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Racism and the Collapsing Society, Barbara Love and Tim Jackins, June 7, 2020

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Following Up with Contacts Made at COP21

Staying in good enough contact with people we meet at “going public” events like COP21* (and United to End Racism and No Limits events) has been one of our biggest struggles. We do well at making contact with people at the event itself. However, few of these people, especially from outside our countries, have come into RC from our staying in contact with them and teaching them RC one-to-one. (Those who have come in have mostly been people who have seen the value of RC themselves and pursued us.) So I am excited that nine months after COP21, six RCers are still in contact with people they met there, who don’t live in their countries.

For a while, each of these RCers persisted with the connection on their own. Then Caroline New asked for support. I gave her the names of the other people who were keeping in touch with those they had met, and the “teachers” all made contact with each other for mutual support. I now hold conference calls with these women. They have each made a strong personal commitment to the person they are in touch with and are persisting through many difficulties. Their contacts are learning RC, and we are hopeful they will use it in their environmental activism and will work with us to build RC Communities around themselves. (If you are in touch with someone from COP21, please write to me at <ircc@rc.org> and let me know.)

We have a lot to learn from what these RCers have done, so I asked them to write a short summary of their connections. 

Diane Shisk
Seattle, Washington, USA


Alima Adams (England)

My contact is A—, from Madagascar. We first had contact by e-mail. A— is a French speaker, so we had to figure out who would interpret. Frédérique Braguier and Delphine Barberot, both French volunteers with Sustaining All Life (SAL) at COP21, were keen and able to help.

A— and I meet when we can on a Saturday evening for at least two hours, on Skype. Frédérique and Delphine alternate as interpreters.

For the first few classes we spent time just getting to know and like each other, so we could learn how best to support each other and begin feeling comfortable to be open with each other in sessions. We also covered RC theory and allowed time for reflection and discussion. At the end of each class, we each had a short session on anything we wanted.

The first class was on RC as an organisation—its aims, work, and history—because A— had only had contact with basic RC theory and the SAL project. We also covered class guidelines, basic theory, and the structure of a session. And we talked about other topics we would cover and where to find RC literature. A— asked if we could cover oppression in the next class. We had decided to stay open to whatever her interests were, so we talked about oppression in the second class and related it to the basic theory of distress recordings. 

We spent a few more classes with the same format (greetings, a theory presentation, reflection, a session). Delphine, Frédérique, and I were open and real in our sessions, and discharged openly, and A— got to understand better how to use RC. When she identified something she wanted to work on, we began to have longer sessions of thirty minutes each. Now we are working on bringing a few of her friends into the class and, long-term, on an introductory weekend workshop for a larger group.

Janet Kabue (Kenya)

I have been in contact with B— from Guinea. He is a journalist and an environmental activist who works especially on how mining is affecting his local community. We have two challenges. One is that the Internet connection between our countries is not so good. We tried different applications for months and have resorted to using Facebook Messenger. The second challenge is that English is our third or second language and the only common language between us. It’s already a challenge just to hear each other over the bad Internet connection, but we persist, speak slowly, and keep our conversations short. I can tell that he appreciates the contact and being listened to. 

Caroline New (England)

I am Co-Counselling with C—, from The Gambia in West Africa. He is a twenty-eight-year-old volunteer with Activista who works on empowering women to get land for farming, on opposing female genital mutilation, and in anti-migration programs. He trains young activists and leads a team. They are trying to find funding to go to the World Social Forum in Canada. He is an environmentalist and is disappointed that Activista is not sending people to the next COP. He has read quite a lot of our material and likes what he knows of RC. He and I exchange listening a couple of times a week, though often the poor connection makes it impossible to talk for long. He is looking forward to knowing more Co-Counsellors and is working toward organizing an introductory RC workshop in The Gambia. 

Lorena Cuéllar Barandiarán (El Salvador)

I am a Latinoamericana woman, born in El Salvador, of mixed Indigenous and Basque heritage. I have been building the RC Community and teaching RC in El Salvador for the last eighteen years. I am following up on D—, an Indigenous woman from Guatemala. After I received her information, I wrote to her several times until she responded to me. We set up a time to talk on Skype and have been in touch since January of this year.

It took several weeks to get the connection and talk for the first time. On our first successful call, I listened to her for about thirty minutes. Then I talked for fifteen minutes about what RC is and invited her to try a mini-session. For a variety of reasons, we haven’t been able to try a session. We are in touch by e-mail, asking each other how we are. She tells me about her work and life.

In her most recent message she asked, “Can we try to have a Co-Counseling session on Sunday, July 17? I would love to try the exercise. We have been months trying to do it—I hope you can.” That Sunday I was out of the country, with no reception. I was so frustrated! But so happy she had asked for a session.

Jenny Sazama (United States)

I’ve been the contact person for two people: E—, from Ghana; and F—, from France (originally from Senegal). I communicate with each of them a few times a week on Skype and on Facebook Messenger.

F— has a hard time setting up dates, so I just call her when I am on the road, and we do mini-sessions when we can. I have helped her be in touch with a Co-Counselor who lives near her and with Liam Geary-Baulch (in England), whom she made a nice connection with at COP21. We are now working on getting her to the European BLCD (RC Black Liberation and Community Development Workshop). She travels home to Senegal quite often, she has little money, and her phone often gets disconnected, so we have lost touch a few times. But I keep messaging her, and she always gets back in touch and is ready for another mini-session.

E— has been teaching RC to younger people he works with and is an environmental activist. He is fortunate to live right near a growing RC Community in Ghana and is doing weekly sessions with the Area Reference Person. He has also been to two or three workshops in Ghana. He understands about exchanging listening and paying good attention and really wants to pursue discharge. Most of our sessions are in a public area at his university, where he can sit in a booth and use Skype.

