Radical communion symposium:

On the Art of Building Beloved Communities Rooted in Belonging, Mutuality and Solidarity

10-5PM EDT / 3-10PM UTC

On Encountering One Another

What kinds of communities and connections are necessary—and possible—in these times of rupture and realignment? How might we build meaningful relationships that call us to meet in our power in ways that heal and transform?

We’re not racing toward liberation alone. We’re learning to walk each other home in love.

Many of us are searching for ways to deepen relationships and build authentic community. Some of us are longing to nurture stronger networks of mutual aid and reciprocity in service of survival and protection of the most vulnerable.  Some of us are longing to build solidarity within and between our movements because we recognize that the crises of our time share common roots and that our liberation is interconnected. Some of us are longing for connection with others because we sense that we become more fully human through truly encountering one another.

We recognize all of these longings. At Courage, our work centers on relational tending as a way of building community, nurturing our movements, and supporting our spiritual transformation.

We have learned, however, that the longing for community alone is not enough—we need skills that help us prepare to encounter one another in our power. We are also longing for skills as communities and movements to help us prepare to meet on new ground; to collaborate and build new spaces, systems and worlds that foster liberation for all.


About the Symposium

THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2023 | 10-5PM EDT / 3-10PM UTC

This symposium is designed to help our growing practice community strengthen the art of radical communion by learning and sharing tools for building beloved community in service of sustainable and meaningful solidarity.

This gathering will draw presenters and participants  from various movements, disciplines, and contexts to share approaches, challenges, and practices for building beloved community and solidarity within and between movements spaces. We hope that this symposium can serve to foster confidence and competence, weave connections, and strengthen our growing practice community.

Symposium sessions are organized around our framework for building relational culture, CourageRISE. Community members are welcome to join us for any and all sessions. Folks may also request video recordings of the program.

Additional panelists and presenters will be added and announced in the coming weeks, so stay tuned!

Welcome Session

10am Eastern | 3pm UTC

Building Compassionate, Truth-Telling, Healing-Centered and Visionary Cultures of Practice

with Brooke Lavelle, Ph.D. & Maha El-Sheikh and a special performance by Grounded-in-Motion

Gather with us as we set the intentions, frame and practice field for the day. And meet your symposium hosts, Courage Co-Directors Brooke Lavelle and Maha El-Sheikh.

Maha El-Sheikh (she/her) is the Co-Director and core faculty at Courage of Care, and a member of the International Solidarity Movement, where she partners with relational facilitators and leaders in the economic, racial and climate justice movements. With 20 years working in the international humanitarian sector, Maha’s work currently focuses on the social injustices underlying our global crises. As a facilitator, she is inspired by 15 years living and working in Palestine and Lebanon, learning how connection to heart, beloved community, mutual aid, joy, and compassion can serve as antidotes to oppression, colonization, injustice and violence. 

Brooke Lavelle, Ph.D.  (she/her) is the Co-Founder and Co-Director of Courage of Care. She holds a Ph.D. in Buddhism and Embodied Cognition, and is committed to ways in which individuals and communities develop cultures of practice that support love, health and liberation. Brooke has consulted to various human rights, education and spiritual organizations, and has experience leading national and international political, educational and climate justice projects. Through her work at Courage and in her neighborhood of Gowanus, Brooklyn, Brooke understands the challenges of trying to build alternatives to the status quo, and remains steadfastly convinced that another way is possible.

Session One

10:15 Eastern | 3:15pm UTC

On Belonging to Earth

with Melanie Harris, Cynthia Ong and Carine Gibert

Join us for our first session as we situate the work of building radical communion in a more-than-human frame.

Together our panelists will invite us to reflect on what happens when we realize we are made of the same material as the earth, and how our relationship with/as nature can help us reclaim belonging and community.

