Author Archives: ldir.unit

LLC on LDIR and Tools for Social and Racial Justice

Many thanks to Deborah Meehan and Leadership Learning Community for this shout out to LDIR!

Several years ago I had the opportunity to participate in StarPower a game simulation that was conducted by Leadership Development in Interethnic Relations (LDIR). Without giving anything away I think that I can safely say that most of us thought it was a powerful and illuminating experience. LDIR hosted the session for leadership development programs so that we could learn from and about StarPower as an important tool for leadership programs that want to help participants understand how oppressive systems work and are perpetuated. I bring this up because Dave Nakashima has generously offered to conduct a session for leadership development folks in the Bay Area. You may wonder which leadership programs that would be most beneficial to. I would say all. Why?

In 2010 the Leadership Learning Community in collaboration with a number of people and organizations working on racial justice, came together to write and publish, “Leadership and Race” in an effort to encourage leadership programs to bring a more race conscious lens to their work. We encourage you to read the report if you haven’t yet. We hope to create more awareness that many models of leadership development are culturally biased and that the best intended leaders will not be able to address disparities that exist throughout society without understand the systems that produce them. One of the things we learned in the process of producing the report from a survey conducted by Sally Leiderman, who has done a lot of work and is developing curriculum for transforming white privilege, is that less than half of the leadership programs that responded to the survey had curriculum for introducing structural racism or white privilege. While StarPower focuses more in economics, there is a clear intersection between class and race and the systems that continue to perpetuate advantage and life opportunities that are often influenced by race and ethnicity.

We recognize that it’s not just enough to call leadership programs to bring a new awareness and tools without providing more resources.  In that vein we want to thank Renato Almazor, Director of Programs at LeaderSpring for his recent webinar, Transforming Privilege and Power now available for viewing.  Stay tuned for StarPower coming to the Bay Area Leadership Learning Community Circle this spring.

Click here to read the post on LLC’s site.

Facilitating Someone Else’s Process: Helpful Guideposts

By Carmen Morgan, LDIR Program Director

Setting the Tone
We cannot force someone to become enlightened, transformed, or aware. Our only role is to create the path by which someone can walk towards their own self- awareness. As we create that path, we should acknowledge and be aware that we are also walking that path ourselves. Our own journey continues. Our own awareness process is not over.

If we come to this work with an attitude of one-ups-manship, or as the “enlightened teacher” we will not be truly effective. If we come to this work with the humility and grace that was afforded to us as we learned about ourselves, as it is afforded to us even now as we continue to learn about ourselves, then we can do some good.

Having an Open Heart
Many of us believe strongly that the nature of our work is on the side of justice. Because we are committed to values of truth, equity, and fairness, it is easy for us as activists to become headstrong and self-righteous. It is no wonder we often do not model the values that we profess. We are angry, justified, indignant, and often burned out. And this cycle continues. The truth is that a self-righteous activist is not helpful. A self-righteous community worker is not helpful. A self-righteous, angry facilitator is not helpful.

Nor is it helpful that we position ourselves as martyrs who will burn out without self-care. And while our anger towards injustice is justified, it can often get in the way of building relationships with people. When did the issue become the person? How can we work against injustice without working against each other and ourselves? This is our greatest task.

Showing up with Grace
So then, how do we show up? We show up as a part of the process we are guiding. We are not separate from or above, merely guides. We show up with compassion and with a commitment to honor the individual, the process, and the group. All three are intertwined and invaluable. What is not valuable is our own ego or desire to control the process or an individual’s journey. “Why don’t they get it?” we might inquire. Well, why don’t we get it?

We show up with a listening ear. It’s really not our airtime or grand opportunity to expound on our wisdom. Let your wisdom shine quietly. As facilitators we can create dynamic processes and hold up powerful questions for reflection, and then step back. It’s helpful for us to keep asking ourselves, Why am I still speaking? Did I really hear what was shared? Active listening takes a tremendous amount of energy – more energy than it takes to speak. When in doubt, err on the side of listening.

Lastly, and most importantly, show up with a commitment for self-care. We must commit to continuing our own learning and healing. We need to be clear about our own limitations and when we need support. It does not mean that we become selfish, but that we remain self-aware and remember that our own journey is unfolding. We are not martyrs.

Build your community of care – apply for Healing for Social Change by 2/22/13

“Too often self-care in our organizational cultures gets translated to our individual responsibility to leave work early, go home- alone- and go take a bath, go to the gym, eat some food and go to sleep. So we do all of that ‘self-care’ to return to organizational cultures where we reproduce the systems we are trying to break; where we are continually reminded of our own trauma or exposed and absorb secondary PTSD, and where we then feel guilty or punished for leaving work early the night before to take a bubble bath.