Having this team of women who are doing the same thing has made a huge difference to me in continuing the contact with E— and F— when they have gone through periods of not responding.

Bo-Young Lim (Canada)

I met G— at one of our SAL forums. He is an Indigenous Newari man from Kathmandu, Nepal, and a committed climate activist who came to COP21 as an official United Nations delegate. 

Since May, he and another climate activist have been in a weekly RC Skype class with Niti Dandekar (the Regional Reference Person for India). I’ve been assisting her. We are essentially planting the seeds of a new RC Community in Nepal. Despite the challenges posed by our ten-hour time-zone difference and (at times) problematic Internet connections, we seem to have earned their trust and their interest in this project. It’s so clear that we like each other!

At COP21, G— signed up to speak at one of our SAL forums in which people could have three minutes to share about the impact of climate change on Indigenous communities. Despite our best efforts, he was overlooked and didn’t get to speak. The leaders ended the forum, and as people started leaving, G— went up to the (white) organizer. Rather than complaining or being upset, he simply asked if he could tell his story to those remaining in the area. I was struck by his positive attitude, his friendliness, and his determination to share his experience. The organizer hesitated, repeatedly saying that the forum was over, but G— wasn’t going to give up so easily. I saw all this and voiced my support for him. He left quite an impression on me, so I asked for his contact information.

After I got home from Paris, I e-mailed eight people from COP21 whom I wanted to reach out to but only heard back from three. With G—, I sent a very personal e-mail, saying how much I appreciated his humanness and his dogged determination at the forum. I didn’t mention RC. A month passed; no response. Then out of nowhere I got a long e-mail from him saying how thrilled he was to hear from me and that he was moved by my words of appreciation. 

In the subsequent months, G— and I talked numerous times over Skype about our climate activist work. We had an instant sense of connection and mutual respect. Our calls often lasted for two hours, which just flew by. We bounced ideas off each other, e-mailed each other stuff we had written, gave each other feedback, and shared resources. I also pushed and asked him “intrusive” questions, so we could share more personally about our families, our struggles, and our successes. He was surprised to be asked but happy to share.

I wasn’t clear where the relationship would go; I just enjoyed my time with him and let my mind explore. One thing was certain: I pursued G— for myself, not to promote RC. Marcie Rendon (the International Liberation Reference Person for Native Americans) has said repeatedly not to “recruit” Indigenous people into RC without building a relationship with them first. I remembered to keep it real and be myself.

The more I got to know G—, the more I liked him. I appreciated his deep connection and commitment to the environment and his Indigenous roots, his close ties with his family and community, his laser-sharp independent thinking, his unapologetic honesty, his easygoing manner, his open-mindedness and humility, and his humour. He had a soft-spoken, gentle way about him, but what a force! He would say things like, “I like to try things without paying too much attention to the results.” The foundation was already there for him to quickly learn RC and run with it. By the time I introduced him to Niti in a three-way Skype call, the trust was solid between us—so much so that he brought his life partner, who is also a climate activist, to learn RC with him!

FOLLOW-UP WORKSHOPS

Chioma Okonkwo, one of the Area Reference Persons in Nigeria, has now led three weekend workshops (two in Nigeria and one in Cameroon) for people we met at COP21. In each of these cases, the person who had contact with SAL organized an introductory workshop in his or her local community and Chioma was happy to lead it. Below is Chioma’s story about these contacts.

Diane Shisk

Chioma Okonkwo (Nigeria)

I was given contact information for three people after COP21 in Paris. The three of them are now committed RC teachers in their various Communities and countries.

The first is Felix Nkam, from Cameroon. After lots of follow-up e-mails and phone calls, we both agreed on the need for an introductory workshop, which happened in April in Douala, Cameroon. The workshop was successful. People came from other parts of Cameroon and are doing great with RC classes. Felix is now a certified teacher, overseeing the development of RC in four locations in Cameroon.

The second person is Adekunle Akinolz, a lecturer at Adekunle Ajasin University, in Akungba Akoko, Ondo State, in the western part of Nigeria. I led the introductory workshop there in June 2016. Adekunle Akinolz is a great RC teacher now and is beginning another RC Community in the state capital, Azure.

The third contact is Rita Utaka, who resides in the midwest of Nigeria. The workshop in her area happened in August. Most of the participants were very knowledgeable about environmental issues, because the state where the workshop was held, Edo State, is one of the crude-oil-producing states of Nigeria.

Each of these three contacts is committed to and zealous about all that RC stands for. Re-evaluation Counseling literature was helpful. I sent books ahead and e-mailed copies of some articles for the participants to read before the workshops. The postings on environmental teaching, on the RC website, were also helpful.

2* In late 2015, fifty Co-Counselors—twenty-five delegates and twenty-five volunteers—did a Sustaining All Life project in Paris, France, during COP21, the United Nations Conference on Climate Change. Sustaining All Life is a project of the RC Communities in which Co-Counselors bring what we’ve learned in RC to people working or wanting to work to stop climate change, the degradation of the environment, and environmental injustice.

(Present Time 185, October 2016)


* In late 2015, fifty Co-Counselors—twenty-five delegates and twenty-five volunteers—did a Sustaining All Life project in Paris, France, during COP21, the United Nations Conference on Climate Change. Sustaining All Life is a project of the RC Communities in which Co-Counselors bring what we’ve learned in RC to people working or wanting to work to stop climate change, the degradation of the environment, and environmental injustice.


Last modified: 2021-06-01 12:29:59+00