tending to the heart of our movements for justice and liberation

Our Inaugural Symposium on Relational Culture

10-4PM EDT / 2-8PM UTC

On the Need for Relational Culture

Globally, we are in the midst of multiple and converging social, economic, and ecological crises: climate change, wars, famine, forced migration, identity-based violence, increasing fascism, and pandemics. 

At Courage of Care, we understand the roots of our current crises to be fundamentally relational in nature – ruptures in relationship with our planet and with each other. Relational disconnection is threatening democracies and our collective social fabric: worldwide we are witnessing trends of greater inequality, polarization, alienation, and othering. Even in social justice movement spaces where community readiness for addressing systemic injustice has risen sharply, organizations and people require both healing and skills necessary to work in multi-identity spaces, to work through conflict generatively, and across issues or sectors.  

We believe that the solutions to our crises can only be cultivated through nurturing and strengthening relational culture and solidarity within our communities, organizations and movements for justice and liberation. Without tending to the relational culture of our movements, we are building our movements on a fragile base, at risk of perpetuating the very systems of oppression that we are working to transform.

Our work therefore centers on supporting those working towards justice and liberation with skills to build coalitions rooted in compassion-based, truth-telling, counter-oppressive, healing-centered, visionary and transformative practice.

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About the Symposium

TUESDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 2022 | 10-4PM EDT / 2-8PM UTC

This symposium is designed to help affirm and visibilize the art of relational culture building. This gathering will draw presenters and participants  from various movements, disciplines, and contexts to share approaches, challenges, and practices for strengthening relational culture in movement 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 | 2pm 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 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 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.

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.Carine’s performance is co-led with her two colleagues, Federico Diaz (guitar) and Benjamin Furman (piano). 

Session One

10:10 Eastern | 3:10pm UTC

Tending to the Relational Ruptures in Our Movements for Justice

with Cedar Landsman & Lucién Demaris​

Join us for our first session as we situate the work of building relational culture in these times of global rupture and realignment.

Together, we will explore the relational roots of these intersecting crises and reflect on the need for building and nurturing relational culture within our movements for justice and liberation.

Cedar Landsman (she/her), Co-director of Relational Uprising, is a heart-centered organizer, facilitator, teacher and consultant of white Jewish heritage who has worked in the field of social justice for nearly 20 years. She was an organizer in the global justice movement of the early 2000s, and participated in transnational solidarity organizing and mass mobilizations across the US and Latin America against corporate-driven international trade policy. During that time, she earned a Bachelor’s degree in globalization theory and social movement history from Hampshire College. She then spent 3 years as a labor organizer in Los Angeles’ fighting for a living wage for low-wage non-union hotel workers. Cedar went on to attend UCLA and earned a Master’s degree with honors in Latin American Studies and a Master’s degree in Urban Planning with a concentration in food policy with a critical race lens. Cedar has worked in the food justice movement since 2010, focused on movement building and policy work to address racial and health disparities in the food system

Lucién Demaris (he/him), Co-director of Relational Uprising, is a Somatics-based healer, teacher, coach and consultant who has worked in the fields of healing and somatics for over 20 years in the US and internationally. A Latinx immigrant born and raised in Ecuador, Lucién roots his work in the deep ecological values of mutual support and stewardship of the Earth taught to him by Kichwa and Shuar healers from the Andes and the Amazon, who mentored him as an aspiring young healer and anthropologist. After migrating to Los Angeles in 1997, he encountered postmodern Somatics practices for personal transformation. For a decade, he studied an ascetic embodiment practice called Tensegrity in a community led by renowned and controversial anthropologist and author Carlos Castaneda. Growing to value more emergent and inclusive practices of embodied transformation and holistic healing, Lucién became a Guild Certified Feldenkrais Practitioner, a Registered Somatic Movement Educator and Therapist by the International Somatic Movement Education & Therapy Association, a Licensed Acupuncturist with a Masters and a National Diplomate in East-Asian Medicine (NCCAOM), and a Nationally Certified Bodyworker.

Sonali Sangeeta Balajee (she/her) is a proud mother, artist, organizer, facilitator, mindfulness/yoga instructor, and emerging health practitioner who works at the intersection of belonging, equity, and deep transformative change. She roots in her home cultures and lands of India and Sri Lanka, and honors those from the Midwest (States) who also contributed to her growth and commitment to justice. Her formative education is in the arts, business, and educational reform. Her life work has focused on bringing forward ideas and strategies that speak to wholeness, specifically calling for leading with multiple truths and perspectives required for collective health. To those ends, she strives to elevate the connection between social and spiritual wellbeing, focusing on artistically embodying and animating the web of health, belonging, collective care, and liberation.  

