Monday, September 26, 2011

Spirituality Night: Liturgical Dance

Thursday night was my turn to facilitate spirituality night, and I decided to focus on liturgical dance. I have been a dancer my entire life and part of liturgical dance groups since 9 years old.

I started a discussion on any background information my community mates knew about liturgical dance and any experience they had. I then shared a little bit about my experience, and some research I had done. Dance has been a part of Christianity from the beginning; David danced in the Bible. It was during the Reformation that dance and a lot of art got shoved out of the church and it became more of a head-y religion, sometimes at the expense of the body. We are still trying to break out of that hundreds of years later and liturgical dance is one of the ways to show we can still praise God, but in a different way.

In my own life, the church I grew up in had a liturgical dance group, but we only danced in programs outside of the 11:00 Sunday service. And we danced a lot--youth revivals, Easter Program, Christmas Program, Black History program, etc. But it wasn't until Pentacost 2005 that things changed, and we danced in the 11:00 service for the first time. There were only a couple of years I was still there afterwards, but now they are able to dance in the Sunday service often. In my Austin church, I became the choreographer of the liturgical dance group within six months. We danced about once every quarter or semester, depending on the schedule of the dancers and the church.

So, on Spirituality Night, I shared a dance we had done at Mt. Level when I was 13: "Shackles" (MaryMary). I have reused this dance often when sharing liturgical dance with others, because it is fun and simple. Most recently, I taught the girls in Chile on our mission trip in 2009. I showed my community mates that video as well.

We then had a debriefing discussion of how they felt about the dancing as an expression of faith, dancing in the church, what they learned, etc. My community mates were very responsive and totally game for the dancing which I really appreciated :) I enjoyed sharing with them a part of me that is so important. 

I would believe only in a God that knows how to dance.  ~Friedrich Nietzsche

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Community Night: Trash Clean-Up

On Monday night for community night, we decided to do a trash clean-up in our neighborhood. We started right around 6:30/6:45 when we all got home from work, so we'd have some time before nightfall. We each had a grocery bag to serve as our trashbag. I have done some walking in our neighborhood, and there is a lot of trash. However, I was still surprised by how much we picked up! All of our bags were full, and we only went around our block. What I picked up the most of was cigarette butts, so PSA, please don't just throw your cigarette butts on the ground!

We didn't pass many people, but there were a couple men in their yard that saw we were picking up trash, and said, "That's some good neighbor shit!" It was good reminder of how to live as good neighbors and as a community, as well as keeping the earth clean.

International Day of Peace

In honor of International Day of Peace, here are some of my favorite peace quotes.

Peace is not the product of terror or fear. Peace is not the silence of cemeteries. Peace is not the silent result of violent repression. Peace is the generous, tranquil contribution of all to the good of all. Peace is dynamism. Peace is generosity. It is right and it is duty. 
-Oscar Romero

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
-Mother Teresa

Peace is not merely a distant goal we seek, but a means by which we arrive at that goal.
-Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

There was never a good war or a bad peace.
-Benjamin Franklin

If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.
-Nelson Mandela

Peace is its own reward.
-Mohandas Gandhi

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Diez Y Seis de Septiembre

I'm not Mexican. Probably obviously. And full disclosure, I did not know what Diez Y Seis was until Spanish class in high school (I mean, isn't Cinco de Mayo Mexican Independence Day? No? Then... why do we celebrate it...?). It wasn't until I went to St. Ed's that I really understood the holiday fully. You see, Diez Y Seis in 2007 changed my life.

At St. Ed's, because of our very high Mexican-American and Mexican National population, the Mexican holidays are a big deal. There is usually some celebration on campus, and St. Edward's Ballet Folklórico is often part of it. That day in 2007, I happened upon SEU BF dancing and I fell in love with folklórico then and there. I went to the interest meeting, and then started coming to practice. I struggled through the first semester and wasn't sure I wanted to stay at St. Ed's, but folklórico was the thing that made me stay, and it has made all the difference.

Fast forward four years later and three other Diez Y Seis celebrations (all of which I was part of though in 2008 as a photographer due to a sprained ankle), I now live in Los Angeles and work for an after-school program. I wanted to share my love for folklórico with my kids. I hope sometime this year to actually teach a dance, but this time due to lack of space, I had to settle for compiling a video of my different clips of my group dancing interspersed with photos. I wore my practice skirt and folklórico shoes for the program that day. Our crafts were to make maracas and papel picado.

It was a hit. At all times I had 1-4 little girls hanging off my skirt and dancing with it. There was uncooked rice all over the floor from the maracas and pieces of tissue paper from the papel picado. I played the video a few times with mariachi music in the background and every time the kids saw me on the screen, there were excited shouts of "There's Ms. B!" 

Friday was my favorite day in Urban Compass so far :) We had such a wonderful time, and I'm so glad I got to share with the kids about Mexican Independence Day and my love for folklórico.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Urban Compass Day to Day

I'm sitting at my desk in my office as I write this, about to start the Urban Compass after-school program for its fifth day this school year. I've learned everyone's names very quickly, which helps that I can call them out immediately by name if need be. My classroom is first and some second grade. If/when we have more kids enrolled this year, it may switch to being just K/1.

A typical day at Urban Compass (though we haven't quite gotten on our scheduled routine yet) starts with Ms. L, Mr. Luis and I walking over to 112th St Elementary from Verbum Dei High School (where our offices are and the program takes place). The kids meet us on the playground at 112th St, and once we've gotten them all, we walk over to Verbum Dei with them. I choose a snack helper from a different grade every day--one who is behaving well and gets to choose two friends to help me set up snack later. We then hang up their backpacks in the office and go out to the field and play.

