Broad Growth in Oregon

Hi Harvey.

Things are going well here in Portland. My Area is rapidly moving toward dividing. I suspect we will be ready to do so in the early fall, or at the latest by the end of the year. I have waited for a while to do it in order to better prepare the leaders around some topics that I hadn't been rigorous enough about in the past - attacks, policy, etc. We have been holding a series of gather-ins for the new "Areas to Be" so that people can establish relationships with each other and begin to take responsibility for the functioning of the new Areas.

I am much tougher these days. I have a growing appreciation for the tough counselor and Reference Person you have been all these years. I removed someone from teaching recently because I realized that something wasn't sound in her leading and that some part of her chronic distress wasn't being discharged. It has not been a clean thing, but I think the resulting discharge for me and for many of the leaders in the Community will make us much more solid. I trusted my thinking and acted on it. If nothing else, the rest of the leaders will know that I mean business when it comes to our re-emergence and the growing of our Community. I am finding that what it is all about is not holding back on telling people my thinking about things. I am spending much less time trying to take care of people and trying to keep them from feeling bad.

I think I'm beginning to understand what you were talking about when you asked me a few years ago if I had stopped letting people walk on me. The woman who is going to be the next Area Reference Person is certainly getting an eye-full, and she is discharging up a storm. I think she is going to start out in a much more solid place around policy and being tough with people's patterns than I did as an Area Reference Person.

We are starting lots of new fundamentals classes these days. I would say that since last fall about three new classes have started, with at least three more soon to begin. I think there will be many more coming within the next six months. I am preparing to do an all-people- of-color class. We also have a people-of-color leaders' group that provides each of us with support to think about our leadership and bring more people of color into Co-Counseling here in Portland.

We have people of color thinking about black liberation, Latino/as, and Asians. We have a black support group and an Asian support group and a Latina one soon to start!

We also have three ongoing classes, a teachers' class that I lead, and two assistants/up-and-coming leaders' classes. The latter two have been divided along the new Area lines. We are trying to figure out how to have more ongoing classes for the experienced people who don't keep very active.

I also led an Early Sexual Memories Workshop this past weekend up in Washington State. It was set up as a People of Color and Our White Allies Workshop, so the white people came understanding that their role was to see to it that the people of color had a good workshop. I reminded them of that on Friday night. I decided it would be a good attention-off-their-distress direction for them for the weekend. At the closing circle a few of the people of color said that the workshop was set up very well for them. One person said that she didn't even think about taking care of the white people. There was a relaxed level of visibility for the people of color. I liked it very much.

Shelley Macy did a superb job of organizing the workshop and of supporting me. It was wonderful to be backed by a mixed-heritage, working-class woman of color. It also made a huge difference to me to see all those people of color's faces in the crowd, everywhere I looked. I was more relaxed and present than I have ever been before.

It was also great to see the impact of having more than fifty percent people of color at a workshop that wasn't specifically geared toward racism. Of course it contradicted much of the oppression, and the white people spent a lot of time shaking. They didn't seem sunk from feeling guilty. At the Saturday morning class, the white people all sat on one side of the room and the people of color on the other. When it came time for choosing Co-Counselors, people paired/tripled up mostly along race lines. But by Saturday night things looked different. The support groups were mixed, and both white people and people of color were leaders.

I worked mostly with the people of color. It was glaringly apparent in most of the demonstrations that internalized racism was part of their early sexual memories. Prior to the workshop I had cried about not wanting to see what early sexual abuse had done to women of color's lives. Well, I got to see it. But I did really well with it. People were just ready to pop, and they also played and connected so well with each other.

I worked with one white person - a man. He wouldn't share any of his sexual fantasies. The humiliation was too great. I kept trying things until he was able to show the loneliness and isolation that usually sit underneath and drive the pull to fantasize. He talked about the loneliness men face and then how, on top of it, they are made to hide it way far away. They can't show it to anyone.

All the men and a bunch of the women were crying. I was also close to tears through most of the demonstration. The man was such a good client. He was cautious, but he really went for trusting me, every step of the way. I was able to tell him that it wasn't all right that this happened to him, and to all men. That it wasn't right. He cried hard there. One woman said to me that if she could see a demonstration like that regularly, she would never forget and blame the men in her life. Some of the moms who have sons were deeply touched as well.

I took time in front of the group before I did that demonstration. I discharged quite a bit with the whole group. One woman said that it meant a lot to her to see me do that. They got to see that I struggle with the same stuff, or at least in the same ways, as they do. Shelley counseled me well.

An added treat for me was that the cooks were Native/Filipina mixed. They made us chicken adobo and lumpia for lunch on Sunday. I was thrilled.

It is so pleasing and satisfying for me to be bringing these tools and this theory to people of color. It is what I have been training for, by taking on different aspects of leadership and re-emerging as fast as I can figure out how to. I am eager for people of color to have access to this information, especially about early sexual memories. For women of color to get even a glimpse that their lives don't have to be ruled by the sexual distresses of the men around them, or that they aren't what they were told back then, or that their bodies are their own, is to unleash a whole new world for them. I don't even know how to tell people sometimes about this life that I get to lead. It isn't even close to what I could've possibly dreamed up for myself many years ago, and I know there is so much more room for me to grow. Thank you, Harvey.

Teresa Enrico
Portland, Oregon, USA

Last modified: 2022-12-25 10:17:04+00