Sonali is a former Senior Fellow at the Othering and Belonging Institute (UC Berkeley) and author of the Evolutionary Roadmap for Belonging and Co-liberation. She is also co-founder of Our Bodhi Project, which works to create meaningful spaces of learning and strategies for healthy movement-building that center the ‘whole’ of our experiences as living systems. Sonali spent 13 years in U.S.-based government in Portland, Oregon, innovating in the areas of health equity, policy and systems shift towards justice, and community visioning. Her community organizing background has focused on youth development, environmental justice, and HIV / AIDS-related advocacy and service. Her current advocacy focus is on resource mobilization for projects and initiatives that speak to the social and environmental antidotes our world so desperately needs. 

Session Two

11:10am Eastern | 4:10pm UTC

Embodying Counter-Oppressive Relational Culture

with Wangūi wa Kamonji

Systems of oppression live in our bodies and are reproduced through our cultural practices. In this session, we will explore the ways in which relational, somatic practices can help us both heal from the toxic effects of domination and oppression, and help us build cultures of practice rooted in belonging, care and solidarity.    

Wangūi wa Kamonji (she/her) is a regeneration practitioner. Her work is motivated by the question of how to heal the colonial traumas of past and present, and (re)create new-old regenerative realities for the present and future of the Afrikan continent. She explores this through research using academic and indigenous methods, storytelling in written and oral forms, traditional Afrikan dance and movement practice, and facilitating spaces for critical consciousness and decolonial transformations in partnership with human, earth and unembodied spirit relations.

Wangũi is hearth keeper of the collective, Afrika hai, which researches, reconnects to and reimagines indigenous African ways of being, knowing and doing, and convene spaces to share these to enable healing of colonial violence and trauma, and creation and direction of presents and futures that work towards life for Earth, society and ancestors. She has a Masters in African Studies with Environment from University College London (UCL), and a Bachelors degree in Environmental Studies and Urban Studies from Wellesley College, USA. She has undertaken independent and guided research-learning journeys in several countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia that have broadened her perspective, sharpened her questions, and inspired her life and work.

Session Three

12:20pm Eastern | 4:20pm UTC

Nurturing the Spirit of Our Movements

with Wendy Farley, Ph.D., Sheryl Petty, Ed.D., Reverend Jen Bailey, Ph.D., & Liz Aeschlimann, M.Div

Some say the relational crises of our time are spiritual crises. What might this mean for how we approach building relational culture? 

This multi-faith panel will consider the ways in which spiritual practice an activism inform one another. Together we will reflect on the tension points between contemplative practice and action and consider how we might best navigate those challenges in our movement spaces. 

Wendy Farley, Ph.D. (she/her), is a devoted teacher to college, seminary and doctoral students. Wendy received her Ph.D. from Vanderbilt University in 1988 in Systematic Theology, with a concentration in philosophy. Since then, she has focused on contributions of marginalized voices and issues, including feminist, womanist, and queer theology, contemplative practice, and inter-religious dialogue. She is interested in the interdependence of interior transformation and social justice. These themes are reflected in her recent book: Beguiled by Beauty: Cultivating a Life of Contemplation and Compassion (Westminster John/Knox 2020).  

As a leading theologian re-envisioning major theological topics, Wendy Farley has written extensively on women theologians and mystics, religious dialogue, classical texts, contemporary ethical issues, and contemplative practices. Wendy also serves on the Board of the Courage of Care Coalition. 

Reverend Jennifer Bailey (she/her) is an ordained minister, public theologian, and national leader in the multi-faith movement for justice. She is the Founder and Executive Director of the Faith Matters Network, a Womanist-led organization equipping community organizers, faith leaders, and activists with resources for connection, spiritual sustainability, and accompaniment. Jen comes to this work with nearly a decade of experience at nonprofits combating intergenerational poverty. Rev. Bailey is an ordained itinerant elder in the African Methodist Episcopal Church and serves locally on the staff of Greater Bethel A.ME. Church in Nashville, Tennessee.