After roughly 30-45 minutes of recreation time, I call my snack helpers to come help me set up snack. We get the snack and the classroom materials out of the office. Snack each day is a granola bar, a piece of fruit and a juicebox. During this time, I also start setting up the classrooms for homework and enrichment time. I call Ms. L to bring the rest of the kids over for snacktime, and while everyone is eating snack, I finish getting the classroom ready.

Every day except Fridays, we have a period of 50 minutes in which the kids work on their homework. If they finish their homework during that time, they can do educational worksheets (I'm only trying to get interesting ones--none of those drill things!) or math or reading games. Once it's 4:30 (earlier on Fridays), we do some kind of arts and craft or other fun activities. Ten til 5, we start cleaning up. Around 5, Ms. L walks the kids back to 112th St while Mr. Luis and I finish cleaning up and are done for the day!

Sunday, September 11, 2011


I was 12. I was in chorus class in 7th grade. I don't remember what song we were singing, but I remember vividly the other chorus teacher walking out of the office and whispering something in my teacher's ear. Then she told us a plane had crashed into the World Trade Center in New York. I didn't even know what that was. I'd never been to New York, and at 12, did not have a concept of what the WTC was. But I knew by the look of horror on my teacher's face that it was bad.

I sometimes get morbid obsessions, even now, and the next few days, I was reading every news article and watching the news at every chance. Not that there was much escaping, since that was all anyone could talk about. I remember carrying around the newspaper all day, mostly just full of images. The one that terrified me the most that day, and sticks with me still, is of a man who had jumped out of the building, perhaps because he knew death was near and wanted to choose how he died.

I didn't know anyone who died that day. But since time has passed, I have met people who have had family and friends who did. I have known people also who have had family members who have been lost in the resulting war in Afghanistan.

It's been ten years. I'm now 22, and have moved across the country. Last night, some of the other LA JV's and I went to an interfaith memorial vigil downtown. There was music, prayers in different faiths, reading of the names of the Southland people who were lost that day, and lighting of candles... over 500. We got there later so didn't have candles, but a few people gave us some. One of the other JV's was holding one, then passed it on to me. Soon after, a photographer started snapping a lot of pictures of me... I was wearing my shirt from the BPFNA conference from 2 years ago: "When there is justice, then peace will come." I haven't found the picture online yet, but will post it if I do.

9/11/01 shook our sense of security. The world changed to terror alerts and war and vengeance. I hope in the next decade we can instead confront our own actions, for we must be the change we want to see in the world. If we want peace, we must work for it.

All week, I've been listening to Ani DiFranco's "Self-Evident". I hesitate in posting it, because it is a little painful to listen to in parts, yet I also feel it captures the spectrum of emotion felt that day.

We all held hands and jumped into the sky.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Pro Women's Health

What does it mean when I say I'm pro-choice?

It doesn't mean I'm "pro-abortion" as John McCain liked to call it in the days of the 2008 presidential campaign. It means I think abortion should be legal and an option.

I wonder all the time why the subtlety is so hard for people to recognize.

I am attempting to refrain from showing just how angry I am right now about this whole issue. Which is not just one issue--it's a plethora ranging from lack of actual sex education to lack of accessible contraception to abortions.

Abortion is a last resort, and it shouldn't even have to be as prevalent of a problem (at least according to the right-wingers that say it is) if we recognized that there are so many ways to prevent unplanned pregnancies, and actually informed people about them. Not only that, but make it accessible.

I can't deal with all these people that act like it is the absolute end of the world that an embryo is aborted, yet would not have spent the money to take care of that child had it been carried to term.

If you won't adopt, if you don't support comprehensive sex education, if you won't pay for social programs for children, especially poor ones, if you just stand there and judge the people with so many kids trailing behind them... Shut up about abortion.

You don't get a say. It's not your life, it's not your body, it's not your choice.

I hate to disrespect people's religious views, but this is just something I do not agree at all with the church on. There's this huge disconnect with reality, and I can't understand it. Yeah, the church is often behind the times, but we need to look around us and stop pretending abstinence only sex education is actually working. I feel as if the church thinks as long as they stick with it, maybe it'll stick at some point.

And it hasn't. But you know what works? Comprehensive sex education. People are going to have sex. Get over it. Let's stop pretending that it doesn't happen unless someone gets pregnant or gets an STI. Because hey, it's a little too late by then. If we taught people, especially as teens, how to protect themselves and be safe about it, then maybe there would be less unplanned pregnancies. And then maybe, just maybe, there would be less abortions?


This is why I support organizations like Planned Parenthood. Planned Parenthood exists to provide resources on sexual and reproductive health. They provide sex education to people who have questions (especially since we as school systems and society are failing in that area) and low-cost or free contraception. They also provide cervical and breast cancer screenings. And yes, they do also provide abortion services. A mere 3% of their total services.

I just struggle a lot with the idea that making abortion illegal or practically impossible to get or afford is the answer. To me, there is very obviously a bigger problem at the root here, and somehow, society is still in denial that maybe we're going about this the wrong way.

A recent victory is that the US Dept. of Health & Human Services has mandated that preventative care for women, including birth control and IUDs, as well as cancer screenings and GYN appts, be paid for by insurance companies. Without a co-pay. This shows me that maybe women's health is actually starting to be taken seriously.

But then those "most dangerous place is in the womb" billboards pop up everywhere, and I know we've still got a long way to go before we really start becoming part of the solution instead of exacerbating the problem.

I'm pro comprehensive sex education. I'm pro contraception. I'm pro choice. I'm pro Planned Parenthood.

Most of all, I'm pro women's health.