Self-care, as it is framed now, leaves us in danger of being isolated in our struggle and our healing. Isolation of yet another person, another injustice, is a notch in the belt of Oppression. A liberatory care practice is one in which we move beyond self-care into caring for each other.”

Yashna Maya Padamsee from “Communities of Care, Organizations for Liberation”

LDIR’s new workshop series, Healing for Social Change, is as much about building networks of support as much as it is about strengthening our critiques and practices around wellness. Apply by February 22, 2013 to join us for this unique opportunity. We’re looking forward to partnering with you to grow communities of care.

Dear Liberal Allies | A blog post from

We’re reblogging this amazing post by Trungles on Tumblr, because it speaks so much truth to the dynamics of allyship. 

Dear Liberal Allies – what your college courses on oppression didn’t tell you

I’m not angry or upset about anything in particular at the moment, but I thought I’d take a little time to write something out that had been bugging me about allies. It’s certainly not all-encompassing or totally comprehensive, but it’s something I’ve been thinking about in terms of being a good ally and a good neighbor, especially here on Tumblr.

Before you step in to help us out, I’d just like to clarify a couple things.

You and I, we may have taken the same seminars and maybe even read the same Audre Lorde excerpts or Ronald Takaki books, but know this: we learned very different things in very different ways

For students of color, for gay students, for trans* students, for the children of immigrants and refugees, these classes aren’t always about learning new concepts when it pertains to us. It’s more about learning the names of things we already knew fairly intimately. Do you understand that? You learned it another way. You went in, you got this set of key words and a list of definitions. Your learning was, in all likelihood, “Here is this word. This is what this word means.”

For you, it was “Xenophobia: a strong fear or dislike of people from other countries.”

For us, it was “Xenophobia: the time that boy in my kindergarten class spat on me because I couldn’t speak English yet. Or when I saw that clerk yell at my mom in the grocery store because her English wasn’t clear enough. Or when USCIS had us confirm our American citizenship with the same set of papers seven times over the course of sixteen years because they wanted to confirm that we were, in fact, actual American citizens.”

For you, it was, “Racism: unfair treatment of people who belong to another race; violent behavior towards them.”

For us, it was, “Racism: that one time I saw that manager tell that sales girl to follow my dad around at Kohl’s. Or that one time my neighbor’s kid got shot by the police and they tried to cover it up by convincing everyone he was in a gang because he was Hmong, but we knew he wasn’t. Or that one time my dad told me I shouldn’t rollerblade to the library because I’m not white and it’s not safe for me.”

For you, it was, “Homophobia: a strong dislike or fear of homosexual people.”

For us, it was, “Homophobia: that time in the sixth grade when Ryan shoved me against a glass door and banged my face in it while yelling, ‘faggot!’ at me until the teacher stopped him. Or when my Catholic high school’s president told me that, though he loved me as a child of God, he still believed I was sinful when I suggested that we start a GSA.”

For you, it was: “Classism: prejudice or discrimination based on social class.”

For us, it was: “Classism: that one time when my best friend came over to hang out in high school and her parents didn’t want her to come over again because they didn’t like our neighborhood. Or that one time when my friends had no idea what food stamps looked like and I was too embarrassed to explain what they were.”

So while you were learning that these academically-framed phenomena were real problems, we were just getting little figurative nametags for awful things that we already knew. Your weekly vocabulary list was, to us, just a hollow shadow of our lived experiences.

So my point is this:

If you didn’t live an experience, then step aside. Because we knew this stuff before our professors told us what to call it. We learned it from the bottom up, you learned it from the top down, and that’s not even a metaphor.

When you step out of class, you get to be like, “Oh, awesome. I am learning how to be a good ally and a better human being. This will help me.” For us, it’s more like, “Ah, so that’s what they’re calling it nowadays. When exactly did they say change was going to come for us?”

So in practice, here’s what all this theory looks like: you don’t always have to speak. I mean, certainly, you should totally call someone out on their oppressive bullshit. But if you identify as male, you don’t get to tell people what is best for women as though you have that authority. If you’re white, you shouldn’t be trying to “uplift” people of color by the grace of your intellect or your words. Nobody’s looking to be ‘rescued’ or ‘pulled up from out of their unfortunate circumstances’ as you may be tempted to believe.

All anybody’s looking for in an ally is someone who knows that “empowerment” means taking a step aside in a place where you know you have privilege. And if it is, for example, a PoC-to-PoC conversation, a woman-to-woman conversation, a queer-to-queer conversation, etc. about this stuff, and that isn’t who you are, you don’t need to be chiming in.

