to call 911 or a mental health hotline to save yourself and others?

A major part of growing up is embracing honesty – seek not just the truth of the world but the truth of your own heart. If you’re surrounding yourself with dishonest stories about women, consider abstaining from them. But it’s equally important to examine your own dishonest stories about yourself. Repeating lies may make them believable – but it won’t make them true. Embracing delusions won’t make delusion become reality. Who are you? Are you ready for a relationship?

If Elliot Rodger were still alive, I’d ask him if he’d be willing to seek honesty in himself and the world. But he’s not, and he didn’t. Would you be willing to follow a different path?


Matthew Townsend is the Communications Missioner for the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester.

Nature versus Humans by Sarita Benesch

May 30, 2014   //   by David Sanchez   //   blog  //  No Comments

Peter Jemison’s contact with nature is one without hesitancy, cruelness, or barriers. Perhaps his communicative abilities stem from his membership of the Heron clan of the Seneca Nation or his artistic touch, but regardless, it’s uncommon in the twenty first century. During his talk at the Gandhi Institute, he spoke of the undeniable importance between humans and their environment.

Since the beginning of civilization, humans have depended on nature. Ancient Sumerians lived in harmony with the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, the ancient Egyptians were in touch with the Nile River, and even the Indus Valley civilizations learned to appreciate the unpredictable monsoons. The moment humans learned how to control nature, the interaction between the two became infinitely more complicated. At first, the increased complexity was not negative. In fact, irrigation techniques or terracing to control the water flow aided the common person and allowed for easy access to a vital resource, without harming the resource itself. At what point did human’s control of nature become detrimental to society? When instead of modifying nature, we started destroying it. The process occurred gradually, until the point we find ourselves today; almost complete disregard for nature and living things.

If everyone, including myself, were to quite literally stop and smell the roses, we would quickly become more aware of our surroundings. With awareness inherently comes mindfulness, kindness, and irreplaceable understanding of life. It is my hope that even as heavy industry keeps expanding and technology becomes more prevalent, the human race can continue to appreciate the value of untouched nature. Knowing where the closest herbal medicine is located is just as, if not more, important than being able to find a local wifi Hot-Spot.

Sarita Benesch

Triplets of Evil: Racism, Materialism & Militarism by Rafael Outland

May 16, 2014   //   by David Sanchez   //   blog  //  No Comments

 The following text was written by a friend and partner of the Gandhi Institute, Rafael Outland, and was read at the 2014 Rochester Season for Nonviolence Closing Ceremony at the Liberty Pole in downtown Rochester. Rafael is a Phd. student in counseling at the University of Rochester and is the director of the Male Self Awareness Program (M.S.A.P.) in Rochester which uses a culturally relevant model to educate young African American males in modes of personal development.  

Triplets of Evil, by Rafael Outland (Rochester Season for Nonviolence Closing Ceremony 4.4.14)

I want to begin by thanking everyone present, and the Creator, for allowing me to be here today. I’m not going to take too much of your time.

But one thing must remain clear, is that on this day…this day…I will speak truth to power!

We must remind ourselves that America, as a white supremacy superstructure, was created, and is still being maintained, on what Dr. Martin Luther King identified as “The Triplets of Evil.”

The triplets of evil, according to Dr. King’s notion, include Racism, Materialism, and Militarism.


Racism in America has been historically defined and practiced by elite Whites towards people of color, including Black, Brown, Red, Yellow, and poor White people.

From Native American Genocide, the African American Holocaust, Vietnamese American Concentration Camps, to our present day New Jim Crow, Mass Incarceration, America has perpetually maintained a sickness of Racialized social and institutional practices of oppression towards its citizens of color.

Today, Black, Brown, Red, Yellow, and poor White people are fighting for the same rights and liberties that freedom fighters and civil activists were fighting for during the 1960s and 70s:  Justice, Freedom, and Self-Determination (Or should I say, the power and right to control our own destiny).

How long must the youth in America continue to suffer from failing educational systems, unjust incriminating judicial systems, and deceitful politicians who tell lies for political power?

How long must the youth continue to suffer from the unadulterated practiced hate manifested through racism?


America is a country that takes pride in its material wealth.

A land that includes 5% of the world’s population, while consuming more than 25% of the Earth’s natural resources.

The same land where the minority continues to hoard the majority of the country’s assets, while the majority working class people are overworked and underpaid!

We live in a country where we tell poor Black, Brown, Red, Yellow and White children that “if you work hard, you will be successful.”

Yet, many of these same children watch their parents work three and four jobs, while still struggling to pay bills and make ends meet!

There must come a time where all Americans, especially poor people, look themselves in the mirror, and know that America’s Meritocracy Myth is just that:   A BIG FAT LIE!!!

The material wealth of this country remains in the hands of a selected few, while the majority Black, Brown, Red, Yellow, and poor Whites of this nation continue to suffer from poverty, lack of adequate health care, police brutality and harassment in their own communities!

We must make a decision as a people that enough is enough!  No More!  No more lies about being bankrupt as a nation; no more lies about not having funds for school programs and youth organizations; no more lies about funds needed to bail out banks!!!

Most importantly, no more lies about funds needed to support America’s tyrannical military regime!


Some people may ask the question: “Where is all the money being spent by the US government?”

We must remind ourselves as American citizens that the US military deems itself as “Big Brother”:  The protector of nations and its people.

American citizens have been conditioned by the media to accept our government’s ongoing military escapades abroad.

We have been conditioned to stay silent about the ongoing drone attacks in Yemen, often killing innocent men, women and children.

We have been conditioned to stay silent about the 10 year wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

We are told to “look the other way,” when the US government kills innocent men, women and children.

Yet, the same US government is swift in compiling a national and international terrorist and kill list.

We must remind ourselves that all US government military action, including occupations, cost money; the occupations both abroad, and at home.

It is no coincidence that our local and national police departments, are receiving military training.

They too are being conditioned to perceive all American citizens, especially poor people, as enemy combatants!

With all the talk of “national security” in the media, we must ask ourselves “for what purpose? For what cause? And for whose protection?”


In concluding, Dr. King was not assassinated, Rest In Power, because he was a man of love, a man of faith, or a man of integrity.

One of the honorable Black Moses of our time, the revered Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., was assassinated because “HE REFUSED TO STAY SILENT; HE REFUSED TO STAY SILENT IN HIS APPROACH OF SPEAKING AND ACTING ON TRUTH TO POWER.




blog Categories


  • January 15, 2015 7:00 pmRace Dialogue
  • January 18, 2015 2:00 pmA Conversation on Race: A Process of Discovery/Penfield Public Library
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