A new language and new generation is emerging

The emergence of a shared narrative in California around health, wellness, and access to care has been the focus of this project. 

In the past two weeks, the Mirror Project conversations have been clear in terms of two things:  a new language is emerging and there is a new generation rising to lead in the state. 

The consciousness about health has shifted to recognize that social determinants are fundamental in defining what is meant by “health” today.  To have healthy communities and people, it is necessary to take into consideration factors such as encounters with the law enforcement and the justice system, economic disadvantage, educational disadvantage, and lack of access to basic services related to mental health as well as physical health, and the natural environment in which communities live.

The new language references freedom, liberation, and empowerment through collective action and identity.  Individual charisma is no longer the leverage;  rather, it is collaboration and coordination that wins the day.  The creative spirit that arises from having no resources, no power, no apparent options opens an opportunity for change to be made. 

What are ways in which the creative spirit has shown itself?

The most well-known at this moment is the youth who are leading the anti-violence/gun control efforts out of the shooting in Parkland, FL.  The factors that came together in that single incident highlighted that youth are well aware of the price that an entire generation may have to pay for the failure to overcome division created by race, class, and binary politics. Further, the youth recognize that disruption will be continuous until and unless there are changes that bring forth opportunities to take care of the most vulnerable members of society and this includes children in school, immigrant families seeking to make a contribution and stabilize their lives, young people overcoming trauma, and LGBTQ.

What seems to work based on what is happening now?

Campaigns that are framed and led by people affected by systems that are no longer effective, building relationships both with decision-makers already in power to exercise their leadership and with communities that have common interests but little history of relationship, providing resources to mobilize people to convene and share experiences, defining the problem clearly and gathering “data” from communities that know what options are needed and can be created, to name a few things.

What happens when things don’t work or a campaign fails?

No doubt, demonstrating the efficacy of coordinated efforts inspires and engages those who might otherwise be observers rather than activists.  But even setbacks have value.

One community leader was very clear that the inspiration and the spirit of growing movements comes from the people themselves and the transformations that happen between the victories and setbacks/losses.  Watching a young person go from a shy, curious, smart person to the one who is standing at a microphone before hundreds or thousands of people articulating their vision — is a huge source of inspiration.  Failures have the effect of creating reflection.  Sometimes the reflection opens the door for a new voice, a new venue, a new relationship that was not there before.  Failures sometimes offer a time to rest.  Failures are just a continuation of the search for an “opening” to bring about change.  Young people have the most important asset in movement building:  plenty of time to make mistakes and get back up and try again.

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Who has contributed (or agreed to contribute) as of April 2018

The range of experience and understanding of what will make for a meaningful shared narrative in California began with reaching individuals known to the project co-directors. 

  • Omar Brownson, River L.A.
  • Alex Dorsey, LA Urban Retreats/founder
  • Michael Lerner, Commonweal/founder
  • DJ Yoon, Korean Resource Center/President
  • John Esterle and Pia Infante, The Whitman Institute/Co-Executives
  • Joe Lumarda, Vice President of Private Philanthropy/the Capital Group
  • Bishop Minerva Carcano, United Methodist Church and TCE Board
  • Mike Murase, Little Tokyo Service Center
  • Aleks Munoz, From Youth Inside/creator and film maker
  • Orland Bishop, Civil Society resource Shadetree Multi-cultural Foundation/Founder
  • Claire Peeps, The Durfee Foundation
  • Alberto Retana, Community Coalition of South Los Angeles

Conversations seek to capture lessons and insights about higher purpose and service to others as part of the work toward the future.  Each individual brings extensive knowledge about communities and each is committed to inclusion, diversity, compassion.  There is broad recognition of the need for healing from large-scale societal trauma that has manifest in the form of racial violence and inequity, environmental degradation, and institutional paralysis.  How to move forward to improve health status, access, and balance of interests is the subject of each conversation.

The Mirror Project intends to produce a clear reflection of the State of California in connection with finding common ground among a diverse people, creating a shared narrative that embraces and honors complexity in today’s understanding of health, and providing a source of inspiration to support discovery of possible futures that will deliver wellness and vibrancy to the people who live here.

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Looking Forward

Over the next three quarters of 2018 and possibly the first quarter of 2019, conversations will continue to be sought.  Reflections by the project leads (Tu and Oh) will be shared on an open blog site that will document how the engagement in conversations shapes their understanding of where and how change in terms of knowledge, attitudes, behaviors, and heart/spirit are possible. 

In 2019, a series of community conversations will take place to expand upon the themes that emerge from the individual conversations that take place in 2018.  To date, invitations to contribute to this collective effort have been extended through personal contacts, building upon experiences that have intersected with different people, in different places within the state.

Emergent ideas about social change movements, leadership development opportunities, and integration of diverse experiences  related to health in this state will be presented by the end of the Mirror Project’s two-year cycle.  In addition, the project will include original works of art (portraiture and video) that will serve to reflect the energy that comes from a higher purpose that is manifest in the choice one makes to be in service to others. 

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