An Ashoka Fellow, Nathan Cummings Foundation Fellow, Aspen Ideas Scholar, On Being Fellow and Truman Scholar, Jennifer earned degrees from Tufts University and Vanderbilt University Divinity School. Her work  has been featured on OnBeing with Krista Tippett, CBS This Morning, the New York Times, the Washington Post, and dozens of other publications.

Sheryl Petty, Ed.D. (she/her)(Odu Lami; Ngakma Tsültrim Shé-tsal Wangmo), has been a priest and practitioner of Lucumi and Yogic Vajrayana Buddhism since 1997. She teaches and is ordained in Lucumi & Tibetan Nyingma lineages, and is authorized to share practices based in Bön Buddhist Dzogchen (the Indigenous tradition of Tibet). She was ordained in the Nyingma Buddhist tradition by Ngak’chang Rinpoche, joint holder of the Aro gTér lineage, and was authorized in Bön-based practices via Tenzin Wangyal Rinpoche’s community. She also practices deeply with Gelug and rimé Buddhist lineages.

Her full-time career since the mid-1990s supports organizations around the U.S. and internationally, to heal from systemic racism and other forms of inequity, blockages, fear and dysfunction. She partners with clients with significant regional, national and global footprints via her consulting firm Movement Tapestries, providing long-term, multi-year Deep Equity, Organizational Transformation & Systems Change support (inc. strategy planning, processes, relationships, culture and structures; speaking and publishing). She also provides transformation support on the integration of deep equity & spiritual/contemplative practice in institution-wide and field-level change. Her work supports systems to function in more rigorous, courageous, loving and healthy ways for the benefit of all. Given profound demand, she also focuses on building and strengthening the field of equity & organizational transformation practitioners. This contributes to the development of a deep and skilled-enough pool of networked consultants, to support the healing of organizations and systems as far and wide as possible.

Liz Aeschlimann, M.Div. (she/her), is an experienced community organizer, educator, and chaplain. She has spent the last decade helping people build transformative relationships and draw on wisdom tools for resilience, purpose, and powerful collective action. She began her journey as facilitator and organizer in Thailand and Eastern Kentucky, learning from communities organizing to resist global extractive capitalism, protect their water and land, and build economies based in solidarity. She holds an M.Div from Harvard Divinity School.

Liz’s work with communities of faith and her questions about how to fuel long-lasting transformation brought her to divinity school. In the summer of 2016, Liz set out across the country to talk to people who were powerfully integrating spirituality and justice. Over two months, she interviewed 33 organizers, activists, and spiritual teachers in 6 states, and showed up at protests, meditation sittings, barbecues, and open mic nights with one question: “What are you doing that feels spiritual in your work?” The short answer was: getting mixed up with each other, and recognizing how mixed up with each other we already are. 

Session Four

1:20pm Eastern | 5:20pm UTC

The Art of Radical Communion: Strengthening Multi-Identity Coalitions

with Dr. Leticia Nieto

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?

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. 

Leticia Nieto, Psy.D., LMFT, TEP, (she/her) is a leadership coach, psychotherapist, and educator specializing in liberation and equity, cultural responsiveness, motivational patterning, and evolutionary creativity. Her 2010 book, Beyond Inclusion, Beyond Empowerment: A Developmental Strategy to Liberate Everyone, is an accessible analysis of the dynamics of oppression and supremacy that offers readers ways to develop skills to promote social justice.

Dr. Nieto is internationally recognized for her expertise addressing social justice concerns from a developmental ecological perspective including orienting to systemic transformation, survivance, song and poetry, relational repair, joy, radical rest, intersectional coalition, and reparative and restorative justice. Dr. Nieto brings an enlivening approach to coaching, training and facilitation, drawing on expressive techniques and embodied practices to involve participants deeply and create opportunities for insight and change. Since 1980 she has successfully brought her skills to higher education and other learning communities (including three decades teaching in a graduate program in counseling), to service providers in helping agencies, to workplace teams, and to many community groups.
Dr. Nieto’s activism, scholarship, and consulting work are informed by living at the borders of intersectional experience. In addition to degrees in clinical psychology and human development, she is certified in Action Methods, including Psychodrama, Playback Theater, and Theater of the Oppressed. Leticia is a Senior Faculty at the International Tele’Drama Institute (ITI).  She is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (WA) and an AAMFT Approved Supervisor.

