By Starhawk, February 2, 2016
Our January Earth Activist Training opened with the sound of clapper sticks and flutes, and the steady beat of a Pomo drum. Our old friend Neil, who has spent many years doing solidarity work with local tribes, had arranged for two dance groups of Pomo and Miwok to come and officially open the training. We hoped that some of the younger people would feel comfortable enough to stay on and take the two-week course, and in the end, four people did. And we were grateful to hear some of the language, the songs, and watch the beautiful dances of the original people of this land.
Our training takes place in the territory of the Kashia Pomo, at a Buddhist retreat center founded at a former minimum security prison that once housed firefighters. The folks at the Padmasambhava Peace Institute have hosted us for many years, and are very supportive of our work. Their center also has the supreme advantage of being just fifteen minutes down the road from Golden Rabbit Ranch, where my co-teacher and ranch manager Charles Williams and I are developing a model of carbon-sequestering, permaculture ranching, with sheep, goats, chickens, olives, lavender, and many healing and medicinal herbs, including Chinese medicinals.
The dance troops stayed on for a couple of days, and the next afternoon we brought everybody up to Golden Rabbit for a tour of our place. After many years of drought, we’re finally having a wet winter—but the rain paused, contenting itself with being more of a heavy, mystical fog, and we were able to show off some of our systems and teach about principles and patterns at the same time.
We also had four wonderful Deaf students at this course. Marlena Ramborger contacted me two years ago, and it was a long, sometimes frustrating but ultimately fruitful journey to find the resources to pay for interpreters and provide access. Virginia Beach was an important resource and support, guiding me through an introduction to the Deaf community and culture. Our amazing interpreters, Mary Nelson and Tadd Cohen, worked a marathon set of shifts. All of us in the course learned a lot about Deaf culture, which is rich and expressive, and watching the visual translation of verbal concepts added whole new dimensions of a kind of visceral, kinesthetic understanding.
In spite of the (blessed and much-needed) rain, it was as if the Weather Goddess had read our schedule, and we were able to get our for all of our hands-on projects: digging swales, propagating and seed-starting, making compost, sheet mulch, mushroom inoculation, hugelkulture (building raised beds over wood-piles), cob building, graywater…and some close encounters with the sheep, goats, and new babies!
We had a rich diversity of participants that spanned different age groups, backgrounds, races, genders, levels of experience…many sorts of diversity! At times that made for challenging discussions and hurt feelings—but hanging in there, working through it, and continuing to communicate also leads to deeper understanding. It can be painful to confront the realities of oppression and discrimination and to wrestle with our own grief, sense of loss, and sometimes, guilt and shame. But it can also be tremendously liberating and enriching to step beyond the bounds of our own assumptions and learn from a wider spectrum of experiences.
Earth Activist Training offers Diversity Scholarships for people of color working in environmental and social justice areas, for many reasons. We have a commitment to bring the tools and skills of earth regeneration to people from the communities most impacted by injustice, and we find that offering scholarships works, while many other strategies do not. A diverse course offers learning and challenges to all of our students that goes far deeper than just a new plant list or natural building technique. Ecology teaches us that diversity in a system generates resilience, and that is true in human systems as well, for when we bring together people of diverse backgrounds and life experiences, we see the world through different eyes, and become smarter and more compassionate as a result.
To do this, we depend on grants and on your donations. We are grateful to the LUSH Charity Pot Program, the Dougherty Foundation, California’s Department of Vocational Rehabilitation who all provided partial funding for this program. But we are especially grateful to all the individuals who continued to support these programs over the years! Thank you!
This article was originally published on Starhawk’s Website at starhawk.org/blog