Headshot of Rev. Dr. Melanie HarrisRev. Dr. Melanie Harris (she/her) is Professor of Black Feminist Thought and Womanist Theology jointly appointed with Wake Forest School of Divinity and the African American Studies program at Wake Forest University. Dr. Harris is also the Director of the Food, Health and Ecological Well-Being Program.  A graduate of the Harvard Leadership Program, Dr. Harris is a former American Council of Education Fellow and Founding Director of the TCU African American and Africana Studies program. Her research and scholarship critically examines intersections between race, religion, gender and environmental ethics.  She is the author of many scholarly articles and books including Gifts of Virtue: Alice Walker and Womanist Ethics (Palgrave), Ecowomanism: Earth Honoring Faiths (Orbis) and co-editor of Faith, Feminism, and Scholarship: The Next Generation (Palgrave) as well as numerous journal articles and book chapters. Dr. Harris earned her PhD and M.A. degrees from Union Theological Seminary in The City of New York, an M. Div. from Iliff School of Theology and a B.A. from Spelman College.

Cynthia Ong  (she/her) engages in facilitating processes, partnerships and projects that provoke ecologically sustainable co-existence between groups, communities, regions and nations.  Her experience over the past 25 years has been in the fields of organizational leadership, process facilitation, project management and financing.  With a passion for finding the creative tension and balance between process and task, Cynthia founded LEAP – Land Empowerment Animals People – which has helped birth multiple long-term partnerships and organizations coalescing around systemic solutions and change.  Among these is Forever Sabah, the Malaysian Borneo state of Sabah’s transition towards a diversified, equitable circular economy with the focal areas of food and agriculture, water, waste and soil, renewable energy and tourism.

Carine Gibert (she/her) is the founder and lead facilitator of Grounded In Motion. The essence of her work is to explore embodied practices to evoke new forms of ecological consciousness through sensorial learning. Deepening our awareness of the beautiful and delicate interdependence of ecosystems. Creating spaces that celebrate wild wisdom drives her vision. Grounded In Motion designs experiences aimed at reconnecting humans with the natural world and creates frameworks to elevate ecological awareness.

Session Two

11:45am Eastern | 4:45pm UTC

The Cost of Community: Getting Real About Burnout and Fatigue in Coalition Building

with Ed Porter, Abra Vigna, Norma Timbang and Gianni Solorzano

The work of building community can be both rewarding and taxing. Join us for a session that helps us get at the roots of some of these challenges, especially in multi-identity spaces.

Together we will also explore embodied pathways or practices that can support us to truly meet in our power and be transformed in ways that are nourishing and life-giving.

Ed Porter  (he/they) has a rich and varied career in public education, professional development, community leadership, systems thinking and equity training. His vision is to provide services in a variety of modalities to individuals, groups, and organizations that assist them in opening their eyes, minds, and hearts to working together across race, gender, and cultural identities—building a workplace and a world that honors, celebrates, and upholds the values and contributions of all. Mr. Porter serves on the Board and Faculty of Courage of Care through which he regularly leads compassion-based, anti-oppressive and healing- centered trainings for multi-racial audiences.

Norma Timbang (she/they)  is known for their skill in building effective working relationships with community activists and legislators. Norma is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Washington School of Social Work and a private consultant facilitating educational projects and dialogues on social justice and creating transformative and liberatory cultures. As a former board member of the National Asian Pacific Women’s Forum and former executive director of Asian Pacific Islander Women & Family Safety Center (now merged into API Chaya) they have  extensive experience organizing around issues affecting Asian and Pacific American women, especially in the fields of domestic violence, human trafficking, disability justice, and LGBTQ+ BIPOC elder care. In 2012 and again in 2014, they visited Cuba as a delegate to the US Women and Cuba Collaboration learning from Cuban women and LGBTQ+ communities ways to educate US legislators and communities about the realities of Cuba today. In 2014, the School of Social Work honored Norma with the Martin Luther King Jr. Social Justice Award for their broad and effective community work. In 2019, Norma received the Acey Social Justice Feminist award from the Astraea Lesbian Foundation for Justice. Norma is currently a member of a collective of people working to dismantle mandatory reporting policies that create harm for survivors of violence (https://www.mandatoryreportingisnotneutral.com/). 

Gianni Solorzano  (they/el)  is a brown trans freedom dreamer, abolitionist, and healing justice facilitator. Humbly drawing from the teachings of Toni Cade Bambara, their life’s work is to make the revolution irresistible. After receiving their Master’s degree in Culture and Communication at the University of Gastronomic Studies (Pollenzo, Italy), Gianni pursued a sociology PhD at North Carolina State University where they honed their qualitative research skills and served as a youth mental health advocate and first responder. Gianni is the co-founder of Everyday Transformative Queeries (ETQ), a care-centered research collective devoted to the study and practice of decolonial and liberatory pedagogies.

