By Spurgeon Thomas
April 22, 2015—Black and Brown leaders, activists, youth, and ex-gang members of southern California participated in a traditional healing circle to bridge the understanding and relationships between their various distinct communities on Wednesday, April 22nd at the Jacobs Center of Neighborhood Innovation.
Macedonio Arteaga, co-founder of Izcalli, a Saturday school program for Chicano/Native American youth, in San Diego, CA facilitated the discussion by setting the ground rules—one person, holding the “talking stick” shaped like Quetzalcoatl, speaks at a time while everyone else in the circle remains quiet and listens. The men holding the talking stick spoke about things of which they were grateful, concerned about, or a previous topic by someone who spoke before him.
The circle was opened with a statement of thanks from the Brown community to the Black community for pioneering our world’s civil rights struggles. The heartfelt introduction was followed by the Muslim prayer Al-Fatiha (The opening) with the entire room facing the direction of the Kaaba. One of the common ties between African and Mexican traditions was the merging of cultures in Andalusia, Iberia for 800 years. Names like Medina are evidence that Islamic culture influenced many people.
“In the Quran there is a verse that reads, ‘I have made you into tribes that you would come to know one another, not that you would despise one another. If I had wanted you to be one, I would have made you one.’ So we must celebrate our differences and our diversities because we are all reflections of one another,” says Agin Shaheed.
Participants shared many perspectives and experiences:
- A young man, approximately 12 years old, spoke about how hard it is being an immigrant here in the United States away from his home town of Guadalajara Mexico.
- A Chicano man apologized for his lack of tolerance for those outside his urban community in Los Angeles.
- A young Black man wearing baggy sweats expressed disdain for not having role-models to teach him the simple things in life pertaining to employment, courting women, and other life struggles in the Southeastern division of San Diego, CA.
“It’s a dream that we are all here together and we are breaking stereotypes. Somewhere, somebody told us that you had to hate somebody else for whatever reason. Today, we have taken a little bit of that poison and let it out,” says Ric Salinas, star of the theatre production Placas, in the closing remarks.
The bonds formed between the men will continue to heal the wounds of misunderstanding in our communities well into the foreseeable future.