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Openly Showing What We Think and Want

Several of us in our Region brought RC to a non-RC vigil. The vigil, or silent protest, was organized on behalf of a nursing home, Rivington House, that was being removed by developers. K Webster, a Regional Reference Person in New York City (New York, USA), was a key organizer of the event.

Co-Counselors attended as individuals, not as members of an RC wide-world project (such as United to End Racism or Sustaining All Life). Our goal was to “face our fears about stepping openly into reality and showing what we think and want.” We met in support groups before and after the event and could choose whether or not to actually go to the event. Below are some of the reports.

Lori Leifer

New York, New York, USA


Sonya Wilson

Being part of the Rivington House vigil, and discharging before and after, was transformational for me. It pulled me out of numbness and apathy. Leading up to it and afterward I had big sessions on things I care about.

I saw how important it is to bring what we know as RCers to social change organizations. The event was organized with love at the center. There were no human enemies. Speaker after speaker talked about patterns of greed and corruption. People wrote messages in chalk on the sidewalk. One was directed to the wealthy developers. It said something like, “You’d be really rich if you joined us, your fellow humans.” That made me stop and take pause.

I had come prepared to yell and get mad at someone. I had not expected to connect with people, cry at some of the most beautiful speeches I had ever heard, and push my mind to think about what it means to keep fighting after a big defeat. Thank you, K. You gave us a picture of what new forms of struggle can look like. We will figure out even more as we discharge and continue to experiment.

“Can we ‘stand up to’ society? . . . Do we have to resist unintelligently when we do resist? Are there other alternatives besides rigid conformity or rigid rebellion? I think we can say with complete confidence, yes, there are other alternatives.” (Harvey Jackins, from “The Flexible Human in the Rigid Society,” in The Human Situation)

When a reporter approached me, I felt like a deer in the headlights [I felt paralyzed with fear]. But I remembered K saying that this was an opportunity to practice saying what we think. I ended up getting quoted in a local publication. Here’s what I said: “My friends who live down here have been fighting for this building for over three years. I’ve been hearing about it, and I’m inspired by the idea that you don’t have to just gripe about gentrification; you can actually fight it. And so I’m coming here to show support but also because it’ll move me to organize people in my own neighborhood.”

Sonya Wilson


Ela Thier

When a reporter approached me, I felt like a deer in the headlights [I felt paralyzed with fear]. But I remembered K saying that this was an opportunity to practice saying what we think. I ended up getting quoted in a local publication. Here’s what I said: “My friends who live down here have been fighting for this building for over three years. I’ve been hearing about it, and I’m inspired by the idea that you don’t have to just gripe about gentrification; you can actually fight it. And so I’m coming here to show support but also because it’ll move me to organize people in my own neighborhood.”

Ela Thier


Wendy Ganz

It was good to discharge in the spot where I am terrified and therefore timid about going out in the world and being visible in the fight for justice. I think the fear is primarily about being Jewish and the daughter of Holocaust refugees. Doing this made me realize that being visible is my new frontier, in and out of RC.

Wendy Ganz


Bishu Chattopadhayay

K Webster, our Regional Reference Person, organized this optional non-RC event, “Reclaiming Our Courage,” for us to examine what it means to participate as Co-Counselors in a social-change cause. The experience was powerful for me.

We met before and after the vigil in a support group led by K, who has for several years actively opposed nursing-home facility takeovers by real estate developers. She said that in doing community work we can think of ourselves as the first blade of grass, which will perhaps be cut down, but we can remember that there are grassroots of support. I discharged on my fear of being that blade of grass. K also talked about dealing with feelings of powerlessness. Despite the apparent hopelessness of a cause, we can build our own internal reference point, so we are not easily confused by dominant views. We can be open to the views of others but make decisions from our own thoughtful center. This was a helpful direction, because learning of oppressive events in the news often makes me go numb. Standing and singing with other Co-Counselors and community activists was a welcome contradiction to fear.

Bishu Chattopadhayay


Brenda Eisbey

Attending the Rivington House vigil reminded me of an activist, Beverly Austin, who was known in the Harlem area. It showed that I will not get hurt, nor will anyone get killed. A protest can be peaceful and effective. It’s also okay if it’s not.

Brenda Eisbey


Bam Bamman

Discharge allowed me to notice my old fears of activism that stem from televised images of violent protests in the 1960s. K spoke of, and beautifully modeled, recognizing and connecting with the human beneath the distress—in ally and “foe” alike.

Bam Bamman


Lori Leifer

This event—well organized by people (K Webster and her friends) who clearly liked each other and were well connected to and enjoyed working with each other—contradicted the hopelessness and despair that I often bring to events like these. Other great contradictions were quotes written with chalk on the sidewalk; quotes on ribbons tied to the beautiful old fencing surrounding the building; caution tape tied around the building that said, “Gentrification in progress”; and having an RC buddy watch me as I sparked conversation with other vigil-goers.

Lori Leifer


Nina Birnbaum

It is easier for me to remember to be hopeful when I decide to take, and then take, a public stand on something I think is right. It is a contradiction to the “muck.”

It was lovely to connect with others at the vigil. As awkward as I felt, I still went. And I talked with people who were passionate about saving this building and taking a stand for people and the neighborhood. It now feels more doable to be public about what I believe in.

Nina Birnbaum

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Last modified: 2019-05-21 23:44:29+00