Saturday, June 17, 2017


i had a hard time settling on a theme this year. i usually pick one around thanksgiving of the year before, but in 2016, november passed. december passed. and january came. my brain was a smorgasbord of unconnected thoughts and sentiments, often in conflict with each other. a few days before the women's march, i read an op ed by char adams that expressed (well-founded) skepticism about whether white women (e.g., yours truly) would show up for women of color in 2017. she ended with a laudable message:

so, on the day after trump's inauguration, i will be marching with the tens of thousands (and maybe millions!) of women and men who want to take a stand on social justice. i will stand in solidarity with those fighting for human rights. i will make my voice heard, and listen to the voices of those around me.

i was particularly struck by the final line and chose it as my 2017 theme (thanks, char adams!): i will make my voice heard, and listen to the voices of those around me.

so here we are in june. a minnesota jury - 10 white + 2 black - acquitted the police officer who shot and killed philando castille during a traffic stop last year. my sincerest condolences to family and close friends of philando castille.

i first heard about the verdict through a women's march instagram post:

we ask all our supporters - but particularly our white supporters - to show up for black folks in the fight against police violence as fiercely as you showed up on january 21.

so here i am. not as an endpoint, but for starters: i do not have adequate words for what is in my heart and mind.

i do not know philando castille and i do not know his family. but when i see their faces in the news, i see people who look like people i know and love. i see people who are more than snapshots of grief and trauma. i see people with personal stories like mine.

and if i'm being honest, i also see people with personal stories that feel distant from mine. people who don't look like most of the people in my family. or at my church. or neighborhood. or workplace.

it makes me wonder: if i encountered philando castille on the street instead of in the news, what would i see in him? what judgments would i make? how would i act? the uncomfortable truth is, i don't know. i hope that i would see in his face the faces of people i know and love. i hope that, if given the opportunity, he would become someone i know and love. but i. don't. know.

i have a lot of work to do. and i'm asking you - particularly my white brothers and sisters - to join me. let's step outside spaces where most people look like us, mourn with those that mourn, and prepare ourselves to hear hard truths.

let's put our bodies on the line - understanding that white bodies in particular are valued differently in our country - to support our black brothers and sisters. our support starts with conversation but it cannot end there.

Saturday, January 05, 2013

hello 2013!

i am sitting in the atlanta airport loving the free wi-fi. another adventure under the belt and back to my other life. you know, the one involving law school, the nation's capital, and the world's best baby sister. it feels appropriate that i spent the last few weeks of the year of music and movement making my first solo international adventure, meeting people - young and old - from all over the world, and quite literally dancing into 2013. 

as i took in the last of many blessings received during 2012, i pondered what theme might keep my superstitions at bay during the incoming year. let's face it: the kid that used to beg not to get out of bed on friday the 13th for fear of bad luck still keeps a cabin in my soul. i thought about the ways in which i have grown and changed since leaving detroit. i considered all the things i want to do this year - skills to acquire, people to meet, sanity to keep. 

my theme started to take form as i listened to the lara bravo family repeat in unison a prayer for safe travel. talking with chike, luz, and jordan further convinced me i was on the right track. i have long believed that god is in each of us because he is our creator. and it has often been my experience that i can see god most clearly through people who have differing beliefs about his existence and identity. still, my faith often fails in trusting that god - the one i pray to and the one i see in the world around me. so as i aim for a year of improved stillness and compassion, i am renewing my effort to put my confianza en dios continuamente. this language comes from the spanish translation of a book of mormon verse (alma 57:27). although the english version says,"trust in god continually," confianza can also mean confidence and faith. this mix of meanings is exactly what i will be looking for in my 2013 adventures. so my spanish-learning adventure ends, or continues? 

until the next blog-worthy expedition: may you encounter sparkles daily and love it every time!

Wednesday, January 02, 2013

a mighty power for foreigners

"so how many months will you be staying with my family?" alonso teased this morning at breakfast. my death stare prompted a spanish translation for his family. then, five heads turned to see my response.

"pienso que...siempre," i returned with a smile. originally, i had planned to visit guanajuato for a weekend and to stay with alonso's family in silao at the same time as two other wcl guests. but as well-planned excursions often do, it fell apart and i ended up making a solo visit, friday through sunday. on saturday, i got the grand tour of guanajuato. i came after a long line of international guests who have followed up on alonso's hospitable invitation.

i met alonso last fall when he applied for students united's mentoring program. from early on, he made it clear that he came from a beautiful part of mexico, near the city of guanajuato. i didn't think much of it because i'm from detroit and find it to be one of the most beautiful places in the usa. but my interest piqued as my winter adventure drew closer and other people - kate kelly, the friendly tapatio on my flight from atlanta, wouter from the language school - informed me that guanajuato was a must-see. even so, i was wholly unprepared for the potent arrow that struck me when i finally arrived. after maybe a dozen reverent praises - wow. you weren't lying. guanajuato is amazing. - alonso responded with clear satisfaction: "it has a mighty power for foreigners."

my visit took a turn when, on sunday morning, alonso informed me that his mother would like me to join the family for new years in the mountains. he explained that i could go with his family and return to guadalajara late on tuesday evening. ever-adverse to unanticipated changes, i protested:

"i have classes and a bus ticket i have already paid for."
"you want to practice spanish, right? why not practice with my family in the mountains?"
"i don't want to impose. it's your last few days with your family."
"mamí! un momentito, porfa!"
"alonso, no -"
"mamí, puedes explicarle sobre tu invitación a las montañas, por favor? christiane está ocupada porque ya ha pagado por cursos y una boleta por guadalajara."

i emailed wouter about monday classes and asked him to let the bustamantes know not to worry about me before piling into the car with victor and marisa (alonso's parents), alonso, ilse, luís, mariano, our bags, and two remote-controlled helicopters. the ride started out in silence. then rufus wainwright's cover of hallelujah came on the radio. i began sing along quietly. then mariano's pre-pubescent soprano voice came from the backseat. luís and ilse joined on either side of me. after dancing it up to el sondito, the ice was officially broken and the ride passed quickly with stories about mexican artists and legends. what followed was the magic life is made of: stepping into someone else's life for a brief moment. observing religious practices, family jokes, vacation mishaps. then listening as a friend confides about their perspective on what is transpiring. and occasionally stepping away from the wall to participate:

"christiane, conoces thalia?" marisa asked at new years eve dinner.
"sí. un poquito," i replied, happy to have a captive audience with which to practice past tense verbs. "cuando tenía diecinueve años, mi padre trabajaba en alemania. por eso, viajé a -"
"christiane," alonso interrupted with a chuckle, "my mom was asking about thalia - the singer who is playing right now - not italia."

collective laughter covered social shame and the festivities continued. at midnight we ate twelve grapes to reflect on each of twelve months. then the dj turned the music up and we danced our hearts out until 2. un mil gracias to the lara-bravo family for making my farewell to 2012 one for the books.