Just take our word for it, let us talk, and let us vent. We’d like you to give us room, and if you have to be helpful, then help make room for us by giving up some of your proverbial social girth.

Because the bottom line is that our academia has made a commodity of our lived experiences as teaching moments for you. And if you think your academic knowledge is more valid than our lived experiences, then you’re definitely not part of the solution.

Much love.

1/26/13 Come to a LDIR workshop at UC Irvine!

Asian Pacific American Awareness Conference

On Saturday, January 26, LDIR will be presenting an interactive workshop, “Activist Essentials: Becoming a Proactive Ally” at 11am and 2pm as part of the annual Asian Pacific Awareness Conference at UC Irvine.

It costs only $5 to register for the conference, so sign up and join us for some short, but sweet awareness and skills building.

Here’s the full workshop description:

Activist Essentials: Becoming a Proactive Ally

What does it take to be a truly collaborative leader? Whether or not we’re aware of it, we often come to collaboration and movement building with our own biases, stereotypes, and oppressive ways of thinking. This interactive workshop challenges participants to locate themselves and interrupt the urge to be passive about privilege and oppression, so that we can begin to figure out how to actively and meaningfully organize in solidarity with one another.

LDIR Thanks Vanessa Obispo

As the year comes to a close LDIR says goodbye to one of our amazing interns, Vanessa Obispo.  Vanessa was an integral part of the 2012 For the Love of Justice planning committee, the dedicated leader of the staff wellness team, and an overall inspiration to everyone at the LDIR program.  Her hard work and love of social justice has helped to shape LDIR throughout the past year, and her energy and presence will be greatly missed.

While Vanessa has truly impacted each of us at LDIR, and the sustainability and growth of the overall program, Vanessa has grown from her experience in many ways as well. “I’m proud of the growth I’ve had as an agent of movement building. After the year I’ve had interning here, I know that I’m a more conscientious and empowered individual than before.”

Although we are sad to see her go, we know that she will do great things in the future, and are honored to have worked with her.

Alumni Spotlight: Valerie Richards

Valerie Richards is a social worker, professor at USC, community activist, and a LDIR.  She is a member of the 2000 Community Based Program cohort, and the project she implemented, along with fellow LDIR alumni, as a part of her training is still ongoing today.

“As a social worker, member of the African American community, and a woman I have always felt it was my duty to be a voice for the marginalized and the underserved” said Valerie.

Cultural awareness and interethnic relations has always been a large part of Valerie’s work and activism.  It is as much a part of her work to educate herself on issues of social justice and cultural diversity as it is to educate others.  Valerie believes it as important to become an ally to different communities as it is to serve your own.  She is always striving to learn about different cultures and crossing the boundaries that divide communities.  Being a part of the LDIR training program helped to expand her knowledge, and gave her a network of community partners who continue to help support her growth and work.

“One of the big things I learned from LDIR was concerning privilege.  I had always been conscious of the ways I had experienced certain areas of privilege but LDIR really opened my eyes to my privilege as a citizen and as a heterosexual.”

Valerie’s experience and knowledge led her develop a cultural diversity workshop for the youth who volunteered with Cedar Sinai’s Teen Hotline as her community project for LDIR.

“We created this workshop in response to a number of hate crimes that were happening at the time and not receiving the attention they deserved” said Valerie.  “I believe that no social issue is only one person or one group’s issue.  We are all affected.”

The Teen Hotline is a safe space where teens from all over the country can call in and talk to other teens about the struggles they face.  Valerie believes the training benefits the teen volunteers who talk to a wide variety of callers, and has even involved her students at USC in the training and volunteer work.  The most amazing part is that 12 years later this program still helps educate youth.

“LDIR asked us to create a sustainable program that would benefit the community and that’s what we committed to.”

Valerie attributes much of her success with the project to one of her fellow cohort members, Lorena Vega.  Valerie and Lorena bonded during the LDIR training and over the years have continued to help each other grow as community leaders and allies.

“I have been a feminist since age 11, fighting for issues of social justice has always been a part of who I am, but what LDIR really instilled in me was to always do the analysis, to make connections, and continue to educate myself.”

Valerie will continue to do what she can in small ways to address larger issues.  She is currently a volunteer at Peace over Violence, continues to instill within her students the need for caring, and hopes to empower the many people she meets.

“There are things we have control over in our lives and as individuals, and we can affect change.”

Tell us how LDIR has made an impact on you and your community work!

Contact Bethany Acevedo at to share your story.