A few weeks ago I shared that for the past 6 months I have been escaping the pressures of the professional world on my “b-c-batical“, a sabbatical of sorts, with lots of time to think and reflect while doing physical labor. I’m working with Jose in our company Minne-Mex Construction, of which I am the jr. partner.
Themes I had been pondering over the last few months included:
- Why I must Write (and Speak) About Race
- Perspective is a Product of Position
- Everybody Wants to Start a Program, but Few Really Want to Be a Friend
- A Sabbatical of Sorts; in a Blue-Collar Way
Now I’m sure some of you may be wondering, “how can I someday earn a B-C-batical ?
I can’t offer you 3 easy steps, besides what got me here may not work for you. However during the past months of working I’ve thought about choices I’ve made, actions I’ve taken, that have “earned” me a B-C-batical. These have been some of the major mile markers on what I see as a “Journey to Beloved Community”
When I moved to North Minneapolis over 25 years ago I was a youth pastor and a social studies teacher. I earned my Masters of Arts degree from St. Thomas University. Since then and I’ve worked as a neighborhood pastor and in the non-profit sector. I’ve been a professor and as student development professional with multi-cultural students. Yet right now I’m thankful to be painting and doing general construction with Minne-Mex…
… so here is my top five list of how I earned a B-C-batical:
5. Anchor yourself in a community rather than a career.
WHY? I believed early on that I was called to be part of my neighborhood and that connection became more important than pursuing employment opportunities that would root us up. Even as I went to teach in sub-urban colleges two things were clear, “I’m not moving out” and “I’m taking this job as it connects with and is of benefit to people of my community.”
BENEFIT? I am anchored in a great community with lots of sincere friends, my children are grateful to have had one home and community to grow up in. We’ve been able to have the perspective of time and long-term relationships. I frequently go to the store or for a walk and meet a young man or women for whom I was a teacher, coach or in some other leadership role and they remind me of the positively impact of our time together.
4. Be willing to shed and share your power to increase the power of those around you.
WHY? If I really believe in unity and equality, then the purpose of life is not to build up myself if I am not also building up the community of which I am a part. I’ve tried to follow the advice of the CCDA to not ever to anything alone, but to involve others in building power together. This is why I co-pastored a church and am co-owner of a construction company.
BENEFIT? I’ve learned to slow down to involve others, to listen and learn from diverse perspectives. I’ve become more by pushing myself to command less.
3. Value relationship building over resume building.
WHY? Maybe I’m too simplistic, but to me the following sayings are more than clichés. Life is about the journey, not the destination. The value of life is about WHO you know, more than WHAT you have done. There are things I’ve chosen NOT to do, just because I was not willing to sacrifice time and energy I put into relationships for an “accomplishment”
BENEFIT? I have a solid resume of friends and colleagues who have taught me more than years formal education could have. I also see some who have endured so much “stress” to accomplish their dreams and I am thankful my life is relatively stress free.
2. Care more about the students your organization serves than the donors the organization serves.
WHY? Institutions claim that they serve their mission statement and the needs of their clients. But what happens when the formal mission statement and the client needs clash with the will of the donors? The squeaky wheel gets silenced.
BENEFIT? Finding myself at the fulcrum of such conflict opened my eyes to common realities of power that I had naively believed were uncommon. I had to choose if I would speak out with friends who were suffering or be silent and safe.
1. Reveal that institutional racism exists in the institution where you work and demonstrate it with quotes from the organization’s leadership.
WHY? I thought they had hired me to help fix some problems; that’s what they said. I thought they wanted to try to fix problems; not pretend they didn’t exist. In reality, I learned that many institutions hire people to work areas of diversity to satisfy accreditation requirements and take a band-aid approach to healing deep wounds. However, they are not interested in addressing the root issues.
BENEFIT? I began to see racism much more clearly. Because of my skin tone, I had never before had the opportunity to see and feel the full wrath of Whiteness angered. I was only able to make sense of it when friends of color walked me back through those days of confusion. These experiences have made me more.
As I was painting a few months ago, contemplating how I earned a Blue-Collar Sabbatical, these were the key values and decisions that came to mind. Any regrets? Heck no! I’m grateful for the path I’ve been allowed to walk and for all those who have journeyed with me. Please realize too, I didn’t write this to make any type of boast, or to open up old wounds, but just to be honest and hopefully in honesty encourage others to be willing to stay on their own trail that is their Journey to Beloved Community.
You may be surprised where the trail may lead.