Session Five

2:30pm Eastern | 6:30pm UTC

On Risk, Responsibility, and Recalibration in Relational Culture Work

with Starhawk, Sa'ed Atshan, Neta Golan, Maytik Avirama, Sarah McAdam & Emma Biermann

In our day’s final session, we will consider the important link between relational culture and solidarity. Our panelists, all of whom are grounded in solidarity work in diverse justice movements, will reflect on the ways in which relational culture supports solidarity as well as the challenges to building solidarity in these times.

Starhawk is an author, activist, permaculture designer and teacher, and a prominent voice in modern earth-based spirituality and ecofeminism. She is the author or co-author of thirteen books, including The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess and the ecotopian novel The Fifth Sacred Thing, and its sequel City of Refuge.

Her most recent non-fiction book is The Empowerment Manual: A Guide for Collaborative Groups, on group dynamics, power, conflict and communications. 

Starhawk founded Earth Activist Training, teaching permaculture design grounded in spirituality and with a focus on activism. She travels internationally, lecturing and teaching on earth-based spirituality, the tools of ritual, and the skills of activism. 

Sa’ed Atshan, Ph.D. joined the Emory Anthropology faculty in Fall 2021. He has served as an Associate Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at Swarthmore College, as a Visiting Assistant Professor of Anthropology and Senior Research Scholar in Middle Eastern Studies at the University of California, Berkeley. He is the author of Queer Palestine and the Empire of Critique (Stanford University Press, 2020). 

Atshan has recently embarked on two new projects. One is researching the convergent and divergent experiences of African-American and Palestinian Quakers, with an emphasis on the intersection of race and Christianity in the United States and Israel/Palestine. This project is entitled, “Can the Subaltern Quaker Speak?: Alienation and Belonging among Black and Palestinian Friends.” The other, “Queer Imaginaries and the Re-Making of the Modern Middle East,” is in collaboration with Phillip Ayoub (Diplomacy and World Affairs, Occidental College). Atshan and Ayoub are researching LGBTQ activism across the Middle East and North Africa region.

Neta Golan is an Israeli anti-apartheid activist, a co-founder of the International Solidarity Movement (ISM) and an active member of Jews4decolinization, and Boycott From Within. Neta lives in Nablus with her Palestinian partner, their daughters and cat, an ilegal act under Israel’s apartheid laws.

Emma Biermann (they/them) is a lead facilitator for the Solidarity Matters project. Growing up in a family heavily impacted by war and genocide, Emma‘s initial organising was focused on raising funds to support survivors.  Whilst valid, Emma questioned what this really changed long-term and began working with others to challenge the root causes of injustices they wanted to shift. From here, Emma began stepping into group work as a transformative facilitator and trainer, believing that the process towards the outcome is part of bringing our dreams of liberation and justice to life.  They work with socio-political groups and movements to invite creativity, power analysis and healing practices. 

Maytik Avirama (she/her) grew up in the Amazon rainforest of the Cauca region of Colombia, where her family has a history of fighting for indigenous rights and land ownership, and developed a passion for achieving environmental and social justice in Latin America. She is interested in the intersection between environmental activism and personal/collective healing, storytelling, alternative economies, feminism, and new technologies.  

Maytik co-created and co-leads the Colombian team of TierrActiva, a youth-led grassroots environmental collective in Latin America. In TA Colombia she has been responsible for project management, logistical planning, financial management and liaising with peasant communities attempting to strengthen rural-urban solidarity economies and networking for local and organic products in the city. She is also a founding member of Rudas Y Salvias, a women’s cooperative entrepreneurship project, where she helped to develop sustainable products that support local economies and empower women. Maytik also leads the podcast series Radio Savia, which presents stories of resistance and healing in order to give visibility to women’s voices from the global south.

Sarah McAdam (she/her) currently focuses her energy and time on work that explores and supports transformational governance, regenerative culture and meaningful solidarity. She spent the bulk of her career in the UK public sector – working in local and central government in roles that involved advocacy and the independent review of services as well as leading operational delivery in fast-changing contexts. In 2011, she came into contact with the emerging Transition movement – an international grassroots movement of communities coming together to reimagine and rebuild our world. By 2013, she had joined the Transition Network team and was learning how to catalyse, support and amplify the work of groups seeking to deliver systemic change and build resilience in the face of multiple interrelated crises. Sarah played a key role in Transition Network’s shift to a shared governance model and remains active in the Transition Hubs Group, a transnational experiment in collaboration across difference and distance and the transparent distribution of power, resources and accountabilities. She has skills and experience in facilitation, process design, network weaving and practices which nurture healthy culture.

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