Abra Vigna (she/her) is a white, queer, anti-racist, jewish priestess and devotee to freedom. She has a background in youth work and crisis counseling, is a certified conflict mediator and full-time shadow walker. Her PhD research examined differences in self-compassion across racially diverse LGBTQ youth. For work she supports communities in changing the conditions of their lives to advance health equity by evolving beyond the norms of whiteness into norms of belonging. Skilled in multi-method research she enjoys finding the story in the data and inspiring others to find their self-interest in collective liberation. For joy she reads, sings, admires her child, tries her hand at watercolor, travels to meet big trees, enjoys banter about the nature of pain and delight, swoons for cleverness and perfectly ripe avocados, and came into embodiment to work on wringing shame out of all our dark alleys.

Session Three

1:00pm Eastern | 6:00pm UTC

Coming Back Together: On Repair and Reconciliation

with Thenmozhi Soundararajan, Tina Strawn and Peter Doran

What can repair mean in contexts of transgenerational trauma? What can coming together towards healing look like in the context of ongoing oppression and domination?

Learn from movement leaders from various global contexts about the art and practice of conflict resolution and reconciliation.

Headshot of ThenmoziThenmozhi Soundararajan is a Dalit American Civil rights artist, organizer, and theorist who has worked with organizations around the world to address the urgent issues of racial, caste, and gender equity. She is the Co-Founder and Executive Director of Equality Labs, and her intersectional, cross-pollinating work helps to create a more generous, global, expansive, and inclusive definition of South Asian identity, along with safe spaces from which to honor the stories of these communities. She was also an inaugural fellow of the Robert Rauschenberg Artist as Activist, Atlantic Foundation for Racial Equity, and is a current fellow at Stanford Center for South Asian Studies. She is also the author of the newly released book The Trauma of Caste: A Dalit Feminist Meditation on Survivorship, Healing, and Abolition by North Atlantic Books, which examines caste from a feminist, abolitionist, and Dalit Buddhist perspective and ties Dalit oppression to fights for liberation among Black, Indigenous, Latinx, femme, and Queer communities. 

Headshot of Tina StrawnTina Strawn is a racial and social justice advocate, author, and liberation activist. She learns, teaches, speaks, writes and facilitates through the lens of radical Black feminism and critical race theory for the purpose of advocating for Black joy and Black liberation. She is the Founder of Legacy Trips, which are three-day anti-racism trips utilizing spiritual practices as tools to dismantle racism. She is the owner of Speaking of Racism podcast, and is the author of the upcoming book, “Are We Free Yet?: The Black, Queer Guide to Divorcing America ” through Row House Publishing. She is also a contributing author of the 2020 book, “Check Your Privilege: Lean Into The Discomfort.” Tina has three adult children, and has been a minamalist nomad since February 2020. She now lives in Costa Rica, exploring and examining what it looks like and feels like for a queer Black womxn to be free and find home.


headshot of Peter DoranPeter Doran is a lecturer in law at the School of Law at Queens University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, and a senior editor/writer with the International Institute for Sustainable Development’s reporting services at the United Nations. He is a founder member of the Green Party in Northern Ireland, and has worked as a researcher for the Northern Ireland Assembly and for the Green Party in Dáil Éireann in Dublin. His most recent publication is a book on the attention economy, consumerism and wellbeing, A Political Economy of Attention, Mindfulness and Consumerism: Reclaiming the mindful commons (Routledge). The book draws on Buddhist philosophy to critique the attention economy. His research and interests include degrowth and the wellbeing economy, climate justice, global environmental politics, and the intersections of Zen philosophy, ecology, and wellbeing.

Session Four

2:30pm Eastern | 7:30pm UTC

Dreaming Beloved Community

with Gia Mariam Hasan

What kinds of communities and connections are do we long for in these times? Can we dream new ways of living and being together, in spite of our histories, and even challenged relationships?

In this session, we will explore the art of “radical communion” and what it takes to build multi-identity coalitions that support true collaboration in service of collective liberation. 

Gia Mariam Hassan (she/they) is a multi-disciplinary coach and facilitator, working with people across ages and sectors in stress, resilience, nutrition, mindfulness, and overall well being. Born and raised in England to South Asian parents, Gia moved to the USA 18 years ago, and currently lives on Piscataway Land (Alexandria, VA). She is an eternal student, and is particularly interested in trauma, resilience, somatics, and complexity. With a love for earth wisdom and earth medicine, she is currently fascinated by all things mushroom related. 

Gia recently co-authored the upcoming anthology Deserts to Mountaintops on resilience and reclamation. As well as storytelling through writing poetry and prose, she loves to tell stories through food and creates new recipes in her kitchen lab. Her ethic is firmly rooted in love, and she works with local organizations on diversity, equity, and belonging. She loves the power of reinvention and reimagination, dreaming and intentionality, and is committed to collective liberation. 

Session Five

3:45pm Eastern | 8:45pm UTC

Going All the Way: On Risk and Responsibility

with Miko Brown, Kai Horton, Chihiro Geuzebroek and Jorge Salazar

What does it mean to go all the way? To take risks in service of community and collective liberation? Our panelists, all of whom are grounded in solidarity work in diverse justice movements, will reflect on the promises and  challenges to building solidarity in these times.

Miko Brown (Miko/Miko’s) Over the past 15 years, Miko Brown has helped to foster a more just and compassionate world in partnership with individuals and communities throughout the United States. Miko’s previous experience includes work in national service with AmeriCorps, farmed animal sanctuaries, food system transformation, social justice and equity initiatives, and mental health and wellness. Miko is the owner of Hearth Consulting, an organization that supports individual clients using hypnosis and a body-based process called Focusing. Miko received a Master’s Degree in Social Change and has contributed to several anthologies exploring the countering of oppression and promotion of care and justice for all beings and the planet.

headshot of kai horton
Kai Horton (they/them) is a non-binary, transmaculine, queer, Filipinx/Latinx, child of immigrant parents poet and queer and trans joy advocate. They are Core Faculty at Courage of Care and Co-Executive Director of Programs at Seattle’s LGBTQ+ Center where they oversee the internal programs from youth advocacy to health services and program innovation for the future. They have a background in equity-centered, anti-oppressive leadership and have led and advanced DEIA work across several organizations. They believe that rest, healing, embodiment, and deep relational tending are vital to the well-being of their teams and communities. They are devoted to cultivating spaces of joy and liberation for the LGBTQIA+ community and, most specifically, QTBIPOC folx.  


Chihiro Geuzebroek  (she/her) is multidisciplinary artist, writer, organizer, trainer in decolonial climate justice perspectives and practices. She is Bolivian-Dutch; a Quechua grandchild born and raised in Amsterdam. She is the Director Producer of feature doc Radical Friends & Co-founder of Aralez Foundation. She has been an sunday-activist since 2003, an filmmaker-activist since 2009 and organizer since 2013 and kept on developing as a trainer. She combines activism with writing and performing protestsongs, spokenword poetry and art. She has trained people through Code Rood and Climate Liberation Bloc and Aralez Foundation and as freelancer. She trained groups in Greenpeace (diverse offices), Milieudefensie, Het Groene Brein, Fridays for Future, Extinction Rebellion and many more groups in cultural, educational, NGO and political spaces. She has given talks in 10+ countries and is best known for bringing analysis and practical engagement around the climate crisis being a colonial crisis and the homework of dismantling climate racism. 


Jorge Salazar (he/him/el)currently serves as Project Director for the Inner Activist. He came to Canada as a refugee from Colombia in late 2000, and has used his own immigration journey, life experiences, training and education to bridge communities and facilitate positive change within government, organizations and grassroots groups for more than 15 years. Jorge has worked to support connections between diverse communities, particularly between indigenous, immigrants and refugees among others, in BC, Canada and the Americas. He has worked with Immigrant Services Society of BC, MOSAIC, the International Institute for Child Rights and Development – University of Victoria, City of Vancouver, the Ecumenical Task Force for Justice in the Americas, PeerNet BC and most recently as a Manager for the Fresh Voices Initiative with the Vancouver Foundation.


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